So it goes, not with a bang, but a whimper.
Now that it's over, maybe we can look back in four or five years and say 2010 was a 'character builder' for our intrepid band of heroes. For the fans, I think we can substitute the words 'character builder' with 'professional alcoholic', as this season that mercifully ended had more twists and turns than a visit to the chiropractor. I think it's more than appropriate to share with you The End, sung by the Doors, with the video backdrop from my all time favorite movie, Apocalypse Now. It was that movie that made me decide military helicopter pilot is what I wanted to do with my life. Pretty sad that a movie decided my goal in life, I know, but at least I saw this before I saw Helter Skelter.
I actually think the movie title is more apprpriate than the song, but tomato tomatoh. Oh, and can't we all identify with Capt Willard as it relates to our Vikings fandom this season---drunk on whiskey, chain smoking, and a loaded .45 next to us with nothing but time on our hands to think about things? Yeah, so this clip is appropriate. Enjoy:
Lost in a
Roman Viking...wilderness of pain, and all the children are insane. SMR, after the jump.
I'm not much of a money or investment guy, but at the end of the season companies that I have stocks or IRA's with send me a prospectus, which reviews what they did in the previous year and what their outlook is moving forward. Everything pretty much sucked in 2010, and I'll have to work for another 603 years to break even, but they send these propaganda booklets out anyways to tell you how great their company is and how freaking rich you'll be if you stay with them.
They're lying bastards.
I, however, am not. And so consider this SMR kind of a prospectus and a review of the season, not just the Lions game. We'll go over what was good (not a lot), what sucked (too much), and where we are moving forward, which isn't as bad as you think.
Blue Chip Stocks:
I like to consider these guys the core of what the Vikings will use to rebuild around. As disappointing as this season was, there is still a lot of talent on this roster, and these guys are guys that I feel the Vikings need to hold on to to turn this thing around.
Adrian Peterson, RB. The best RB in the game needs to be signed to an extension and given some road graders on the offensive line. Peterson quietly had a fantastic 2010, and it looks like he cured his fumbling problems. This is the cornerstone rock on which the foundation is built, and any talk of trading AP for picks is foolish. Not only is he the best player on the team, he is the face of the franchise. As the face of the franchise, he will be the key marketing tool in trying to sell a new stadium to a still skeptical legislature.
Percy Harvin, WR. I love this kid. He plays hard, he runs harder, and pound for pound I think he gives out more punishment than Adrian Peterson does. He is driven to get to the end zone every time he gets the ball, and half the time I think he will. I hope Harvin can get a handle on his migraine headaches, because the sky is the limit for him. I liked how the Vikes used him as a RB in some situations towards the end of the season; I hope there is more creativity in 2011 to get him the ball.
Jared Allen, DE. Allen started out slow, but finished strong, capping his season with a sack and a pick 6 against the Lions. Allen is a key guy for the defensive line, and if the Vikings pass rush is to return to the top half of the NFL, Allen will be a key component to that.
Antoine Winfield, CB. Winfield is getting a little long in the tooth, but he is still at the top of his game. He is still an exceptional cover guy, and is fearless when it comes to tackling. He still brings it on every play, and it's fun to watch him compete. His leadership will be crucial in bringing along the next generation of Vikings defensive backs. He doesn't have a lot of years left, but I'll still take him at 30 over almost any other cornerback in the NFL.
Sidney Rice, WR. Sidney Rice needs to be re-signed during the off-season. Whoever the Vikings quarterback will be in 2011, he will need more than one good WR to throw to. 2009 showed how good he could be, and if the Vikings can get a third quality WR in to complement Rice and Harvin, this could be a thoroughly dangerous offense again.
Chad Greenway, LB. Greenway not making the Pro Bowl was a big time snub, if you ask me. The former Iowa Hawkeye led the Vikings in tackles, and is pretty decent in coverage. He's always around the ball, and he rarely misses a guy in the open field. Greenway is also looking for a contract extension, and the Vikings would be wise to re-sign him to a deal that will ensure he retires in Minnesota.
These are guys that have had some good years, but slipped a little this year. There might be guys waiting in the wings, but their talents will still be needed for the next couple of seasons.
EJ Henderson, LB. You could make an argument that Henderson should be a blue chip stock, and I wouldn't fight you too hard. If there's an award for Inspirational Player of the Year, please...please name someone who is more deserving of the award than the guy who's playing with a metal rod in his leg. Yeah, thought so.
Kevin Williams, DT. The Williams Wall showed some significant structural damage this season, but Kevin WIlliams started to come on strong towards the end of the season. The Vikings will need to find a replacement for Pat Williams, but if Kevin Williams can bounce back in 2011, it will make Ray Edwards and Jared Allen that much better.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE: Do you guys remember the first painful years of Visanthe Shiancoe as a Viking? He was terrible, but by the end of last season he was the most reliable red zone threat the Vikings had. 2010 was disappointing for Shiancoe, but because of porous line play he needed to be used as a pass blocker more, and the quarterback play was in flux all season. \
Steve Hutchinson, OG. Hutch, like Kevin Williams, is getting long in the tooth, and the injury bug is starting to bite him, but the Vikes need his veteran presence to help stabilize what will be (or should be) the most untested unit heading into 2011. Solid offensive line play will be key to the offense having success in 2011, and Steve Hutchinson will be key to a solid offensive line.
These are guys that need to go. They just aren't getting it done, and the SMR would like to bid them a fond farewell.
Madieu Williams, S. Williams came to Minnesota in 2008 and had a good season, but was arguably the worst starting safety in the NFL in 2010. He was always late in coverage, got turned around to the point that it was comical, and was consistently late filling gaps on run support. It was a perfect storm of terrible for Madieu, and although off the field he is truly a magnificent philanthropist, on the field he's not getting it done, and it's time to say adieu to Madieu.
Bernard Berrian, WR. Never has a guy that had so much to prove did so little to make his case as did Bernard Berrian in 2010. When Sidney Rice went down, it was a logical conclusion to assume that Bernard Berrian could step up and make some plays while Sid was down, and the drop off would be minimal. And that logic was sound, until it became apparent that Berrian was as allergic to the football as Karen Carpenter was to food. Dude half assed it all season, and his alligator arm routine has grown wearisome. BB also stands for buh bye.
Bryant McKinnie, T. At times in 2008 and last season I thought McKinnie had turned the corner and was becoming the dominating tackle we all thought he would be coming out of Miami. No. McKinnie, who has been in the NFL close to 10 years, still can't handle an outside speed rusher, be it Julius Peppers or Julius, Orange. He is an okay run blocker, but his pass protection nearly got Brett Favre killed. It did give him his career ending concussion.
Where We Go From Here:
Offense: There are playmakers on offense--Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Sidney Rice, for starters. Quarterback is an unsettled position, and for all the promise Joe Webb showed last week he showed himself to be a true rookie this week against Detroit. Webb will be on the roster nest season, and he deserves a chance to compete, but the Vikes will have to address the position in the off-season. The offensive line is the one area that needs a complete overhaul, save Steve Hutchinson. If the offensive line can be improved to just average, and the quarterback position can be settled to just okay, this will be a potent offense.
Defense: The big breakdowns on defense occurred primarily on third down and in the passing department. The run defense slipped, but was still good. The defensive line still has a lot of quality--Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Jimmy Kennedy, Brian Robison. Ben Leber will probably not be back, and I thank him for his service as a Viking. He never did anything great, but did everything well above average. The secondary is where the major rebuild will be. If Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin can come back healthy, I would think about moving Antoine Winfield to safety and team him up with Hasain Abdullah. That said, Winfield is still the best corner on the team, and Cook struggled after a promising start.
Coaching: I'm good with Leslie Frazier being named the permanent head coach. There's a lot of chatter about what big name coaches might or might not be interested in what job, but keep in mind no Super Bowl winning coach has gone to another team and repeated that feat. Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren have made it with two teams, but didn't win. Frazier rallied this team and got them to win three games that they weren't supposed to, including that electrifying Tuesday night beat down of Philadelphia. When you add all the once in a lifetime crap that happened to the Vikings this season not once in a lifetime, but weekly, it seemed, Frazier deserves a shot.
Front Office: There has been a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth about last year's draft and the need for an honest to God GM, and I have to agree. Either name Spielman the GM or go get a guy with GM experience, but there has to be one guy that makes the final call on the roster. Giving all that power to Chilly proved to be a colossal mistake in 2010, and not having that third round pick over the Randy Moss trade is really going to hurt when it comes time to fill in some missing pieces.
2010 was the craziest, most frustrating, and at times most unbelieveable season in Vikings history. It started before training camp and didn't end until the final gun in Detroit...which was the Vikings home stadium a few weeks back. I have decided that I will erase this season from my memory banks, just like I have for the lost season of 2001. I really don't think this team is 6-10 bad, but I'm kidding myself into believing that they are just a few plays from the Super Bowl. That said, a good re-tooling strategy for free agency and the draft will fill a lot, if not all, of the gaps the Vikings currently have, and they will be right back competing for a division title in 2011.
I have faith that they will, because I am a Vikings fan.
Pessimism is not an option.