Please skip this post if you are not of a mind to read the semi-fragmented thoughts of a tired old man.
I have no ties to the state of Minnesota. In 1970, I was watching Monday Night Football (then in its infancy, and a much more entertaining experience than it has become) and saw the Vikings for the first time. Until that point, I was a marginal football fan, but I fell in love with that team that night and embarked upon a lifetime of following the NFL and the Vikings in particular. I lived through the euphoria of three Super Bowls (I was not yet a convert during the KC Super Bowl), and was very much a fan of Bud Grant and his stoic manner. I was a huge fan of Fran Tarkenton, and got to meet and chat with him about 20 years later. Nice guy.
Well, I am still a Vikings fan, as I stagger along in my waning years. I stayed loyal through thick and thin, through the many disappointments and near-misses. I marveled at the Favre season of 2009, and still am in awe over his superhuman ability to make all around him play to their best. I knew the team had that one shot in 2009, and that the team was not likely to get back to that level, given Favre's age and the mediocrity around him. I could have lived without the soap opera events of the texting and infidelity rumors, but still admire Brett for his amazing talent and long career in the NFL. So, I took it in stride that the team would have to do some serious rebuilding.
Most of you might be able to agree that there have been an awful lot of head-scratching decisions over recent history, and many of them center upon the excruciatingly futile search for a true NFL star QB. I, for one, could not understand what Childress and company saw in Tarvaris Jackson to warrant the aggressive move to trade up to draft him so early. I only needed three games worth of evidence to see he lacked the attributes (not talking arm strength) to make it as a pro quarterback. How is it that trained and seasoned judges of football talent failed to recognize all his glaring deficiencies? I had to ask myself that one over and over - not only regarding Jackson, but a good number of the team's other drafted players (Phil Loadholt comes to mind - watch 3-4 games worth of video and isolate him. You tell me what you think of his balance, footwork, leverage, tenacity, etc.)
In very recent years, I have become numb to the Vikings potential for winning the ONE Super Bowl I have dreamed of since I was 16 years old. I see the team falling further and further behind where I had hoped they would be. Last year, it was obvious to me (and many of you more seasoned fans) that the team was very fortunate in winning many of the games they won. QB play was still atrocious overall. They relied on one player (#28) far too much to be considered balanced or unpredictable. Luckily, AD survived and thrived, but one injury to him and the season could easily have been a colossal disaster. I looked up and down that roster, and objectively had to wonder what idiots put this together and believed it was a roster to stand the test of time or compete against the elite of the NFL?
So, here we are. I still am alive and trying to believe I may celebrate Super Bowl win before I die. It looks further away than ever. How can this be? A new stadium is on the horizon, which is wonderful for those who can afford to attend games. I am happy for the team and the citizens of the Twin Cities area, but this is not my primary concern. I want to win. I have always been good at building teams or organizations, and even when we are very strong and earning praise from others, my thoughts go to "How can we get better? What is our weakest area, and how can we improve on that?" I guess I would have made an unpopular GM or Head Coach, because I would have been more like Lombardi than today's wannabe leaders (in general).
My motivation for my first-ever Fan Post (at least it has been so long I forget if there were others) is simply this: I cannot even picture what the plan is to get this team back to a Super Bowl in the reasonable future. Let's give the organization five years. I don't know about you, but I will be approaching Social Security age by then. Running out of time and patience, but so be it. Okay, so at the end of this dreadful season (3-13 sounds about right) we will have a team needing to figure out its QB situation. In my opinion, Josh Freeman is the ONLY one worth keeping - and that hinges on his desire to remain here, his potential, which is still being evaluated, and financial constraints. If the team sort of loves him and vice-versa, they still should consider drafting a top-tier QB if one is available early in the Draft. Obviously, if the team feels unsatisfied with all the current QBs on the roster, it will be paramount to make the top Pick a QB, and possibly draft two quarterbacks in the May Draft.
Either scenario leads to the next question. Regardless of how you get them or who you add, if the Offensive Line plays like they are this year, the QBs will be at high risk for injury and have low chance for success. So, will the team draft a handful of Offensive Linemen to patch the holes (I feel Sullivan and Loadholt are major weaknesses, despite Sully's admirable play in 2012) Both Guard positions need a lot of help, too. If you spend all your Picks on O-Line, what will you do to patch the porous secondary and obviously over-matched LB crew? I feel Greenway is over the hill, the others never would crack most other team's starting lineups, and there are no stars waiting on the bench.
Aside from the many concerns on Defense, you still run a RB-heavy Offense during the passing-liberal era of the NFL. Huh? Why? The team puts a ridiculous burden on their best (by far) performer, but that man is approaching the late stages of his career and already survived a very serious leg injury. One more like it may be the end - and it could come on some innocuous play during a meaningless game. What is Plan B? What I'm saying is I do not like the Offensive scheme, nor do I ever believe in such a one-dimensional and predictable gameplan, this one centered upon a running back. With this type of mindset, you are basically gambling against yourself. It only works if you have a very balanced offense with a very talented (at least highly accurate) QB. Still, you are putting all your eggs in one basket, which to me is a formula for failure almost every time. The antithesis of the Vikings method is the New England Patriots. They are intentionally a sum greater than all of its parts. Many of the players are not quite superstars or even stars. But, one goes down and the coaches shrug and insert another serviceable player. And on they roll. It is a coaching philosophy that stands up to time and adversity well, provided you also have a scheme and gameplan that takes full advantage of the players' talents. The Vikings seem Hell-bent on going in the opposite direction, and I guarantee you it's a recipe or disaster.
So, we have our beloved team rebuilding. There is no way to sugar-coat it. On the eve of ground-breaking/constructing a new stadium, faced with two seasons of playing in temporary surroundings, this team is at Square One in many ways. All well and good for those who have faith this ownership and FO know what they must do to contend again in a few years (or more). And, if one is 16 years old today, and just climbing aboard as a fan, it could be great fun to grow with the team as they build toward respectability again. But, for us older fans, who have already suffered many disappointments and heartache, it is tougher to stay the course. Maybe no one cares. The organization has to care at least a little about fans, but only about those who generate revenue. In my case, I have no leverage because I live far away and never will have the funds to attend a game. But, regardless, for those 43 seasons of loyalty, I feel I deserve a pat on the back for holding tight to faith.
The trade deadline passed and nothing happened. I felt the team had to make every effort to get some deals done (Allen, Gerhardt, etc.) I had previously stated that I felt the team needed to get super-aggressive, in light of the needs and limited Draft Picks in hand. Maybe they tried. But, the roster remains the same. So many holes to patch. So, the team will let some players walk after the season, show the coaching staff the door (I pray), sign another couple Free Agents, and draft a handful of hopefuls to shore up a few areas, hopefully. Meanwhile, the North Division rivals are fairly strong, stable and show no signs of downward trending. So, regardless of who the owners bring in to coach or play, the team is at the bottom looking up at a formidable challenge. If you install a rookie QB, remember that Dan Marino was the exception and most need 3-4 years to ripen. By then, AP will either be ready to retire, already retired or too banged-up to carry much of the load. So, you will need new blood at RB, too.
I apologize for disjointed rambling, as my mind is not as sharp as it once was. All I am saying is, I see a team fairly bereft of talent and low on character/leadership. The coaches were mostly terrible hires, and they continue to validate my opinion from the point they each were hired. I had hoped I was wrong but turns out I was not. Assumng Spielman survives the coming purge, does he really have what it takes to build an entire team on both sides of the ball? I have serious doubts. Now, if he hires Bill Parcells or someone like that to come in as a year-long advisor, then maybe there would be reason for optimism. But, I don't see that happening. Instead, I see the need for fans to be even more patient as they watch an extended period of stops-and-starts, of hits-and-misses, and a lot of languishing near the bottom of the Division. All while their best player expends the remaining few thousand yards of his career in futility. He got his money, so no tears for him. But for the many silent fans out there, it is time this franchise actually produced a champion again. I'm running low on time. And tired of my team being a laughing stock.