Marlon Brown's unreal catch (did he really get both feet down?) put to rest any ideas of Minnesota making the postseason, leaving the fans to stew over a lot of what-ifs and missed opportunities.
What if GM Rick Spielman had avoided driving his best cornerback, Antoine Winfield, into retirement?
In the end, the Vikings left at least four wins on the table, failing to take advantage of winnable games against the Browns, Bears, Ravens, and Packers. In another reality, the Vikings are 7-5-1 and in the thick of the race for their first division title since 2009. Instead... nothing.
But let's face it: this was a flawed team. Some of the flaws, like the holes at quarterback and the secondary, could have been foreseen. Others, like the sudden regression of the offensive line, came as more of a surprise. But from the preseason onward, it was apparent that there was something off about this team. The Vikings that took the field against the Lions in Week 1 were a far cry from the team that beat the Packers to qualify for the playoffs in 2012. They were sloppy, inefficient, and ultimately, very beatable.
For that, Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff will most likely pay the price. It's sad, since I once had high hopes for Frazier, but also somewhat inevitable. Frazier and his staff have been under fire pretty much this whole season for their conservative gameplans and misuse of the talent at their disposal. Their dismissal will be the culmination of a bumpy three-year tenure in which Frazier has compiled a record of 19-30-1 and made many questionable decisions, starting with his decision to push for the acquisition of Donovan McNabb in 2011. Fair or not, his tenure will likely rank near the bottom when it comes time to rank Vikings coaches.
With that, a new era will soon be upon us, and believe it or not, there's reason for fans to be optimistic. Along with a new coach, the Vikings will soon have a new quarterback, and this draft has an unusually deep crop of signal callers. Old faces like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams will most likely be moving on, but Patterson, Xavier Rhodes, and Sharrif Floyd will be there to take their place. And if Spielman continues drafting like he has the past couple years, they will soon have company.
As the 49ers and Broncos have shown, sometimes all it takes for a team to turn it around is a great coach and some solid quarterbacking. It may seem hard to believe after such a miserable season, but the Vikings do have the talent to make a move, particularly in an NFC North that has underachieved over the past couple years. They may indeed be one player away from being a perennial contender.
And in the end, that's the goal, to get back to the point where making the playoffs are a foregone conclusion, as they were back in the 90s. It's been a tough year, but have faith, Vikings fans. Better times may be closer than you think.