In a game that meant everything to the Vikings this season, they showed next to nothing on the field at US Bank stadium. To say their performance was disappointing would be generous. They stunk it up. There was never much doubt about the game’s outcome. The Vikings started slow yet again, and the Bears built a lead.
But if you looked at how the Bears manhandled the Vikings in the trenches on both sides of the ball, you could see the Vikings were at a bad disadvantage the whole game. Add to that the flat performance at the skill positions, and tension on the sidelines, and you knew the game- and the season- was a bust.
A Season of Underperformance
The season began with the Vikings a top Super Bowl favorite. It continued with them not being able to beat a team with a winning record. It ended with them not being able to move the ball at home against the Bears second-string defense.
The focus of the underperforming season is undoubtedly the offense and Kirk Cousins, but the defense also underperformed compared to a year ago.
So, rather than taking the next step, as had been envisioned with the acquisition of Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson, the Vikings took a step or two backward, losing the NFC North crown to the much improved Chicago Bears, and failing to make the playoffs.
Those failures once again call into question the plan and decision-making of Mike Zimmer to get what remains a very talented football team to the Super Bowl, which at this point is not nearly as close as it seemed last season.
Post-Season Evaluations Should Result in More Changes Than Last Season
Now that the Vikings season is over, the post-season evaluations should begin in earnest and be made with a more critical eye toward improvement. On both sides of the ball, there are starters that underwhelmed this year - some of which carry pretty big salary cap numbers and/or may have trade value.
Secondly, the coaching ranks are in need of some new blood - youth be served. Mike Zimmer needs to decide if he wants to be a head coach or a defensive coordinator. He can’t do both anymore. He’s been five years doing both, but he’s getting too old to continue that. He needs to decide which job he wants - and which he can add the most value to the team. That’s an open question.
Vikings Need To Get Younger - And Go Belichickian With Older Guys Exiting Their Prime
The Vikings have done a good job drafting and developing at a lot of positions over the past several years, and there are future starters ready to step-up. But in a few cases at least, allowing younger talents to step into starting jobs means making hard decisions on some players that have played well for many years - but are now on the downside of their careers. It’s a young man’s league, and at most players at most positions begin exiting their prime in their early thirties. Every player is a bit different, as is the level of each player’s prime years. But mostly on the defensive side, some tough decisions need to be made. Some of which may provide capital and/or cap space to improve the weakest link on the team - the offensive line - while allowing promising talent to step into starting jobs.
Should Be A Busy Off-Season for Rick Spielman
The are a lot of issues to address, and complacency is not the answer. If the Vikings are going to get back into Super Bowl contention next season, they need to improve their roster and coaching staff. That means a busy off-season for Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. It will take more than drafting well for the Vikings to make a deep run in the playoffs next season - and that means trader Rick needs to get busy.
In the coming days and weeks I’ll go into detail in terms of coaching and player evaluations and who should be part of the team going forward- and who shouldn’t.