Back in September, on the first edition of the Norse Reporters, most of us here at the Daily Norseman gave our record predictions for this season. All the predictions were somewhere between 11-5 and 13-3 (I’ll admit to picking the latter). In retrospect, how could a group of Vikings bloggers be so optimistic?
The season ended yesterday, prematurely but not entirely unsurprisingly. And to be honest, would it really have been any better if the Eagles had lost and the Vikings had gone to Chicago to lose again next week? The Vikings end the season having beaten just one team with a winning record, a huge disappointment for a team we all thought could be a serious Super Bowl contender this season.
Ok, let’s talk Kirk Cousins, but just for a second. The reality is this: Rick Spielman gave Cousins a guaranteed three-year contract earlier this year. So my stance on Cousins is this: he’s going to be the guy at quarterback for the next two years. Argue about it all you want, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it now. So you might as well get behind him.
Also, let’s stop the “fire Spielman” train before it gets going. A lot of people have rightly called him out for not addressing the offensive line, and I’m not sure why he’s gotten a pass on that for this long. But for the most part, the guy has done an excellent job with the Vikings. He’s repeatedly found top-level talent in the draft, especially on the defensive side of the ball. And he built arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL with late-round picks and undrafted free agents.
But the offensive line has been a problem for a long time, and the Vikings should have taken it more seriously last offseason. I’d be disappointed if the Vikings don’t make the interior of the offensive line their priority in free agency and the draft. Vikings fans have been clamoring about this since 2016, and it’s finally time to put a stop to it.
I also think Dalvin Cook was injured for most of the season, even when he played. There’s no reason the running game shouldn’t be significantly better next season, especially if the offense (presumably led by Kevin Stefanski) makes it more of a priority from the get-go.
In terms of the offense, the John DeFilippo experiment was a disaster. I’m interested to see where DeFilippo goes next, but his time with the Vikings just never worked. I have hope for Stefanski, but he was put into an impossible situation when he took over midseason. I do think he deserves a shot as the full-time OC.
Injuries in the secondary also doomed the Vikings all season. Xavier Rhodes had a down year anyways, but didn’t even play in the game yesterday. The jury is still out on Trae Waynes, but he also missed games, and Mike Hughes’ promising rookie season was cut short due to an ACL tear. Jayron Kearse did not get it done yesterday, although one bright spot might be the play of Mackensie Alexander, who played well when the Vikings needed him. Andrew Sendejo is probably gone, and I think the Vikings need to look for a non-Anthony Harris replacement this offseason.
I’ll have some more thoughts in the coming days and weeks, but I’ll end with this tidbit, which I tweeted out yesterday. If Daniel Carlson (remember him) had made the 35-yarder during the Week 2 game against the Packers, the Vikings would be in the playoffs. So even though it was a terrible season, the Vikings were still that close. There’s a little bit of hope and optimism, at least.