Hi kids, welcome to game week! Apologies for my tardiness, but my wife and I had this conversation awhile back that came back to haunt me this past weekend:
Her: Hey, doesn’t a get away over the Labor Day holiday to Missouri’s wine country sound like fun?
Me: LOL no not at all. Wine, yuck.
I just got back from a weekend getaway to Missouri’s wine country. But I digress.
Do you guys remember the old ESPN show ‘The Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame...’? It was a 30 minute show hosted by Brian Kenney that looked at an iconic moment in sports (like Bill Buckner in the ‘86 series, or the Vikings episode discussing the infamous trade for He Who Shall Not Be Named), and it gave you some perspective and contributing factors as to why that moment or event can be explained, given the circumstances of the moment.
The reason I’ve been mulling this is because I saw a post from John Kinsley, an SB Nation counterpart over at the Tennessee Titans site Music City Miracles, and I’m blatantly ripping off this idea (although John said it would be okay).
So, I give you...
The Top Five Reasons You Can’t Blame...Vikings Fans For Thinking Kirk Cousins Is The Missing Piece To The Elusive Thing We Can’t Name For Fear Of Jinxing It But It Rhymes With Looper Hole
1. Cousins is a bona fide, talented quarterback
Since the end of the Fran Tarkenton era, the Vikings have struggled mightily to find a long term answer at QB. They’ve had 1-2 good to great seasons from mostly rental quarterbacks here and there, like Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and Brett Favre. They thought they had an answer in Daunte Culpepper until a knee injury cut his career short. But by and large, since 1979 the Vikings QB situation has been one of ‘has beens’ and ‘never weres’, and QB has been the elusive prize the Vikings could never find.
Enter Cousins. He’s thrown for over 4,000 yards and 25 TD’s in each of the last three seasons, something no Vikings QB has ever done. For all the discussion about Cousins and turnovers, he was 8th in the NFL in interception percentage, and he is one of the best at mounting fourth quarter comebacks. But most importantly, he’s durable. The last two seasons have been a wasteland of injuries, especially at QB, and the Vikings desperately need stability and continuity. Cousins provides that, and a live, accurate arm. Is he the final, missing piece?
2. The Vikings defense is championship caliber
Yes, yes...38-7 and all that. I will go to my grave thinking that this team was still hungover from the Minneapolis Miracle the week before, and wasn’t as mentally prepared to play that game as they could have been. I was still on a high from that game on Wednesday, and all I did was watch it; I can’t imagine experiencing that moment as a player. Oh...and the Eagles completely outcoached and outplayed the Vikings, and they were one step ahead of them the whole game. To fix the first issue...well, plays of the century don’t happen all the time, and I honestly believe if the Vikings win that game in a more conventional manner, they don’t play as flat as they did.
To solve the second issue, the Vikings hired former Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo to be the offensive coordinator. One of the first things they did was sit down and discuss what happened in the NFC Championship. I would like to think that the Vikings staff is pretty good, and can take that debrief and make adjustments.
That’s because they have the best defense in the NFL and a great head coach that’s defense oriented, NFC Championship game notwithstanding. They have a deep and talented defensive line, great starting linebackers, and what might be the most talented secondary in the NFL. If Minnesota can adjust and fix what happened to them in The Great Philly Phailure, coupled with a top ten offense, this team will be really tough to beat.
3. The Vikings should have a great running game
There are three things that you need in the NFL to win big. You need a good quarterback, a good defense, and the ability to run the ball. Teams rarely win with just one or two, and that has been the case with the Vikings in recent seasons. The final key to the puzzle might be Dalvin Cook, who missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL. He’s back and healthy, and with him the Vikings look like a complete team.
If you extrapolate Cook’s numbers out into a full season, it adds up to over 1,400 yards rushing with 8 rushing TD’s, and another 44 catches and 360 yards receiving. That’s almost exactly the rushing production that Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon accumulated in Cook’s absence, and last season Minnesota rushed for over 1,900 yards as a team. That was good for 7th in the NFL, and it’s not unrealistic to expect a number better than that this year. When you add in Latavius Murray, Mike Boone, Roc Thomas and FB C.J. Ham to round out the RB room, you have four other guys that can run, catch, and pass protect, and gone are the days of the Vikings telegraphing what their play call was probably going to be based on who was lined up behind the QB.
4. The best WR duo in the NFL resides in Minnesota
Minnesota has been a one trick pony offensively in recent seasons, at least for the most part. For nearly a decade, the Vikes offense ran through Adrian Peterson, and if teams were able to successfully neutralize him, the Vikes offense was about as intimidating as a basket of puppies. But last year the passing game emerged from a long hibernation, and now there is a sensational WR duo that brings the offense balance.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen gives the Vikings multiple offensive looks, and gone are the days where defenses can load the box and stop one guy. They can both play wide or line up in the slot, and when teamed with TE Kyle Rudolph and a dual threat running back who doesn’t have to come off the field on third down, regardless of who’s in the game at the time, the Vikings offense will be tough to stop if OC John DeFilippo calls a good game.
5. A Premier Franchise
The Minnesota Vikings are now a destination franchise for players that want to seriously pursue a championship. Free agent signees Kirk Cousins, Sheldon Richardson, and George Iloka all said as much. Why, if this team has never won one? The Wilf ownership group has demolished old and outdated facilities and built a world class stadium and team headquarters. They have a highly regarded GM that’s done a complete roster rebuild in his six years at the helm, and he has a roster that boasts strong starting talent and depth on both sides of the ball. Along with the best cap guy in the business, Minnesota identifies who their core guys are, and they lock them up to mutually beneficial deals the keeps the talent at home, and they bolster that with good free agency moves to address needs that don’t pan out via the draft. They have a head coach that is one of the better coaches in the business who was an understudy to an NFL coaching legend, and he knows what it takes to win a championship.
If other ‘cursed’ franchises can win it all, why not the Vikings? The Cubs hired a smart front office guy who rebuilt the roster, hired a sharp manager, and won. The Eagles did the same thing, at the expense of the Vikings last year. Same with the Washington Capitals.
This team has it all. It’s time to win it all.