I know that it might shock you to hear me say this, but your 2020 Minnesota Vikings are not a good football team. They’re 1-5 after six weeks, they just got waxed at home against a team that was 0-5 and just fired their head coach, and everyone is apparently sick to death of the general manager, the head coach, and the quarterback.
I get it. Believe me, I do. This team had expectations placed upon it and, to this point, has not come anywhere close to meeting them.
But we need to talk about the idea of the Vikings “tanking” the season in the hopes of securing a higher draft position and how ridiculous it is. And that’s precisely what it is. . .ridiculous.
For starters, you are never in a million years going to convince me that you’re going to get a group of 53 alpha males, who are being coached and trained by another group of alpha males* that it’s in their best interests to not give 100% effort or that it’s necessary for them to lose for the “good of the team.” Why? Because that “team” will likely thank them for their efforts by terminating their employment at some point. After that, wish them luck in explaining to potential future employers why they thought it was in their best interests to half-ass it.
(* - Yes, I realize that there are female coaches in the NFL now. I’m talking about the vast, overwhelming majority of NFL coaches at every position.)
So, honestly, the Vikings aren’t going to “tank,” and suggestions that they can or will do so should be dismissed out of hand as being ludicrous.
The other side of that coin, however, is that you don’t have to “tank” if you’re just really, really bad. And if the Vikings were to attempt to “tank,” I’m not even sure how they’d go about it.
The Vikings entered this season with the sixth-youngest roster in the NFL, and today they have eight players on the entire squad that are age 30 or above. Two of them are kicker Dan Bailey (32) and punter Britton Colquitt (35), and those guys don’t count because kickers and punters can play until they’re, like, 80.
Here’s the rest of the 30-plus club for the Vikings:
- Kirk Cousins (32)
- Harrison Smith (31)
- Riley Reiff (31)
- Adam Thielen (30)
- Kyle Rudolph (30)
- George Iloka (30)
That’s it. Those are the “old guys” that the Vikings are playing this season.
This is an incredibly young football team, and since it doesn’t appear that the idea of rebuilding on the fly is happening, they’re going to go out there and take their lumps every week. At one point in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, the Vikings’ top three corners were rookies (Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand). They’re finally giving time to guys like D.J. Wonnum and James Lynch. Ezra Cleveland is finally starting to get his feet wet, and we know what Justin Jefferson is capable of already.
When it comes to the “old guys,” though, there are at least a couple that are likely in their last season with the team. Reiff is probably gone after this season to make room for Cleveland at left tackle, and I can’t imagine them bringing back Rudolph and the $9.45 million cap hit he carries next season. On top of that, I’m already convinced that Anthony Barr (and his $15 million 2021 cap hit) has played his last game as a Viking as well.
If we want to get super crazy and talk about the Vikings also dumping Smith and/or Thielen. . .well, Smith has zero guaranteed money in 2021, and Thielen would carry a dead money hit of around $5.4 million (though the Vikings would get over $8 million in cap space by letting him go). I can only imagine, however, that cutting either or both of those guys would go over with the Vikings’ fan base like the proverbial fart in church.
Then there’s Cousins, but that’s going to require its own post.
Other than that, there aren’t a ton of old guys that the Vikings can bench and replace with younger, developmental players, because they’re already doing that. They drafted 15 players this past April, almost all of whom are either on the roster or on the practice squad, and they’ve already got 11 draft picks lined up for April of 2021. Hopefully we’ll be seeing both Michael Pierce and Danielle Hunter on the field for 2021 as well, since it seems less and less likely every week that Hunter’s “tweak” is going to clear itself up for him to have any effect on this season.
It’s been a long season for the Vikings already. It’s only going to get longer. And, yes, the Vikings are going to lose a lot more games than they’re going to win this season.
But they’re not going to “tank.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure if we’d be able to tell if they were.