Over the last two weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have played eight quarters of what can charitably be termed as largely uncompetitive football. Sure, the score of the loss to Green Bay didn’t look as bad as it could have, but the Vikings were basically done after the first quarter. The same thing took place on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, only without the statistical inflation at the end of the game. After an offseason of waiting for our favorite team to take the field again, it seems like this is going to be a largely wasted year in Minnesota.
This is my fifteenth season of being the lead writer on this website, and it’s been rare that I’ve felt the sort of thing that I feel watching this team these past two weeks. Even in years like 2010 or 2011 there were things that you could look to as potential beacons of optimism. But this season doesn’t have anything like that, at least not two games into things.
But I’m not mad. I think it’s actually worse.
Think back to your youth for a moment, if you will. We all did stupid stuff when we were kids and teenagers, and different transgressions would get different reactions from our parents. But think back to one time that you did something just monumentally stupid. You knew you were going to get ripped for it, and you spent your entire walk or ride home steeling yourself to deal with it mentally until you got in the door. Then, as you sat or stood with your parents, you heard the following words:
“We’re not mad. We’re just disappointed.”
Man. . .that was worse. Significantly worse. If you got an ass-chewing, you could process it and move on without much of an issue. But disappointment? That sticks for a while.
At this point, I’m not mad at the Vikings. What’s the point of being mad? Being mad isn’t going to help the Minnesota defense get off the field or help the Minnesota offense stay on it or prevent dumb penalties. But I’m disappointed, largely because we as fans were being sold the idea that this team was going to be competitive despite the massive amount of turnover we saw this offseason. We should have known better, but we didn’t.
For as fatalistic as we are as Vikings fans, you need to have a certain amount of optimism to continue doing this. Being a Vikings fan is the sporting equivalent of having a standing appointment to get kicked in the junk every December (or January. . .whichever) and then by August telling yourself, “You know, that really could have been worse.” And so here we are, doing it all again.
But I am disappointed, and I’m assuming that you are, too. You should be. We should be. Because unless something drastically changes in a very short period of time, this is going to be a lost season of Vikings football.
On the field, Kirk Cousins is going to be the obvious target for a lot of the disappointment, and after his performance on Sunday. . .quite possibly the worst of his football life. . .that’s justifiable. But for all the talk of “Tanking for Trevor,” just remember that even if the Vikings did want to move on from him, there’s really no getting out from under his contract until it expires unless the Vikings want to eat a ton of dead cap space. So unless you’re happy with the idea of Trevor Lawrence or Trey Lance or Justin Fields or whoever sitting for a couple of years, this team probably isn’t “tanking” for a quarterback.
I mean, they’re not going to “tank” for anybody because, as we’ve discussed numerous times in this space, the idea of “tanking” in the NFL is stupid and ridiculous. I mean, the Dolphins were allegedly “tanking” last season and still won five games, so that should put paid to that idea. If the Vikings end up with a high draft pick, it will be because they’re not very good, not because they’re deliberately trying to lose.
But, I digress.
I’m not going to sugar coat this. . .there’s a pretty significant chance that the Vikings go into the bye week at 0-6. Look at the next four games:
- vs Tennessee - Good God, Derrick Henry might run for 300 yards. What’s stopping him?
- at Houston - Houston is also 0-2, but they’ve also played the two best teams in the AFC.
- at Seattle - Most of us had this chalked up as a loss when the schedule came out.
- vs Atlanta - Yes, they’re 0-2 as well, but Matt Ryan is playing at a ridiculous level right now, and so are his receivers.
If this team goes into the bye at 0-6. . .change is coming. The fact that Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman signed contract extensions this offseason is meaningless. Brad Childress signed a contract extension before the start of the 2010 season, and the Wilfs dropped the hammer on him with six games left that year. And I say this as someone that likes Mike Zimmer a lot. But even with the changes that happened this offseason, this team is still paying too many big names too much money to be this bad.
I firmly believe that if this team goes into the bye week with no wins, Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer are going to be asked to clean out their desks and turn in their key cards. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope that we don’t find out.
At this point, however, I think the best we can hope for is that some of the growth we want to see from younger players comes during the season to give us at least a little something for 2021.
Maybe Danielle Hunter comes back and raises hell the way we’ve become accustomed to.
Maybe Justin Jefferson or Bisi Johnson or Irv Smith Jr. becomes a consistent complement to Adam Thielen.
Maybe Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler develop into the sort of cornerback duo the Vikings haven’t had in years.
Maybe Michael Pierce will eventually be the sort of force in the middle that Linval Joseph was when the Vikings signed him before Zimmer’s first season. (We definitely won’t know this until 2021 at the earliest.)
None of those things are the case right now, however. Maybe expecting them to be was a bridge too far. It’s definitely starting to look that way.
But I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.