Last off-season the words “regression to the mean” were thrown all over your favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s see where we’re at over the last 3 seasons.
2021: 8-9 - “average”
2022: 13-4 - “abberation”
2023: 7-8 (best possible finish 9-8) - “average”
Well, here we are. Back around .500.
Many said the Vikings of 2022 just didn't have the personnel and the talent to keep on pulling off improbable wins. They were proved right after a heartbreaking playoff loss.
This year, it’s hard to deride a team that really hasn’t been physically able to be a team.
The injuries are not a cop out - there are other, deeper seated problems - it’s just hard to pass sound judgement on this season when significant pieces of the team have been missing and whatever plan they had coming into the year had to be thrown out the window.
All 3 offensive captains have been injured at some point this season, including Kirk Cousins’ season-ending Achilles and Justin Jefferson missing 7 games. Defensive captain Jordan Hicks also saw his season end. That’s 4 of 8 captains not on the field at some point, usually for an extended period of time (Brian O’Neill is the 3rd offensive captain).
Others that have missed or will miss significant time include D.J. Wonnum, Cam Akers, and T.J. Hockenson. Jordan Addison also looks uncertain to play Sunday, as does Mekhi Blackmon, Byron Murphy, and Ivan Pace.
Without these leaders, consistency and chemistry has been hard to come by.
Jefferson clearly misses the spark he had with Cousins, ruing that “People don’t see what goes on in the building,” Jefferson said. “They don’t see the relationships that go on, don’t see the connection that goes on. Me and Kirk have a great connection.”
Justin Jefferson after interceptionpic.twitter.com/YZnsDLW6O8— ✶ Ⓜ️ ▶️ ✶ (@_MarcusD3_) December 24, 2023
The inability for the Vikings front office to come to a deal with either of those players in the offseason is clearly either a bad bet or a serious mistake as both players have seen their value to the team skyrocket.
Cousins will be able to walk into the boardroom next spring and fully tout the “this is what you were without me” argument if he so wants to. His negotiating position has strengthened immensely since leaving the season despite the injury.
Cousins’ prior 40 starts had never seen a game with more than 3 interceptions. It took all of 9 games for Vikings backups to throw two games of 4 interceptions.
“I will say, looking back on the individual stories of these turnovers over the last two games, they do come down to decision-making,” said Head Coach Kevin O’Connell to reporters. “They come down to play intent and ultimately making the right decisions in the moment to find the open man and convert when we get those critical third-down opportunities that will lead to us having more time of possession, more opportunities to score.”
Jefferson, when healthy this year, has still been the game changing receiver we all know and love. He had an unbelievable game in the loss against Detroit, catching multiple passes that had no business being caught.
Nothing changes if these Vikings pull a rabbit out of the hat to make the postseason. Cousins will still need to negotiate a new contract and Jefferson an extension.
That is in addition to plenty of other free agents as well in 2024, including Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, K.J. Osborn, and Jordan Hicks.
As long as the end of this season will be, it’s easy to see how it might be an even longer offseason for the purple and gold and their faithful.