TODAY…on “As the Purple Stomachs Turn”…Vikings fans everywhere are trying to rejoin their normal existences after spending the days since last Sunday’s loss learning to digest solid food again, learning to not snarl at the peers whose teams are playing in the NFL postseason, and (in my case, at least) watching for any news leading to a new season of auto racing.
Vikings fandom is definitely NOT for the weak.
Ok, let’s face it: that was a brutal season even before it began. So much new, so much potential…then tragedy, disappointment, hope, concern, elation, deflation, and eating Prozac like Pez; the fans of the Minnesota Vikings were put through an emotional wringer in 2018. It seems like fate is seriously pissed off at us for some reason, because we’ve been dealt drama after drama for way too many years now. The promising players/teams/etc that have looked so astounding during the offseasons have found ways to stub their toes all the way up to the pelvis over and over again. Looking at some other teams, it seems like we get a huge amount of the abuse that’s earmarked for NFL fans.
That said…we also have the terrible burden of knowledge. We’ve seen what the Bud Grant teams did, what the 80’s playoff teams accomplished, the incredible seasons seen by the 98ers and 09ers, and we KNOW that our current roster looks damned near as good as any we’ve had (excepting an o-line that couldn’t stop a 3-legged kitten). We have a receiving pair that might challenge the Carter/Moss duo, we have a defense that was recently #1 in the league, and we just added a QB that has put up gaudy numbers/scores for consecutive years. Then…well, we have coaches leave and/or die, we have players at the heart of the team freak the hell out, and we have the truly inevitable curse of pro football: injuries. We have pros underperform, and kids outplay their status.
Our deuces are always wild, and if you can’t embrace that part of the team…you can’t survive as a fan. Period.
All that said, my thoughts on the various purple units:
OFFENSE- well, it all starts with our new, high-dollar QB: he lived up to expectations, then fell far short. The money notwithstanding (all post-rookie-deal starting QBs are getting expensive), Cousins managed to look everything from astounding to pathetic to forgettable…and every single point in-between. Knowing that our shiny-new (and since replaced) OC wasn’t really on the page with Zimmer lends some chaos to Cousins’ situation, and the WORST O-LINE IN THE NFL (in terms of QB pressures) gives him a certain amount of leeway…but he’s still expensive, still comes up short in big games, and is hopefully the person who most wants those stigmas off of him. Diggs and Thielen were mostly excellent, but could be blanketed into irrelevance. Cook is very good, but needs a better line and better consistent health. Rudolph is needed for blocking too often to really shine. Our latest 1st-round WR remains an enormous disappointment. I don’t know if Stefanski has answers for all of this, but our new OC has a lot of work ahead.
DEFENSE- put simply, injuries and play-calling demoted this unit. Rhodes was less than 100% most of the time, Waynes seems to be a concussion risk, Hughes looked brilliant before hitting IR, Barr and Kendricks were hot and cold (and injured), and I hate to say this…but…the NFL has figured out Zimmer’s basic concepts. Our D-Line is stacked but unable to capitalize until the Z-fence gets rethought.
SPECIAL TEAMS: so…basically, Preiffer was put on Earth to kill kickers’ careers. Maybe he should go ruin kickers elsewhere. Sherels was solid, but then hurt. Our new punter is solid, our kicker likely just needs a different coach.
COACHING IN GENERAL: Here’s our biggest problem, folks. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not calling for Zimmer to leave…but, I am calling for him to consider some big evolutions to his schemes. He seems too conservative in the current NFL where teams like the Chiefs and the Rams are playing at 100% intensity and aggression, all of the time. He needs an OC that can be aggressive AND clock controlling, and he needs the defense to take on a new, more vicious, 60-minutes of intensity personality. As we may be hunting for all-new coordinators this offseason, I hope he’s ready to make the right changes…and that Rick gives him the players and help he needs.
As for me…I bleed Purple ’til there’s nothing left.