A large factor in the Minnesota Vikings’ 2017 success might be what they’ve learned from a disastrous 2016.
Watching the Vikings in 2016 was like watching the Metrodome roof collapse of 2010. The loss of Teddy Bridgewater, victim of a catastrophic knee injury a week before the season, took the air out of a team that had Super Bowl aspirations heading into the new year.
It originally appeared as if the Vikings would hold up despite the crushing weight of losing their leader and ascending franchise quarterback. A surprising trade for then-Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford eight days before the first game kept hope alive despite holes poking through Minnesota’s armor.
The Vikings lost both their starting left tackle and a future Hall of Fame running back to season-ending injuries after a Week 2 win against the Green Bay Packers. Less than a month later, the other starting tackle was lost for the season. Still, the team began the year 5-0 and avoided major collapse.
Then, after an unexpected turn of events, the team faltered and the roof began to cave in. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned suddenly in November amid a shroud of mystery, leaving Vikings fans scratching their heads — even to this day. Pat Shurmur, the tight ends coach at the time, took over Turner’s role.
After losing backup tackle Jake Long for the season, the team simply buckled under the pressure. What followed was a total breach, as the Vikings finished the year with a 3-8 record and missed the playoffs. To add to the misery, star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd suffered an unfortunate mishap in a routine September surgery. It’s recently been reported his career is likely over.
In short, 2016 was an odd and destructive year for the Vikings.
The man who led the team during the rough stretch, and who was directly affected by the flat-out weird year, was Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, who had multiple eye surgeries during the 2016 season, addressed the issues today.
“Maybe it’s good we went through some of those issues that we had last year,” Zimmer said during Friday’s press conference. “I think it’s a lot of the players themselves, they’re pretty tough-minded guys.”
Under Zimmer’s tutelage, the players have thrived in 2017. The 9-2 Vikings are the only NFL team with a top-5 offense and defense. There are multiple players on both sides of the ball that have a great chance of making the Pro Bowl, including a career journeyman quarterback who has recently entered the MVP discussion.
Zimmer has said multiple times this season how much he loves this team.
“We’ve got a pretty resilient bunch. They play hard together… They just like to go out and play,” the coach said.
With a three game lead in the division and five games to play, the Vikings are in a much better position than last year to end the season on a positive note. They now possess a much more sturdy ceiling, one they plan on playing under come February.