That 5-0 start really skewed perceptions, huh? Here we are, sitting at 7-6, with a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs. It’s been a rocky ride, to say the least, and there’s no knowing how it’ll end. One thing’s true, though — 2016 has been a disappointing season for the Minnesota Vikings.
The offseason found our cups full of Purple Kool-Aid; Teddy Bridgewater was set to take the “next step,” Adrian Peterson had just won his third rushing title, and Mike Zimmer’s defense was on the brink of dominance. Some of that optimism took hold, but for the most part, expectations dissipated with every devastating injury.
Bridgewater’s injury was the first in an onslaught of unfortunate news, punctuated by the blockbuster trade that brought Sam Bradford to Minnesota. At that moment, fans laughed, offered skepticism, and took the final swigs of the Kool-Aid — the season was over.
Until…it wasn’t. Bradford helped lead the Vikings to a 5-0 record and the top spot in multiple media Power Rankings. The defense earned comparisons to the 1985 Chicago Bears, and nothing seemed to stand in the Vikings’ way, except of course, injuries.
A rash of blows to the offensive line and the defense derailed Minnesota’s hopes for a second-straight division title. They’ve lost six of the last eight games, with two of those failures coming at the hands of the divison-leading Detroit Lions. Although the return of Adrian Peterson provides some hope for the near-future, the prospects of another playoff appearance seem slim.
With that said, we can take a few positives from what many would consider a “lost” season; the play of Sam Bradford, the continued excellence of the “Purple Reign” defense, Adam Thielen’s turn as Minnesota’s most dependable receiver. It’s not all bad, but the end result’s been what I’d call a disappointment of a season. Does the Vikings Territory team agree? Let’s find out:
“Say the Vikings miss the playoffs this year. All things considered, do you see this season a disappointment?”
It will take a couple gargles of Clorox for fans to rid the horrific taste in their mouths, but after some time passes and the Detroit Lions are eliminated on a blown call, Vikings fans should ultimately be able to live with their team’s performance this year knowing it was seemingly doomed from the start.
Warning signs flashed throughout the summer in the forms of Phil Loadholt’s retirement, Mike Harris’ long-term absence due to a nondisclosed health issue and, of course, Teddy Bridgewater suffering a career-threatening injury during a non-contact drill, but fans ignored the blatant foreshadowing of disaster in favor of remaining optimistic — because that is what Vikings fans do.
Considering the circumstances…
1. Significant or long-term injuries to Loadholt, Harris, Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Jake Long, Sharrif Floyd and Harrison Smith
2. Week-to-week ailments suffered by Xavier Rhodes, Eric Kendricks, Stefon Diggs, Alex Boone, Joe Berger and even Mike Zimmer himself
3. Mid-season change at offensive coordinator
4. Anthony Barr’s regression; Whatever is going on with Laquon Treadwell; Junior Varsity Offensive Line
5. Team led by a quarterback who had not even heard of his No. 2 wide receiver (Adam Thielen) until he was acquired by Minnesota in early September
…playing competitive football into December should be viewed as an overachievement, but it’s hard to imagine a positive outlook setting in prior to the Philadelphia Eagles drafting in the Vikings’ first-round spot next April.
BJ already said it all, so I won’t go and repeat everything. But even without the entire list of injuries, it boils down to this: when you lose your starting quarterback two weeks before the season, I don’t know how you can “expect” to make the playoffs, no matter how talented the rest of the roster is. Even the New England Patriots — the NFL’s model franchise — missed the postseason when Tom Brady went down in 2008 (albeit with at 11-5 record). Starting quarterbacks are simply too important in the NFL.
So my expectations were set accordingly when Teddy hurt his knee, and I suspect the same happened for much of the fanbase. I do find it disappointing how the team has faded after the scintillating start, but looking at the big picture, it’s hard to say this season — however it ends — is a disappointment.
If the roster was more than halfway healthy, than yes this season would be a disappointment. But since it seems like a new player (or coach) goes down every week, this team has accomplished a lot given the circumstances they’ve had to deal with this season. But do not count them out just yet. The defense is still one of the league’s best and having Adrian Peterson back in the lineup could be just what the team needs to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Joe Johnson: Owner/President of Purple PTSD
Typically, as a Vikings fan/writer, there are two responses to any negative news/stimuli that come from following this team (or really, three, if you’re able to drink alcohol semi-responsibly) — the rational response and the emotional response.
Emotionally, of course, it’d be a gigantic let down if this Vikings team that began the season on a 5-0 tear, a time that we will look back at fondly for years to come, ended up missing the playoffs (especially considering how weak the NFC is this season).
Rationally? It’s not so cut and dry, I mean, sure, going 5-0 and missing the playoffs is something that (should) rarely happen. Sure, it’s happened to this organization about three times now since Y2K, but still, a 5-0 start doesn’t happen very often and should be enough of a sample size for reasonable (positive) expectations for the rest of the season to be crafted (by people like me) and thus… expected.
So, when the Vikings were 5-0, there were countless articles about Sam Bradford being the leading candidate for MVP, or about how far this Vikings team could go and even musings about a perfect season. Those predictions clearly blurred the lines between the rational and emotional, but they had some merit to them.
On the other side of that, though, people were happily ignoring, or even relishing the fact that this/that Vikings team (during the bye, especially) was winning despite a rash of injuries that continues to this day. So, rationally, you had to think that a course correction was coming and that clearly, no team can continue to function at a high level when they’re losing core players every week, but the very fact that this team was defying that rational thought created what could be considered an unrealistic expectation for the rest of the season.
So, to answer your question and because of that… yes, it’d be a disappointment regardless of how the season started. But, because it did start so fantastically, it added a ton of emotion behind the rational response to being disappointed in a season that looked so promising before all hell broke loose.
As such, a season branded as an “all-in” affair after Vikings general manager Rick Spielman traded a first and fourth(-ish) round pick for Sam Bradford becomes, at the very minimum, a “Playoffs or Bust” situation. Because of those moves, this season would end up being a gigantic disappointment should they miss the playoffs.
While injuries made it really, really hard for them to do that, it still doesn’t detract from the fact that these Vikings did indeed mortgage a bit of the future in hopes that this team could capitalize on a window that would seem far less open if they end up going 8-8.