Quote Of The Week

2016 Was A Cruel Teacher

Question of the Week: The 2016 Minnesota Vikings season left plenty of lessons learned.

The 2016 Minnesota Vikings season has mercifully ended in a way that accurately illustrates just how things have went: The Vikings put on a promising show at home against Chicago, but the crowd couldn’t help but watch the sideshow spectacle dangling from above.

Every season leaves us, as writers and as fans, with plenty of lessons learned. Or at least lessons we think we learned. This roller coaster ride of a season has left many of us wondering what exactly went wrong, to what extent each individual shred of craziness is responsible for the .500 record, and if this season was simply filled with Vikings-specific flukes or if there are lessons to be learned.

This desperate attempt to answer these interweaving webs of questions is probably a futile effort, but I posed the question to our group here at Vikings Territory regardless. Check out what they had to say.


As a fan and writer, what lessons (if any) has the 2016 disaster of a season taught you?


This is quite honestly the toughest question I’ve been asked in recent memory. There are a dozen ways to attack this, but none satisfying. I’d love to wrap this up in one big, cogent lesson that we can all learn from and carry with us going forward, but life doesn’t work like that. Maybe with the passing of time things will make more sense, but not yet.

So instead, here’s a random thought-dump on the 2016 Vikings season. Some of this stuff we already knew, but was (painfully) confirmed this year. Others are lessons I was recently taught. In no particular order:

  • The offensive line is the second most important facet of an offense, next to quarterback.
    Zimmer may be a great coach, or he may just be good. In 2017, we will find out which one.
  • Regardless of the final record, Spielman made the right call trading for Bradford. He gave the team a chance to go to the playoffs, which, for much of the year, it looked like they would. The team did not have that chance with Shaun Hill. Those pointing to the way the team finished, and discrediting the trade because of it, are being revisionist.
  • The Vikings theoretically have 2 above average quarterbacks heading into 2017. That is a good thing, not a bad one.
  • The defense is missing something. It performed average more than it did excellent this season. They have the talent, and the coaching…I don’t know what it is, but they’re missing something.
  • Adam Thielen is for real, and really good.
  • An injured punt returner can cost the team games. It cost the 2016 Vikings two.
  • Danielle Hunter will be one of the best defensive ends in football before long.

Well, as every season seems to, this Vikings season proved once again to expect absolutely nothing no matter how many wins this team has. Nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen.

I was excited when this team began the year 5-0, but I knew not to get too excited because this is the Vikings we are talking about. The same franchise that has broken the hearts of their fans time and time again and continues to find new ways to do so each season.


This season more than any has taught me to be honest with myself. As a fan, I like to find the positives in everything the team does, from the trade for Sam Bradford to the first round selection of Laquon Treadwell. But as a writer, I have to be more objective behind the computer than I would be watching the game on my couch.

So, what have I learned?

That a front office, no matter my personal feelings, is going to make mistakes we can’t ignore. That 5-0 start felt great, even more so with the praise heaped on the team by national media outlets. I foolishly — or purposely — ignored the major issues of the team at the time, most notably, the absence of an offensive line or running game. Those issues manifested themselves in the Vikings’ slide into mediocrity, and had I acknowledged them before, I wouldn’t be so disappointed now.


Honestly, I’m still digesting what happened this season. I think Sam did a great job breaking down some key eye-openers this season, but for me, there are two things that really jump out:

1. Teddy Bridgewater’s mobility in the pocket was extremely underrated last season, and it was honestly something that I took for granted.

2. Mike Zimmer still has a lot to learn about being a head coach. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge, huge fan of Zimmer; I wish he was my grandpa. But, I think his personality, while critical to his coaching style, also makes certain areas of the job difficult for him . For example, it’s no secret that the Vikings struggle coming out of the bye week — one may even argue that the bye week killed the 2016 season — and I can’t help but put some of the blame on Zimmer because he’s a “tough love” motivator, as opposed to a guy like Pete Carroll, who just gets you fired up by talking a mile a minute, which, at least in my head, makes better sense with regard to getting a team back down to business coming off a “vacation.” Point being here, Zimmer has done a lot of great things through three years, but there is definitely room for improvement, and I fully expect him to spend a lot of time attempting to identify his coaching weaknesses this offseason.

If you ask me this same question again in a month, I’ll probably have a list of 20 or 30 things because I think you can learn something new on every single play — let alone every day or week.

For me, I’m still in the denial stage, so my list stands at two for now.


I’ve always believed that injuries can make or break a team. That the teams lucky enough to stay healthy enough are likely to be the ones that make it to the playoffs. Those of you around here know that I’m a huge fan of drafting the best prospects available, mostly disregarding position, as depth is about as important as the talent within your starting lineup.

Still, despite my stubborn analysis of roster construction in each offseason, I’m left looking at the Vikings Week 17 roster with the same feeling in my gut that I had after watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan for the first time. Most of them are gone, the remaining seem sparse and scattered, and I can’t remember a Vikings team in history that suffered the jarring volume of serious injury that this year’s squad did.

Now, I’m not making excuses for some of what we saw this season on the field. The defense wasn’t shredded by injury as much as every other section of this depth chart, and there is no excuse for their inconsistent play in the second half of this season.

However, to answer my own question, I learned that the injury report is even more important than I previously believed it to be. The paper roster becomes toilet paper once the pads go on in August, and so very much of our analysis becomes trash once the injuries start piling up as the season goes on.

It isn’t fun to admit, and it isn’t entertaining, but injuries have become the easiest way to take a team’s temperature by the end of September.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. Can’t say I disagree with anything said above. We all need time to digest 2016. I don’t think things are nearly so bad as some might suggest. We were/are a very good playoff team that had a lot of misfortune and freak incidents. We aren’t going to disappear. This team will be in the mix for many years to come. Lets get ready for a big offseason and make another run at it. SKOL!!!

    1. Yep, I’m ready to wipe this season from my memory. Onwards towards a better 2017!

  2. As a Viking fan since day one, this season didn’t teach me a thing. It did however, remind of who the Vikings really are. After going 5-0, I let my guard down and started buying in and of course for the 50th+ time, they ripped my heart out, ate it and said “HA! Got you again SUCKER!”
    The hell with ‘SKOL’. It should ‘SCUD’ from now on.
    After 50 + years as a Vikings fan, I’m done with ’em!
    I will not think of them, root for them, buy any Viking gear, NOTHING, I’M DONE with them!

    Until Draft day anyway. They’ll probably pick up a good OL player, pickup another in FA, then it’s SUPER BOWL BABY! SKOL! (Or Scud, depending on what time of year)

    1. yeah, right. see ya tomorrow, fran

      it can always be worse. i’m trying to keep positive by remembering that we don’t need a QB or HC. it’s a very strange and unfamiliar feeling

      1. Maybe we don’t need a new HC or QB. But realize that our QB had at least 2 of his interceptions on “game winning” drives (at Wash and at Det) and that our HC personally blew time management allowing the Lions to get into Overtime at our house for a win. And that right there (all analysis aside) is the difference between 8-8 and 11-5 in the NFL.

        1. As a die-hard Zim supporter, even I’ll admit that there are still some time management things he needs to work on this offseason.

  3. D needs a middle linebacker and a corner(seeMarcus Peters) without necessarily the best intentions, in other words, more attitude

  4. In the NFL, The most commonly repeated axiom is you need a consistent running game to win.
    Although I hate to use stats to make a point, I gotta make an exception in this instance.

    The Vikings finished dead last in the NFL with an abysmal average of 75.3 yards per game. Part of this is on Norv Turner. The truth is, the Vikings did not adequately use all of their offensive weapons. No doubt, most of the offensive line should be pursuing an alternate career stacking lumber or humping drywall, but that is a poor excuse for not using Zach Line. Simple math. Zach Line – 40 carries – 84 yards per game. It sounds silly, but at least we wouldn’t be lookin’ up to the Rams as an inspiration on how to run the ball.

    Hopefully, next season, the Vikings coaches can set aside their pride and give the ball to Zach Line.
    It worked for June Jones at SMU. FYI Jones was recently named AD at St Louis HS here in Honolulu. The same place Marcus Mariotta used to play. Need I say more? …… ok, June was an ok coach….. once …

    Free Zach Line!
    ……………………………… I’ll even cover his bail if needed.

  5. mas HUEVOS!!! 1er partido vs Detroit …últimos segundos defensa preventiva EN CASA? no rush at qb!! ???
    2DO PARTIDO vs at Detroit…assiata run “WRONG” at the middle ??? zimmer BABYcoach….GO VIKE´S 2017!!!

  6. I learned that I was absolutely right to criticize Spielman during the off-season for not going out and getting a replacement for Matt Kalil. On the other hand, I was absolutely wrong to predict that Kentrell Brothers would start at MLB and be defensive rookie of the year (although he was apparently very good on special teams).

    I agree with Sam that the defense is missing something. I tend to think it is leadership, although a good run-stuffing nose tackle to back up Linval Joseph would be awfully nice, too, as I said during the last couple of off-seasons.

    Sendejo and Locke may be legit NFL starters after all. Ditto Anthony Harris and Trey Waynes. Fusco is done, though, which is a shame for a guy who looked like a fine long-term starter after a breakthrough 2013 season.

    I still don’t know if Kendricks should stay at MLB or be moved to WLB, but am open to either argument. And is it worth bringing Lamur back?

  7. I had the utmost in confidence in Zimmer after watching what he did in 2015. He seemed to learn from his losses and beat Green Bay after being humiliated by them earlier in the season. And they basically had the red hot Seahawks beat until the ridiculous missed FG. But after watching how feisty and angry he was after the Eagles loss (like nothing short of perfection will do for this team) to a wide-eyed deer in the headlights look with only soft voiced comments after the humiliating loss to Chicago (one of the worst teams in the league) I could tell he had not a clue as to what was wrong. His body language from that game on was one of diminishing confidence and withering stress. He also confessed to not being able to correct the discipline problem in the red zone for both offense or defense. He said that after 14 games. Green Bay looked at least as bad as the Vikings but were coached back into being a contender. Zimmer’s Vikings just got worse. Good coach – I am inclined to think not.