Before almost every sports season, it feels like there is hope in the air for fans. Your team is either ready to build on their successes of last year and make a deep playoff run or there is some fresh new pieces to watch grow into the superstars of tomorrow. However, that was not really the case this year for Vikings fans this off-season.
After watching their team go 13-3 and claim a place in the NFC title game in 2017, Vikings fans were ready for more. They wanted a title, and it looked like they did what they needed to to secure it. They added a solid quarterback who wasn’t just a rental, something that Minnesota hadn’t had for over a decade, and also a young, sexy offensive coordinator fresh off a Super Bowl title. They also retained almost everybody from the squad that had carried them to that NFC title game, minus the quarterback that got them there in Case Keenum .
Of course this being Minnesota, not all fans were ready to buy in just yet. There were concerns to be addressed. The offensive line was patchy, and the offensive line coach tragically passed away right before the season. The kicking situation was a question mark with rookie Daniel Carlson taking over for the reliable but not flashy Kai Forbath. Finally, nobody knew if Kirk Cousins was up to the challenge of leading a team to the promised land. After all, the common refrain was that he always wilts under pressure.
Well, in 2018 the doubters were right. The Vikings finished 8-7-1 after some truly heartbreaking games, starting in Week Two with a tie that the Vikings had multiple opportunities to win at Lambeau Field, thanks to the leg (or lack thereof) of their rookie kicker Carlson. The team followed up that game with an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills and a close national television shootout loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite winning the next three games, the Vikings never really found their footing and their new offensive coordinator never figured out how to use his running game. This upset head coach Mike Zimmer, who kept preaching a balanced attack. The whole relationship fell through following a 7-21 loss on Monday night to the Seattle Seahawks where the offense couldn’t move the ball let alone score.
The offensive coordinator was fired, and the Vikings won their next two games, just in time to give fans hope of a playoff berth with a win against the Chicago Bears. The season was literally on the line, and all eyes were on Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Of course, the team and Cousins came out and laid an egg. They looked dead on the field and out of sync the whole game. The game and thus the season was exemplified when Cousins got in a fight with star receiver Adam Thielen on the sideline during that game, and the Vikings lost 10-24 to a Bears team that really didn’t even need the win.
Naturally, Vikings fans were nervous about this 2019 season and not ready to jump on the championship bandwagon. The team was sitting on the fence between being a great team with a chance at a title, and not good enough to even make the playoffs. It really felt like the team could go either way, and if they weren’t good enough, it seemed like it would be time for another rebuild of a roster that Rick Spielman had been carefully constructing for years.
So, when Minnesota started out 2-2 with bad losses to both Chicago and Green Bay, many were ready to jump ship. Kirk Cousins was being trashed as the worst quarterback the Vikings had ever had. Fans were calling for Zimmer’s head. Some even were all in on tanking the season for one of college football’s top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. What seemed like the final nail in the coffin, star receiver and miracle man Stefon Diggs appeared to want out of Minnesota.
It’s now four weeks since that mess and the Vikings are riding a hot streak. Dalvin Cook is leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. Stefon Diggs is dancing during games and putting up huge numbers. Dan Bailey is picking up player of the week honors and looking every bit the most accurate kicker in NFL history that he once was. Best of all, Kirk “the worst quarterback in Vikings history” Cousins is lighting up defenses and in the conversation for NFL MVP.
Fans are starting to become cautiously optimistic again. Twitter is abuzz with stats of how well individual players are doing, national media is starting to pick the Vikings as the team to beat in the NFC, and people are starting to think “maybe this is our year.” Of course, as somebody who has studied Minnesota football history and watched my whole life, I know it’s too early to start counting eggs. I’m just trying to enjoy the ride while it lasts.