Could it really be that easy for the Minnesota Vikings? Probably.
First, the 2020 Vikings would have required a disallowance of most injuries. Minnesota was ravaged by those in 2020, primarily to prominent defensive personnel. It is unlikely that the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers or 2001-2019 New Patriots could have circumvented so many lost players to reach the Super Bowl. That is speculative, of course, but it is simply improbable.
After that, the Buccaneers and Vikings are not that dissimilar. Tampa Bay has presented a highly underrated and ferocious defense over the last couple of seasons. Their run-stuffing acumen has been superior to Minnesota’s as of late. And the Buccaneers pass-catchers, on the whole, are a larger sum of parts than the Vikings. An aggregation of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Cameron Brate is more poundage than Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Irv Smith Jr, Kyle Rudolph, and Chad Beebe.
Special teams, too. Tampa Bay’s special teams in 2020 were markedly more competent than the Vikings. However, there are daycares in Minnesota that could have thrown together a more formidable talent pool than did the Vikings in 2020. Minnesota’s special teams dealings were historically poor. Alas, Mike Zimmer will hire a new special teams coordinator for 2021.
Those are the exceptions. Tampa Bay was healthier, employs more pass-catchers, and put forth far better special teams play than Minnesota. Conversely, though, the Buccaneers were a 7-9 team in 2019 that is now walking to its own building in two weeks to play a Super Bowl.
What changed? Oh, just the greatest quarterback ever. Yes, him. Tom Brady hand-picked the Buccaneers as his pre-retirement destination. Wouldn’t you know it – a Super Bowl berth followed.
Head coaches of the Buccaneers and Vikings – Bruce Arians and Mike Zimmer respectively – have both coached for seven seasons in the NFL. For heading coaching responsibilities, Arians is in his third stop. He previously was the boss in Indianapolis (interim), Arizona, and now Tampa. On Zimmer, it is the Vikings-only.
A lot of chatter will occur over the next two weeks that justice is served for Arians and that his time has finally arrived. That chatter is accurate. Arian paid his dues, coached astutely every step of the way, and landed in a desirable spot with the Buccaneers. His quarterback last year, Jameis Winston, tossed 30 interceptions in 2019 while the team still managed to win 7 games – the same number as the Vikings in 2020.
How do you combat a man like Winston delivering 30 picks to the other team? Simple – you release him and allow your organization to be selected by Tom Brady as his next terminus. This should be the blueprint for success hereafter. Need somebody to put your squad over the finish line? Call Tom Brady.
Sarcasm aside, Arians and Zimmer are bedfellows in win percentage. Arians has a win-loss record as a head coach of 67-44-1. He has won 60% of his games. Zimmer is 64-47-1, a 58% win rate. Take a minute and digest Tom Brady on any edition of the 2014-2020 Vikings. His presence amplifies a team’s performance – an understatement, to be sure.
The GOAT Joins TB – Welcome to the Super Bowl
It is more than fair to be a bit surprised that Brady had led the Buccaneers close to the Promised Land. He will be 44 in August. That is nearing Steve DeBerg-like status via remaining in the league at quarterback. You might be reading content on the internet in a few years comparing longtime teammate, Adam Vinatieri, to Brady for age purposes.
But let’s halt our astonishment that Brady is visiting his 10th Super Bowl. It’s not an accident. The man makes clutch plays in clutch spots – and has done so since the beginning of George W. Bush’s presidency. His omnipresence in Tampa Bay flung the team over the top. Brady did not throw over two dozen interceptions because that’s not his modus operandi. Winston does that – not Brady. Turnovers matter. Brady minimizes them.
It is acceptable to be in awe of Brady’s continual achievements as his hair turns grayer but pretending like the Buccaneers won their first playoff game [and more] since 2002 was accidental — is silly.
No, the Vikings Won’t Get Brady
Brady has his end-of-days scripted, at least in terms of NFL final destination. Tampa Bay is perfect for Brady. He has weapons galore – which he never had in New England outside of a few years with Randy Moss. Most of his time in New England was spent with average running backs and wide receivers that he made considerably better. The Buccaneers defensive personnel is upper-echelon, many of them young. Brady is set for his final few years.
Instead, take note that the Vikings are not too far behind the Buccaneers. Arians and Zimmer owned virtually identical win-loss records before 2020. Arians “took the lead” over Zimmer with Brady’s strut down to Florida.
Arians’ worst year as a head coach was last season when the Buccaneers finished 7-9. Sound familiar?