Super Bowl LV may have not been the ratings bonanza that advertisers had hoped, but it is still the biggest television event of the year for people in the United States. One of those advertisers was DraftKings, which aired it’s first Super Bowl commercial ever to highlight the fact that you could get free bets on DraftKings.
Despite the disappointment that was the ratings and the commercials, the game itself was as surprising as it was mostly dull. The underdog Tampa Bay Buccaneers took advantage of being the first team ever to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium (#TheNFLisRIGGED!) and it’s 40% capacity crowd by dominating all facets of the game against the highly talented Kansas City Chiefs.
The question for Minnesota Vikings fans and any teams not from Kansas City and Tampa Bay (arguably the two grossest locales in the NFL (we’re looking at you, Las Vegas!)) is what teams could learn from the big game.
With the COVID salary cap set to implode many NFL teams’ carefully thought out team building strategies, and the player empowerment movement causing more players to force trades than ever, the 2021 off-season is set to make that question as important as ever.
Many teams can quickly and actually take what they’ve learned from Super Bowl LV and implement those lessons, so let’s point out the key takeaways generally and from the perspective of the Vikings.
Teams Should Invest In Quality Quarterbacks
Stop the presses!
Having a good quarterback in today’s NFL means you have a higher probability of success as long as your team isn’t in Detroit? Wow. We’re really breaking the mold here!
Sarcasm aside, this point seemingly needs reinforcing as there are many people in Minnesota who still think it’s a good idea for the Vikings to trade away Kirk Cousins for a haul of second/fourth/sixth round picks.
That aspect of the “Trade Cousins” movement was covered by yours truly over the weekend.
But it is worth reinforcing again here as you simply can’t win in today’s NFL, or really any era of the NFL that employed the forward pass, without a good-to-great passer under center. Many still remember Trent Dilfer winning his ring with the Baltimore Ravens, which goes to show just how rare it is for a subpar QB to win the big game (as the fact that people point out Dilfer to this day shows how rare his feat was).
Luckily for the Vikings they have a great passer under center, they just have failed to protect him at nearly every turn. The good news for any franchise out there that feels that they’re a quarterback away from the big game is that they’ll have a lot of options this off-season for a veteran passer (either via trade or free agency).
Teams Should Diversify
To have a better chance at qualifying for the Super Bowl, teams should embrace diversity. In the 2021 Super Bowl, it was evident that managers of Buccaneers and the Chief have invested in diversity both in the back room and on the pitch. A diverse coaching team established by Bruce Arians and Andy Reid played significance in propelling the two teams to America’s most anticipated Sunday.
The coaching on both teams reflect that diversity, an issue that has been a hot topic in the NFL for many years. From race to gender the coaches of both teams showed the world how diversity can propel teams to greater heights. In both cases, each member of the coaching staff made a significant impact. Each voice and background served its purpose well and players were motivated every step of the way.
The Vikings haven’t embraced Diversity as much as other teams mostly thanks to nepotism and continuity. With the defensive and offensive coordinators being the product of nepotism, there is little faith among many Vikings faithful that the Vikings will change their approach in ‘21. So how can we expect a change in outcome?
A Strong Defense Can Still Win the Super Bowl
The answer to the above question may lie with the defense.
While quarterbacks have always overshadowed any other position in the Super Bowl (or MVP/Rookie of the Year voting), teams should also invest heavily in their defense. While many believe that the best defense is a good offense, especially considering all the rule changes in the league that benefit the offense, the Bucs proved against the high powered Chiefs that a dominant D can still win a Championship a la the aforementioned Dilfer and the Ravens.
Anyone who watched the game has pointed out that the Bucs won that game thanks to their prowess in the trenches. Their defensive and offensive lines dominated all day and that’s something that Vikings fans will get frustrated about as the purple seem to be moving in the wrong direction in that regard.
Offensive Line Overhaul
After being dominated many in Kansas City are asking what could have gone with the Chiefs. Things may have gone differently had stud left tackle Eric Fisher been able to play, especially considering the fact that Patrick Mahomes wasn’t his typical mobile self due to a nasty case of turf toe (that reportedly required surgery).
Losing 31-9 to Buccaneers is a wake-up call to Kansa City Chiefs but also the rest of the league as with the COVID cap and Tom Brady bringing the Patriots way to Florida, it feels as if the Bucs are going to be unstoppable as veteran after veteran will take less money to join Brady for his 11th (and 12th) Super Bowl appearance.
I touched on what that means for the Vikings and it’s fans during and after the game with the main takeaway being the offensive line philosophy of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
As the Vikings saw in 2018, and 2019 (especially in the Divisional round of the playoffs), and 2020… They will only go as far as their line will take them.
This article that was written during the game hammers that home further, as five of the seven NFC playoff teams had a top-eight or better offensive line (per Pro Football Focus). The Vikings? 29th.
With Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter most likely being on roster in 2021, the Vikings are in a good position for the majority of the above lessons. However neither matter much if they’re unwilling to learn from the final point and from what we’ve seen since 2014 there’s little evidence to suggest that will change.