The Minnesota Vikings have participated in the fifth-most playoff games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 – or 47 of them. Certainly, the franchise has the wherewithal to reach the postseason, but the joy is doused after the thrill of winning a game or two. With 28 total losses, the Vikings have been defeated in more playoff games than any franchise in NFL history (well, since the 1970 merger).
To that degree, the longstanding frustration surrounding the organization is warranted. In other realms, it’s silly. For instance, Minnesota has reached the postseason in 30 separate seasons. That equates to half the time as the team capped its 60th season in 2020. When 2021 commences, there is probably a 50-50 chance that the Vikings reach the playoffs if history is a reasonable indicator.
But the Vikings have not won a Super Bowl. A team with the fifth-most playoff trips should have discovered a way to break through in the last 61 years. That part is understandably maddening.
It could be worse, though. An organization such as the Detroit Lions has not won a single playoff game since 1991 – a dastardly 30-year drought that would make the Sahara desert envious. Or the team could emulate the Chicago Bears. Mike Ditka’s 1985 team won the Super Bowl, but the Bears have been the NFL’s third-worst postseason team since at a 6-12 record (.333). Should the Vikings “sell out” for a season in winning a Super Bowl to perhaps then tumble into ineptitude? The Broncos engaged in a mini-version of this. They grabbed the Lombardi trophy in 2015 only to experience doldrums thereafter.
So, why do the Vikings feel like playoff wimps?
No Consecutive Playoff Wins for 33 Years
This factoid is crucial and not frequently realized. Minnesota has not won back-to-back playoff games since the 1987 season. During that campaign, they thumped the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers on successive playoff weekends before falling to the Washington Football Team in the NFC Championship. For Washington, this was the “Doug Williams” Super Bowl season.
It has been 33 years. Minnesota has oodles of one-off playoff wins – a lot of them ultra-memorable. But they emphatically have fallen short in winning two straight playoff games since the end of the Reagan Administration. Obviously, winning more than two games in a postseason is a prerequisite to winning the Super Bowl. Surprise, surprise – the Vikings have not done that.
4-6 in Conference Championships
Relatively speaking, the Vikings were gangbusters out of the gate in the 1970s for playoff pomp. Although they could not finish the job – four times – in the Super Bowl, they did win their first four conference championships. What Minnesotans wouldn’t do for that now.
Minnesota upended the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams (twice) during their first NFC Championship forays. The team had no problem whatsoever navigating the NFC.
In 1977, everything changed. If the losing-Super-Bowls stigma wasn’t nasty enough, the Vikings began losing NFC Championships in mass fashion. From that 1977 NFC title game onward, Minnesota has bungled chances to reach the Super Bowl to Dallas, Washington, Atlanta, New York Giants, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Count them – six straight conference championship turds.
All they need to do is win the next two NFC Championships to get back to .500, right?
Noticeable Dip for Playoff Prosperity from Regular Season
How do fans stay motivated after so many bouts with Vikings-induced depression? Easy. Since that same 1970 start point, Minnesota is the seventh-most successful franchise in football. The team even has a better regular-season record than the 49ers in the last 50 years.
They tease you. More so than 25 other NFL franchises, the Vikings perform with pizazz in the regular season and keep the hope afloat. Onlookers experience sports franchises like the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, or Philadelphia Eagles breaking through to championship glory. The Vikings must be next, right?
This is the takeaway: The Vikings are the NFL’s seventh-best team via win percentage in the regular season since the AFL and NFL merged products. That is commendable – undeniably.
Treasure that because the playoff output in the same since-1970 metric is saddening. Minnesota has a .404 win percentage in playoff games, which ranks 26th in the NFL during the last five decades.
The seventh-best squad in the regular season; the sixth-worst playoff team via win percentage. That is why you are frustrated more often than not in the month of January.