The Most Telling Aspect of the Vikings Offseason
The Minnesota Vikings pivoted away from a defensive era of football on January 10th when the franchise terminated Mike Zimmer.
The pendulum swung, and the Vikings brass hired an offense-first head coach in Kevin O’Connell after his Los Angeles Rams won a Super Bowl in February. The enterprise was heading toward a menu of offense, offense, and more offense, right? Sort of.
The most telling aspect of the Vikings offseason is the defensive nature of everything else besides the head coaching hire. O’Connell will indeed be a better offensive thinker than Zimmer, just as Zimmer will always be a more astute commander of defensive operations than O’Connell.
But the Vikings transactions — from free-agent acquisitions to the NFL Draft — formed to create a defensive offseason as far as the depth chart is concerned. Consider the Vikings keynote free-agent additions to begin March — Za’Darius Smith, Harrison Phillips, Jordan Hicks, and Chandon Sullivan. Before Minnesota signed some offensive linemen, the priority was defense.
And it wasn’t an outlier. The draft occurred about six weeks later, and the Vikings selected five defensive players with their first six picks. Ergo, here’s what happened — new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah recognized that the defense primarily derailed the 2020 and 2021 versions of the Vikings. Because Zimmer wasn’t a poor defensive coach, the roster personnel needed revamping. So, that’s exactly what the Vikings did, reconditioning the defense with free agency and the draft.
Minnesota now covets balance instead of a defense-first approach. Of course, if the Vikings left the defensive depth chart largely the same, then perhaps an “offense era” was on the way. But the moves enacted by Adofo-Mensah prove roster balance is the new mindset.
In fact, an argument can be made the Vikings did virtually nothing on offense, outside of signing Chris Reed and Jesse Davis, plus drafting Ed Ingram. Adofo-Mensah was evidently content with the talent on offense.
Overall, the Vikings hired an offense-first head coach with a general manager who was hellbent on rebuilding the defense.
It’s not a bad mindset to possess. Balanced teams usually win in February.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).