Viking 2022 Success Was Built through Prior Failures

For the Minnesota Vikings players and coaches, their 9-2 record through the first 12 weeks of the 2022 season might not have been expected. But to a man, if you ask them about their success, they’ll tell you that it’s also far from a surprise.

That juxtaposition might be an interesting distinction without much difference for some, but for this 2022 Minnesota Vikings group, it makes all the sense in the world.

Pop back in time to the 2020 season, where we can track this back to what might have been the groundwork that was laid for what we’re seeing on the field today.

Alleged Cousins-Zimmer Beef Was Made Up
Oct 11, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer stands with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports.

With no fans in the stands due to COVID safety protocols, the Mike Zimmer-led Minnesota Vikings were stumbling their way through to a 7-9 record. Despite the disappointing record, seeds were planted with a young rookie named Justin Jefferson splashing on the scene. Dalvin Cook was having a stellar year on his way to 16 touchdowns, and Kirk Cousins was having one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

It wasn’t translating to winning right then, but that could have been because of the unique season with unique dilemmas along the way. Surely next year would be better, right?

2021 — an 8-9 final record, second in the division, and again sitting on the outside looking in for the playoffs — things weren’t getting better. There were glimmers of hope gleaming through here and there, but a fog was still hovering over the organization, and the team was clearly lacking something that would allow it to take the next step– an inability to close games out had risen to the surface, and it played out in the form of 8 of their 9 losses being one-score games, many of them falling out of their grasp in the final moments. They couldn’t finish, they couldn’t sustain, they couldn’t win.

So a decision was made, and the change came from the top of the organization. General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer were out.

This was when a meeting was called.

It was the type of meeting we hear about being called from time to time, but this one seemed different. The meeting, as retold by Ben Leber on KFAN radio during the offseason, “galvanized” the team, beginning with its most notable leaders in the locker room at TCO Performance Center.

“Kirk blew everybody away,” Leber shared. “Apparently, a couple of guys walked out of the meeting and said, ‘Kirk’s our dog. Kirk’s our freaking dog…the guys were like, ‘Damn, this is a guy that we can ride with that’s going to have our backs at all times.”

Hall of Fame QB Enodrses Kirk Cousins
Aug 24, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

Then, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah entered the fold and brought a hyper-focus on communication and collaboration. Follow that up with the hire of Kevin O’Connell, who joined the movement and changed the tone set between leadership and the players.

And that brings us to the 2022 season we’re seeing play out right now. Again, just this past Monday when Kirk Cousins himself joined KFAN again, this time with Paul Allen live from Viking Lakes. In a way, Kirk highlighted the abovementioned scenarios and credited them with some of the team’s cohesion and success in 2022.

“When we were .500 the last couple years and had some tough losses, I found myself saying that this is a really good group,” Kirk shared. “But through the downs, nobody flinched, nobody pointed fingers, people just stayed the course and kept working…The great locker room has been there, I’m just grateful that after a couple tougher years, we’re able to see the fruit of that now.”

There it is, the Vikings recipe for 9-2 success — the core of this team learning through the struggles of 2020 and 2021, Kirk stepping up into a new form of leadership that wasn’t allowed prior to, the introduction of K.A.M. and K.O.C — all elements that have factored into the flipping of the script in 2022.

Still far from a perfect football team, the Vikings have rattled off 9 victories through 11 games and with 8 of them having been wins of only one score, a coincidence that is not lost on many. The lessons learned and the bonds forged through the hardships of the past two seasons are starting to pay dividends.

It’s unclear how far this exact structure can carry the 2022 Minnesota Vikings into the 2023 playoffs, but it’s clear that after multiple seasons of learning how to lose, the Vikings have finally uncovered some of the secrets to winning in the NFL.