Vikings in Bizarre Spot at 0-3

Hockenson Has Proven
Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver (84) celebrates his touchdown with tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

No team in NFL history has overcome an 0-3 start to later reach a Super Bowl.

Just six teams in the same span have joined the playoff party after a winless fate following Week 3.

Vikings in Bizarre Spot at 0-3

The odds are grim for the 2023 Minnesota Vikings, sinking to 0-3 after a loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. They don’t resemble a totally awful or dysfunctional team hellbent on gaining the first overall draft pick next April. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing too well. However, the purple team doesn’t look like a contender — or anything of the sort.

Bizarre Spot
Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) under center against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are in a bizarre spot — too good to scrape the NFL’s bottom barrel for an entire season but not good enough to avoid an 0-3 hole.

This is the competitive rebuild. In living color.

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs after the catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota employs young, foundational cornerstones on offense in Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, and T.J. Hockenson. Most general managers — well, all — would drool over those three for long-term roster planning. The pieces can be built upon, but isn’t that what the Vikings are already doing? Shouldn’t the employment of such stars prevent an 0-3 start?


So, then what?

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with teammates against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans can cross fingers and send up prayers that the defense will mesh on the fly and not allow men like Justin Herbert to eviscerate the purple team through the air to the tune of 405 passing yards. Perhaps the return of Marcus Davenport on the defensive line will actually mean something. Yet, the defense transforming into a good or decent group sometime this season may not be enough to wiggle out of the 0-3 hole.

Minnesota’s true colors have shown. Three games is a reasonable sample size. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brian Flores’ defense looked great for a half. Then, the Buccaneers figured it out, and the offense allowed turnovers to sully the afternoon. Versus Philadelphia, the run defense was laughable, and the Vikings fumbled all over the place. With the Chargers, Los Angeles exposed the Vikings secondary, and penalties and miscues affected the offense.

Second Straight
Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell throws a pass during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s a giant disjointed mix of good and bad things that never click in a good way at the same time. When the offense is rolling and not fumbling (literally), something’s wrong with the defense. When the defense is on the right track, the offense is firing up three-and-outs.

And this is all with a quarterback, who is playing great, in the final year of his contract. That — and he’s 35 years old, not exactly laced with upside to get better.

Overall, the Vikings will probably emulate their 2020 season when they started 0-3 and found a way to make the season competitive. Minnesota actually had a path to the postseason that year but collapsed in a game at Tampa Bay. It finished 7-9.

The bizarre aspect, on the whole, is QB1. What happens next at that spot on the depth chart, and is the solution suitable for Justin Jefferson, who has not yet signed a contract extension and may not be interested in a rebuild that would hint at successive losing seasons?

The team isn’t paralyzed by losses, but even if it rights the ship in 2023 toward a respectable record, what’s on deck for 2024 and Jefferson’s long-term fate?

Nobody knows.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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