Maybe everybody innately has an appetite for destruction and is secretly a pyromaniac, because it seems like every time there is an opportunity to blow up one of our local teams, we collectively turn into Wile E. Coyote. We bust out the wooden container of TNT, unspool the fuse and rig a trap. Press down on that lever, baby, and the Lombardi Trophy will be ours in 2024!
If we’re Wile E. Coyote, then Road Runner is a Minnesota Vikings Super Bowl championship. Older fans will tell you we nearly caught that speedy bird in the ‘70s, and that it’s often been within reach. The Vikings represented the NFL Western in the Super Bowl in 1969 (this is true!) and the NFC in 1973, 1974 and 1976.
They have both won their division and made the playoffs multiple times in every decade since. They have more playoff appearances than every franchise except the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers — so a team in the largest U.S. city, “America’s Team” and two of the league’s most storied franchises. They have more playoff appearances than dynasties like the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins.
The difference is that the Vikings often lose in dramatic fashion, as you are well aware. Minnesota fans were really made to suffer.
Oh, you’d like Gary Anderson, who was perfect on the season, to convert on a field goal in the NFC Championship? Meep meep!
Oh, you’d like for Brad Childress to only put 11 men in the huddle, and for Brett Favre not to throw across his body? Meep meep!
Oh, you’d like the Vikings to capitalize on the momentum of the Minneapolis Miracle and beat the Philadelphia Eagles and their backup quarterback so Minnesota can be the first team to play a Super Bowl game in their home stadium? Meep meep!
I get it. Right when it seems like you’ve got that dirty bird cornered, he speeds off and leaves you looking down at the abyss below. The ground beneath you has once again snapped off, and you’re about to fall. HELP!
So when a team that won a playoff game last year, extended it’s quarterback and finally drafted a good receiver in the first round gets blown out in Week 1 by the Packers and starts 1-5, it’s only natural to want to tear the whole operation down. This regime has hurt us before.
Fire Rick Spielman, he signed Kirk Cousins and extended him! Fire Mike Zimmer, he wants to run the ball too much! Trade all the players, that’s what Miami did!
Again, fair. But let me walk you off the ledge, if only because I’m not sure it’s entirely stable.
I get that this is a common trend in the current sports environment. Ricky Bobby said if you’re not first, you’re last — but let me amend that. Teams want to be either in contention for a championship, or in the running for the first overall pick. Tank for Trevor, amirite?
The Dolphins bottomed out and now appear to be on the right track, but we don’t know how that will ultimately turn out for them. And while an NFL team can go from a five-win team to a playoff team in three years — the Vikings did, going 5-10-1 in 2013 and 11-5 in 2015 — a losing record doesn’t necessarily mean results down the road. In fact, teams like the Seahawks, Steelers, Packers and Patriots routinely rebuild on the fly and rarely, if ever, burn it down.
The notable difference there, of course, is that all four of those teams have had a great quarterback situation for a long time. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are the two best QBs this side of Patrick Mahomes. Ben Roethlisberger’s career is winding down, but he’s been in Pittsburgh since 2004. Tom Brady just left New England.
While there is blame to go around in a 1-5 season, a lot of this is on Cousins. Sure, there was no preseason, and it took Justin Jefferson two weeks to get going — but he’s good! Cousins, on the other hand, really struggled in the first two weeks, threw an interception to let Seattle back in the game early in the second half and threw a pick on the first play against the winless Atlanta Falcons.
That’s not an all-encompassing list of Cousins’ transgressions, of course. But you know all of them already.
The point is that if this is mostly on the quarterback, then that’s the place to make the change. These close losses to Seattle and the Tennessee Titans may be blessings in disguise. The Jets are the Jets, so Trevor Lawrence is probably out of the picture, but what about Justin Fields or Trey Lance? If you blow up the team, aren’t they taking a gamble on these same players anyways?
In that case, what’s to say that the next GM is better than Spielman? Or the next coach is better than Zimmer, for that matter? How much of this is on the GM when Teddy Bridgewater has a career-altering injury on a non-contact play?
If the Vikings are certain that they’ve found the next Sean McVay or Kliff Kingsbury, it makes sense to make a change. Otherwise, a knee-jerk firing of the coach is short-term satisfaction, but isn’t guaranteed to produce results in the long run.
When it comes to players, a full teardown means moving on from fan-favorites. That means Adam Thielen: The walk-on from Detroit Lakes! It means Harrison Smith: Dirty Harry! Harry the Hitman! It means Eric Kendricks: The team’s star linebacker!
The most even-minded approach here is to try to move some players who are unlikely to be part of the big picture — Anthony Harris and Riley Reiff, for example. That not only will allow the Vikings to stock up on draft picks, but also weaken the team enough to possibly land a potential franchise quarterback with their first-round pick.
It’s better to bring a young signal-caller into a stable environment, one with a tenured GM and coach, and veterans in the locker room. Blowing everything up might turn the Vikings into the Jets or the Browns. Wile E. Coyote has tried using dynamite for years, and he’s never caught the Road Runner.