The Minnesota Vikings entered Sunday afternoon hoping to ease the concerns that surfaced from a Week 1 beating from the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings left Sunday afternoon wondering what the hell happened in a 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
With a total system failure that included safeties, an offensive scheme from 1997 and a defense that can’t get off the field, the Vikings find themselves with an 0-2 record. There are many things that fans will point to as to why this team has been so bad in the opening weeks, but the real reason is the arrogance of the Vikings’ brain trust.
Let’s hop in the DeLorean and head back to January 2020. The Vikings were getting smashed in an NFC Divisional Game by the San Francisco 49ers. The loss signaled a need for change. The Vikings were an old, defeated team defensively, but they had an offense that had plenty of talent even when Kevin Stefanski left for Cleveland.
With one of the league’s best receiver duos, an elite backfield, and a quarterback that could do enough to win games, the Vikings had the offense to stay in the mix of the NFC contenders. Unfortunately, they decided to get in their own way.
It started back in March when the Vikings opted to trade Stefon Diggs because he had the audacity to suggest they use a modern-day offense. Even though Rick Spielman got a haul for Diggs, the trade made no sense after extending Kirk Cousins earlier in the day.
The jury is still out whether the deal will eventually work for the Vikings, but Sunday was not a good day to provide optimism. As the quarterback that needs All-Pro talent everywhere to succeed, Cousins looked lost against the Colts. With a 0.0 quarterback rating prior to garbage time, Vikings fans watched Cousins flounder as Diggs put up eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown for the Buffalo Bills.
But that’s where the arrogance comes in. Even though the Vikings thought they could replace Diggs with Justin Jefferson, their approach to fixing their defense was even more far-fetched.
With a need for adequate talent everywhere on defense, Spielman opted to trade down and hoard late-round picks during the draft. While the deals eventually landed him Yannick Ngakoue, some higher picks may have been better spent on a guard, defensive tackle, or a quality defensive end for depth.
Instead, Spielman trusted that co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson could make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. D.J. Wonnum was projected as a redshirt from the second he was selected in the fourth round. James Lynch was told to switch positions without a normal offseason. Harrison Hand hasn’t suited up in the first two weeks. The rest aren’t even worth mentioning.
While the opt-out of Michael Pierce was out of their control, the Vikings were unable to stop the run on Sunday. They couldn’t get off the field because Jonathan Taylor looked like he was slicing through the Gophers‘ defense (again). Even though the world’s greatest nose tackle, Shamar Stephen, was matched up with the world’s greatest guard, Quenton Nelson, the result was as big of a route as the scoreboard suggested.
Even after all of this, the hubris just seems to get worse. Mike Zimmer tried to be Bill Belichick when Danielle Hunter “tweaked” his neck. They trotted Pat Elflein out at right guard knowing full well it wouldn’t work and surrounded a quarterback that reflects the talent on the field by nearly taking away all of the talent around him.
Through the first two weeks, Zimmer has responded to this like the dog in the “This is Fine” meme. After Aaron Rodgers lit all three of his cornerbacks on fire, he responded “We’ll be fine.” After Sunday’s loss, Zimmer spouted another “the ceiling is the roof” gem.
Instead of adapting and winning with the strength of their team, the Vikings burned it down. Now, they are stuck in salary cap hell with a roster that might not be good enough to compete in a wide-open conference.