If you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan, you’ve probably been on a roller coaster of emotions this offseason.
There was the promise of a new regime with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell. Then there was an offseason where they did the exact same thing as their predecessors.
When the smoke cleared, Vikings fans were leery. But just as the team reported to training camp, the purple Kool-Aid was served.
Fans flocked to TCO Performance Center to watch their favorite team. Players seemed happy to be there. The bad juju from the Mike Zimmer era had disappeared, replaced with a feeling of something new and exciting.
Suddenly, the Vikings are a trendy sleeper pick. But why is everyone suddenly chugging that purple Kool-Aid?
Maybe it was because Zimmer’s was laced with cyanide.
Last year’s Vikings team was about as fun as going to the dentist. The Vikings ranked fourth in total yards, but 11th in points scored in 2020, and the discrepancy offered an open invitation to lean into the offense. But the Vikings decided to go the other way and add to their defense.
They spent roughly $45 million to bring Zimmer reinforcements, none of whom did much to excite fans. Dalvin Tomlinson for $21 million? Patrick Peterson for $9 million? Bashaud Breeland for $2 million? It was like getting socks for Christmas.
The fun continued in the draft. The Vikings teased everyone by attempting to trade up for Justin Fields, but their lowball offer to the Carolina Panthers went viral as quickly as their reaction to the Philadelphia Eagles taking Jalen Reagor.
Instead, the Vikings traded down in the draft to take Christian Darrisaw and a pair of third-round picks. The deal was a treasure trove to the Vikings front office, but not so much to the coaching staff. Kellen Mond, Chazz Surratt, Wyatt Davis, and Patrick Jones III were thrown into a closet immediately and were never to be seen again.
The offseason wasn’t enough to get fans excited, and the hits kept coming during training camp. First, the Vikings had the NFL’s lowest vaccination rate. Then, Mond tested positive for COVID-19 and knocked out the entire quarterback room. Kirk Cousins threatened to entomb himself in a plexiglass case, and Zimmer sang the praises of…Jake Browning.
The Vikings were demolished in their first two preseason games, leaving Zimmer desperate for a preseason touchdown. Because of this, Irv Smith Jr. spent too much time on the field and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Later in the game, Zimmer probably demanded Klint Kubiak coach from the press box.
We all know what happened from there. The Vikings went 8-9, missed the playoffs, and fired everyone. At this point, Zimmer’s Kool-Aid was weaker than a single packet into a swimming pool. But Kevin O’Connell crashed through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man.
The Vikings’ coaching staff spent the first few months of their tenure getting to know each other by attending sporting events. Could you imagine Zimmer and Spielman demolishing some nachos at a Timberwolves game? Or fist bumping Dean Evason at a Wild game? Of course, you couldn’t. But there were the Vikings’ new leaders.
O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah spent the next few weeks retaining most of the roster, but there was still a sense of optimism heading into the draft. In a 20-minute video released by the team, Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell can be seen sharing their excitement as they trade down for Lewis Cine and accumulate picks in the “sweet spot” of the draft.
By comparison, a 20-minute video of the Vikings 2021 war room may have needed a parental advisory warning.
OTAs were a life-and-death experience for Zimmer, but O’Connell canceled the final day of practice. Instead, the team got together for a barbeque, complete with Cousins’ signature steaks. Suddenly, the team had come together, things were looking better, and the national pundits started to notice.
It started when Colin Cowherd predicted that the Vikings would double their win total. Although he was probably surprised when he was informed of Minnesota’s actual record, Cowherd still put the Vikings on 13 or 14 wins solely because Zimmer was gone.
MMQB’s Albert Breer slammed a big glass of Kool-Aid earlier this week when he listed a slew of observations from training camp. Darrisaw is now the second coming of Trent Williams. Eric Kendricks has found the fountain of youth. K.J. Osborn and Cam Bynum are ready to break out. Andrew Booth Jr. is the talk of training camp.
Even the coaching staff has been feeling the vibes. When Smith suffered a broken thumb, O’Connell stopped by to tell the media that he needed surgery instead of calling it a flesh wound. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said Zach Davidson had dominated in college against “a team of Wes Phillips’.” Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said Greg Joseph could have the best year of his career.
If the Vikings are empowering kickers, everyone is slamming the Kool-Aid faster than a Big Ten fraternity crushes a case of Busch Light. But there are still some people that are a little skeptical.
It’s only natural. Vikings fans are trained to expect the worst, and we haven’t seen this team lose a preseason game. Then again, the Vikings hadn’t lost a game at this point last year.
With the season five weeks away, the Vikings can use all the good vibes they can get. A season-opening game against the Packers isn’t anything to scoff at. If the Kool-Aid keeps flowing, the Vikings really will be in a much better position than they were a year ago.