Vikings

It's Groundhog Day For the Minnesota Vikings...Again

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The alarm went off on a beautiful Minnesota morning. Paul Allen’s voice blasted through the speakers. You put on your favorite purple hoodie.

You walk outside and are greeted by the neighbor. You know the one – he’s the guy who says “Skol!” all the time. But you quickly nod to acknowledge him without starting a 30-minute conversation.

You make your way to work, go about your business, and come home to watch the Philadelphia Eagles blast the Minnesota Vikings. You’re disappointed, but you go to bed knowing the sun will come up tomorrow and then…you hear Paul Allen’s voice again.

Your neighbor is still there saying “Skol” and you go back to your job and go about your business only to go home and watch the Eagles wax the Vikings. It feels like a coincidence, but it keeps happening again and again.

On Thursday night, it was Groundhog Day for the Minnesota Vikings…again.

It happened nearly five hours from the city where Punxsutawney Phil usually crushes the dreams of midwesterners in February. Six more weeks of winter sounded like a light sentence compared to what the Vikings experienced, considering the Eagles hit harder than a blizzard on Halloween.

The Eagles ran for 259 yards and were able to convert four long receptions to DeVonta Smith. With the Vikings fumbling like it was the 2009 NFC Championship Game, fans may have had a strong sense of deja vu, but it wasn’t related to the 34-28 loss on Saturday night.

In a lot of ways, the Vikings are always a bridesmaid. They could also be the NFL’s version of Phil Connors.

Connors is Bill Murray’s character from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, which follows a day in the life of a narcissistic weatherman. After scoffing at his assignment to cover the celebration in Punxsutawney, Murray goes to bed only to realize he’s living the same day over and over again.

 

After having some fun with the scenario, Murray tries to find a way out by making his surroundings adapt to him. Many failed attempts later, Murray decides to start working on himself. That attracts the love of his life, played by Andie MacDowell, and gets him out of his daily rut.

This was the tale the Vikings have spun for the majority of the past two decades. They attempt to be good enough to compete but are never in the upper tier of contenders. They’re always in the mix, but it ends with a loss in the Wild Card round or being the first team to miss the playoffs.

It happened in 2018 when the Vikings were expected to be Super Bowl contenders but came up short in a must-win game against the Chicago Bears.

It happened again in 2020 when the Vikings got off to a 1-5 start only to get back to .500 and finish with a 7-9 record.

Even in 2021, the Vikings were up and down throughout the season and wound up missing the playoffs with an 8-9 record. Although the Vikings finished 13-4 last season, they wound up losing in the Wild Card round to the New York Giants.

When looking at this year’s team, it’s easy to see the same fate. The Vikings got off to a 0-2 start and are looking at a tough schedule. With games against the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers coming up, it’s possible the Vikings could get off to a 1-4 or even a 2-6 start if things don’t go their way.

Even then, you could see this team making its way back into the playoff picture. While the Vikings have lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Eagles, simply cleaning up their turnovers could flip more games in their direction. An easier second-half schedule and a weak conference that includes Philadelphia and San Francisco as the lone elite contenders could also have the Vikings in the hunt toward the end of the season.

Such a scenario should satisfy the Wilfs’ desire to keep the team “super competitive,” which fans have turned into a meme. However, it has not put the Vikings in a desirable spot. Much like last season, Minnesota’s success is usually based on what happens to the teams around them more than it is themselves.

While the Vikings had the No. 1 defense in 2017, they also benefitted from Carson Wentz tearing his ACL, Aaron Rodgers shattering his collarbone, and a schedule that allowed them to rattle off nine-straight wins. Even in 2019, the Vikings feasted on weak opponents, which helped them earn a playoff spot and a playoff win. However, the 49ers blasted them in the divisional round.

After each season, the Vikings made tweaks here and there, but they were never enough to get them to the next level. Fans are hoping that Rodgers leaving the division would pave the way to a division title this year. But that path is tougher after starting 0-2.

With that, the Vikings need to start working on themselves to become a true contender. They started that process last season by releasing Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Eric Kendricks. However, the roster still needs work from a personnel standpoint.

The Vikings tried to tweak their roster by adding Marcus Davenport, Josh Oliver, and Jordan Addison. However that trio, in addition to some other moves, may not be enough to avoid another 7-to-10-win season – especially based on the performance in the first two games.

Should that happen, the Vikings could be stuck committing to another year with Kirk Cousins, rolling back the same offensive line, and hoping the teams around them falter enough to pave a road to contention.

But here’s the alternate path. The Vikings could have a major shakeup, whether it be at the quarterback position or even just bringing in a legitimate offensive lineman. Even embracing their fate if they get off to a worst-case scenario start could lead to landing the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for since Fran Tarkenton retired.

Does that mean burning it down? Of course not. But it also means making a major change to what you’re doing compared to hoping the rest of the NFC falls on its face.

That’s where the Vikings have fallen behind and until they make that change, it will be Groundhog Day (again) in Minnesota.

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