It felt like yesterday when the national media (and even some local folks) were calling the Minnesota Vikings frauds. Despite winning 13 games last season in the first year of a new regime, the talking heads were busy highlighting Minnesota’s point differential, their offensive and defensive DVOA, or their perceived luck in 11 one-score victories. For seemingly all of last season, people were telling Skoldiers that their team wasn’t for real. I’m not necessarily saying that those folks were wrong for dismissing last year’s Vikings, especially after going one-and-done in the playoffs, losing at home to the New York Giants. But boy, has the national narrative turned.
At the current juncture of the roller coaster ride that has become the 2023 Vikings, the Purple and Gold have suddenly morphed into the NFL’s darlings. They might just be the biggest story in American sports right now. After Sunday’s 27-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints inside U.S. Bank Stadium, the NFL’s official Twitter/X account changed its cover photo from Taylor Swift inside Met Life Stadium to a picture of Josh Dobbs from Sunday’s game. With the headline, “In Dobbs We Trust.”
Suffice to say, the Passtronaut has taken planet Earth by storm. After another stellar performance where Dobbs was on fire in the first half, completing 18/22 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown, with a spectacular rushing touchdown to boot, the ignition sequence has started, and the countdown from mission control has officially begun.
America can’t help itself. We’ve always been a sucker for a good old-fashioned underdog story. Whether it’s the Rocky series or Average Joe’s taking down Globo Gym in Dodgeball, we simply can’t get enough of seeing the little guy come out on top. When it comes to the present-day Vikings, they’re accomplishing the seemingly impossible — at least by NFL standards.
No NFL team is supposed to win five straight after losing their best player, especially when that player’s peers have him ranked as the second-best player in the league. Supplement that with losing your starting quarterback for the year while your QB2 is already on injured reserve, then have your third-string rookie signal-caller go down in the first quarter of his first career NFL start.
Some of the best coaches and teams have recently been handed similar injury misfortune to their most important players. In the 2020, the San Francisco 49ers were 1-1 and coming off a 2019 campaign where they captured the NFC crown. But in Week 2 against the New York Jets, Kyle Shanahan’s Niners lost Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Bosa to injury in the Meadowlands. San Francisco put Bosa on season-ending IR after tearing his ACL, and Garoppolo suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for two weeks before eventually landing on season-ending IR in Week 12. The 49ers finished the season 6-10.
Or how about last season’s Los Angeles Rams? After coming off a Super Bowl victory, Sean McVay’s ball club was already riding the struggle bus to start the year with a 3-5 record. But after Cooper Kupp suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10, along with Matthew Stafford going on IR the following week, LA limped to the finish line with a 5-12 record.
With similar adversity that Shanahan and McVay couldn’t overcome, here the Vikings are at 6-4 with the Sunday Night Football national stage and a trip to Mile High upcoming for America’s latest sweethearts.
Could the wheels fall off at any given moment? Of course. That’s life in the NFL, particularly if you’ve made the conscious decision to be a Vikings fan (as I’m sure you’re already aware). But in the here and now, the talking heads can’t help but shower Minnesota with well-deserved praise.
ESPN’s Mina Kimes went on Twitter/X (buzz off, Elon) Monday night and proclaimed that the Vikings are America’s team.
The Athletic’s Dianna Russini believes O’Connell is the clear-cut favorite for the NFL’s Coach of the Year award.
Is it a bit hypocritical to acknowledge the endless positivity that the national media has for the Vikings at the moment, while attempting to turn a blind eye just last season to these same naysayers? Probably. But what this team is accomplishing right now with the circumstances they’ve been presented is simply undeniable. Plus, no one ever likes it when someone calls your baby ugly (even if they kinda sorta deserve it). It’s such a rare occurrence when the lovable losers from snowy Minnesota — who have never hoisted a Lombardi Trophy — have this much wind in their sails from the entire sports world. And it’d be foolish not to soak it all in.
The Vikings are playing with house money. Even if this team stumbles along the way and reverts to resembling that of a 2020 or 2021 Mike Zimmer-led Vikings team by flirting with .500 and missing the playoffs, it’s more than understandable considering the hand they’ve been dealt. Which, of course, O’Connell would never concede as an excuse if the rest of the season played out as such.
Even though your lifelong Minnesota Vikings fandom Spidey senses are probably doing their damnedest right now by reminding you to keep expectations in check with inevitable doom right around the corner, studies have shown that a keg stand (or 12) from the purple Kool-Aid keg helps subside the natural pessimistic side effects of being a Vikings fan. And that’s exactly how Skoldiers should be conducting themselves with the endless amount of fun that this team is providing right now.