Vikings

The Vikings Knew They Were Skating On Thin Ice Last Year

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Inuvik-Aklavik Ice Road is a 73-mile seasonal highway in Canada’s Northwest Territories that connects Inuvik, the region’s administrative center, to the remote Aklavik community. These cities are 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It would cost about $1,500 to take a connecting flight there from MSP, which is the price of an international flight to London. It’s remote and cold up there, but it’s progressively getting warmer. Therefore, the road is becoming less viable earlier in the year.

In March, cracks are beginning to form on the road that an average of 54 vehicles pass over daily. It’s perfectly safe now; the ice is thick. But it’s becoming less so every year. Once the road disappears, Aklavik becomes inaccessible by land. Travelers must use planes or a barge to access it, which is more expensive than reaching it by car. The territories’ department of transportation builds and maintains the ice roads like the one between Inuvik and Aklavik, which link 10 towns. Transportation is becoming more expensive between these cities, affecting each town’s economy and the livelihood of people there.

Last year, we learned that thin ice was holding Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s “competitive rebuild” together. Many fans met the concept with consternation when Adofo-Mensah introduced it last March. Isn’t that what Rick Spielman was doing before the Minnesota Vikings fired him? Why is he rolling it back with Kirk Cousins under center, Dalvin Cook standing behind him, and Adam Thielen flanking him out wide? Aren’t Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Patrick Peterson on the wrong side of 30? Why does he think that a team that finished around .500 in 2020 and 2021 will do any better in 2022?

“We’re all aligned on what our vision is and how we see the needs of our team this year, next year, and overall our whole time horizon,” Adofo-Mensah said last March.

When people look at teams they sometimes do it in a very binary way. And they ask, ‘Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way. The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds, we’re trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however you want to phrase it or market it, and so I think that’s kind of how we’ve approached this offseason and our time horizons going forward.

The Vikings surprised many people by winning 13 games last year. Perhaps all the roster needed was a culture change and a few tweaks. Replace Anthony Barr with Jordan Hicks, pair Danielle Hunter with Za’Darius Smith, let Justin Jefferson into the coach’s office occasionally, and let’s roll! But it would be naive to think that Minnesota won 13 games because they tightened a few screws. They won 11 games by one score in the regular season, and the New York Giants beat them in the playoffs. Even if they had advanced to the second round, it was hard to see them beating the San Francisco 49ers on the road.

Minnesota’s front office knew they weren’t a player away from winning the Super Bowl. It’s also unlikely that they’d win 13-plus games if they ran it back with last year’s team. Not only are their veterans a year older and getting more expensive, but they’ll be playing a first-place schedule. Even with a favorable schedule last year, they squeaked by teams they should have beaten.

  • The Vikings only led the Detroit Lions for 45 seconds in Week 3.
  • Wil Lutz’s double-doink field goal miss would have sent the London game into overtime. The New Orleans Saints started Andy Dalton in that game, and Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were injured.
  • They let the Chicago Bears back into the Week 4 game, and the Miami Dolphins hang around in Week 5.
  • It took a last-second drive to beat the Washington Commanders in DC and a historic comeback to beat Jeff Saturday’s Indianapolis Colts.

Vegas had the Vikings as favorites in each game they won, except when they beat the Buffalo Bills on the road. As everyone knows, it took Jefferson’s miracle catch and a lot of fortune for Minnesota to leave Orchard Park with a win. But a lot of the old guard had a hand in the victory. Kirk Cousins started slow but was steady when it mattered most. Kendricks forced the Josh Allen fumble in the end zone, and Cook ripped off an 80-yard run. Peterson had the game-sealing interception.

The Giants were the only underdog team that beat the Vikings. While that’s the game they lost by one score, it’s also the one that mattered the most. More pertinently, the Philadelphia Eagles stomped the Giants, 38-7, then beat the Niners 31-7. Minnesota wasn’t a player away from beating the Eagles or the Kansas City Chiefs. They needed a reboot.

While a reset isn’t binary tanking, as Adofo-Mensah referred to in his comments a year ago, he appears to be creating a rift between the world he inherited and the one he’s creating. The Vikings may have leaned on Kendricks when developing their culture, but they cut him after a down year. Thielen is the hometown kid who walked onto the team but will finish his career elsewhere. They’re also reportedly shopping Cook, appear to have moved on from Peterson, and reportedly are playing hardball with Harrison Smith. Cousins might only have one year left in Minnesota.

Last year was a magical run, even though it ended with a first-round exit. The Buffalo game, in particular, was unforgettable. However, the run was unsustainable. The sea may look warm, and the sky may look blue after a 13-win season. But those who go skating on thin ice shouldn’t be surprised when a crack begins to appear under their feet. It’s best to identify it now and move, painful as it is. Retaining veterans is expensive, and the Vikings need a revamped young core to contend. Adofo-Mensah isn’t going to tank, but he’s willing to remove a link between worlds.

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