Quick Quiz: Q1 – What year did the Vikes last win a Conference Championship?; Q2 – When did they last play in a Super Bowl?; Q3 – When did they last win three or more postseason games?; Q4: When did they last win a Super Bowl? We’ll get back to this in a bit.
In 2017, the Vikings went 13 and 3, the most games they’ve won in the regular season in 58 years, excepting the 1998 season.
Long-suffering Viking fans went wild. The talk was all about dynasty – at least among rabid fans, though not so much among knowledgeable sports people. By Googling, I did find one source proclaiming “Vikings Build Dynasty.” Oh wait, the entire title was “Vikings build dynasty as NFL’s most arrested team.”
In the 2017 preseason, Sports Illustrated had a list of the top 400 best NFL players. It included five Vikings, all defensive players: SS Harrison Smith (40), OLB Anthony Barr (121), DE Danielle Hunter (192), LB Erik Kendricks (246), and S Andrew Sendejo (263).
And that list didn’t include three other bona fide defensive stars: DE Everson Griffen, CB Xavier Rhodes, and DT Linval Joseph, each of whom got his contract extended over a 10-day stretch prior to the 2017 season. The three contracts alone, for four or five years of duration, totaled over $178 million.
Never mind the offense, the Minnesota faithful were sure they had built a defense for the ages.
I did a post back on 10/13/17 titled Have the Vikings Over-Invested in their Defense – the gist was that their front office disproportionately paid out a fortune to their defensive stars. They were going to have a moment in the sunlight, but would then come crashing down, as they’d have to let many of those high-pay guys go before their contracts ran out. I figured their window of opportunity was small: 2017 and 2018 most likely.
I miscalculated a bit. In 2017, Minnesota’s defense finished the regular season ranked first in both fewest yards given up and points scored. They were second best in both yards yielded on the ground and through the air. Their high hopes were dashed in the postseason by Nick Foles and the Eagles, who ran up 38 points to the Vikings’ seven.
Instead of becoming even more dominant in 2018, the purple and gold regressed.
The Vikes fell to fourth best in yards yielded last season, and only ninth best in points allowed. Not bad, but not anticipated, and certainly not dynastic. They finished with a mediocre 8-7-1 record, and in losing convincingly to the Bears in their season finale – at home no less – they missed the playoffs and reinforced their ordinariness.
They must have been devastated by injuries, right? Nope. Of the eight stars listed above, only Sendejo was on the field for less than 56 percent of the defensive snaps.
Due primarily to their profligate and unbalanced spending, I’d say the Vikings defensive juggernaut will begin to unravel in 2019, and will be a hot mess by 2020.
Oh yeah, the quiz. Last Conference Championship – 1976 (they lost in 2017, 2009, 2000, 1998, 1987, and 1977); Last Super Bowl appearance – 1976; last 3-win postseason – Never; Last Super Bowl win – Seriously?
Cue the Vikings announcer: Presenting Your 2019 Minnesota Vikings: Proudly Beginning Our 59th Year of Futility!