(the following will appear in the Fall edition of Minnesota Score Magazine)
“People in the 80’s weren’t doing it cuz they thought it was a cool hairdo… they were doing it because they were bad ass. If someone asks you if you want extra mayonnaise, you have to say yes, because that’s part of it.”
That was Jared Allen, in one of the 100 or so mullet interviews he did in 2009, extolling the virtues of the “business in the front, party in the back lifestyle”. Remember 2009? 12-4 and one bad Favre throw and one bad coach away from the Super Bowl? Favre is gone and forgiven as that might have been his only bad throw of the season and he was 89 percent of the reason that team was 12-4. His VORP was a record 1 million. (Those last two stats fall under “columnist approximations”.) The coach and his “kick-ass” offense and “not so kick-ass” press conferences are also gone and not so forgiven. Let Chilly’s lasting imprint on the franchise be, “Vikings Football: Nobody… and we mean NOBODY hurts our caterer’s feelings!”
2010’s car-wreck of a 6-10 season was one of the more disappointing in purple history and it seemed to be sabotaged from the beginning. Favre did his silly “is he or isn’t he” charade all summer– everyone always made way too big a deal of this, including Favre– I don’t care what he said on record, there was never any question whether or not he was going to play in 2010– he should have had the stones to just say, “I’m playing, but I’m not coming to camp… I don’t need it and another month of rest will do me more good.”
Then moments before opening kickoff of game one two decisions would completely derail the team: 1. Sidney Rice decided his hip hurt (read, “didn’t get a contract extension”) and had a surgery that would keep him out the first half of the season and 2. Bryant McKinnie, perhaps still in his “good-time Saturday night” frame of mind, decided to see if he could not throw a block all season and still make All-Pro. He made a gallant attempt, but failed in the end (though he wasn’t bothered, as his 2009 record of 6 blocks thrown/All-Pro season will probably never be broken).
In a season-saving move, Chili decided to give up a 3rd round pick to bring back Home-Boy. What was to be the triumphant return of the most talented player to ever wear purple, turned out to be the equivalent of signing a 120 pound, Japanese shortstop to a 10 million dollar deal. (Although Nishi smiles a lot and seems to appreciate free food.)
You can make an argument that the 2010 disaster of a season had it’s seeds planted in the legendary 2005 draft, when the purple brass took WR Troy Williamson with the 7th pick (20 picks later the Falcons took WR Roddy White, who people had actually heard of while he played in college– and who’s now a top 5 receiver in the league) and then flat out stole Wisconsin hero Erasmus James with the 18th pick, leaving the crestfallen Packers to take QB Aaron Rodgers with pick number 24.
Anyway, we have to move on, right? The not-so-good news for our 6-10 2010 Vikings is that of the 17 teams that were .500 or worse in 2009, 13 of them stayed .500 or worse in 2010. But there’s always hope in the NFL– for heaven’s sake the Bears went 11-5 last year.
Favre and Rice are gone, replaced by Donovan McNabb and…um….Devin Aromashodu. If you don’t know who Devin is, let me put your mind at ease– he was the 24th receiver taken in the 2006 draft, selected only 86 spots after skiing great Jeremy Bloom, which might be unfair to say because he does have more career touchdowns (4), than Bloom has skiing World Championships (3).
McNabb should be fine as a one or two year starter at quarterback, he’ll only be asked to throw passes shorter than 20 yards and Adrian Peterson will run for 1,400 more of the most impressive yards you’ll see (there should be a stat for “yards rushed with absolutely no hole provided by your line). The offensive line is a combination of old, slow, small and overweight (the best thing about Favre in ’09 is that he could pick a target and have the ball there in .08 seconds– last year that went up to about 1.2 seconds, so he got destroyed a lot). The new Bryant McKinnie, Charlie Johnson, looks terrible, but at least he won’t make the pro-bowl and get into nightclub fights late on Saturday nights.
The defensive line is decent, but not nearly the sure thing they were two years ago. Kevin Williams is coming off a down year (for him), fat Pat is gone and Ray Edwards is gone. The linebackers are fine, if not spectacular, Chad Greenway should finally make a pro-bowl. The secondary will be awful like it is every year (but I imagine every (non-Jets) NFL fan base thinks that of their secondary. Antoine Winfield is a great tackler, but I’m not sure he could cover Jim Thome at this point, and the other five guys that get action back there will be bad. Last year’s first pick Chris Cook is showing a scary combination of the all the less than mediocre skills of Asher Allen, Marcus McCauley and Dustin Fox. Hopefully Madieu Williams is playing in the Twin Cities Co-Ed Rec League this year, where he’ll still be one of the worst cover guys in the league.
The problem the Vikings have in Minnesota is that when they’re really good (’98, 2009) they’re far better than the Twins have ever been in that decade– you can argue that the Vikings were the best team in the NFL both years. The Twins are the Honda Accord that’s always gotten about as far as they could go with the gas they’ve been given, the Vikings have shown flashes of being a Ferrari that always crashes before the finish line.
So welcome to the 2011 Vikings… they’re a Honda Accord, but hopefully they’ll take the extra mayonnaise.