Vikings preview time.
Turn the page if you only show up for the weird family shit or whatever else.
About five weeks until opening day in the NFL and I love the Minnesota Vikings chances.
This team has all the tools.
Say what you want about Kirk Cousins, but this is his kind of team (What? Please explain Jordan.) (No problem)…
The defense improved this offseason (more on that in a moment…they had nowhere to go but up) and will depend on newcomers, veteran leadership, and experienced coaching to be successful on that side of the ball in 2021.
The offense, which ranked 4th in the NFL in 2020, should be the Vikings strong suit again. It’ll be led by first year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, Kirk Cousin’s fourth OC in as many seasons.
The Vikings also drafted Kirk’s replacement…the dreaded quarterback of the future…in the third round this year. The selecting of Kellen Mond is a giant indication ownership has told management “We’re done with the Cousins era in Minnesota. We won’t pay him another dime.”
Kirk: That’s fine. Bring that shit on.
The best part about this upcoming NFL year is I have my finger on the pulse of this team more than any other Vikings squad in offseason history of my distinguished fandomhood. With the possible exception of 2015, a year where I accurately predicted every game, minus the playoff loss to the Seahawks…which I would’ve also had correct if Blair Walsh didn’t hook a 27 yard field goal at the buzzer.
That also includes having a better feel for this season’s team than last years. Which is also saying something. (Feel free to click here for last year’s deadly accurate preseason prediction as well.)
It also should be noted I told anyone who would listen the Vikings were heading to the Super Bowl before the 2018 season and they failed to make the playoffs. I hate that part of my history as a fan, but providing full discretion dictates I have to release that information. Factor that in however you’d like.
So here we go…
It’s actually relatively simple, but incredibly complex and sophisticated at the same time.
The type of thing that’ll leave you saying…huh, makes sense, why didn’t I think of that?
Let’s start with the new offensive coordinator.
Klint Kubiak’s name gives him bonafide NFL pedigree. His experience level and non-nepotism track record does not. Let’s be real, he was hired to keep the same continuity and scheme within the Vikings offense his father successfully provided a year ago.
Next sentence: He gets no sniff of the job if his last name is anything other than Kubiak.
But…he’s also potentially the next wave…Which is where this whole scenario of the 2021 Vikings season starts to unfold.
The guy is 34 years old and has been around the game his whole life.
He fits the mold of a Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Kevin Stefanski, Matt LaFleur, and Kliff Kingsbury right before they were all hired as NFL head coaches.
One successful season and he’ll be everybody’s next can’t miss head coaching candidate.
So, why not this year Klint? What’s stopping you?…Certainly not the talent level you’ll have to work with…
And if you’re head coach Mike Zimmer, and you know Jack Shit about offense, do you really want Kirk Cousins learning a whole new system, again, after the unit he led last year ranked in the top 5 and was the strength of the team, when it’s all but a certainty you’ll be fired if you don’t make the playoffs?
Not even ol’ Zim has that big of an ego. I’m sure he called Parcells for advice before the hiring and even ol’ Bill told him to leave that offense alone.
So he we are…He correctly decided to roll the dice and let the younger Kubiak take the reins.
How does this all affect Cousins?
It’s a perfect fit for Kirk…
One of the most durable and productive quarterbacks in the NFL the past 6 seasons (I’m not here to argue, the stats simply and plainly indicate as much) gets to have a little bit of input into what plays are being called as well.
All the sudden the 32 year-old controversial QB is the experienced front man, with nothing to lose, thrust into more of an advisory role if and when he wants it.
He could even flirt with using veto power in the huddle, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more audibles at the line of scrimmage this year than any other time in Cousins’s career.
Clearly I expect big results.
Especially now that he sees the writing on the wall with the Mond pick. He knows without a deep run in the playoffs this season his time in Minnesota may be over, if not at the end of this season then definitely after next.
What does he have to lose?
Cousins knows its now or never and I look for him to embrace that and use it to his advantage.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr has already said Kirk has a lot more swagger this year in camp.
In addition to Smith Jr, we all know Cousins has plenty of talent around him to take this team to the next level. Handing the ball to Dalvin Cook and throwing to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, speaks for itself. It doesn’t need a hardcore breakdown. These guys are all great at what they do.
The offensive line should also be vastly improved from last season. It won’t be great, but the potential for it to be ‘good enough’ is definitely there. Hell, they were basically good enough last year, hanging in there by dental floss, to be the anchor of a unit that finished 4th in the league. And vast improvement through free agency and the draft, adding guys like Christian Darrisaw, Wyatt Davis, and Mason Cole, will do nothing but help.
The Vikings’s offensive line won’t be a top tier unit in the NFL in 2021, but they will have plenty of depth and consistency. They’ll won’t be much off a fall-off if an injury occurs.
In 2020 the offensive line took too much of the blame for the team’s failures. While it’s true they weren’t great in the trenches last season, the other side of the ball didn’t take nearly enough responsibility for the team’s shortcomings.
Last year’s defense was absolutely dreadful.
It was the worst defense I had seen Minnesota trot out onto the field since 2011.
Even coach Zimmer called it a bad defense. He said it was the worst he’s ever coached.
Which is why he and the front office went out and did a massive overhaul on that unit.
Gone are the Mike Hughes, Chris Jones, Anthony Harris, Shamar Stephen, and Holton Hill’s of the world. All replaced by bonafide names like Patrick Peterson, Sheldon Richardson, Stephen Weatherly, Mackenzie Alexander, Xavier Woods, Dalvin Tomlinson, Bashaud Breeland, Tye Smith, and Nick Vigil.
All of them signed to one year contracts.
Add in the fact that returning starters Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, and Danielle Hunter will be eligible for free agency next year, you’re potentially looking at 7 to 9 starters on defense that’ll be playing on expiring contracts in 2021.
All these guys are worlds better than any of the scrubs the Vikings threw out there last season in their position.
And although the moves make zero long-term sense, they still get me excited.
So here’s the breakdown and how this all comes together:
Zimmer and Spielman know if the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year they’re both gone after the season. So they did what any two normal human-beings would do if their boss told them they just needed to see improvement in the next calendar year to keep their job: Focus 100% attention on the next 12 months. Future be damned. We gotta keep our jobs now. (This mentality is really the overall problem with the Vikings from the top down. Acting as if making the playoffs on its own is any sort of achievement in a league designed for parody. But this is how current Vikings ownership measures success, so I digress.)
So the coach and the GM waived players, restructured contracts, and signed about 15 guys to one year contracts.
And every last one of them will be playing to show the Vikings, and/or any other team in the league, that they’re worth another.
That alone should give the defense enough of a kick in the ass this season.
Cousins has been told time and time again he’s not good enough to be the starting quarterback of a super bowl contending team.
And one name comes to mind when I hear that: Joe Flacco.
Not the shitty, conservative, game-managing, mostly awful QB Joe was the majority of his career, but rather the QB he turned into during the 2012 season, when he famously wanted a contract extension and Ravens ownership said he needed to show them he was an elite quarterback first. Flacco then lead the Ravens into the playoffs, going 4-0 that postseason, while throwing 11 TDs and 0 INTs. The Ravens won the super bowl and he took home the MVP trophy.
(Management was forced to pay him and he went to complete and utter shit almost immediately after that. But that’s beside the point.)
Cousins is a better quarterback than Joe Flacco was/is. They have basically no similarities in their styles of play other than they share in both having limited mobility.
But this years situation is almost the exact same for Cousins as it was for Flacco in 2012.
And what would be the perfect 2021 storyline for everyone whose annoyance level with Kirk Cousins is already through the roof?…The exact year he is going to have.
I expect Kirk Cousins to be an MVP candidate in 2021.
Yep. I said it…
Now let’s quickly move on…
Klint Kubiak will be in prove-it mode.
He won’t have to prove anything to me. I expect his father’s zone rushing attack and play-action passing game to be a better/smarter version with him at the helm in 2021.
Version 2.0, maybe even 3.0.
Dalvin will be Dalvin. I’m sure he’ll miss 1-3 games with an injury, but will put up big enough numbers, both rushing and receiving, that no one will even notice.
Danielle Hunter will have the best year of his career–past, present, or future,–and demand a billion dollars from the Vikings in the offseason.
Harrison Smith will once again be the anchor of the team, and the easiest guy on the field to root for.
Patrick Peterson will find his fountain of youth and be completely rejuvenated playing in Zimmer’s scheme while wearing his old college number (7) and feeling spry again.
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks will showcase their versatility in the middle all year long, often times doing so while being the only two linebackers on the field as Minnesota looks to play more 5 defensive back sets the majority of the time because of their newly found depth at the CB position. The two of them will fly all over the field and make it virtually impossible for teams to run the ball or throw to their tight ends.
The crowd will be back in full capacity at one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
And maaaaaaybe the Vikings will even get a bounce or two in a big spot.
All the stars are aligned perfectly for a bounce-back year in 2021.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Floor: 11-6. Ceiling: 14-3.
I expect Minnesota to finish the season 13-4.
BULLET POINTS AND FINAL RESULTS: Minnesota has a great regular season that could’ve been even better if they didn’t lose 1 or 2 games along the way in typical Vikings fashion. They go on to lose in either the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs (to a team they are much better than, probably Seattle) when NFL COVID-19 policies come back to haunt Cousins (who wouldn’t get vaccinated if Jesus Christ himself came down to earth and told him it was okay and wanted to administer it to him) preventing him from playing, and/or their inconsistency in the field goal kicking game comes back to bite the team in the ass.
The field goal kicker is the 2nd most valuable position on any NFL team and the Vikings (and other losing franchises) continue to ignore that. It blows my mind.
This season’s kicker will be the winner of a camp tryout between two guys I’ve never heard of, and no other team wants. And one of them is currently hurt. Well done boys. I’m sure that’ll work out great.
(Might as well trot out Patrick Hanson and Tanner Keil for a battle of best toe punch.)
And the conclusion of 2021 outta make the 2022 offseason interesting.
I can already hear all the idiot Vikings fans now…
“Just bring back everybody and sign a better kicker!…“
Outta be real easy to do with all those expiring contracts…