No Viking fan has ever had a season that ended happily. Not in the super bowl era. This one isn’t as painful as some past endings, as far as heartbreak, but is still tough to take when you look at the big picture.
This team really thought they were going to win the super bowl 2 years ago. I did too…First and only time of my life I predicted they’d win it in the preseason. The problem is they spent like they believed it too. ‘Mortgaged their future’ as they say. The last time they did this was in 2009 with Favre and it took them 4 years to recover (depending on your definition of recover). The Cousins contract is a big part of the restrictions they’ll have going forward, but that’s really only the beginning of the story.
Ever since Denny Green was fired in the early 2000’s, the Vikings have always been excellent with the salary cap. Every single offseason they’d be one of the teams with the most cap space going into free agency and the draft. Rob Brzezinski has been the man in charge of dealing with their salary cap since 2001 and has done an amazing job, culminating in the offseason after 2017 where the organization finished with a loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. That offseason the Vikings were loaded with cap space (53+ million), and for the first time, instead of keeping the future in mind, they blew every last dollar. Feeling like they were only a QB away, they overpaid Cousins. They followed that up with the Re-signing of Diggs, Hunter, Kendricks, and eventually Anthony Barr, along with adding Sheldon Richardson in free agency. While I liked every one of the signings from a player perspective, they were all huge deals. No bargains. Factor in the contracts of existing players like Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, Riley Reiff and Everson Griffen. It was time to win now.
They finished 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs.
This years team from a talent standpoint was worse. Next years team on paper will be worse yet again. I don’t see anyway around it, (short of drafting 4 or 5 all-pro type starters) and it’s left me as a fan in some sort of weird purgatory going into next year. Can they be competitive? For a playoff spot maybe, but who cares…
The Offensive Coordinator just took the Browns job, meaning they’ll hire their 5th different coach for that role in the last 6 years. Important free agents such as Trae Waynes and Anthony Harris will simply move on. And the defense, even though it hasn’t been drastic, is moving inch by inch toward being old and mediocre. Harrison Smith will be 31 next season. I can’t tell you how much that bums me out.
Speculation is they will extend Cousins and Cook this offseason and build around them. I’ll be there on Sundays. Watching. But I’m not excited. The beginning of the Mike Tice, Leslie Frazier, and even Brad Childress era’s were appointment television. Not because I thought those teams would be good in that 1st or 2nd year, but because I could see the long term vision of what they wanted to do. It was exciting. It was equally depressing watching those teams in the last year of their respective coaching regimes. You could see the team’s plan had failed and they needed to start over with a new vision.
Zimmer will be back next year. Last year of his contract. And this team has a feel like they missed their window.