After making it to the playoffs a year before, most people would think : young quarterback, an unstoppable force at running back and an above average defense? No where to go – but up! Unfortunately for the Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier, that was not the case.
The Vikings finished last in the NFC North with five wins, ten losses and – oh yeah, a tie.
Going into the season, the biggest question was at quarterback and the focus was on Christian Ponder. The Vikings had what they thought was enough to help the young quarterback catch his stride, by acquiring Greg Jennings and drafting Cordarrelle Patterson to go along with Kyle Rudolph at tight end, and the unstoppable force that is Adrian Peterson, in the backfield. At worse, most figured Ponder could at least be a “game manager.” But Christian Ponder never seemed comfortable while playing and appeared to be a guy who will always look like a first year quarterback.
The quarterback issues in Minnesota showed their true colors as the team signed Josh Freeman, who three days prior to his signing, was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freeman had been underwhelming to say the least while at Tampa and stories had surfaced about his issues with coach Greg Schiano. The Vikings signed Freeman and he played terribly in the Monday night game which gave the New York Giants their first win of the season after going into the contest 0-6. The non-impressive QB carousel went something like : Ponder then Cassel; Cassel to Freeman; Freeman to Ponder; and then Ponder back to Cassel.
At the mid-way point of the season their record was an abysmal 1-7.
The Vikings never really took advantage of the talent they had drafted in Cordarrelle Patterson until late in the season. Patterson was a threat in the kick return game averaging 32.4 yards a return and taking two kickoffs to the house. He’s a talent they were fortunate enough to end up with on their squad and moving forward should be their number one guy.
After rushing for 2097 yards the previous season, Adrian Peterson ran for about 800 yards fewer while averaging 4.5 yards a rush. Considering the aforementioned quarterback issues Minnesota had all season long, it was easy for most defenses to gamble with one-on-one coverage on the outsides while loading up the box on the run.
The Vikings gave up 287 passing yards a game, ranking them 31st overall although one can make the excuse that losing second year safety Harrison Smith affected that number. Regardless of how good I think Harrison Smith is, I doubt his presence would’ve swung that number from 31st to 5th. . .
5 of the Vikings ten losses were determined by a margin of 7 points or less. Three of those ten losses came at the mercy of at least 21 points and those three loses came from teams that were dominate (for the most part) all season : Carolina, Seattle and Cincinnati. The Vikings made a game out of most contest and were not an “easy out,” by any means – they split in all three of their divisional match ups (yes I’m counting the tie to Green Bay as a win, because I’m trying to make a point) and with that I thought Leslie Frazier might have a chance at keeping his job by season’s end, but it was not to be.
It seemed as if this Vikings team was playing with a lot of heart at points in the season where everyone knew they had no chance at anything – one would think that would count for something in the defense of Frazier’s employment, but in the NFL, it’s not about how close you were to winning, it’s about winning.
Moving forward I think the Vikings can make next season’s divisional battle a tough one but only if they have their quarterback situation figured out. If it’s through the draft or free agency, the Vikings need a signal caller under center. And that signal caller doesn’t have to be a trail blazer right from the start either – they just need some kind of consistency at that position to make up for the plethora of “bleh” they had at quarterback this season.
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