Season in Review 21: Minnesota Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE MN - AUGUST 18: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre addresses the media at a press conference after the first morning practice since returning to Vikings Winter Park on August 18 2010 in Eden Prairie Minnesota. Favre injured his ankle last year and had been reportedly considering retiring after one season with the Vikings. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

The Metrodome's caved roof perfectly encapsulated the implosion that was the 2010/2011 Viking's season.

It was a rough year for Brett Favre. The ankle injury followed by the sexting scandal and then having to watch his former team Green Bay win the Super Bowl with his replacement Aaron Rodgers taking the MVP must have been difficult. 

O yeah, Minnesota's season didn't go so well either....

A year after what was arguably his best season, Brett Farve turned in one of his worst. The magic finally ran out on the Vikings and Favre's career. 

Favre's touchdown numbers plummeted to 11, the lowest in his career. He threw for 800 yards less than his previous low and at 69.9 suffered his worst quarterback rating by far. The hardest stat to stomach above all though, was that for the first time since his second season with Green Bay way back in 1992, Brett Favre did not play a full 16 games. 

The drama surrounding Favre seemed to hang over the team like a Minnesota snowstorm. The hysteria buried the Vikings and ground Brad Childress' coaching career to a halt.

Is it fair or even possible to lay all the blame at Favre's 41 year old feet? Yes and No.

The Vikings suffered several key injuries. Last year's breakout star Sidney Rice missed the first 9 games of the season. Fellow wide receiver Percy Harvin, was plagued by migraines all the way up to opening week and never had a chance to develop a chemistry with Favre. Star running back Adrian Peterson was hampered by numerous ailments and couldn't display his usual burst. Favre himself wasn't close to near 100 percent. 

At the same time, his late decision to return to the team coupled with rumors and the fallout of his sexting escapades hurt the team both on and off the field. His truculent relationship with Coach Childress didn't do anything to heal any wounds or pacify the media's lust for controversy. 

In the end, Favre nor the Vikings could duplicate their brilliant play from a year prior. The Vikings stumbled and fell hitting rock bottom of their division. A  6-10 record cost them a playoff spot and Childress his job. 

Going forward, Minnesota might have a few years left for another title run. Until they can find a quarterback though, the road ahead remains uncertain. 

 

Season in Review: Hardly Forgettable 

- Early August - Brett Favre tells ESPN he is retiring

Fans are disappointed, players are jaded, Tarvaris Jackson is thrilled

- Mid August - Brad Childress lies to his team about the whereabouts of 3 star players who were on a plane to recruit Brett Farve. 

Players and coaches are upset, fans are confused, Media are scrambling

- Late August - Skipping almost every offseason 'mandatory workout' Brett Favre announces he will come back after all. 

Fans are elated, players are pleased, Tarvaris Jackson is crushed. 

- September - Minnesota struggles early, stumbling out of the gate with a 1-2 record. Favre throws 6 picks to just 2 touchdowns.

Fans are distressed, Brad Childress is furious, Favre is dumbfounded.

 - Mid October - Deadspin.com releases damaging evidence of Favre sexting Jet's reporter Jenn Sterger including sending her nude photos of himself. 

Fans are, "wait wtf!?' Favre's wife is mortified, the league is embarrassed. 

- Beginning of November - Brad Childress suddenly cuts recently acquired Randy Moss without approval from owner Ziggy Wilf. 

Fans are..."wait, wtf not again?!?!?" players are full of distrust, Zygi Wilf is not happy (uh, how about pissed beyond belief)

- November - The Vikes keep losing - being blown out in back to back loses to division rivals the Bears and Packers by a combined 58-16. Record falls to 3-7. 

Fans are disgusted, Brad Childress is GONE, Leslie Frazier is optimistic (players are relieved)

- Mid December - The roof of the Metrodome collapses forcing the Vikings to play there remaining 'home' games outside of the stadium. 

Fans are... 'ok you can't be serious!!!!' the league is concerned, the Giants are a bit annoyed. 

- December 13 - After 297 starts dating back all the way to 1992, Brett Favre's record setting iron-man-streak finally comes to an end after a shoulder injury leaves him without feeling in his throwing hand.

Fans are...'finally its about 4 weeks too late!!!' Brad Childress scoffs and jeers from a florida beach, Joe Webb is pumped. 

- December 30th - Brett Favre is fined 50,000 dollars by the league for not fully cooperating with the investigation into his sexting allegation. 

Fans are fatigued by all the Brett Favre crap (isn't the season over?), the league is frustrated, Brett Favre doesn't care

January 2nd 2011 - The season mercifully comes to an end after a 20-13 loss in Detroit 

Fans are... hallelujah!!! have mercy, players are excited for Hawaii (not for the pro-bowl, just for an early vacation), Brett Favre is probably still sexting...

Ladies and Gentleman, your 2010-2011 Minnesota Vikings.

Now on to actual football...

Offseason Momentum: Regroup and refocus

Brett Favre is gone, however, a majority of the league high 10 pro bowlers from 2009/2010 are still in purple and gold. Yeah they are a year older but they can still play. In fact, last year Minnesota finished top 10 statistically in rushing yards, opponents rushing yards and opponents passing yards. The only category they struggled in was passing yards where they finished 26th (I guess that's payback for the disrespecting Tarvaris Jackson). 

Before Brett Favre they were always 'a quarterback away from contending.' With him, they became the most complete team. Now they are back to needing a qb to be true contenders again. The quarterback is likely to come through the draft (more on that later). 

Otherwise, at the other skill positions (RB, WR, TE, OL) the Vikings are loaded (with mostly young talent to boot). 

Adrian had a down year and still recorded 1,200 yards. Rookie Toby Gerhart out of Stanford looks to be a great back up for the future and unheralded Jimmy Kleinsasser is both a good blocker and nice safety-valve out of the backfield as well. They have 2 pro bowl receivers in Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe is a very serviceable tight end (he also has one of the more hard-to-pronounce first and last name combinations).

The offensive line is young and struggled at times last year but should be much improved. For one, as great as Brett Favre could be, he also had a habit of holding on to the ball far too long, making the line look worse than it actually was. Secondly they hired new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson who should bring some toughness to the group and lastly, as an young unit, one more offseason to develop is always welcomed. 

Defensively there are bigger question marks. To begin with, the unit is getting older and the window of opportunity may be closing/have already been shut. 

Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are beasts on the ends, but the vaunted Williams Wall may be kaput. 38 year old Pat Williams will probably not be resigned and both are still facing a possible 4 game suspension for bs substance abuse (Here's to hoping the league admits its fatuousness on this issue and drops the suspension).

The linebacking core with Leber, Henderson and Greenway is solid but they need more depth (Btw, here is a nice article on E.J. Henderson's comeback)

The secondary is the weakest link and definitely needs upgrades across the board, as well as an eventual successor to Antoine Winfield

Last, but not least, no discussion on offseason momentum would be complete without mentioning Leslie Frazier's first full year on the job. Frazier was an outstanding defense of coordinator and one who players will really respect and listen to. Equally as important, Frazier is a player's coach who will in turn listen to them (something that can not be said of Brad 'chilly' Childress - whose nick name was appropriate for 1. the weather in Minn and 2. his relationship with his players). Anyway, Frazier had been considered for numerous head coaching positions, so its great to see he finally got a long overdue shot.

Offseason Anxiety: It's still about the quarterback position but its a far different anxiety

There are three big concerns for Minnesota. One, is the their future in the Minneapolis. There stadium is a disaster and according to sister blog dailynorsemen.com a fight for funding for a new home is on the horizon. If the city rejects there plea which, how can you after seeing what poor shape their stadium is in, the the team's future in Minnesota is at least somewhat in jeopardy. 

On the football field, the Vikings face two other worries. The first, is of course quarterback. They know Favre isn't coming through the doors again, but that leaves them no farther along. Most likely, the Vikings will draft a rookie Qb. The questions becomes, can a rookie quarterback lead them to the playoffs with a relatively young offense before the defense slows down?

Which brings us to the question as to whether the defense can continue to play at such a high level. The Williams wall may be missing or at least halved, and their best player in the secondary has lost a step... or two.

Still, after everything that happened last year, I am sure most players will gladly answer these questions than whether they'd seen the photos of Brett Favre's privates. 

Draft Needs: Joe Webb isn't the future 

There is a group of 4 main quarterbacks that most teams consider to be first or second round talent. They are (in relative order):

Blaine Gabbert - Missouri

Jake Locker - Wasington

Cam Newton - Auburn

Ryan Mallet - Arkansas

I don't think Minnesota goes Cam Newton because they have already been unsuccessful with a running quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson and Newton's style might scare them away. Plus backup Joe Webb already fits the mold.

Ryan Mallet is a bit rough around the edges and is probably the least likely to be able to step in and lead a team right away. That leaves Minnesota between Locker and Gabbert and being more familiar with Locker, I think Minnesota picks the UW prospect (plus Gabbert may not be available). 

However, picking Locker at 12 is way to high for his value. What Minnesota will look to do instead is to trade way down in the first round (maybe even out of it all together to accumulate a few more picks). Locker should be available late first or early second round. In the mean time, they can use one of the picks to shore up their line with a player such as OG Mike Pouncey out of Florida. 

Killing two birds with one stone seems the right move here. 

Free Agent Farewells: Hank Basket anyone?

Kidding Colts fans, kidding...

The Vikings have a few critical free agents and face of tough decision on who to franchise. The top two players Minnesota will need to lockup are WR Sidney Rice and LB Chad Greenway. Sidney Rice will come at a higher cost but may be the more dynamic playmaker. Greenway is a tackling machine, but only registered 1 sack in 144 tackles and never got his hands on a pick.

Either way, you figure both fill huge roles for the team so the Vikings will make an attempt to make sure both are back next year. If not, the Colts need to make a play at Greenway. 

Other notable free agents to watch are OLB Ben Leber and Kicker Ryan Longwell, who was once again the most consistent Viking going 17/18 on field goals.

Threat to the Stampede: Miniscule 

We don't play Minnesota so unless we both make the final game we won't see the purple and gold.

With Green Bay and Chicago in the same division it will be hard for Minnesota to make the playoffs. Certainly, Minnesota will contend and be better than last year, but surviving such a difficult schedule and then tacking on 3 more playoff games is daunting.

At the moment, somewhere between 7-10 games seems reasonable. That could change with the draft..

Off to neighboring Detroit tomorrow. 

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