Who’s excited about the 2015 Vikings? Me
Published 9:33 am Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Pothole Prairie by Tim Engstrom
The Minnesota Vikings aren’t going to the playoffs. They even are going to end up with a losing record this season, yet I am more excited about this team than I have been about the purple and gold since Jan. 24, 2010, the day my Vikes lost to the Saints 31-28 in overtime in the NFC Championship Game.
What’s more, I just get the feeling that a Mike Zimmer team wouldn’t get in trouble with 12 men in the huddle while a chance to return to the Super Bowl hung on the line.
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Brad Childress might have had hard-nosed discipline, but my guess is Zimmer sees the value of self-discipline first, coach-discipline next. There is a factor of player buy-in with Zimmer, and Childress lacked that.
Sure, Brett Favre was exciting to see in a Vikings uniform, but he was just one in a long line of stop-gap quarterbacks since the Tommy Kramer days.
There were the QBs stopping by on the way to the retirement home: Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Brad Johnson, Gus Frerotte, Favre and Matt Cassel. There were the promising QBs who turned out to be busts: Rich Gannon (who turned out to be good on another team), Johnson (good for another team in between his stints as a Viking), Daunte Culpepper (one decent season) and Christian Ponder (Mr. Bust).
Yeah, there were great guys. I love Cunningham, but all Vikings fans know — like it’s common knowledge — we have gone far too long since we had someone we could call a franchise quarterback. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater offers hope. Other teams have guys like Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson or even Philip Rivers. We want that. We need that. We still miss Fran Tarkenton.
All we ask is for a franchise quarterback throwing behind a reliable and strong offensive line.
Bridgewater is doing great work and has improved as the season progresses. Let’s hope the Associated Press names Bridgewater the NFL Rookie of the Year. He deserves it.
All this said, I am excited about next season. If you know how the NFL schedules games, it’s easy to figure out who the Vikes will play.
They will play the other three members of the NFC North twice each, so that’s six of the 16 games. The NFC North teams get to play NFC West and AFC West teams next year. This is based on a four-year rotation. Which games are home and away are based on a set rotation, too. The NFL’s rotation guarantees that teams in the same conference play each other at least once every three years and teams in the opposite conference play each other at least once every four years.
That’s why the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco have a rivalry that takes place only once every four years, and despite being so many years apart, they nevertheless alternate being host.
Minnesota will play St. Louis, Seattle, Kansas City and San Diego at home and play San Francisco, Arizona, Denver and Oakland on the road. The Vikings will play a team from the NFC East at home and a team from NFC South on the road, depending on the final outcome of this season.
If the Vikings end up as third in the NFL North, they will play the third-place teams in the NFC East and NFC South. That probably will end up being the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons.
Let’s hope the Vikings give Teddy what he needs the most in the NFL draft — offensive linemen. The Vikings have a solid center, but we need tackles who will protect Teddy and give him time to connect with the receivers. Indeed, the O-line got better as the season went on, thanks to coaches making changes, but I am sure these same coaches don’t want the same problem in 2015.
The other player I am super excited about this season is Charles Johnson. I hope he is on the Vikings receiving corps next season, too. Having been on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns last season, he is the leading receiver for the Vikings this season. That is a great underdog story. I love reliable receivers who just get open and catch the ball.
Great work, 2014 Vikings. Skol 2015 Vikings!
Tribune Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.