Viking World, Wait ‘Till Next Year! (Again)

The 2010 Minnesota Viking season came to an end today with a loss in Detroit.  Their descent from “first to worst” in the NFC North Division may well be one of their most disappointing seasons ever!  While I didn’t expect the Vikings to have the success they enjoyed last season, I still thought they would finish with a winning record and be a part of the postseason.  I can take little consolation in knowing that I wasn’t the only “expert” who was taken by surprise by this epic collapse!

The quarterback position in the NFL is by far the most important on any team.  A great quarterback can carry a mediocre team to the Super Bowl, while a great team without a good quarterback often fails to make the playoffs.  2009 was the year for the Vikings:  They had a great team in search of a good quarterback, and they found one in Brett Favre.  The future Hall of Famer still had enough magic left in his 40 year old body to carry the Vikings to within one play of the Super Bowl.  It is cruel that 2009 was the year of destiny for the New Orleans Saints, because the specialness was also there for the Vikings.  Last year will be remembered as yet another one of many seasons where the Vikings were so close to greatness, but couldn’t quite grasp it.

The Vikings end this season amid great turmoil, but hopefully they can get things settled and in place for the start of their next period of rebuilding.  Besides all of the on the field issues that need to be addressed, however, there are numerous other items that are hanging over the franchise that the players have little control over.  Where are the Vikings going to play their home games?  Will the Minnesota tax payers be willing to flip the bill for a new stadium?  Will the Wilf family attempt to move the Vikings to a city that is in position to fund a new stadium?  Will the owners and players come to an agreement that will allow the 2011 season to begin?  All of these issues continue to gnaw at us; the fans who have cheered for the purple all of our lives.  It’s a scary time!

Resolution of the on the field issues begin with selection of the next head coach.  Leslie Frazier appears to be the best person for the job, and as of today it sounds as though he will be officially named this week.  There has not been a coach this popular with the Vikings players since Bud Grant retired.  I believe Mr. Frazier is the kind of man who has success follow him wherever he goes because of his hard work and passion for the game and the people who play it.  Being a head coach in the NFL takes a very special person, and it remains to be seen if he can make the transition from great coordinator to great head coach, but I think he has shown that he deserves a chance at the job.

After the head coach is selected, the next most pressing position to be filled is starting quarterback.  Ideally, a team has a franchise quarterback lead them for 12 years, then they draft his successor, who then has 5 years to learn and be groomed before being inserted into the starting lineup immediately upon the retirement of the seasoned veteran.  This way of doing business has not worked very often for the Vikings however.  Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t grown under the tutelage of Brad Childress and Brett Favre, and doesn’t appear to be in position to take over the reins next year.

Joe Webb shows a lot of potential for being just a rookie.  I’ve been impressed with his running and throwing, but most of all; his calm demeanor under pressure.  The great quarterbacks all have ice in their veins.  They can see the blitzing linebacker closing in, but they still wait until the last moment to throw the ball before getting leveled.  Brett Favre does that as does Joe Webb, and I like it.  Tarvaris Jackson behaves like I would, and runs for his life.

The down side that goes along with starting Joe Webb is that he’s going to make a lot of mistakes while he learns to play football at this level.  He’s going to throw across the field like he did today, and get picked off.  He’s going to throw into double coverage.  He’s going to do things that will make his teammates start talking secretly with Brett Favre again, but he will learn, and he has the potential to be something special.

The Vikings will likely pick up a free agent quarterback that they will designate as their starter with the intent of Joe Webb learning more before taking over in a few years.  It may be the best way to groom Mr. Webb for the job, but I would like to see him learn while on the playing field.  I think a year of playing is worth five standing on the sideline, and we would be able to get a good young quarterback some experience in order to have him lead the team for many years to come.

Well, we have a very long off season to figure out some solutions to our many problems.  It will be exciting how it all plays out.  I guess I’m the ultimate Viking fan:  Only hours after their last game of the season, I’m already talking about next year!  That’s the way it has always been for us!  One of these years, we will end up on top, and the years of crying will have been so worth it!

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