The fans of the Vikings have not seen a real contender for the Super Bowl since the days that Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, and Cris Carter graced the Metrodome with their the best NFL offense of all time. Since then the Vikings have had some flashes of good but never greatness. Now the Vikings are usually at the cellar of the NFC north, but everything can change in a season. Ask the Colts and Chiefs who both went from 2-14 to the postseason over the past two years
Minnesota has one of the games best running backs. Possibly the most explosive special teams player in the league. And a solid nucleus of young defensive talent thanks to five 1st round draft picks over the past two years. So without further ado here is the Minnesota Vikings 2014 season, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
THE GOOD: New Coaching Staff
The Vikings completely retooled their coaching staff heading into the 2014 season. New head coach Mike Zimmer may be getting his first shot at running a team, but this isn't his first rodeo. Zimmer has coach in the league since 2000 as a defensive coordinator. In his 14 seasons running the defenses of the Cowboys (2000-2006), Flacons (2007), and Bengals (2008-2013) Zimmers defenses have finished in the top 10 in yards allowed 7 out of 14 times, and only once -his only season in Atlanta- has his D not finished inside the top 20. His last stint, his six seasons in Cincinnati, his defense improved each year but one. His passing defense finsihed top 10 (9th, 7th, and 5th respectively) over the past three seasons. And almost all his defensive success came without offenses to help. Only TWICE has an offense been in the top 10. And to take it a step further, his teams have made the playoffs in 5 of his 14 seasons. In those 5 trips his defense gave up an average of 26 points while his teams offenses scored only 11 points per game! Yes defense wins championships, but if your offense can't move the ball into the end zone then the defense can't be accountable for the lack of offensive output. Zimmer has a lot of young, raw defensive talent to work with and mold to his liking. Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd, Anthony Barr, and Scott Crichton are all 27 years of age or younger. With a defensive mind as sharp as Zimmer's, there is no reason he can't have this defensive unit playing like a top 10 calibar squad within the next two seasons.
Not only did Minnesota get one of the games best defensive minds, they also got one of the best offensive coordinators the league has ever seen in Norv Turner. Turner has done amazing things with the offenses he has had a hand in. His first job as an NFL offensive coordinator saw him take a Dallas Cowboys teams from a dead-last laughing-stock offense to winning two Super Bowls in his three season there. Emmitt Smith lead the NFL in rushing each of the three seasons he spent under Turner as well as gaining the NFL MVP honors in 1993. Turner also helped troy Aikman improve drastically, Aikman was 11 games under .500 as a starter before Norv and 20 games OVER .500 in his three years with Turner. Turner eventually became head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2007 and lead the team to its first playoff win since 1994. He also guided LaDainian Tomlinson to his second straight rushing title in 2007 with 1474 yards. Not only will Turner once again have a premier back to work with, Adrian Peterson, he will also look to help tight end Kyle Rudolph make the leap from average to great like he did with so many other tight ends in his career such as Jay Novacek, Antonio Gates, and most recently Jordan Cameron last season.
THE BAD: Aging Talent
Every team has to deal with players getting older, but Minnesota has two offensive weapons who only have a season or two of top-tier ball left in their systems. Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings are both in that ballpark of 30 years of age plus. Peterson is entering his last season under the age of 30, the dreaded number for running backs, and Jennings will turn 32 early in the 2014 season. Jennings is already an injury risk having played a full 16 game season only three times out of his eight attempts. His numbers have been on the steady decline ever sicne 2010 (his last season to go over 1,000 receiving yards). He has only scored double-digit touchdowns twice in his career, both occassions he had a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback tossing him the rock (Brett Favre in 2007 and Aaron Rodgers in 2010), and the Vikings bearly have a competant quarterback let alone someone who can play half as well as either Favre or Rodgers. And during his 2013 season Jennings gained 42% of 804 yards in just three games. No matter who is under center for the Vikings in 2014, Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, or rookie Teddy Bridgewater it doesn't seem like Jennigns will be regaining any of his prime numbers he once boasted in division-rival Green Bay.
Adrian Peterson has a great chance to have a huge rebound season in 2014 and that is mainly because of the aforementioned Norv Turner now calling the plays in Minnesota. While Peterson is still a rare talent, especially now-a-days with almost every team taking a running back by committe approach, he is a workhorse who will want to tote the rock at least 300 times. His 2013 was far from what we've expected from Peterson. 1266 rushing yards in 2013 was a career low -not counting his 2011 year when he missed time after tearing his ACL and MCL- and his 10 rushing touchdowns matched a career low he set back in 2008. With Toby Gerhart now down in Jacksonville, Peterson will definitely have a lot more touches in 2014 and Turner will get him those touches. The only question is will extra touches awaken a sleeping beast and get A.P. back to the top of the rushing world one more time or break down his body even further?
THE UGLY: The NFC North
The Vikings' worst enemy are their enemies they play twice a season, the rest of their division. The NFC north has three of the most high octane offenses in the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers and the Vikings don't have the type of defense -yet- to slow down Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Forte and all the rest of the immense talent the Vikings face 6 out of their 16 games. Last year the Vikings finished as the worst defense in points against, and second worst as far as yardage goes, so Zimmer can only go up from there. But the Vikings are 7-17 over the last four season against the rest of the NFC north while finishing dead last in the division 3 of the last 4 seasons.
On top of having to pass at least two of the three top 10 offenses last season -Packers 3rd, Lions 6th, and Bears 8th- the Vikings have too much competition in the wild card race in the NFC. The west has four teams that can make a playoff run. The south is full of more high octane offenses and even better defenses than the north. And the east has at least two teams that can make a viable playoff run. Coach Zimmer will have the defense improved from last seasons laughable effort and have the Vikings heading in the right direction. Unfortunately for fans the 2014 season won't end in the success that every team looks for, the Lombardi Trophy, but if they can be patient then Vikings fan should have a lot to cheer for in the near future.