By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Image Consultant
There were plenty of surprises to be found in the 2010 NFL season, few bigger than the complete collapse of the Vikings. Coach Brad Childress went from getting a four-year contract extension on Nov. 19, 2009 to getting fired on Nov. 22, 2010. That pretty much tells you what you need to know.
It was fitting that the season ended with the Metrodome roof sagging with snow and BrettFavre sailing shame-facedly and silently into the football hereafter. The last vision we have of Favre is his limp body lying motionless on the frosty field at the University of Minnesota, in a humiliating 40-14 loss to the Bears. It was a sad end for the greatest of all Iron Men. The collapse of both the stadium and the all-time legend were ugly images that captured Minnesota's 2010 season perfectly.
Now the question is which Vikings team was the fluke – the 2009 NFC title game club, or the 2010 disaster?
The 2010 storyline: The Vikings had the big names, but they showed pretty conclusively that their poor finish was no fluke.
In their nine games against Quality Opponents
, they lost eight and had an average point differential of -11.6. Not good – worse, in fact, than teams like Denver, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
A lot of it got chalked up to BrettFavre's struggles, and for good reason. But the formerly fearsome pass rush also fell apart (31 sacks after 46 in 2009) and the middle of the field was a gold mine for Vikings' opponents.
A pretty stunning fall from grace for a team that was a play away from the Super Bowl a year before. And the future's pretty debatable as well.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 6-10 (17.6 PPG – 21.8 PPG)
Last five seasons overall: 42-38 (525.)
Best Quality Stat in 2010: Defensive Passing YPA (13th)
Worst Quality Stat in 2010: Scoreability (30th), Offensive Passer Rating (30th), Passer Rating Differential (30th)
All Quality Stats
Defensive Passing YPA: 13th
Quarterback Rating: 27th
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 15th
Defensive Passer Rating: 22nd
Relativity Index: 24th
Statistical curiosity of 2010
Maybe no team in NFL history has seen their offense implode from one year to the next with basically the same cast. All 11 starters returned at least for partial seasons, but the Vikings went from 29.4 points a game (2nd) to 17.6 points a game (29th).
Best game of 2010
24-14 win at Philadelphia (Week 16). The Vikings started the Eagles' end-of-season slide here, with Joe Webb leading the team to an improbable road win. The Vikings finished with six sacks, three turnovers, and at least one game to put in their highlight reel.
Worst game of 2010
21-3 loss vs. N.Y. Giants (Week 14). This one pretty much ended any thoughts of Tarvaris Jackson being an answer long term for Minnesota. He went 15-of-30 for 118 yards, and the Vikings did absolutely nothing positive on either side of the ball.
Adrian Peterson. Considering what was happening around him, Peterson's 2010 season might have been his best in a great young career. His average was his lowest at 4.6 yards a crack, but he cut his fumbles down to just one and excelled despite the Vikings having no credible threat of a passing game.
Peterson is one of 13 backs in NFL history with 5,000 rushing yards in his first four seasons, and he ranks second among that group with an average of 4.83 yards per carry.
He's also the proof that having a great running back means very little if the pieces around him aren't in place. Any team getting quarterback play at the type of elite level Peterson delivers as a running back is a Super Bowl contender; the Vikings were the fourth best team in a four-team division.
. The Vikings were pretty poor across the board in our Quality Stats
, but it was the passing game that really let them down. Favre was bad (69.9 rating), but backups Webb (60.9) and Jackson (63.9) were worse.
Webb will probably be back in a reserve role, but Favre and Jackson will quite possibly be out of the league in 2011, leaving a gaping hole at the position.
The Vikings will draft a QB sometime on the first two days of the draft, but they'll need to add a veteran, too. With the complications of the lockout setting them back even further, getting back to just average here in 2011 would probably be a minor miracle.
General off-season strategy/overview
The Vikings are one of the oldest teams in the league, and while several of their veterans like Antoine Winfield, Kevin Williams and E.J. Henderson are still excellent, others are on the downside.
Most of the problems are on offense, where Bryant McKinnie (31) and Steve Hutchinson (33) are no longer assets on the left side of the line, and Visanthe Shiancoe (30) is coming off a terrible season.
They've only had one first-round pick in three drafts (Percy Harvin), and their 2010 draft was a bust at first blush. They also wasted the No. 74 pick in this year's draft for a month of Randy Moss – and that's a draft spot that has produced Justin Tuck and Steve Smith (the elder) in the last decade.
With needs at quarterback and offensive line and the No. 12 pick in the first round, the Vikings would be well-served to move down a couple of times, add some extra picks and fill multiple needs.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
The Lions are on the way up. The Bears and Packers played in the NFC championship game. And the Vikings have mortgaged their future over the past two seasons to win now ... which almost succeeded in 2009 but then ended in spectacular disaster in 2010.
Unless coach Leslie Frazier and new assistant head coach Mike Singletary can transform this defense and make the offense work around Peterson, a repeat of 6-10 seems more likely than a return to 12-4.