Viking fans will always remember 2010 as the year the wheels fell off -- but take heart, we are not alone.
Some teams have had fantastic seasons. Other clubs are just wondering what went wrong. Last year, the Vikes were in the penthouse. This has just not been their year.
You can say it started in August when Brett Favre had to be coaxed into camp like a donkey with carrot (or a lot of lettuce) held just in front of his nose. Camp had barely started when we started hearing about Percy Harvin's migraines. To top it all off, Sidney Rice suddenly announced he needed knee surgery, a procedure he could have had last winter. Only Harvin deserved sympathy out of these three offensive heavyweights.
So here we are, six months later, looking at a hard winter with a hole in the roof of that big white tent.
As weakly as the secondary and defensive line have played most of the time this year, it is the offense that has literally "dropped the ball." A lot of touchdowns have been left on the field by Viking receivers.
Injuries have had a lot to do with it. Favre might be the toughest man in pro football, but the guy who played in every game and threw just seven interceptions in 16 games last season has been picked off 19 times this year. Why? A late start in camp, a lot of time on his back and the kind of injuries you might expect a 41-year-old body to have.
Tarvaris Jackson gamely stepped in and led the Vikes to a victory over Buffalo but he was quickly sidelined by a toe problem and that left the Vikes with rookie Joe Webb. It is a given that the Vikes have a lot of upgrading to do in the quarterback position before the 2011 season begins. They are going to need a guy that can throw 20-30 touchdown passes instead of 20-30 interceptions. They are also going to need some good backups for him. The draft may be one way to go but free agency would be a better one.
Favre showed us in 2009 what kind of guy that starting QB has to be. A rent-a-quarterback is not the answer for the long-term but if the Vikings upgrade quickly, which would seem to be a good idea with the high-priced talent they have, they might return to the playoffs pretty quickly.
The Vikes have to get on track with their offense. Period. It is doubtful if they will score 300 points this season. Last year, they scored 470 in the regular season. Only Super Bowl champ New Orleans scored more.
Those big blockers can make the difference, provided they want to block. Jim Langer, the all-pro center who played for Don Shula's unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins and later for the Vikings put his finger on it - your offensive line has to not only have talent, they have to be healthy and play together as much as possible. This is an area where the Vikings could really do themselves some good in the 2011 college draft.
So much for the Vikings. When it comes down to it they are just one of the 20 NFL teams that will not be playing in the post-season. There have been other trainwrecks as well. The Dallas Cowboys made the playoffs last year, just like the Vikes, yet this high-profile franchise has struggled all season and was just knocked off by the struggling Arizona Cardinals, a team that almost won the 2008 Super Bowl but did not even repeat as division champs this year.
The defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers have one of the best offenses and defenses in the NFL on paper. They were eliminated from the AFC playoffs last Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North last year over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They are dead last in their division this year.
The Washington Redskins picked up Donovan McNabb for a run at the playoffs this year and as the season ends they have the all-pro sitting on the bench.
Then you have the winners. The Atlanta Falcons have had a fantastic year and could be headed for the Super Bowl. Some of us expect Michael Vick to take Philadelphia all the way. One of the biggest success stories has been Kansas City. The Chiefs finished dead last in their division last year. Now they are a division champ and a playoff team. The St. Louis Rams may be able to say the same thing very soon. Do you think the lowly Detroit Lions are disappointed with their season? They were 2-14 last year. How about Chicago and Green Bay? The NFC North may not be the toughest division in football but the Bears and the Packers have certainly had good years. The Pack almost upset mighty New England and the Bears just bumped off the New York Jets.