How do you sell the 2011 Vikings?
When the National Football League was in flower 40 years ago, one of the best teams of all was the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings were mentioned in the same breath with teams like Pittsburgh, Dallas, Oakland, Miami and Washington. A feeling of overwhelming confidence descended on their faithful fans. There was no team the Vikings could not play with in those days. They dominated the Central Division of the NFC and they played in four Super Bowls.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2010 season.
The Vikes are coming off a 12-4 season behind aging Brett Favre. The former Green Bay standout is keeping his secrets like a June bride. Is he healthy? Is he ready to lead us back to the Super Bowl after being shanghaied from his farm in Mississippi? The next logical step in the rebuilding program is a great season followed by a Super Bowl appearance.
The 2010 season was one where logic went out the door propelled by a firm kick from reality.
Did Brad Childress really believe that Favre was the one guy who could take his team to the Promised Stadium? He sent the jet down to fetch Brett back but what choice did he really have? Tavaris Jackson, for all of his athletic talent, was cursed with happy feet. The best newcomer the Vikes had come up with for Childress in the off-season was Sage Rosenfels, a reserve quarterback from Houston who now backs up Eli Manning in New York.
Surgery costs the Vikes Sidney Rice and his 122 catches and the injuries start to pile up. Standout receiver Percy Harvin is bothered by migranes. Favre gimps around behind a fat line and throws as many interceptions in his first four games as he has thrown during the entire 2009 season.
Along the way they decided to re-sign problem child Randy Moss. If bringing Favre back was a blunder bringing Moss in was a catastrophe. By the time the Vikings play their second game with Green Bay Nov. 21 the team is in full revolt against Childress and his high-handed ways. The guy knows plenty about football but charm is not one of his strong points. The Packers waltz to a 31-3 victory and Childress is gone. When the roof at Mall of America Field collapses in early December it is nothing more than a symbol of the entire season.
The Vikings never had a winning record during the 2010 regular season. They did not even reach the .500 mark.
Leslie Frazier is the man that has to get the Vikings back on track this year but more than that, he is man who has to sell the Vikings. The Vikes have a respectable defense but they are going to generate more than 281 points.
Frazier is an old Chicago Bear. He played under Buddy Ryan in 1985 when the Bears went 15-1 and racked up their first Super Bowl victory. That means he knows how to win and how to put a good defense on the field. Whatever he forgets his former teammate, Mike Singletary, is on hand to help him remember.
Frazier represents a return to common sense and yet he starts the season with a new offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, and a new starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb. He is promoting a new tight end scheme that could depend a lot on how well rookie Kyle Rudolph does against NFL defenses.
Ball control football is great if you can swing it but there is nothing like a quick six for the morale of the team and the fans.
Frazier can only count on two of his offensive people for big plays as the season begins - Harvin and running back Adrian Peterson - but it appears the Vikings will have a dogged, no frills approach to offense.
If selling the Vikings based on their offensive potential is going to be difficult how about the defense? They have good tacklers like Chad Greenway, Jared Allen, E.J. Henderson and Antoine Winfield but when you look at the cream of the NFL you do not see the Vikings' "D" floating around.
Look for a .500 season out of the Vikes. After all, they have to contend with three tough teams in the Central Division. The Packers won the Super Bowl, the Bears won the division and the Lions are ready to pounce on everyone.
Harvin is pleased the Vikes are flying "under the radar" but that is part of the problem. No one is making playoff plans at this point and the excitement that gripped fans for the last two seasons is not there.