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Vikings hunt is finished; time to look to next year

I have owned gun dogs that are good at reminding me of a rule you always obey in upland hunting -- once you start out on a hunt you better not stop. That dog is not going to stop until it hits paydirt so if you do it is your own fault if the bird flushes wild.

The Minnesota Vikings started building a Super Bowl team the year Childress arrived. Zygi and Mark Wilf were going to finally bring an NFL championship to Minnesota no matter what it cost. They went from 8-8 to 10-6 to 12-4 and then they lost their focus. They decided to stand around while the rest of NFL kept hunting for better talent. They picked up a few free agents but for the most part they were satisfied with the players who finished the 2009 season.

We can look back now and see that was a mistake.

Not only will they not be winning the Super Bowl they will not even make the playoffs unless several good teams suddenly tank.

The Vikings got off to a lousy start and then played a mean October schedule which saw them winning just once. By November they were ready to purge their system. Brad Childress chucked Randy Moss, the Wilf Brothers canned Childress. It looked like the Vikes were really back on track last Sunday when they clobbered Buffalo 38-14.

A lot of Vikings had a good game against the Bills. Sidney Rice made a remarkable leaping catch for Minnesota's first TD against the Bills. Adrian Peterson, who was supposed to be sidelined by a sprained ankle, rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns. The Minnesota defense played great football and did not surrender a touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Some starry-eyed Viking fans might have a vision of a strong finish after beating Washington and Buffalo back-to-back but the best finish the Vikes could have at this point is 9-7. Can they do it? Should they do it? That kind of record might be good for morale but it sure will not help them when it comes time for the 2011 draft. At this point they would draft no lower than 13th but that will change.

The team's biggest need will be quarterback if Favre lives up to his promise of pulling the plug. Tarvaris Jackson looks like a permanent No. 2 man and Joe Webb would probably make a better wideout once he is healthy. Those big name college quarterbacks are usually snapped up quickly. The Vikes will probably choose to go after a free agent and use their first round choice elsewhere.

Take a look at the aging Minnesota roster and you will see other positions where they will need good replacements for their 2011 season. Pat Williams is a great defensive tackle but one of these days he is going to call it a career. How many games does corner Antoine Winfield have left?

Depth is certainly an issue for any NFL team and the Vikes better get serious about upgrading their talent pool for next year.

Hopefully 2010 has taught the Wilfs a lesson about owning a franchise in the National Football League -- once you start a hunt you keep moving until you pull the trigger.