The news is bleak. Sidney Rice will have hip surgery and is expected to be out eight games. Percy Harvin, dealing with intensive migraines, could be unavailable for some to all of the upcoming season. What ever will the Vikings do? The top receiver in camp is Bernard Berrian, and after that maybe Greg Lewis. Things have soured to the point that the Vikings called in Javon Walker, who did not even play last year. Should we Vikings' fans despair?
Our future may be answered by looking at the ten greatest receivers in our Vikings' history...
10. Hassan Jones. Hassan played 100 games for Minnesota from 1986-1992. He caught 222 passes for 3,733 yards and 24 tds. Jones only saw the NFC Conference Championship once, in 1987 (the strike shortened-season). Jones was on a 1991 team that featured four top ten Vikings' WRs. That team went 8-8.
9. Paul Flatley. Flatey played from 1963 to 1967. Flatley caught 202 passes for 3,222 yards and 17 tds. He was named Rookie Of the year in 1963. He played in the Pro Bowl in 1966. But those were fledgling years for Minnesota and Paul never saw a championship game.
8. Gene Washington. Gene was on the team from 1967 to 1972. Gene played in 81 games, catching 172 passes for 3,087 yards and 23 tds. In 1967 Washington averaged an amazing 29.5 yards per catch as a rookie. He did play in the 1969-70 first Super Bowl loss, averaging over 21 yards a catch. In his final season with Minnesota he was teamed up with another top WR, John Gilliam. That team went 7-7 and was the only non-winning team in a very good stretch.
7. Jake Reed. Jake played from 1991 to 2001. He totaled 134 games, with 413 catches, 6,433 yards and 33 tds. Reed played on two teams that went to the NFC Championship (1998, 2000), but both lost. In those years he teamed with Cris Carter and Randy Moss to form a dangerous trio. Reed never went to a Super Bowl.
6. Sammy White. White played from 1976 to 1985. In 128 games, White caught 393 passes for 6,400 yards and 50 tds. He was a three time All-Pro (1976-1978). He was named Offensive Rookie Of the Year in 1976, the year of the Vikings' last Super Bowl visit. In that year he averaged over 18.0 yards a catch and scored 10 times.
5. Anthony Carter. AC played from 1985 to 1993, totaling 133 games. He caught 478 passes for 7,636 yards and 52 tds. He went to the Pro Bowl three times (1987-89). In his nine years Carter saw the NFC Championship game once, that of the 1987 season, with Hassan Jones. Carter never saw a Super Bowl.
4. John Gilliam. Gilliam only played from 1972 to 1975. In those four years John played in 56 games, he caught 165 passes for 3,297 yards and 27 tds. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each season. Gilliam would be the only elite Vikings' receiver to make it to two Super Bowls (1973-1974). In his first year 1972, John averaged over 22 yards a reception.
3. Ahmad Rashad. Rashad was a Viking from 1976 to 1982. He played in 98 games, caught 400 passes for 5,489 yards and 34 tds. He was named to four Pro Bowls (1978-1981) and was even named Pro Bowl MVP in 1979. In 1976 Rashad went to the Vikings' last Super Bowl and then was a member of the 1977 team that lost an NFC Championship.
2. Cris Carter. Carter played from 1990 to 2001. Carter played in 188 games. He caught 1,004 passes for 12,383 yards and 110 tds, all team records by far. Carter went to eight Pro Bowls (1993-2000). In 1995 he caught 122 passes for 1,371 yards and 17 tds. Again that team went 8-8. Carter never played in the Super Bowl.
1. Randy Moss. It is hard to believe anyone could outdo Cris Carter in our history, but Moss did. he played in 109 games, caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 tds. Moss was named Rookie Of the Year in 1998. He went to five Pro Bowls in his seven years. Moss was Pro Bowl MVP in 2000. He was named All-Pro three times (1998, 2000, 2003). Moss made it to two NFC Championships, but Minnesota lost both. Moss' only Super Bowls would be for New England.
What does this tell us? Most of the Vikings' successful teams had a deep threat. In 1969 it was Gene Washington. The 1973-1974 seasons it was John Gilliam, and in 1976 rookie Sammy White. But the most talented years with receivers yielded little accomplishments in the post-season. The 1998-2001 seasons with Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed were explosive offensively, but did not provide even a Super Bowl appearance. The stats can be skewed by the fact that losing teams need to pass more, but the numbers suggest a load of talent at receiver is not required for success.
It is hard to compare the success of the 1970s to modern day football. The game has changed, it is far easier to pass the football with the rule changes inhibiting the defensive secondary. But the reality is that the Vikings have not needed elite receivers to be the best team in the NFC. They have typically been a strong defensive team with an ability to run. Chuck Foreman was a member of three NFC Champions. The Purple People Eaters were there.
In 2010, Minnesota is suddenly lacking the production of Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Together they teamed for 124 catches for 2,102 yards and 14 tds. Names like Greg Lewis, Taye Biddle, and Freddie Brown are being tossed around as possible new contributors. But one name does remain from 2009: Bernard Berrian. In his two seasons with Minnesota he has had 103 catches for 1,582 yards and 11 tds. His first season he averaged 20 yards a reception. That type of deep threat is just what past Vikings teams have needed to succeed. And Adrian Peterson, Visanthe Shiancoe, the Williams wall, Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are all returning.
Maybe it is the sign of something bigger?
Fifty years of drafts. It began in 1961 with the selection of running back Tommy Mason from Tulane. That first year the Vikings also selected quarterback Fran Tarkenton of Georgia in the third round. As the new franchise struggled in the early years, their draft picks were causal to the futility. Only 1964 first round pick DE Carl Eller from Minnesota was considered significant. Then in 1967 the Vikings landed a slew of talent with the three first round selections of RB Clinton Jones, WR Gene Washington, and DT Alan Page. Then came the real change to whom the Vikings would become. In 1968 the Vikings selected OT Ron Yary from USC; and in 1969 chose OG Ed White of California with their first pick in the second round. The Vikings then had the foundation for their four Super Bowl visits.
In the first forty-nine years the Vikings have used their first first-round pick a total of three times to select an offensive lineman. Those three players were Yary, Randall McDaniel (1988), and Bryant McKinnie (2002). Considering that OL make up over 20% of all every down starters on a football team, Minnesota's percentage of 6.1% is paltry. In the year 2010, at this the 50th NFL draft for Minnesota, most are hoping for the gift of an offensive lineman. Of course, with the success of 2009, the Vikings have been relegated to the 30th selection, followed by the 62nd, 93rd, 128th, and two 5th round picks at 161st and 167th. There are more picks, but rare is a 6th or 7th rounder of value.
A look at the last ten years of drafting suggests good picks often, but also great picks lost. A quick review, with Vikings picks bold and missed picks to follow....
2009 WR Percy Harvin 22nd, OT Michael Oher 23rd, DB Vontae Davis 25th.
2008 S Tyrell Johnson 43rd, RB Matt Forte 44th,WR DeSean Jackson 49th.
2007 RB Adrian Peterson 7th, DB Darrell Revis 14th, WR Sidney Rice 44th.
2006 LB Chad Greenway 17th, DB Antonio Cromartie 19th.
2005 WR Troy Williamson 7th, DB Antrel Rolle 8th, DE DeMarcus Ware 11th, Shawne Merriman 12th, OT Jammal Brown 13th, DE Erasmus James 18th, OT Alex Barron 19th, DE Marcus Spears 20th, DB Fabian Washington 23rd, QB Aaron Rodgers 25th, WR Roddy White 27th.
2004 DE Keneche Udeze 20th, RB Steven Jackson 24th, DB Ahmad Carroll 25th.
2003 (the year of the blunder) DT Kevin Williams 9th, QB Byron Leftwich 7th, OT Jordan Gross 8th, LB Terrell Suggs 10th, DB Marcus Trufant 11th, DB Troy Polamalu 16th, RB Willis McGahee 23rd, TE Dallas Clark 24th, RB Larry Johnson 27th.
2002 OT Bryant McKinnie 7th, DB Roy Williams 8th, TE Jeremy Shockey 14th, DT Albert Haynesworth 15th.
2001 RB Michael Bennett 27th, WR Reggie Wayne 30th, QB Drew Brees 32nd, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch 34th.
2000 DT Chris Hovan 24th, LB Keith Bulluck 30th, LB Rob Morris 28th, WR Dennis Northcutt 32nd, DE John Engleberger 35th, OT Chad Clifton 44th, DT Fred Robbins 55th, DE Michael Boireau 56th, DB Deon Grant 57th.LB Marcus Washington 59th, OL Brad Meester 60th.
In my humble opinion, the 2010 Draft needs to address offensive line and defensive back. Throughout our history we have neglected these two position despite the fact that they are nine of the twenty-two regular positions.
Further, the Vikings have a track record that includes some great picks. I hope that we can include 2010 with years like 1961, 1967, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, and maybe 2009. Included in those years is Mason, Tarkenton, Washington, Page, Randy Moss, Matt Birk, Williams, EJ Henderson, Nate Burleson, Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Phil Loadholt.
That would be a better present than years like: 2005 Troy Williamson, 2004 Keneche Udeze, 1995 Derrick Alexander, 1994 DeWayne Washington, 1989-1992 when we had no 1st rounders, and many more. The list of missed All-Pros and needed position players is too extensive to review in full.
The draft is only a few days away. The excitement has begun to grow. It has grown enough to bring me away from my passion for the Twins in this early Spring, and re-focused my sport love for football. 2009 was very close indeed. Dominating the Saints and Cowboys showed we are not far away form the prize. A solid draft in 2010 could be the difference.
We have suffered. In started in the 1970s, so any Vikings' fans you see who is forty-year old or better wears it on their collective face like cold wind exposure on an Alaskan. Those who are thirty-something cannot hear the name Darren Nelson without thinking of Marcus Allen, discos, and drops. Those in their twenties or late teens can only cringe when the name Gary Anderson is mentioned. And last night was created a whole new generation of sufferers. Adrian Peterson or Brett Favre may have to carry that cross based on early rants from fans.
The reason for the true suffering is the specific event of losing Championship games that could be won. It is one thing to get blown out 41-0 and find out for three hours that you are not ready for the Super Bowl, like in the 2000 season. It is another to lose a close game in the waning moments and/or overtime. NFL Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NPTSD) occurs when you lose a close game late, that you should have won easily. Vikings Championship losses in seasons 1977, 1987, 1998, and now 2009 qualify as this disturbing of loss in varying degrees.
The numbers of this Championship hurt the most. Seven times the vaunted NFL's number one offense was three and out. The Vikings were shut down twice. Only three times did the Saints gain ten or more yards on a drive. The Vikings had eight drives of thirty or more yards. Four were seventy-plus yards.The total yardage was nearly double. First downs were more than double. Third down conversions. Drew Brees held to under 200 yards. Most numbers clearly show the Vikings should have won this game. All but turnovers and the final score.
So now those of us with NPTSD will be haunted by fumbles and interceptions. Last night my sleep was limited to four troubled hours full of nightmares in football. The work day was spent in numbing fashion, with thoughts of fright, in hyperarousal, and a heart that feels like it is beating 20-40 times more per minute than it should. I know the physical symptoms will go away. But true NPTSD can re-occur, like a flashback, with all of the same intensity. The 1998 veterans had to relive emotions of an overtime. The older veterans had to think of Brent McLanahan as AP coughed up the ball near the goal line. Like Groundhog Day, we awake to "I Got You Babe".
So what can we NPTSD carriers do? Awareness is half the battle. When I replay in my sleep Robert Meachem being awarded a catch for an obvious trapped ball and wake up in a sweat... relax, breathe. When pictures of the Saints players plastering Brett Favre echo in my mind during the day, I will seek counsel from a friend. Exposure therapy is effective. Go see a fourth grade sporting event, where no one keeps score, and everyone gets a trophy. Work your way through middle school games, clubs, and then beyond. We will get better.
Yes, a new generation of suffering is born. I cannot personally point a finger at any one player. They're my team, win or lose. Brett Favre played the most courageous game I have ever witnessed from quarterback, greater than Archie Manning against the Bears. Adrian Peterson is truly a great back, who is struggling with holding on to the ball. Percy Harvin. Bernard Berrian. How can you fault guys trying too hard? No, in order to recover from NPTSD you have to let go of the blame.
Except for 12 men in a huddle after a time-out.
The Top 10 reasons it will be the Vikings and not the Saints heading to the Super Bowl in 2010.
10. The Saints defense. It was the first game of the season when the Saints won 45 to 27 over the Lions. Only later would I learn just how wrong it is to give up that many points to Detroit. Then, the Dolphins would score 34, mostly in a single half. The Redskins 30, which was about 20 more than average. The Saints are not winning by defense.
9. The 40 omen. This is the 40th NFC Championship. Our new quarterback, Brett Favre, just turned 40. Gives you goose bumps, doesn't it? I remember when George Blanda quarterbacked as a 38 year-old. I thought that was ancient.
8. The 0-39 streak. The Saints, along with the aforementioned Lions, are the only two teams in the NFC that have never won an NFC Championship. This is the Vikings 8th try, while New Orleans is 0-1. Makes you almost content with losing four Super Bowls. Almost.
7. Chris Kluwe. Kluwe is wise. Kluwe learns from mistakes. Last year when the Vikings won in New Orleans on Monday Night Football, Reggie Bush performed a Billy "White Shoes" Johnson show on the Vikings kick coverage. After watching him perform masterfully against the Cowboys, I am expecting Kluwe to avoid Bush.
6. MNF. Last year's game against the Saints had fans partying all day to prepare. As someone who has partied with the people of New Orleans, I can state that it would easily rival Packers fans. They were obnoxious, they were loud. They chanted "Who Dat". And we won. That game was the best preparation for this one possible.
5. Childress and Staff. Not so much for their play calling, but for adding Phil Loadholt, Percy Harvin, and Brett Favre to our offense in 2009. We are far better. And people are always grateful when you pick them up at the airport, should one do that.
4. The Hurricane. No, not the effects of Katrina, I am not going there. It was that drink that I had too many of... people in New Orleans drink a lot! Maybe the reason teams never win it all in Louisiana is that they party too much. This atmosphere is not counducive to winning Championships. Fun, but not dedicated.
3. Superdome experience. The Vikings played and won last year in the Superdome. Brett Favre won his Super Bowl with the Packers there. It is safe to say every Viking player has enjoyed their time in the Superdome. Call it a home away from home.
2. Who Dat Syndrome. At first it was catchy, like the Icky Shuffle. The it was familiar, like the electric glide of LT. Now, it feels more like Rain Man. Without the ability to count numbers.
And the number one reason the Vikings will win on Sunday ....
1. Destiny. Seriously, think about it... Remember when you were watching us lose to the Eagles last year in the Dome? Now fast forward to the team that just beat the Cowboys 34-3. That type of change is not human. The addition of Favre transformed us to the mystical. Nothing can stop us now. There is no point in denying what will be.
I am full. I have eaten too much. Yet my refrigerator remains full. In Thanksgiving-idiom, I have decided to award Vikings players/fans my leftovers...
The last piece of pumpkin pie ... much sought after, the pie remains wanted until gone. In my house we make a frozen, ice cream-filled pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust. Yummy. The award goes to Brett Favre. His veteran leadership, despite much pressure, was intense. He seemed to know what personnel to have on the field better than the coaches. His accurate passing kept alive hope when there should have been none. Top it with fresh cool whip, Brett.
The hardening green bean casserole ... not a crowd favorite. Wonderful when fresh, but loses something once reheated.This prize goes to Offensive Linemen Anthony Herrera and Bryant McKinnie. They seemed to be letting players get to Favre, much like the racist players in Remember the Titans, (not to imply actual racism, more incredibly bad blocking). This is the most glaring weakness in the 11-4 Vikings.
The last of the turkey sandwiches ... once good, can easily be overeaten. After 2-3 leftover sandwiches, they lose their appeal. The last few sandwiches are tough, fatty, and greasy.This goes to the entire special teams. From the holder, to kick coverage, these guys cost us big. Early in the season they were only burned now and then. Suddenly, it is almost every kick. The poor hold and kick eventually cost us this game. Special teams have been special, as in needs assistance.
The 3 day old salad award ... goes to the defensive line. They were so good for so long, like a Caesar, or one of those fancy fruit-type salads. But then the flavor disappears. If you keep salad more than the meal intended, it becomes wilted, wet, and loses flavor. Enter the D-line. Once the pride of the team, they have done nothing in the three losses worth mentioning. Jay Cutler had all day, to coin a phrase.
The opened but unfinished bottles of wine ... goes to the fans. With star Adrian Peterson fumbling for his life, coaches unable to adjust, linebackers unable to cover, corners below average, and a knack for losing big games, the fans need something. Just find yourself a big mug, and wait for the Giants to come to town.
That cleans out my leftovers. I still love my Vikings, but like the therapeutically sound fan I am, I have begun the grieving process. If the Vikings win (as they should) on Sunday, I will return to the Denial stage, and hope for the Super Bowl that I thought we had a shot at back when I had Thanksgiving leftovers.
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