The 2011 Vikings were a sorry bunch, but a deeper look at history might judge them more kindly than a casual observer might upon a glance at their 3-13 record. They were only blown out three times -- at Green Bay, which went 15-1 that year, at Chicago, which was 7-3 before Jay Cutler went down and at home against juggernaut New Orleans, a 13-3 offensive machine that year.
Every other loss that season was by 10 points or fewer; nine were by a TD or fewer. It was also a clear rebuilding year, coming off of the feast and famine Brett Favre experiment with a washed up Donovan McNabb and a rookie Christian Ponder.
This season? Well, this is pure putridity. Last night's loss came against a Green Bay team so banged up on both sides of the ball that it is hard to judge them as "elite" right now. Yet it didn't matter. The margin was 13 points, and it never felt that close. That came one week after a 16-point loss to the previously winless Giants. And two weeks ago, of course, a 25-point loss to the mediocre Panthers.
To make matters worse, there were clear expectations coming into this season after a young team won 10 games and made the playoffs a year ago. Most rational thinkers expected a step back could be in order since so many things went right a year ago. Few could have predicted the flat-out free fall that is currently in place.
This is 1984. This is Les Steckel all over again.
That season, like this one, began with disappointment but at least some progress. The Vikings finished 3-13, but at one point they were 2-2. Even their next five losses were respectable -- all by 9 points or fewer. They captured their third win of the season to go 3-7, a victory over Tampa Bay. The next six games? That's when the free fall really began: Six consecutive losses to end the season, five of them by at least 21 points.
These 2013 Vikings have started the free fall already, being outscored 102-48 in their past three (average: 34-16). There is no excuse at quarterback except self-imposed ineptitude. There should not be rebuilding. And yet here we are, less than halfway into the year, watching a team in utter shambles. The offense is listless and predictable. The defense lacks the playmakers on the back end to get off the field on that all-important third down.
It's hard to imagine a Les could accomplish less than Steckel did in 1984, but Frazier is headed that way in 2013.