Let’s give the Vikings the benefit of the doubt, and assume they are trying to lose.
There is no reason to play Christian Ponder in a tackle football game unless you’re aggressively pursuing the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
While Vikings fans spend today watching Ponder run for 5 yards on third-and-10, remember that this, too, shall pass, even if the Vikings can’t.
Starting 1-6 should prompt Vikings management to orchestrate the first one-win season in franchise history.
It’s important to set goals.
Losing big doesn’t guarantee future success, but it gives an intelligent management team a chance. That’s been proved in every sport, every decade, and the best example of losing to win might belong to the franchise the Vikings will face today in Texas.
In 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and hired Jimmy Johnson as his coach. Texans were appalled at Jones’ glib firing of the legendary Tom Landry, and at Jones’ clownish demeanor. Jones actually said he would be in charge of all phases of football from ‘‘socks to jocks,’’ even though Jones’ football experience was limited to playing in college and watching on television.
The JJs played up their chances of winning immediately. Then Johnson got halfway through his first preseason game and ditched all immediate ambition.
He tanked his first season, trading away his only name player, Herschel Walker, before finishing 1-15. He used prime draft slots and the bounty from the Walker deal to build a roster that won three Super Bowls and might have won more if Jones hadn’t fired him.
If the Cowboys had tried to contend in 1989, they might not have considered trading Walker, and wouldn’t have drafted near the top of each round. Inept play and intelligent management led to championships.
Similarly, the 2013 Red Sox would not have made the dramatic changes necessary to win the World Series if they hadn’t embarrassed themselves in 2012. If they had come close to winning in 2012, they might have considered themselves one or two players away from winning in 2013. They wouldn’t have fired Bobby Valentine and strived to transform the makeup of their roster and the atmosphere in their clubhouse.
Valentine’s failures led directly to the successes of 2013. Abject failure leads to self-examination and dramatic change.
In football, losing big brings an immediate reward, in the form of high draft choices.
One reason the Vikings have struggled to draft and develop their own franchise quarterback is their ability to remain remarkably competitive. Since the Les Steckel experiment led to three victories in 1984, the Vikings have failed to win five games only once — when Leslie Frazier went 3-13 in 2011.
When the Vikings haven’t been in contention, they have felt close. They rarely have been in position to start over from scratch, and they haven’t been in position to draft a sure-thing quarterback at the top of the draft.
When Andrew Luck went first overall in 2012, the Vikings drafted fourth.
When Peyton Manning went first overall in 1998, the Vikings drafted 21st.
When Aikman went first overall in 1989, the Vikings didn’t have a first-round pick.
When John Elway went first overall in 1983, the Vikings drafted 19th.
Those are the four surefire, can’t-miss, top-of-the-draft quarterbacks of the past 30 years.
The Vikings haven’t drafted higher than fourth in the first round since they chose Ron Yary with the first pick in the 1968 draft.
The Vikings have taken only three quarterbacks in the first round in franchise history. They made Tommy Kramer the 27th pick in 1977, Daunte Culpepper the 11th pick in the 1999 draft, and Ponder the 12th pick in 2011.
They haven’t been bad enough often enough to position themselves to take a sure-thing quarterback, so it’s not surprising that their three first-round picks at the position enjoyed only sporadic success.
This is their chance to start fresh by drafting a franchise quarterback, and this should be their slogan for the rest of the season:
Lose ’em all for Johnny Football.