East Rutherford, N.J. – Last time the Vikings played in New Jersey, their quarterback spent most of his postgame interview answering questions about sending illicit texts.
Monday night, the Vikings visited Jersey again, and this time it got embarrassing.
To be a Vikings fan these days, you need a gallon of Pepto-Bismol and a Hazmat suit. Winless in the United States this season, the Vikings might be the worst team in the NFL that does not reside in the state of Florida.
They have failed to look professional in consecutive weeks, and in unpredictable fashion: by imploding at home against an unremarkable Carolina team, then looking unfamiliar with the concept of offensive football on Monday night against a terrible Giants team.
Their 23-7 loss buried memories of their 2012 playoff appearance and transported them back to 2011, when they won only three games and began another desperate search for a franchise quarterback.
Worse, these kinds of losses transport them back to 2010, when they got their coach fired in the middle of the season.
They might be searching for a coach and quarterback this winter. Or by November.
On a night when Josh Freeman produced the worst Vikings quarterback debut since Spergon Wynn, his teammates played so poorly that the team will have no reason not to use the rest of the season as a glorified tryout camp for quarterbacks, and a campaign to secure the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Freeman proved stunningly inaccurate, a Wild Thing in football pants, and he fit right in, in a game where the Vikings forced the Giants to accept their first victory of the season. Neither is guaranteed to win again this year.
In eight days, the Vikings’ play has called into question the future of their head coach. Leslie Frazier is not an innovator or strategist; his strength is leadership. If his players aren’t following that lead anymore, he will be easy for the Wilfs to fire.
After the game, cornerback Chris Cook, defensive end Jared Allen and Frazier all lauded their team’s “passion” and effort. “Guys are playing,” Allen said. “There’s no quit.”
Here’s the catch: If this was a Vikings team playing as hard as possible, what would it look like if it wasn’t?
The Vikings’ offensive and defensive coordinators, Bill Musgrave and Alan Williams, are more culpable for their ineptitude than Frazier, but Frazier hired those coordinators, and those hirings might doom his career.
Even the Vikings’ strengths aren’t strengths anymore.
Adrian Peterson, the best running back of his generation, neither finds running room nor creates his own. He carried 13 times for 28 yards, and the Vikings failed to score an offensive point.
The Vikings’ offensive line, so impressive in 2012, gets physically whipped every week, leaving Peterson looking more like a crash test dummy than the league’s reigning MVP.
The Vikings’ receivers have become irrelevant because of the ineptitude of their quarterbacks. Freeman’s greatest weakness during even his good years in Tampa Bay was his lack of accuracy, and he might have missed more receivers by a wider margin on Monday than any quarterback since the ill-fated, one-game temp known as Spergon Wynn.
If “Wynn” is Vikings code for offensive failure, “Wasswa Serwanga” is code for an inability to deflect a pass. The Vikings secondary could actually use Serwanga these days. The secondary features three high draft choices in Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson. The first has zero career interceptions, the second is learning on the job under difficult circumstances, and the latter might be the worst cornerback in the NFL.
The Vikings linebackers don’t do anything particularly well.
The defensive line neither shuts down the run nor creates consistent pressure.
“I’m done analyzing,” Allen said. “We are fighting out there, I’ll tell you that.”
Forget the spin. The Vikings embarrassed themselves on national TV on Monday night.
These kinds of losses remind you of 2011, when they fell apart.
They remind you more of 2010, when they got their coach fired, and started thinking about which quarterbacks would be available in the upcoming draft.