According to Elias, there has never been a “Monday Night Football” game this late in the season featuring two teams with so few wins as there will be when the Vikings play the Giants in Jersey.
For many people in many cities in America, this would be troubling. We’re Minnesotans. We have no standards. We know our teams are going to lose — if not now, then at a more excruciating juncture.
All we ask is that they make it interesting, and the Vikings and Giants might be two of the most interesting terrible teams we’ve seen in years.
We’re like the moviegoers who will sit through 90 minutes of bad dialogue for the one thrill a horror film provides. When you can’t get adrenaline in an industrial-sized barrel, you’ll take it in a shot glass.
This game isn’t so much a scheduling abomination as it is the latest argument for why the NFL, like Michael Bay films, is popular regardless of the quality of the product.
Most NFL teams wind up falling into one of two categories. They are either contenders or searchers.
They either win, or create internal intrigue about the future of their coach, quarterback, general manager or coordinators. Every NFL season for every team creates mystery about its playoff future or the job status of its most visible figures.
The Giants feature a coach and quarterback who have won two Super Bowls together. One more might make each a no-doubt Hall of Famer. They have played poorly in six games, and they hear the same questions as Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley and Blaine Gabbert.
Look at the Vikings’ 2012 season, and you wonder if Leslie Frazier should have been the coach of the year for hiding so many of the Vikings’ flaws, and whether one MVP award was enough to reward Adrian Peterson for propelling this team to the playoffs.
Five bad games have led to the Vikings benching their supposed franchise quarterback, benching their backup, and hitching their new hopes to a guy with a 45 percent completion percentage who got run out of his last town.
Their head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator are under fire, and the general manager who helped build a Super Bowl contender in 2009 and built a playoff team last year is getting roasted for his personnel moves.
This is why the NFL attracts the eye even when the product is ugly, because success is always one coach or quarterback away.
So here’s what Vikings fans should be hoping for tonight:
The worst thing that can come out of a bad season is uncertainty. The reward for finishing 8-8 is a mediocre draft pick and muddled thinking. Frazier and Freeman can begin providing clarity Monday.
If Freeman looks like a franchise quarterback, the Vikings offense should be set for years to come, and General Manager Rick Spielman can go into the offseason knowing he needs to focus on rebuilding the defense, which can be accomplished with one good draft and a couple of free-agent signings. The Vikings could be contenders again as early as next season.
If Freeman looks like the guy who got kicked out of Tampa, the Vikings will know they need to begin another search for a franchise quarterback. That would be the more difficult path, but there will be quality quarterback prospects in the 2014 draft.
What the Vikings don’t want is for Freeman to play inconsistently and the team to forge a mini-rally toward respectability. What the Vikings don’t want is to finish with seven or eight victories, uncertainty at the quarterback position, and a head coach who seems to deserve neither a firing nor an extension.
If you’re going to be bad, be very bad.
Monday, the Vikings’ brain trust should be hoping for clarity at their most important positions.
Brilliance or devastation will do.