VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData and Patrick Donnelly, who has written on a variety of Minnesota sports topics. Mitchell and Donnelly are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: The "other" All-Metrodome team

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Vikings, Ex-Vikings Updated: December 27, 2013 - 3:37 AM

(Setting: Your living room, Sunday morning. You’ve turned on the big-screen plasma and three men in yellow blazers with ABC patches appear. Their images flicker for a moment, then come to life on the screen. In the background, Vikings and Lions players warm up on the field.)

Holographic Image of Howard Cosell: THE DATE! Sunday, December the 29th, Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen. THE PLACE! Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the erstwhile Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, renamed in recent years for a local shopping destination in the most blatant and embarrassing cash grab since the great Muhammad Ali came out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes in Miami in 1980. THE EVENT! The final gridiron contest in the 32-year history of the venerable stadium that rose like a Colossus over the skyline of this great Midwestern metropolis in 1982.

This is the holographic image of Howard Cosell. I’m joined as always by my partners in pigskin pundrity, the holographic image of “Dandy” Don Meredith …

Holographic Image of Don Meredith: Howdy, y’all!

Cosell: … and the holographic image of the Giffer himself, Frank Gifford.

Holographic Image of Frank Gifford: Hey, I’m still alive!

Cosell: You’ll have to take that up with your agent, Giff.

Gifford: I’m just saying, I could have flown in for the game. Anything to get away from that loon of a woman I married. Did you know she drinks wine while she aerobicizes in the rec room? I’m starting to think she might have a problem …

Cosell: Nevertheless, Giffer, we come here not to discuss your marital histrionics because we only have a three-hour broadcast. Nay, we are here to memorialize the monumental moments in the history of this esteemed edifice that has been home to the Minnesota Vikings for lo these past 32 years. This National Football League franchise has already honored their greatest gladiators in the Metrodome era. Today, we gather to shine the spotlight on another group of august warriors who deserve a tip of our collective caps before they’re shuffled off to the dustbin of history. Men who made their mark in spectacular or ignominious fashion on these hallowed grounds but for a variety of reasons did not make the cut for the Vikings’ All-Metrodome team. Men who merit recognition for their own unique contributions to the history of this Teflon terrarium.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now present … The All-Metrodome Team of the Damned!

Gifford: We’ll start with Tony Dorsett. Gentlemen, we were here the night that he set an NFL record that will never be broken, when he ran 99 yards …

Meredith: … and a half!

Gifford: … yes, Don, 99 and a half yards for a touchdown against the Vikings. If you look closely you might still see Willie Teal trying to slap him out of bounds on the right sideline like an old woman hitting a pickpocket with her purse.

Cosell: Tony Dorsett – or Anthony, as I called him, because we were very close – once told me he asked to be listed as Tony in the program so his initials would be “TD.” He figured “AD” wouldn’t be a fitting nickname for a running back, reasoning with which I concurred although I understand Adrian Peterson would beg to differ.

Gifford: The Vikings’ quarterback that day was Tommy Kramer. There’s Two-Minute Tommy waving to the fans, who no doubt remember the numerous late-game drives he engineered, which of course is how he got his nickname.

Meredith: I called him “494 Tommy” because he loved the nightlife the way only a good-old boy from Texas could!

Cosell: That was something with which you and Kramer were both quite familiar, my good man. As I recall, he broke your Texas high school record for single-season quarterback rating and your NFL record for single-season blood-alcohol level.

Meredith: Well, you’re a fine one to talk, you whiskey-soaked, rug-wearing, big-mouthed son of a …

Gifford: Hey guys, let’s try to keep it civil here. Besides, you’re holograms so you wouldn’t hit any harder than Willie Teal. Moving on, there’s the old trapper himself, Bud Grant, who was the Vikings’ head coach for three of their first four seasons in the Metrodome.

Cosell: Harry Peter Grant. The man never cared for me. I couldn’t understand the animosity. I merely mentioned his string of four Super Bowl losses multiple times in every game we broadcast, regardless of whether the Vikings were playing at the time. It had the benefit of being true. I stand by my decision.

Gifford: Walking behind Grant is Les Steckel, his hand-picked successor who led the Vikings to a 3-13 record in 1984. Steckel’s team lost its last six games by an average of 27 points.

Meredith: I don’t wanna say his boys quit on him, but I’ve seen a treed coon put up a better fight against a yella hound dog on full moon Friday.

Gifford: I don’t even know what that means.

Cosell: Grant restored order to the franchise by gracing them with his immense talent for one more futile attempt at reaching the Super Bowl. Then he was replaced by that man – RIGHT THERE! Jerome Monahan Burns, affectionately known as “Burnsie” to the purple-clad faithful. We’d best turn off our closed-captioning services and advise lip readers to look away from their consoles as Burns greets the team ball boys and cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Gifford: There’s Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back out of Georgia who spent three years with the Vikings.

Cosell: Herschel Walker single-handedly turned around the fates of a once-proud franchise, resurrecting them from a decade of mediocrity and thrice sending them to the pinnacle of professional football. Unfortunately for the Vikings, that franchise was the Dallas Cowboys.

Meredith: Yee-haw! I remember the look on Mike Lynn’s face when he realized Jimmy Johnson was gonna take the players AND the draft picks. Ol’ Mike looked like had just chewed through a mouthful of roadkill possum on a hot August day.

Cosell: Mike Ditka is here today. He of course coined the term “RollerDome” as a derisive affront to the Metrodome’s troublesome acoustical idiosyncrasies. It’s a little-known fact that the seats in the Metrodome once were green, but they turned blue due to the wave of profanity that one Michael Keller Ditka spewed at quarterback Jim Harbaugh following an ill-fated audible in 1992.

Gifford: Next up is another Chicago great, Jim McMahon. The Punky QB had his share of big games in the Metrodome as a member of the Bears, but he also led the Vikings to the playoffs in 1993.

Meredith: And over on the other sideline, standing all alone at the 5-yard line waving like a maniac, is Eric Guliford.

Cosell: And speaking of malodorous memories for the Vikings’ neighbors to the east, Packers fans, we urge you to avert your eyes upon the arrival of Theron Joseph Rubley.

Gifford: T.J. Rubley, obviously overwhelmed by the standing ovation he’s receiving … and that’s former Vikings linebacker Jeff Brady cutting in front of him to wave to the fans!

Cosell: A hush has fallen over the crowd as Gary Anderson enters the stadium. One can even hear a smattering of catcalls from the peanut gallery. The man flirted with perfection and this is the thanks he gets? It appears he will only be forgiven if he takes a knee at the 28-yard-line and commits ritual seppuku to satisfy the rabid throng’s thirst for blood.

Meredith: Too soon, Howard. Too soon. You just can’t say “take a knee” around these parts.

Gifford: Well, there’s more of them lined up in the tunnel but we’re getting close to kickoff here. Mike Tice, Onterrio Smith, Fred Smoot, Wasswa Serwanga, Brad Childress, Greg Lewis, Naufahu Tahi, Visanthe Shiancoe, Dwayne Rudd … they all had their moment in the sun – so to speak – here at the Metrodome. It’s nice to see them get one more chance to hear the roar of the crowd and the blast of the Gjallarhorn.

Cosell: Thirty-two years worth of memories for this star-crossed franchise, my friends. There’s just one thing left to say. Dandy?

Meredith: Turn out the lights … the party’s over … They say that all … good things must end …

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Could the Vikings pursue Cutler?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: December 10, 2013 - 2:42 PM

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jay Cutler. How's that one sound, Vikings fans?

Many assume that the Vikings will part ways with Christian Ponder at the end of the season, setting him free to latch on with another team. In addition, Josh Freeman will become a free agent in March and I don't see them bringing him back. Nor do I think Freeman would want to return without at least seriously testing the market to see if anyone is interested in his Knoblauch-esque passing skills. As for Matt Cassel, he showed again on Sunday what even an adequate quarterback can do for a team in today's NFL. He truly gives the Vikings their best chance to win right now, but he's not a viable long-term solution.

So who plays quarterback for the Vikings in 2014 and beyond? To this point all of the discussion surrounding who the Vikings' next quarterback might be has centered on the NFL Draft.

The 2014 NFL Draft is going to have plenty of intriguing quarterback talents available even without Marcus Mariota, who decided recently to return to Oregon. Teddy Bridgewater remains the favorite to be the first quarterback off the board, but from where the Vikings currently sit at fourth in the draft order they won't have a shot to take him. Johnny Manziel will very likely be available anywhere in the top-10 of the first round and I would love to see him in purple. However, I dare say that's not a sentiment shared by too many Vikings fans and I have no idea where he resides on the Vikings' war room draft board.

The first few rounds of the draft will also include guys like Brett Hundley from UCLA, Blake Bortles out of Central Florida and A.J. McCarron from Alabama. All are candidates to be drafted by the Vikings.

Drafting a franchise quarterback early remains the preferred method of obtaining one. However, it's obviously not the only way.

Trades are sometimes an option, but rarely will a team deal a quarterback who has shown any inkling of being a franchise-level talent. Forget about the short-lived "Ben Roethlisberger wants to be traded" rumors. That's not happening. The only other way to solve a quarterback vacancy is via free agency, and that at least has to be considered by the Vikings' front office if they don't like Manziel or fail to fall in love with any of the other draft-eligible quarterbacks.

Peering ahead to the quarterbacks that could be available in free agency come March, one name stands alone above the rest: Jay Cutler.

Six weeks ago I would have told you that there's no way the Bears would let Cutler walk. They'll franchise him or sign him to a new, lucrative deal I figured. Now I'm not so sure. Since Cutler has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain, his backup Josh McCown has caught fire in Marc Trestman's system. Having receivers like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery helps, as does playing against defenses like the Cowboys and Vikings. However, McCown has obliterated expectations, completing 67 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns against just one interception. He's thrown for 1,055 yards in his last three games alone. He's one of the hottest quarterbacks this side of Peyton Manning and the Bears can't help but wonder whether it would be more prudent to sign McCown at a fraction of the cost it would take to retain Cutler.

Yes, Trestman has re-iterated that Cutler will be the Bears' starter again once he's healthy… whenever that might be. What happens after the season, though? I have to think there's at least a chance now the Bears will allow Cutler to enter free agency. If that happens there will be a long line of suitors, and the Vikings should at least consider kicking the proverbial tires.

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Cutler fan in the world. Putting aside whatever reservations one might have about his questionable body language, attitude, ego and durability, the guy's got a heckuva arm and knows how to play the game. He would provide the Vikings with at least a better than average solution at the quarterback position for the next three or four seasons. He'd also get a lot more out of Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph -- which might be enough to get this team back to the playoffs. It would also free up a first-round pick for some badly needed help on defense.

I'm still firmly on the Manziel bandwagon, but the thought of Cutler in purple is, at the very least, intriguing. And it's looking more and more like at least a possible scenario with each new gem McCown turns in.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Ponder paranoia reaches all-time high

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Vikings coaches, Leslie Frazier, Vikings fans, Vikings management, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Leslie Frazier, Vikings quarterbacks Updated: November 20, 2013 - 8:51 PM

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If that’s true, then the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this season is that the Vikings’ brain trust are insane.

Leslie Frazier’s announcement on Wednesday that Christian Ponder will be the Vikings’ starting quarterback this Sunday in Green Bay set of a storm of outrage in talk radio and social media circles. And rightly so. After Ponder threw away last week’s game in Seattle – turning a 24-13 game into a 38-13 blowout in the span of four passes – many fans and media members chose to look at the bright side.

“At least we’ve finally seen the last of Ponder,” they said. “No way they can throw him back out there after that performance.”

But certain cynical observers suspected otherwise.

It’s not that we had any inside information. It’s just that we’ve been following the Vikings all our lives and have learned to expect the worst – or most bizarre – outcome in any situation. And Ponder continuing to start at quarterback certainly qualifies as a bad and bizarre outcome.

The Vikings’ season began with one critical goal: find out if Ponder is your franchise quarterback. The answer has been clear for a few weeks now – a resounding no. Ponder is what he is – a guy who can do a few things and look OK in stretches, but with too many shortcomings for an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t see the field well, can’t sense pressure in the pocket, doesn’t use his quickness to keep plays alive behind the line of scrimmage, and he throws way too many interceptions.

Oh, and he doesn’t have a very strong or accurate arm. Otherwise, he’s a gem.

The problem is, the Vikings are compounding their error by the way they’re handling this situation. Not that we expect Frazier to verbally decapitate Ponder on the podium. But you get the sense that he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.

After all, Christian gives them the best chance to win. And his errors are all easily correctible.

Right?

Frazier and Co. act like Vikings fans can’t see this, like the people buying tickets are blind, like the people they hope will line up to buy PSLs at the new downtown football palace are complete, blithering idiots.

But anybody with two eyes – heck, probably even just one – can see that Ponder is not an NFL quarterback. They’ve got two other guys on their roster who have been full-season starters on other NFL teams, and yet they keep running Ponder out there. No wonder the natives are getting restless.

The fact that the Vikings consider Ponder preferable to Josh Freeman or even Matt Cassel could say something terrifying about those two. Or perhaps they don’t value Ponder over those two, they just value a higher draft pick next year and think Ponder will help get them there with fourth quarters like the one he played Sunday.

The thing is, whichever way you slice it, Frazier is flat-out lying every time he opens his mouth to talk about his quarterbacks. If Ponder truly does give them the best chance to win, then it’s a bald-faced lie to say that Freeman has “exceeded expectations” in his time here. There’s no way they paid him $2 million to come here and sit on the bench into December. If that’s exceeding expectations, the Vikings need to set the bar a little higher.

As for Cassel, the fairest read is now that their playoff hopes are officially toast, there’s no reason to start Cassel, who at this point in his career is a backup with no hopes of being anybody’s quarterback of the future. A more cynical (and perhaps accurate) read is that they realize Cassel is the quarterback most likely to give them a professional effort and thus put their 2014 draft position in peril.

So for the time being, Ponder will continue to play the role of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger and other great horror movie villains. Just when Vikings fans thought he was gone for good …

They’d just better hope there’s no talk of another sequel.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: It's never as bad as it looks

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly under Vikings, Vikings coaches, Vikings defense, Vikings management, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Vikings quarterbacks Updated: November 8, 2013 - 12:52 AM

Of course, the converse of that headline also is true – it's never as good as it looks.

The 2012-13 Vikings are a case study of this theorem.

As I'm sure you all remember, last year the Vikings went 10-6 and reached the NFC playoffs as the No. 6 seed. It was an out-of-nowhere season after they went 3-13 in Leslie Frazier's first year as head coach.

But lost in the giddiness of the surprise postseason berth and Adrian Peterson's super-human comeback season was the fact that the 2012 Vikings massively overachieved. In 16 games, they scored just 31 more points than they allowed. They gave up 215 more yards than they gained. Based on statistics, they probably should have been – at best – a .500 team.

So how did they become a playoff team? Well, football is a game of emotions and momentum – within each game, and from game-to-game. If you win a few that maybe you shouldn’t, suddenly you’ve got confidence, whether you earned those wins or they were based on blind luck. If you win a few games early, you start to believe you’re good, and that confidence can carry over to the next time you’re up against it with the game on the line.

It’s also the nature of the hyper-intense schedule inherent in football. In baseball, if you blow one play that costs you a game, that’s 1/162 of the season. In basketball or hockey, it’s about 1/80 of the season. But if you blow one play that costs you a game in the NFL, that’s 1/16 of the season. Everything is magnified – for better or for worse.

Let’s travel back to 2012. The Vikings started the season by winning a game they probably had no business winning. Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and the Purple trailed 23-20. But Christian Ponder hit Devin Aromashodu (remember him?) with a 26-yard bullet and flipped a 6-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph to set up Blair Walsh for a 55-yard game-tying field goal as time ran out. The Vikings won in overtime, and suddenly they had confidence they could win tight games – which they did with regularity the rest of the year. In fact, they went 5-1 in games decided by one score last year.

Push ahead 12 months. The Vikings opened the season in Detroit, entered the fourth quarter down by a field goal and lost by 10. They followed that with a loss at Chicago, giving up the winning touchdown on the Bears’ final drive. A week later they repeated that pattern against Cleveland, and before you knew it, they were 0-3 and the season was circling the bowl. Even with Thursday night’s win over Washington, the Vikings are 2-3 in games decided by one score. When the game hits crunch time, this year they haven’t gotten (or made their own) breaks.

That’s not to say there aren’t personnel problems on the 2013 Vikings. Or coaching problems. There certainly are. But the personnel and coaches aren’t much different from last year. I’d argue that if they’d found a way to win two or three of those first three games, it would have snowballed into a positive trend as the players gained confidence. Maybe that midseason lull doesn’t happen. Maybe they don’t feel the need to grab Josh Freeman and throw the whole quarterback situation into flux. Maybe Frazier still has a modicum of job security.

Yeah, that’s a lot of maybes. And yeah, it’s always annoying when a fan of a 2-7 team says, “We’re just four our five plays away from maybe being 7-2!”

But last year, the Vikings were four or five plays away from going 5-11. Instead, they finished 10-6. The ball bounced their way last year, masking their flaws. This year, their flaws have been exposed.

But next year? With a new coach, a new quarterback (sorry, even Thursday night’s mostly stellar performance doesn’t have me buying stock in Ponder) and a fresh slate, don’t be shocked if this roller coaster ride resumes in a positive direction.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Time to tank, but for whom?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 29, 2013 - 9:09 AM

I realize NFL teams would never purposely tank for improved draft position – at least not overtly. However, as far as the Vikings are concerned it would behoove them to stop winning in order to assure themselves the highest draft pick possible.

In an article by Jeff Goodman in the current ESPN The Magazine, an anonymous NBA general manager told him: "Our team isn't good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players; let them learn from their mistakes -- and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing."

Why is it pretty much acceptable for NBA teams to tank while it's taboo for NFL teams to do so?

Of course, given how they've been playing and the daunting schedule that lies ahead, the Vikings should stay the course. Just keep doing what they're doing and the losses will come.

Exactly two years ago to the day in this little VikesCentric corner of the Interweb I proclaimed the Vikings' season a lost cause and began a modest "Reel for Kalil" movement. As they are now, the Vikes were 1-6 at that time and ranked high in the projected draft order. At that point they appeared out of the "Suck for (Andrew) Luck" sweepstakes, with several really bad teams also in contention. Therefore, I suggested the Purple ought to be targeting a cornerstone left tackle such as Matt Kalil in the NFL Draft.

The proverbial crystal ball was working well that day.

Assuming the Vikings go winless or close to it the rest of the way, they're going to be picking at or near the top of the draft. In order to get the No. 1 overall pick, they'll need some help. To that end, Vikings fans imploring them to tank should simultaneously be rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7) to win one or two games at some point.

If the season ended today, the Vikings would be picking third behind the Jaguars and Buccaneers. At the third spot they would be in position to draft a blue chip quarterback, which should absolutely be their focus. The possibility exists that none of the three quarterbacks currently on the Vikings' roster will be on their roster again next season. The likelihood exists that only one of them will be. It's no secret: quarterback is the biggest of their many needs.

Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are the two top-ranked quarterbacks as of right now by notable Draftniks Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN. Both should be in the Vikings' crosshairs. Both Kiper and McShay (and many others) rank freakish defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina just ahead of Bridgewater and Mariota on their overall board. They could very well be the top-three players selected (in some order). It should be pointed out, however, that both the Jaguars and Buccaneers will also likely be in the market for a quarterback.

Fortunately for those seeking a quarterback in next year's draft, it appears to be a very deep class if certain underclassmen declare their eligibility. Brett Hundley of UCLA could also go among the top-10 picks. And then there's this kid going to school at Texas A&M you might have heard of: Johnny Manziel. The jury is still out on where Johnny Football might land on Draft Day. He began the season as possibly a Day 2 pick, but is now looking more like top of the second round or even a first round selection. There's no consensus on the most polarizing player in college sports.

Which of these guys should the Vikings target?

The "Tank for Teddy" bandwagon is filling fast, but the word on the street is that the Vikings are eyeballing Mariota. Unfortunately, I don't have a clever rhyme or alliteration for the Mariota campaign. I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Looking six months ahead, the possible scenarios are numerous. What if the Buccaneers and Jaguars lose out and grab Bridgewater and Mariota with the first two picks? There would almost certainly be a team willing to trade up with the Vikings for the chance to take Clowney… again, assuming the Draft order remains the same as it is today. Should the Vikings attempt to trade up and assure themselves of getting Mariota or Bridgewater? Should they trade down a few spots, let someone else take Clowney, and grab Hundley for themselves?

Or how about this zany scenario: stay at No. 3 and take Clowney and then trade back up into the the first round to take Manziel. Taking the two highest-profile players in the upcoming draft would create a huge buzz and an onslaught of media attention. It would certainly sell tickets.

It could also hasten the Vikings' rebuilding process.

Listen, the Vikings need help at positions other than quarterback. The defense has holes all over the place and could lose some linemen in free agency. By all accounts Clowney is a game-changing end capable of electrifying a defense. Why not grab him and then take Johnny Football? It would definitely be a gamble. Bridgewater, Mariota and Hundley all feel like safer picks and the Vikings simply can't afford any more misfires in finding a quarterback. They have to get it right this time.

Manziel is an absolute wildcard. There are many (probably many reading this) who believe he has little shot of succeeding in the NFL. There are even more who detest his off-the-field partying and other assorted shenanigans.

I get that I'm on the unpopular side of this, but I think Manziel has a shot – a good shot -- of becoming a quality NFL quarterback. To those who say he's too small, I'd point out he's listed as 6-1, 210. Yes, that probably means he's closer to 6-0, 205. Drew Brees is generously listed at 6-0, 209. Russell Wilson is 5-11, 206. Small is a problem if you don't have tremendous talent. Brees and Wilson do. So does Manziel.

I'm a Manziel believer. His ability to extend plays with his legs is unmatched. His ability to lead and single-handedly will an offense into the end zone is uncanny. His arm is bigger and more accurate than you think. He makes the smart play more often than you think. He's not just a gunslinger and he doesn't lock in on primary receivers.

We might as well kick-start the discussion now, Vikings fans. Who do you want to see your team take in the NFL Draft? Bridgewater? Mariota? Hundley? Is anyone willing to join me on my wacky, improbable Clowney and Manziel bandwagon? Any other options you'd rather see?

Or should they just tank in 2014 as well and take FSU's Jameis Winston in 2015? He's already being called "the next Andrew Luck."

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: It's time for some changes

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 14, 2013 - 9:44 AM

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's dismal performance against the Carolina Panthers many bewildered Vikings players called the game downright embarrassing. Vikings beat writers, columnists, sportscasters and radio commentators used words like pathetic and abysmal.

Seeking to inject a bit of cleverness and levity to the conversation I implored my followers on Twitter (many of whom are Vikings fans) to help me think of a term that goes beyond train wreck or dumpster fire to describe the state of the team. As I should have expected, many of the responses were unfit for print here.

The bottom line, as many have pointed out in the hours since the Vikings fell to 1-4, it's time for some changes. Coaches get fired after games like that. Starters get benched. Players get waived. There's plenty of blame to go around. Said changes are being discussed at length elsewhere at StarTribune.com as well as on sports talk shows and around water coolers this morning.

But that's not the only changes I'm talking about.

In the span of six weeks Vikings fans have gone from apoplectic to apathetic. That should be of real concern to the suits at Winter Park.

It's one thing when your rabid fan base is "merely" angry. At least those fans are still engaged. However, many who call themselves diehard Vikings fans turned the corner yesterday -- and are now headed down the road to just not caring any more.

One of the many things the Vikings pride themselves on is selling out their lame duck stadium. They haven't had a game blacked out since December of 1997. The Metrodump has been full and fans have been able to watch the game on TV every week ever since Randy Moss came to town.

That streak is in serious jeopardy. The Vikings no longer deem a sellout to be 90 percent at Mall of America Field to avoid a blackout. A sellout is now defined as just that: all the tickets have to be sold. Luckily (sort of) for the Vikings, their next home game is against the Packers. The house will be full on Oct. 27, although half the seats will be filled with green and gold-wearing Green Bay fans. After that, things might get dicey. I don't have the latest ticket sales numbers, but I have to believe the final four home games (against the Redskins, Bears, Eagles and Lions) might not all be sellouts.

But that might not matter. You see, the Vikings have been appointment television in the Twin Cities forever. It's just what you do on Sundays in the fall and early winter: you watch the Vikings game. The television ratings for Vikings games back that up. Whether the rest of the Vikings' home games are on TV might not matter as much, however; and that's the real issue.

Vikings fans – long-time Vikings fans – are starting to make other plans for Sundays. Fans calling the post-game radio rant shows on KFAN and ESPN 1500 talked about turning off the game and doing something else with their time in the second half. Folks on Facebook and Twitter told stories of doing yard work or going to the apple orchard with the family rather than watch the Vikings get blown out.

It's time for some changes all right. It's time for a lot of Minnesotans to change their Sunday routines even when the Vikings game is on. It's happening. It's not just the frustration talking. It's not an idle threat that will vanish in seven days when the Vikes are back on TV. It's actually happening with some fans. It's a small percentage now, but what if they keep losing like they did on Sunday and show no signs of improvement? What if they go on Monday Night football next week and get smoked before a national audience by the winless, hapless Giants? What then?

Time to clean the garage on Sunday, that's what.

The growing unrest and lethargy of the fan base has to be a concern to the Wilfs. I can't imagine the state of the Vikings will help with the sales of the already controversial personal seat licenses for the new state of the art palace that's opening in 2016.

Granted, the Vikings have had bad seasons before and not totally lost the interest of their fans. They'll come back. They always do. Once the product on the field is no longer, in their players' own words, an embarrassment, watching the Vikings will be a Sunday destination. But for right now and the near future it probably won't be.

Minnesota sports fans are just sick and tired of losing. Chances are if you're a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves or Wild, you're also a Vikings fan. There's a lot of overlap in that demographic. That's a lot of losing and a lot of frustration. The Twins felt the effects in ticket sales this past season despite their beautiful venue. And now it looks like the Vikings – the crown jewel of Minnesota's professional sports teams – are going to start feeling the fan interest wane.

And with that, I'd like to encourage you all to go downtown today and watch the Minnesota Lynx parade through the streets of Minneapolis with their WNBA championship trophy. At least Minnesota sports fans have one team that's definitely figured out the winning formula.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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