Avoiding dubious history is the Vikings' new goal

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2011 - 11:40 PM

With six games to go, the 2012 edition of the Vikings is close to being the worst ever.

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Vikings first-year head coach Leslie Frazier is enduring a 2-8 season.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Already tied for the worst start in franchise history, the Vikings now need to double their victory total just to avoid reaching the depths of Purple infamy seen by only Les Steckel and his boys of 1984.

In 50 completed seasons of Vikings football, Steckel's 3-13 team remains the only one to lose 13 times. It's also the only one to lose more than 11 games, which means this year's team needs to finish an unlikely 3-3 to avoid becoming only the second to do so.

This wasn't a particularly popular topic when passed along to one of the team's more talented current players at Winter Park on Monday. Fortunately, he's media-friendly.

"I don't want to sit here and get into whether we're motivated by not wanting to be one of the worst teams in franchise history," defensive end Jared Allen said. "I don't even know the history of the Vikings or anything like that in that regard. The motivation for us is to just win. There are too many games left this year to be even talking about us being one of the worst teams in franchise history."

Unfortunately, there isn't much to talk about when a team is five games out of third place in its division and tied for the second-worst record in the league (2-8).

The Vikings opened for business in 1961. They started 2-8 that year and the following year. Another 48 seasons passed without a 2-8 start before this year's team found a way to lose at home to an even sloppier team, Oakland, which committed 12 penalties. Even Les' crew had three victories at this point.

The remaining schedule includes six teams with a combined 35-25 record. Four of them (Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago) have a winning record. Only one (Washington) has a losing record, but that game is on the road on Christmas Eve.

Throw in the fact the Vikings' best player (Adrian Peterson) has a high ankle sprain and no reason to rush back and, well, we're talking about the potential for a historic level of misery. That's good for high draft picks, but not so good for fond memories and reputations, eh, Mr. Steckel?

"You're right, you don't want to be associated with being one of the worst teams [in franchise history]," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "You get to the NFL because you've been successful, probably in college and high school. Most of us have been on winning teams. This is a position that's hard to be in, especially coming off a 6-10 season as well.

''... We want to finish this thing with five, six, seven, eight wins. We have nothing to lose and a lot of the teams we play going forward have a lot to lose."

Or, as Allen put it, "Misery loves company so we're going to make a lot of people miserable along the way."

In Vikings history, there are two teams that set the benchmark for misery. The 1962 team (2-11-1) had the fewest victories and the worst winning percentage (.179). The 1984 team had the most losses. Only three other teams in franchise history lost 11 games, the last coming in 2001.

This year's players have talked a lot about their individual talent. The team in 1962, with Fran Tarkenton, Jim Marshall, Mick Tingelhoff and Bill Brown, could have done the same thing. Ditto for 1984, with Darrin Nelson, Tommy Kramer, Steve Jordan, Joey Browner, Matt Blair and Scott Studwell.

"Talent [alone] is not going to win in this league," Vikings receiver Percy Harvin said. "You have to be a team."

This year's team is tied for the second-worst record in a 32-team league. That's where the 1984 team finished among 28 teams. The 1962 team owned the second-worst record outright in a 14-team league.

This year's team is 30th in points allowed (27.1). The Vikings were last in that category in 1962 (29.3) and 1984 (30.2).

Asked if it's motivation to use the final six weeks to distance this year's team from what happened in 1962 and 1984, Harvin shrugged.

"I guess so, if you're into stats and history," Harvin said. "But I don't think anybody is looking at history or whatnot. I think the most important thing for our football team is just to win to get this thing headed in the right direction for the future. It's our jobs to do so."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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2013 preseason     
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