Patrick Reusse: Vikings' two-year snag feels like start of something worse

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2011 - 7:41 PM

The Vikings are not a team used to long periods of losing, but this rebuilding project figures to take a while.

vikings head coach mike tice yells

Mike Tice let out a yell in November 2002. The Vikings last posted back-to-back double-digit loss seasons in 2001 and 2002, but a turnaround soon followed. Those teams, however, were more talented than the 2010-11 Vikings.

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The Vikings came into existence as an NFL expansion team in 1961. They have been in the same grouping with the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions throughout that existence.

The Vikings, Packers, Bears and Lions have played two games apiece against one another in every season, other than in the strike year of 1982, when they played once because of the nine-game schedule.

Fifty-one seasons. That's long enough to refer to the Packers, the Bears and the Lions as the Vikings' ancient rivals, right?

The past two of those seasons have left the Vikings in previously unexplored territory. They take a 10-game losing streak vs. the NFC North into Sunday's finale against Chicago.

No matter the outcome, the Vikings will finish last in the division for a second consecutive year. This was accomplished by losing a tiebreaker to Detroit a year ago. This season's last-place finish has been much more decisive.

You can complain about those four losses in Super Bowls played in the '70s, and complain more bitterly about the fact the Vikings now have been absent from the big game for 35 seasons.

In truth, Vikings loyalists have had a pretty good ride. As evidence:

The Vikings went 3-11 and 2-11-1 in their first two seasons, 1961 and 1962. It took another 40 years for the Vikings to achieve double-digit losses in back-to-back seasons -- 5-11 in 2001 and 6-10 in 2002. Now, they have done it again, with 10 losses in 2010 and the 12 (or 13) this season.

As for those consecutive last-place finishes? The Vikings have never done that before.

But that reality is now here for the Vikings, last again, and you wonder if this might be the start of the first major downturn -- meaning, numerous seasons on the wrong side of .500 -- for the Purple Faithful to experience.

The Vikings haven't had three losing seasons in a row since their expansion infancy of 1961 through 1963. Certainly, the rivals have had more losing streaks to deal with:

The Packers had seven of eight losing seasons from 1973 through 1980, then five of six from 1986 through 1991. The Bears had losing seasons from 1969 through 1975, from 1996 through 2000 and again in this past decade -- 2002 through 2004.

The Lions' futility has been monumental, of course. They had streaks of losing seasons from 1976 through 1979, from 1984 through 1990 and from 2001 through 2010. The Lions were 39-121 over those 10 years -- 12 losses per season, as an average.

How bad can it get for the current Vikings?

First off, it's much more difficult for a team to put together a streak of futility in the salary-cap era. That makes Detroit's recent losing even more remarkable, and also reduces the odds that the Vikings will turn this into an unprecedented stretch of five, six losing seasons in a row.

And then you look at the enormous gaps in personnel, look at what coach Les Frazier and his staff produced in their first full season, look at the now uncertain future of superstar Adrian Peterson, and say:

"Large amounts of losing -- not Lions-like, but ongoing -- are possible, unless there's a decision-maker at Winter Park who can find a half-dozen defensive players, an offensive line and a receiving corps, and maybe a quarterback, and do it on the run over the next couple of years.''

From here, the Purple futility of the past two seasons feels much different than at any time previously.

The Vikings were rebuilding after the combined 21 losses in 2001-02, but they had fewer gaping holes than this bunch. They didn't have entire position groups to fix: secondary, linebacker, receiver, offensive line.

Bud Grant had a mess to clean up on his one-season return in 1985, but CEO Mike Lynn helped mightily by bringing in Anthony Carter and Keith Millard from the USFL.

There's no USFL to draw on now. There's only the draft, and maybe a free agent or two that his previous team decides not to pay.

Gene Mauch, the old baseball manager, used to say that "snags" and "slumps" were very distinctive things for an athletic team. This feels like more than a two-year snag for the Vikings. This feels like a serious slump.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays and 10-noon Saturdays on 1500ESPN. •

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Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 2 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 9
Washington 0 FINAL
Miami 8
Boston 4 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Houston 3
Toronto - WP: C. Hynes 9 FINAL
Boston - LP: D. Hinojosa 7
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Norberto 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley 0
St. Louis 5 FINAL
NY Mets 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Kansas City 4
LA Angels 1 FINAL
Oakland 4
San Diego 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox 2
Chicago WSox 12 FINAL
Seattle 4
Cleveland 2 FINAL
San Francisco 5
Milwaukee 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 11
Arizona 3 FINAL
Cincinnati 0
Texas 4 FINAL
Colorado 10
Pittsburgh 3 Top 10th Inning
Baltimore 3
Detroit 78 FINAL
Charlotte 102
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Washington 106
San Antonio 103 FINAL
Orlando 91
Indiana 87 FINAL
Boston 100
Brooklyn 96 4th Qtr 1:19
New York 95
Chicago 71 3rd Qtr 1:38
Milwaukee 70
Dallas 101 3rd Qtr 0:04
Oklahoma City 100
Sacramento 88 4th Qtr 11:09
Houston 100
Toronto 86 4th Qtr 11:44
Minnesota 69
Denver 33 2nd Qtr 5:57
Utah 40
LA Clippers 9:00 PM
New Orleans 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 3 3rd Prd 9:26
Buffalo 4
Philadelphia 2 3rd Prd
Pittsburgh 1
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Colorado 9:30 PM
San Jose
Loyola-Chicago 59 2nd Half 3:33
ULM 58
Michigan 65
Temple 58 FINAL
West Virginia 66
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9




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vikings head coach mike tice yells