1. No more redshirt seasons
What's wrong with this picture? The Vikings drafted DeMarcus Love (top right) in the sixth round and D'Aundre Reed (bottom right) in the seventh. Neither played a single game; they were inactive all 16 games for a 3-13 team. The Packers drafted D.J. Smith in the sixth round and Ryan Taylor in the seventh. Both were active in all 16 games for a defending Super Bowl champion that went 15-1. Smith, a linebacker, went into the season finale with 41 tackles and three starts. Taylor, a tight end, had one catch, a touchdown. The two of them also improved one of the league's worst special teams units with a combined 19 special teams tackles heading into Week 17. The Vikings can't afford another year of redshirting draft picks who should be helping them now.
2. Griffen good but needs more control
Part of what makes Everson Griffen, above, a potentially great special teamer is he plays like he's, well, crazy. Then again, part of what makes him such a frustrating figure is he plays like he's, well, crazy. He's 6-3, 273 pounds with 4.6 speed and an ability to tackle. So he's a playmaker. But he makes too many thoughtless mistakes. Two of those came in the first seven minutes of the game against the team's longtime nemesis, Bears return man Devin Hester. Hester fair caught the Vikings' first punt of the game but was then inexplicably leveled by Griffen for a 15-yard penalty that moved the ball to the Bears 39-yard line. Four minutes later, Griffen was offside on a kickoff that resulted in Hester being tackled at the Bears 3. The Bears ended up with the ball at their 22 after the re-kick. Coach Leslie Frazier gave Griffen an earful as he came off the field, as he should have. Overall, the Vikings held Hester to 26 total return yards (22 on two kickoff returns and 4 on two punt returns). Not bad against a guy who has four touchdown returns against the Vikings.
3. Confusion reigns before the half
Frazier made it through his first full season and will be given a normal offseason to get his act fully together. So there will be no excuses next season for scenes like the one at the end of the first half. Confusion reigned with 59 seconds left when the Vikings had fourth-and-1 from the Bears 8. Frazier appeared ready to go for it, then called timeout. The field goal unit ran onto the field to set up. At the end of the timeout, the offense also was on the field, halfway between the ball and the sideline, as lost as 6-year-olds on their own at the Mall of America. Because you can't call consecutive timeouts, the offense had to hurry off the field and the Vikings settled for the 26-yard field goal. Frazier said he made the decision to get the points, but it sure looked as if he wanted to go for it but couldn't because of all the confusion. That's not good.
4. Worst national anthem ever
Here's a tip for anyone hired to perform the national anthem at a sporting event: Don't try to make the song your own. Don't tweak it, twist it, rearrange it or butcher it like Urge Overkill did before Sunday's game at Mall of America Field. The alternative rock band from Chicago quite possibly set a new low for worst performance of the national anthem with a folksy, slow-moving guitar rendition.
5. Still want an 18-game season?
Please, please, please try to remember the last month or so of this season the next time the NFL dangles the possibility of an 18-game season in front of the fans. It's coming. Imagine teams such as the Vikings, Colts, Rams, Jaguars and Browns having to play two more meaningless games with depleted rosters. Now imagine the good teams such as the Packers, Steelers, 49ers and Saints having to rest their good players another two weeks. Remember this: Meaningless exhibition games in August are painful but far better than two more meaningless games in January.