The Wild had an excuse for its early exit from the NHL playoffs, even though owner Craig Leipold used it as the impetus to get rid of General Manager Chuck Fletcher after nine seasons.
Leipold could have gotten away with retaining Fletcher by pointing to the absence of Ryan Suter and then Zach Parise for what turned into a one-sided, five-game elimination in the first round by the Winnipeg Jets.
The Timberwolves had an excuse for their early exit from the NBA playoffs, even though the public was howling over what it decided was a lack of leadership from coach Tom Thibodeau and of commitment from forward Andrew Wiggins.
Owner Glen Taylor groused slightly over the five-game mismatch vs. Houston, while also pointing out that the 17-game absence of new star Jimmy Butler was a probable cause for the fall to eighth place in the Western Conference and the no-chance matchup with the Rockets.
The Twins are starting to the get their excuses in order after hitting a wall only one month into a season of expectations. There’s the self-inflicted blow from Jorge Polanco being suspended for steroids, and there’s Ervin Santana's slow recovery from finger surgery, and now there’s the double whammy of migraines followed by a broken toe for center fielder Byron Buxton.
Those excuses hardly explain the collapse of the pitching staff during a swoon of nine losses in 10 games, but they are nonetheless excuses.
The one team among the big four in Minnesota’s professional sports that has no excuses available at this moment is the National Football League franchise now headquartered in Eagan. That could change before the Vikings' 2018 season opener on Sept. 9 vs. San Francisco, since important injuries are always a threat in football, but at this moment …
The superb signing of Kirk Cousins has changed everything. There are no questions at quarterback for the first time since Brett Favre in 2009. And with a durable, top seven or eight QB to go with dynamic weapons and a fully manned (and improved with Sheldon Richardson) No. 1 defense, the Vikings’ situation for the season ahead is clear:
No excuses. Super Bowl champions or bust.
The Vikings gave every indication that their football decision-makers feel exactly the same way, since the eight choices made in this draft were a tribute to potential and not to filling needs.
I mean, why fill needs if you don’t think you have any large ones?
The public and local football media felt more urgency to add a starter to the offensive line than did the Vikings. That's because the Purple has four starters back from Option A in 2017: LT-Riley Reiff, LG-Nick Easton, C-Pat Elflein and RT-Mike Remmers.
That leaves right guard, where veteran Tom Compton or young Danny Isidora rank as the favorites to replace Joe Berger. The other option that surfaced late last season – Remmers at right guard? I think everyone should relax about that and allow Rashod Hill to work on being a capable backup at both tackles.
There were enough hints from coach Mike Zimmer over the progress he was seeing from Isidora, a fifth-rounder in 2017, that the Vikings might be looking at him as a strong possibility to join Easton and Elflein as the young middle of the line.
Whatever, they decided to go with a talented cornerback, Mike Hughes, in the first round, and went with a lanky tackle, Brian O’Neill, destined to be a caddie for a couple of years, in the second.
The draftee most likely to make an impact could be Daniel Carlson, the kicker taken in the fifth round from Auburn. Let’s face it: Even from 32 ½ yards (total), extra points shouldn’t be as tough as Kai Forbath has had a tendency to make them.
And just because of the Blair Walsh experience, that doesn’t mean that Purple loyalists must be skeptical over all big-legged placekickers from the Southeastern Conference.
The bottom line is the Vikings are loaded, and nobody drafted really has to be relied on that much in 2018 … unless there are important injuries.
If that were to happen, the Vikings will have excuses to grasp onto, as do the other members of Minnesota’s Big Four for the results (completed or current) in 2018.