If you want to predict the future, the past is a good place to start.
So try this: The 2009 Vikings went 12-4 and made it to overtime of the NFC title game. The 2010 Vikings expected the same players to achieve the same results, bringing back all 22 starters on offense and defense. They won half as many games, Brad Childress was fired and Brett Favre finally retired.
The 2017 Vikings went 13-3 and reached the NFC title game. After falling one game short of the Super Bowl (again), they had a choice: run it back and hope for the same results … or learn from the past and recognize that, to borrow a popular phrase, good is the enemy of great.
It’s obvious by now which route general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and the rest of the organization’s brain trust went. And they should be commended for it.
Pretty much every move the Vikings have made since then can be viewed through two related lenses:
One, they recognized that while they were good in 2017, there was a strong element of luck associated with their success.
The laundry list includes playing (and defeating) Green Bay twice in games impacted by Aaron Rodgers’ injury, only playing seven true road games, catching lightning in a bottle with journeyman quarterback Case Keenum and winning a playoff game they had all but given away when a Saints player forgot how to tackle.
(The 2009 Vikings, by the way, were similarly lucky. In starting 6-0, they had the Greg Lewis miracle home victory over the 49ers and a fortunate home victory over the Ravens, who would have won 34-33 if Steven Hauschka had made a 44-yard field goal as time expired).
The Vikings should make no apologies for good fortune, but it helped frame their 2017 season as an overwhelming success when in reality it could have been merely above-average.
And two, they realized that expecting the same results by simply standing pat with the same personnel in 2018 was foolish. Their offseason (and in-season) moves indicate not just a win-now mentality, but a recognition that even just to avoid falling back they needed to get better.
Keep one of the in-house quarterback candidates? They could have hoped Keenum was more than a one-year wonder or believed Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater were durable and talented enough to lead them, but instead they paid for a franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins who has made several $84 million throws in just two weeks.
Stay with Tom Johnson at defensive tackle? That would be fine, but instead they made their front four even more fearsome with Sheldon Richardson. (And then they still got Johnson back, anyway, giving them a roster that as Johnson put it Wednesday is “stacked at all positions.”)
Hold the line at kicker with Kai Forbath? Nah, instead they drafted Daniel Carlson in the fifth round, and when that experiment failed they wasted no time in bringing in the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history – with Dan Bailey as an upgrade not just over Carlson but Forbath, too.
Worried about depth on the offensive line and defensive back? Jump at the chance to add depth and quality with Brett Jones and George Iloka.
The 2018 Vikings are undoubtedly more talented than last year’s version. That doesn’t guarantee them a Super Bowl, but it’s a far better plan than hoping to sustain results that didn’t seem sustainable.