Those who attended the postgame press conference at FedEx Field remember the expression on Leslie Frazier’s face, an ear-to-ear grin and a glow of total elation. Frazier’s Vikings had just downed the Redskins 33-26 on Christmas Eve and the unity, resolve and poise his team had shown had the first-year head coach feeling euphoric.
"Now I can go enjoy my Christmas," Frazier proclaimed.
You see, Frazier is paid by the Vikings to do one thing: win football games. Which, during the season, requires a very narrow focus on the now with little regard for the big picture. In that context, it’s hard to criticize Frazier for his overflowing glee that evening. After a 55-day drought between victories, the satisfaction and relief that win over the Redskins brought to the locker room was undeniable.
But now, as the Vikings dive headfirst into a critical offseason that will require shrewd maneuvering in free agency and the draft, it’s worth asking: Was that win on Christmas Eve the costliest victory in the history of the franchise?
First and foremost, there was this, the hit that sent Adrian Peterson’s career on a detour:
It’s hard to downplay just how potentially devastating that one disastrous handoff might be.
But there’s more. By succeeding in Washington, the Vikings won their way out of the No. 2 pick for April’s NFL Draft, a slot now owned by the St. Louis Rams, who will spend the next eight weeks holding a high-profile auction that could quickly catalyze their own rebuilding plans.
Had the Rams and Vikings each finished the season with two wins, the Vikings would have won the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker to claim the No. 2 pick. Instead, with three victories, the Vikings slid to No. 3.
And now with so much pre-draft hype mushrooming in regards to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, it’s the Rams in position to play stick-up man to a quarterback-starved team that really wants to get its hands on Griffin.
So just how much might St. Louis be able to demand in return for the rights to RG3? There was initial buzz before the NFL Combine began that a deal with Cleveland could materialize where the Rams would give up the No. 2 pick in exchange for the Browns’ picks at Nos. 4 and 22. But now? Griffin’s stock is skyrocketing and there’s a belief St. Louis could up its asking price considerably.
Eight years ago, after selecting Eli Manning with the top overall pick, San Diego moved Manning to the New York Giants, getting two first-round picks, a third-rounder and a fifth-rounder in return. Those picks:
- Quarterback Philip Rivers at No. 4 in 2004.
- Kicker Nate Kaeding at No. 65 in 2004.
- Linebacker Shawne Merriman at No. 12 in 2005
- The Chargers also landed the 144th pick in 2005, which they traded to St. Louis, who selected tight end Jerome Collins there.
That’s a pretty good return. (Rivers, Kaeding and Merriman all made multiple Pro Bowls.)
Now, the chatter is that the Rams may be able to demand similar trade booty for their No. 2 slot, accumulating a stockpile of picks that may dramatically accelerate their charge back toward relevance.
The Rams will be demanding a high-value price for this No. 2 pick, a selection, of course, the Vikings could have owned – had it only not been for that oh-so-costly Christmas Eve triumph in Washington, D.C.