The Vikings played 16 games this season and won eight of them. The Timberwolves and Wild have both played 40 games; the Wolves have won 19, the Wild has won 20.
Throw in the Lynx (18-16 last year) and Twins (78-84) and we are at a curious time in local pro sports. Collectively, there have been much worse times. Certainly there have been better times; in seasons starting in 2017, the Lynx, Twins, Vikings, Wild and Wolves all made the playoffs.
But it’s hard to remember a time when so many teams were so decidedly average — stuck in that murky middle, trying to figure out which way to go. Hey, at least Minnesota United (11 wins, 20 losses, three draws) had the decency to be worse than mediocre in 2018.
Of particular interest at the moment are the two teams among this group of six that are in-season: the Wolves and Wild.
The Wolves have made two dramatic moves this season, first trading Jimmy Butler in November and now firing Tom Thibodeau on Sunday. The latest move adds to the idea that the next few months will have a major impact on the future direction of the franchise.
The Wild — like the Wolves, currently on a two-game winning streak but unlike the Wolves without a coach firing — has yet to do anything too dramatic. But the next six weeks could bring a major shake-up.
Fans of both organizations should hope for one extreme or the other for the rest of the winter — either a hot streak that provides hope or a freezing cold stretch that triggers lasting change.
The Vikings and Lynx are only a season removed from being elite. The Twins can still sell hope. United has a new stadium and real expectations for the first time.
But the Wolves and Wild? They feel more stuck in the middle than the rest. There are two ways out, and either one will do at this point.
• File this under: Nobody in Minnesota is surprised.
ESPN reported that Butler is quickly wearing out his welcome in Philadelphia. General Soreness has, per the report:
“Aggressively challenged coach Brett Brown on his role in the offense, complicating an already tenuous chemistry among the team’s Big 3 hierarchy.”
Brown has since attempted to downplay the exchange between the two men during a film session, but even the hint of discord with Butler surely has to be SHOCKING to anyone who followed the Timberwolves and watched Butler’s behavior leading up to the November trade.
• If Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had the stomach to watch the NFL wild-card round this weekend after his team missed out on the playoffs, he surely took note of what transpired Saturday.
The Colts racked up 200 yards rushing on 35 carries in their victory over the Texans, while Dallas amassed 164 yards on 34 attempts in a win over Seattle. Zimmer has been vocal about the benefits of a strong running game, and he can hold up those games as examples.
• On the end of last week’s Access Vikings podcast, we discussed the possibility that the Vikings could try to bolster their offensive line depth by trading from a position of strength — namely by dealing No. 1 cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Now, part of me thinks Zimmer might do everything short of handcuffing himself to Rhodes to prevent any such trade. Even though Rhodes had a tough year by his standards, he is a top-notch player still in his prime who plays a position valued highly both in the league and by Zimmer.
That said, he will be 29 in June and carries a cap hit of $13.4 million next season. The Vikings figure to get 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes back from his torn ACL and will also have Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Holton Hill on the roster next season.
For the salary cap-strapped Vikings, who still have to figure out a way to pay one or both of Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr on defense, dealing someone like Rhodes could be a way to creatively add a top-level offensive lineman.