The Vikings open their 55th season on Monday night in San Francisco. The optimism is rampant among the Purple zealots, and they will be surprised if this is not a playoff team.
I went through the previous 54 seasons and came up with 11 that turned into a large surprise. Those seasons are rated here by surprise factor, bottom to top:
11. 1965 (7-7). Big expectations weren’t met after ascent to 8-5-1 in 1964. Only later would public learn quarterback (Fran Tarkenton) and coach (Norm Van Brocklin) loathed one another.
10. 2005 (9-7). Daunte Culpepper was coming off fantastic season and ready to take charge. Not really, as it turned out. Coach Mike Tice was fired at season’s end.
9. 1992 (11-5). Dennis Green came in as new coach. Expectations were modest. Despite quarterback flux (Rich Gannon and Sean Salisbury), Vikes won NFC Central.
8. 2012 (10-6). Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and Vikes went from 3-13 to the playoffs.
7. 2001 (5-11). Carolina’s Steve Smith returned season’s opening kickoff for a touchdown and the tone was set. Green was fired with a game left.
6. 1987 (8-7). Three losses were with strike-breakers. Backed into playoffs. Then put up amazing road victories at New Orleans and San Francisco.
5. 1998 (15-1). We anticipated that rookie Randy Moss would make ’em more explosive. No idea he was going to make ’em better than Brett Favre and the Packers.
4. 2009 (12-4). Favre arrived here and created a season that was more fun than the State Fair … until his final pass.
3. 2010 (6-10). Favre was as bad in his second season as he was great in his first. Moss’ short-lived return was a disaster. Brad Childress was fired in midseason. Oh, and the Metrodome roof collapsed.
2. 1969 (12-2).a Bud Grant. Joe Kapp. Purple People Eaters. “40 for 60.’’ If you saw complete conference domination coming, you were smarter than most of us.
1. 1972 (7-7). Tarkenton returned from the Giants. Adding a great quarterback to that defense would make our heroes invincible. Then, they went .500 in midst of an otherwise eight-year run of excellence (1969-76).
Plus Three from Patrick
Great surprises in Vikings (non-game) history:
• Nov. 16, 1965. Van Brocklin resigned as coach after a disappointing loss, and then came back the next day.
• Dec. 18, 1984. Mike Lynn bribed Grant to return as coach after a one-year retirement. Bud coached in 1985 and retired again.
• Aug. 18, 2009. Favre signed with the Vikings and was received as Napoleon entering Rome — with cutoff sleeves rather than robes.