As a seven-year member of the Vikings' 53-man roster, Adam Thielen was talking about the fine line between three teams that made the playoffs and four that fell short.

"Sometimes you make the playoffs for a couple years in a row … ," he said.

At that point, he caught himself. He changed his wording to "a few times in your career" because, well, he's never actually enjoyed making the playoffs two years in a row.

No current Viking can make that claim. To do so would mean they played under Brad Childress and alongside Brett Favre in 2009, a lifetime ago in NFL years.

The league has a favorite statistic. It goes like this: Every year since 1990, at least four teams have made the playoffs that didn't do so the year before.

It's becoming the Viking Way. Good, bad and ugly.

Since going 7-9 in his first Vikings season in 2014, Mike Zimmer has stood on the smiley side of that stat three times, going 34-14 in 2015, 2017 and 2019. But he's also slumped right back into the sad side of that stat three times, going 23-24-1 in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Zim has won two division titles. He's also finished 7-9 twice, including this season.

So the Vikings have now played 11 full seasons since they last made the playoffs in consecutive seasons (2008-09). The number of teams that have posted consecutive playoff seasons since then has reached20, with the Bills and Titans accomplishing the feat this year.

Of the 12 remaining teams, the Vikings have the most winning seasons (five) and playoff appearances (four). So a strong argument could be made that since 2010, the Vikings, while good, are also the league's most:

A. Inconsistent team.

B. Frustrating team.

C. Disappointing team.

D. All of the above.

"Seasons like this remind you that it's not easy," Thielen said. "You have to have things go your way. You have to have the ball bounce your way a few times. You have to play well week in and week out to have a chance to make the playoffs and make a run and to accomplish your goals.

"That's what kind of drives me in the offseason is knowing how difficult it is to have success in this league."

The Vikings had all sorts of legitimate injury excuses on defense this year. But one also could argue that they'd be 8-8 and in the playoffs ahead of the Bears if the No. 4 offense hadn't choked in just one of three late-game meltdowns against Tennessee, Chicago and Dallas.

"You realize, boy, Seattle, we're a play away," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "Tennessee, we're a play away. Dallas, we might have been a play away. Even the Chicago game, we might have been a play away."

By now, fans are tired of hearing excuses, legitimate or not. Many want proverbial blood. But there aren't going to be many firings or floggings at TCO Performance Center this week.

Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman will team up for an eighth season. They work for remarkably patient owners, but if it makes some of you feel any better, the hunch here is 2021 had better be a big year for them or it could be the end.

Fortunately for them, there is that standby stat about teams bouncing back into the playoffs. Seven teams did it this year.

The Browns made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. Washington won the NFC East, becoming the 16th team in the past 18 years to go from worst to first in its division.

There were five new divisions winners. Pittsburgh and Washington won their divisions after missing the playoffs last year. At least two teams have now done that 16 times in the last 17 seasons.

Other teams making the playoffs after missing last year are the Buccaneers, Colts, Rams and Bears. The Bears did it going 8-8 with a six-game losing streak.

So, for the seventh time in 11 seasons, the Vikings are left trying to figure out why they're already sitting at home.

Some will turn the page faster than others.

"Probably when the Super Bowl is over," defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo said when asked when he'll move on. "You can't play in this league forever, and that's every kid's dream, to get to a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl. Knowing that you got eliminated before you ever got to be in the fight for it is just kind of disappointing."