The Monday after the Super Bowl, also known as the most reflective day of the year for fans of the 30 NFL teams not participating in the season’s biggest game, will bring a moment when you’re reliving Super Bowl XLIX with your co-workers or friends and the subject will shift to your own rooting interest.
“So, how close are the Vikings to winning a Super Bowl?”
The franchise turned 55 on Wednesday and is still in pursuit of its first Super Bowl victory after striking out four times in the 1970s. The Vikings have witnessed 38 seasons come and go, some forgettable and others unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, without an opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
If it happens next year, it’d be a miracle. So temper those expectations, but it’s understandable to have a sense of optimism after head coach Mike Zimmer’s first season.
The Vikings finished 7-9, but they showed they’d found stability at quarterback when Teddy Bridgewater finished the season carrying the offense. The four teams that played in the AFC and NFC championship games — the Colts, Packers, Seahawks and Patriots — all had high-quality quarterbacks leading their teams. It’s clear a team won’t thrive without one, and Bridgewater will need to build off this season if he wants to join the conversation with some of those names.
Zimmer set the foundation for the team’s identity during his first season, particularly with his aggressive defense. The development of defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr gives the defense young pieces to build around this offseason.
The answer to the question you might hear a few times all hinges on these young pieces continuing to grow while the front office acquires complementary pieces to upgrade the roster. General Manager Rick Spielman doesn’t have to worry about searching for a franchise quarterback during the draft, but it’s still important that he supplies Bridgewater with a better cast of co-workers, upgrades the offensive line and adds depth at just about every defensive position.
As long as Aaron Rodgers can walk — heck, limp — onto a football field, the Packers will always be an obstacle in the NFC North, but the Vikings should contend for a playoff spot next season barring significant injuries. Year 3 is when you’d want to see Zimmer, Bridgewater and the Vikings put it all together and contend.
That’d be the same year the new Vikings stadium opens, 2016. The following season is when the Twin Cities will host Super Bowl LII. A host team has never played the Super Bowl in its own stadium. If the Vikings continue to build and stay on course, it’s certainly possible.