Not So Great Expectations

Will the Vikings beat the Bears on Sunday? I don’t think so, most Vikings fans don’t think so, and apparently Vegas doesn’t think so (according to the betting odds on this weekend’s games). Then again, maybe some of you out there do think the Vikings will win. Either way, I wouldn’t spend too much time taxing your brain over this question, because it is the wrong question. The real question every Vikings fan should be pondering (pun intended), is: “Should the Vikings win this weekend?”

The answer to that question is an unequivocal, doubt-free, rock-solid no. The Vikings should not win this Sunday, nor should they win any game the rest of this lost, bison feces-scented season. In order for the purple to get the highest draft pick possible next May, they will need to rack up losses like Packer fans rack up DUIs.

Now I know NFL teams don’t tank. Many of the Vikings’ players will be playing for jobs, if not here then for some other NFL team, thus they have the highest level of motivation to do well. Don’t expect any game-throwing from the coaching staff either; those clowns are already updating their resumes and know that they will need all the wins they can muster so that their offseason interviews will be held in an NFL GM’s office and not in a Dairy Queen.

None of the Vikings QB’s are the answer for this team. Matt Cassell is a career-backup, Christian Ponder is maddeningly inconsistent, and Josh Freeman apparently isn’t good and/or sane enough to beat out either of them. Given that success in the NFL depends upon having a top 10 QB, the Vikings need to upgrade their QB position by about 21 or 22 spots. And the draft is the way to do this.

Is it a guarantee that whoever the Vikes draft early next season will grow into the next Luck, Brees, Manning, Brady, etc.? No, but it’s still the best way to get that franchise guy. If the Vikings draft a Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, or some other highly rated rookie gunslinger and said gunslinger turns out to be crap, then they will just have to draft the next top rated QB again and again until they get it right.

But I get ahead of myself. The draft is 6 months away and the Vikings still have 5 more games to slog through before this season can finally be taken out behind the barn and put out of its misery. At least the five teams left on the schedule (Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Detroit) are all good to very good teams, so the Vikings’ weak tackling, poor blocking, and nonexistent pass coverage should pave the way for a top draft pick.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Vikings, and pulling for them to lose does cause me significant cognitive dissonance. To wit: Before the game, I want them to lose as I fantasize about landing a franchise QB. But during the game, I find myself cheering and swearing with every Peterson steamroll of a defensive back and Ponder pick-six, respectively. Then after the game, I am once again pleased that my favorite team is a league embarrassment. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s all I got.

So other than a potentially high draft pick being used to draft a potentially franchise-elevating QB, what do we as Vikings fans have left to root for this season? I have a few things that come to mind:

1. The improvement/emergence of future stars. Xavier Rhodes, Audie Cole, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sharrif Floyd, and Matt Kalil have all shown or are showing they can be excellent NFL players. Add in youngsters Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph along with veterans like Peterson, John Sullivan, Chad Greenway, Brian Robison, and Greg Jennings, and there is a base of talent at Winter Park.

2. Knowing the fat will be trimmed from the roster. With the stratospheric salary of Jared Allen ($17,000,000!), the aging-yet-still-highly paid Kevin Williams, and a few other assorted underachievers very likely coming off the books this year, the Vikings will have plenty of cash to spend on an impact free agent or two. The great thing about the NFL is that teams can go from total crap to playoffs in just a year, so if the Vikes add a couple established top end players to their mix of veteran and young talent, they can be on the rise in short order. (As long as they get that QB!!!)

3. Watching to see what coaches will be available. Will Bill Cowher or John Gruden decide to come back to the NFL? Could the Wilfs throw enough money at either of them to convince them to come to MN to draft their own franchise QB and be a yearly contender in a shiny new stadium? Can Rick Spielman (or whoever is the Vikings’ GM) spot the next great coach from the assistant/college ranks? There is already a pink slip with Leslie Frazier’s name on it sitting in Zygi Wilf’s outbox, so the Vikings are once again presented with an opportunity to find the next football genius this coming offseason. Brad Childress was awful, Frazier a little less awful, so hopefully the next pick will be the one that knows how and when to throw the challenge flag.

4. Watching the Packers suck like a nuclear-powered vacuum. Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have been exposed to be every bit as vomit-flavored as the Vikings. Given the Packers are out of the playoff picture, the team may sit their super QB the rest of the year, thereby providing us Vikings fans with hours of entertainment as they get outgained in yards 560-100 to mediocre teams. Yes, Rodgers will be back next season to continue his wizardry, but until then we can giggle like schoolchildren while watching Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn stumble over each other in hot pursuit of the “League’s worst QB” title.

Sadly, a return to the playoffs this season didn’t even come close to materializing, leaving Vikings fans pulling their hair out as the QB du jour overthrew open receivers every other snap. But through this darkness shines the dim light of hope, the hope that comes with a new QB,a new coaching staff, and a new stadium just over the horizon. So when Bears’ QB Josh McCown once again beats your precious Vikings this week, face not the stinking pile of loserness that lies behind you, and keep your nose pointed forward, where the sweet scent of hope is carried upon the headwinds.