The whole entire 2011 season was a mess for the Vikings. It started even before training camp when the team, apparently believing it still had one run left in it with the veterans on the roster (big mistake), made a trade for fading quarterback Donovan McNabb. The addition of McNabb guaranteed that training camp would become a circus, but the big-top atmosphere that descended on Mankato wasn’t only the result of McNabb’s arrival. There was also the whole mess with Bryant McKinnie, who showed up out of shape and was eventually cut, and predictably tore into the Vikings after his departure.
McKinnie’s replacement, Charlie Johnson, arrived on the scene and immediately became an object of intense scrutiny for his daily schoolings at the hands of Jared Allen. And, wouldn’t you know it, all eyes are on the left tackle position again this year. Rookie #4 overall draft pick Matt Kalil hasn’t yet signed, and it appears the contract won’t be done in time for him to report with his teammates. Few expect Kalil’s absence to be a long one, but then again, this is the Vikings. They wouldn’t be the Vikings without drama.
But don’t tell that to Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier. The Vikings brain-trust would dearly love to reverse the team’s recent history of on-field performance being completely overshadowed by off-field insanity. What the Vikings surely want – and desperately need – is for this year’s training camp and preseason to go down with relatively few melodramatic twists. No hold-outs. No sudden diva attacks by wide receivers whose names rhyme with Shmercy Shmarvin. No arrests. No veterans showing up out-of-shape or disgruntled or otherwise in a counter-productive frame of mind.
The chaos of 2011 was of course partly self-inflicted. Nobody forced the Vikings to trade for McNabb. And no one forced them to enter the season with ticking time-bombs of discontent like Cedric Griffin and Bernard Berrian on the roster. It seems the Vikings have learned the lessons of 2011 well. They avoided making any major trades or free agent acquisitions this offseason, instead choosing to spend their money wisely and hoard as many draft picks as possible, with an eye on the future. They headed off any potential angry-player issues by cutting ties with most of their fading veterans early in the offseason, replacing them with relatively cheap, relatively young talent – guys who are just thankful for jobs and have no reason to gripe, in other words.
This formula may not result in a successful season, but it should result in a less chaotic season. Although, even that isn’t guaranteed. Already this offseason we’ve had Percy Harvin demand a trade and Adrian Peterson get arrested. And now the top draft pick looks like he’ll be late getting into camp. It seems no matter what the Vikings do, they just can’t shake the drama gremlin. That little bugger keeps finding its way into the works and messing things up. With any luck, he’ll be less active this year during the crucial early parts of the process. And the Vikings will be able to settle in to Mankato and get their work done, in B.S.-free fashion.