Imagine a team on November 28th– 12 weeks into the regular season – that had been three weeks removed from its most recent win. Now imagine that this team had to wait another four weeks before it could find itself in the “Win” column for just the third time during the season. Now imagine one more thing for me. The three opponents that this team had beaten had a combined record of just 19-29 by the end of the season.
Have you figured out which team I’m talking about?
This is the 2011 Minnesota Vikings. Yes, our beloved Vikings had perhaps one of the most miserable seasons out of any team in the NFL in 2011. Coming off a 6-10 record in 2010, the Vikings didn’t immediately look to start fresh with quarterback Christian Ponder, but rather put their faith in veteran QB, Donovan McNabb. We all know how that ended.
By the end of the 2011 season, things were much worse off than had ever been predicted for the 2010 or 2011 season. Our franchise running back, our long snapper, two of our wide receivers, and our best cornerback had been placed on injured reserve for various reasons – one of which was obviously the ACL and MCL tear of Adrian Peterson.
Why do I bring up such a painful and frustrating season? If you’ve lived under a rock for the past few months, you wouldn’t have realized that the Minnesota Vikings are currently sitting at 6-5 with a shot at a wild card spot.
Most would look at that record and immediately jump on the fact that not only is 6-5 not very impressive, but it’s going to take some big wins late in the season to even have a shot at a playoff spot. True. Compared to the heavyweights of the AFC and NFC, a 6-5 record isn’t anything to be comfortable with, however, where most of the fan base is disappointed with the team’s performance over the past few weeks, I look at that record with a lot of excitement.
After the Vikings’ loss at the hands of the Chicago Bears, our playoff hopes have dimmed – however minimally. The week 13 game against the slumping Green Bay Packers can only be considered a “must-win” as other wild card contenders share the 6-5 record of the Vikings and do not face the schedule that the Vikings are forced to endure.
If we look at this season from the “win now” mentality that sweeps the NFL for one reason or another, a lot of pressure is on the Vikings to perform immediately or enjoy another “wasted” season. If we take a step back and simply remember that this team had three wins for the entire 2011 season, things should be much more promising. I haven’t been this excited for playoff contention for several years.
This team was absolutely ravaged by injuries and bad luck in 2011. While the Vikings hadn’t yet lost Adrian Peterson to a vicious injury at this point last season, it should really give you hope that regardless of what happens this season, things are looking up for this team. The 2012 draft, training camp, and regular season were never about this season. This is about building for the future and creating a viable long-term plan for success for a decade rather than trying to find success a couple seasons at a time.
With all this said, I couldn’t be more excited for the matchup between the Packers and Vikings this week, and I honestly think that it’s still too early to discount this team from anything. I am absolutely thrilled with the idea that the Minnesota Vikings are contending for a playoff spot for the first time in two years after being eliminated from contention with a 2-9 record in week 12 this time last year.
Christian Ponder, Joe Webb or whoever you want to see in the quarterback spot for the Vikings – it shouldn’t matter right now. Joe Webb isn’t the long-term answer and Christian Ponder is too young to make a fair judgment. Whatever argument you want to make, just take the fact that we’re still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. Get excited for this. Three weeks from now, we might find ourselves still in the hunt, or we could all be longing for a time that we still had a chance to compete for a wild card spot.
It’s week 12 with our Minnesota Vikings much more alive than just a year ago. Our team is young, our running back has returned to form after a terrible injury, and we have a lot to look forward to with some great young talent all over the field. Perhaps we’re all spoiled by the winning ways of our franchise over the decades that we’ve forgotten what it takes to build a long-term winning team. Maybe that’s why there is so much frustration within the fan base. Growing pains are just that – painful.
We will face ups and downs as this team continues to mature and players will come and go as well. Regardless of the quarterback situation or whatever controversies which plague so many fans, you can’t deny that this team is markedly better than the week 12 team from 2011. Enjoy this feeling, Vikings fans – it’s not over yet.
Follow Greg Jensen – @JensenGregory