The name Josh McCown will always loom large in that very crowded section of the Vikings memory-library devoted to heartbreaking defeat.
It was 2003 and the Mike Tice-led Vikes were in seemingly great position to grab the NFC North title. All they needed was a win the last week of the season against the lowly 3-12 Arizona Cardinals. After a hard-nosed grinding game, the Vikes were in position to claim victory. They led 17-12 with time running out and the Cardinals in a 4th-and-25 hole. And then this happened:
A no-name QB called Josh McCown hit a no-name receiver called Nathan Poole and the Vikings were knocked out of the playoffs.
That one doesn’t sting quite as much as Gary Anderson wide left or Brett Favre across the body or Drew Pearson pushing off, but it still qualifies as one of the more soul-bruising moments in team history.
Ten years later, the one-time no-name Josh McCown is not only still somehow an NFL quarterback, he’s become one of the stories of the league with the way he’s played in relief of Jay Cutler. Everyone thought the Bears would fold with Cutler out, but McCown has taken over the controls and kept the Bears in playoff contention.
Now the Bears visit the Vikings, needing a win to keep pace with the Lions. Jay Cutler has already been ruled out, meaning Ye Olde Viking Killer Josh McCown will be on the field for Chicago.
What would it mean for the current crop of Vikings to get a measure of revenge on McCown for that long-ago crushing defeat? Nothing whatsoever. In fact I’d wager the majority of current Vikings have no idea of McCown’s history against the team.
And even if someone sat the players down for a history lesson, I doubt it would matter one jot to them in terms of motivation to realize what McCown did once upon a time. That kind of history doesn’t really matter to players, even the ones who have been around long enough to remember. It really only matters to fans.
And even among fans, there are only a select few who are going to care much about the prospect of exacting negligible revenge against McCown. Mostly people are thinking about spoiling the Bears’ season. Or sucking for draft picks. Or just getting through the game with Adrian Peterson intact.
Are the fans ready to move on from this nightmare? Yeah they are. They are already looking forward to the draft and free agency and all that other offseason hope-building.
But for a second, a few of us may allow ourselves to forget about spoiling and sucking-for-picks and all our other current considerations, dopey or otherwise, and flash back to the disappointment of yesteryear. I don’t really care that much who wins or loses this game, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Brian Robison plant McCown in the turf. Just once. Not so he gets really injured but just so he feels it.
That’s sort of what it means to be a fan.