1. Brad Johnson injures his neck (1997)
Brad Johnson had been a member of the Vikings organization since being a ninth-round pick out of Florida State in 1992. He was mostly an afterthought for several years until starting eight games in 1996.
In 1997, Johnson took over full-time and was in the midst of a season where he passed for 3,036 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
During a game against the Carolina Panthers in October, Johnson became the first player in NFL history to complete a pass to himself for a touchdown. His deflected pass landed in his arms, and Johnson scrambled three yards for the score.
Through the first 12 games, Johnson had the Vikings at 8-4 (including a six-game win streak) and well on the way to a playoff appearance. Then, in a contest against the New York Jets in Week 13, Johnson suffered a season-ending neck injury.
Minnesota lost against the Jets and also dropped their next three games before winning the season finale against Indianapolis. Thankfully, the loss of Johnson was mitigated by veteran Randall Cunningham taking over. The Vikings ended the year 9-7 and lost in the divisional round to San Francisco.
To this day, long-suffering fans wonder if the team would have won more games, had better playoff seeding, and advanced further in 1997 if Johnson had stayed healthy.