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The Vikings’ Fan Voyage

The Heartbreak 

        See you in Miami! Those were the expectations for Vikings fans heading into the 1998 NFC Playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings had just completed a franchise best 15-1 regular season and were the heavy favorites to represent the NFC Conference at Joe Robbie stadium in Miami for Super Bowl XXXIII. Those expectations were shattered when the Atlanta Falcons upset the Vikings in the NFC Championship game 30-27 in overtime. Most notably, Vikings veteran kicker Gary Anderson who had been perfect all season on field goals and extra points (35-35 FGM 59-59 XPT) missed a potentially game clinching 39-yard field goal that would have put the Vikings up 10 with under 2 minutes remaining in regulation. The Falcons would go on to tie the game and end up winning in overtime, only to get decimated in the Super Bowl two weeks later by the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. 

   For the “millennial” Viking fans the 1998 heartbreak was the most crushing in their lifetime. With a record-breaking offense, superstar rookie wide receiver Randy Moss and a long list of pro-bowlers throughout the roster the expectations were at an all-time high after the regular season. Lifelong Vikings fans would tell you the heartbreak started long before the 1998 Season. The Minnesota Viking franchise currently sits as 1 of 12 NFL teams to never hoist the Lombardi trophy and alongside the Buffalo Bills the only other franchise to lose 4 Super Bowls without a Superbowl victory. In the last 40 years there are only two teams in the entire NFC who have not represented the conference with a Super Bowl appearance. You guessed it! One of those teams would be the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions would be the other. 

   From the Super Bowl losses of Vikings past, to the infamous “hail mary” by Roger Staubach in the 1975 divisional round, the 1987 improbable playoff run that ended with an incompletion at the 1 yard line in RFK stadium as that Vikings team would fall to the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins in the NFC title game. The Blair Walsh chip shot, the 2000 NFC Championship game was witness to the Giants 41-0 thrashing of the Vikings. The franchise embarrassing“Love Boat” incident on Lake Minnetonka of 2005. Most recently the Minneapolis Miracle which lost some of its luster as the Vikings failed to become the only team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium as the next week they were beat soundly in the NFC championship game by the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7. Many would say the Minnesota Vikings are a cursed franchise. They will always break your heart! Never get too optimistic.We know how this story ends!

 

     The Hope 

   The Wilf family and five partners purchased the Vikings franchise from then owner Red McCombs in 2005. In the 15 years the Wilf’s have been atop the organization, the Vikings are slowly becoming one of the most stable organizations in the NFL from top to bottom. 

  Rob Brzezinski executive vice president of football operations has been with the organization two plus decades. Assistant GM and VP of player personnel George Paton is going into year 14 with the franchise. Former Vikings COO Kevin Warren is the current commissioner of the Big-10 conference, becoming the first African American commissioner for any of the major American conferences in NCAA history.

  The state-of-the-art Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) performance center is an eye-opening facility that gives players, coaches and staff everything they could possibly want or need. From practice fields, weight and training rooms, food and nutrition, radio studios. You name it or think of it, more likely than not it is available for Vikings personnel. Not to be overshadowed, US Bank Stadium is one of the top new stadiums in the entire NFL. 

  The Wilf’s have truly turned the Viking NFL franchise into a premier destination for any potential or current NFL star. Certainly, worth highlighting is the way the organization honors the Vikings franchises history and players. With the ring of honor and the inclusion of past Viking greats in so many engaging and interactive stadium experiences, including the awesome gala horn to kick off every home game is one of the coolest things in the league. Everything is lined up, from top to bottom for this organization to finally “break the curse” and match the off the field excellence with on the field triumph. 

 

 

     The Future 

   As the Vikings organization and fans prepare for an unprecedented 2020 football campaign, the Vikings have quietly signed head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman to multi-year extensions, while making the most selections of any team in the 2020 draft. Many were saying it looks like rebuilding is on the horizon with the team trading away star receiver Stefon Diggs and losing multiple key players on the defensive side of the ball this off-season. But,  Zimmer and Spielman  are firmly in the fold for the short future. The Vikings mix experience with youth on the field and within the coaching staff.

  This season like none other in history. Without pre-season games, coaching will be at a premium and mental mistakes like the ones Sunday vs division rival Green Bay will certainly put a halt to any plans of returning to the playoffs in 2020.

  Zimmer has solidified an experienced and recognizable coaching staff around him. Gary Kubiak takes over the offensive coordinator duties, after Kevin Stefanski accepted the head coaching position in Cleveland. Dom Capers seasoned defensive coach known for some of his 3-4 defensive schemes is added to the mix. Andre Patterson unsung coaching star joins Adam Zimmer as new co-defensive coordinator. Patterson has coached the defensive line in Minnesota and been a part of so many defensive stars’ success in the Twin Cities for over two decades. There appears to be a foundation on the field and in the coaching staff  that seems to have eluded the Vikings in many forms and fashions throughout coach Zimmer’s tenure. 

 From the devastating non-contact knee injury in practice that cost Teddy Bridgewater 2 years of his football career and abruptly ended his seemingly promising career with the Vikings, to the obscure eye injury that put coach Zimmer’s coaching future in question, and the untimely passing of respected line coach, former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano right before camp of the 2018 season.

  It has been a myriad of circumstances that have undoubtedly put a wrench in coach Zimmer’s plans to “Be the First”. The first every Super Bowl champion in Minnesota Vikings franchise history. That is the goal and for the first time in a long time, there seems to be enough consistent stability from the quarterback position, ownership, front office and coaching staff. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.

  If Zimmer and company can turn this rookie class into productive play-making contributors, I believe he can and will “be the first”.  If there are multiple performances like there were Sunday at home  and history continues to repeat itself for this organization, a rebuild will be in sight and it may be another decade before we can even discuss that ever elusive Lombardi trophy finding a home in the Twin Cities.

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