On mediocrity and Rick Spielman, the next man in the Vikings hot seat

June 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, United States; Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman after practice at the TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

After witnessing the primetime debacle that was last Sunday’s Vikings-Cowboys game, I think it’s time we all looked in the mirror and admitted it: We are supporting a mediocre team.

Why this should come as a surprise to any of us, it only baffles ourselves; any outsider could quickly assess our team (.500-ish) and us fans (desperately over-optimistic, with a complex of rights). Nobody wants to admit that they (or the team they obsess over) are mediocre. We have fallen into a trap. When you’re average, you’re just a step or two away from being above average and come to believe that’s close enough, like a kid betting a pat on the head and a participation trophy without standing out one bit, then above average it is!

For a soccer team, a couple of lucky rebounds is all it takes for a .500 team to be above average, or at least look like it. It is natural for any passionate fan to go a step further, assume that their beloved team is already above average, and his average performance is simply due to some unfortunate rebounds. Or the referees. Or a single coverage. Or a kick that was deflected to the left (or right). Viking fans have been giving our team a series of emotional participation trophies, wanting to believe we have a playoff-caliber team on our hands. But in truth, we’re 3-4 for a reason, and now we’re just a couple of unfortunate bounces away from being a true bad team.

Going into the season, there were a million reasons why we as Vikings fans could explain a 7-9 season in 2020 (.500-ish no doubt) and have complete and utter faith in the team, despite minor changes in the off season. He deserved to be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender heading into 2021. And as such, we feel justified to be completely outraged when our 3-3 team somehow found a way to lose last Sunday to the visiting Cowboys 5-1. We were legitimately dumbfounded, not when our average team looked well above average for three quarters, even dominating the game, but when they looked decidedly below average at the end, virtually choose to give the game away by playing an uninspired offense, refusing to capitalize on three gifts from the umpires and then rolling on the defensive as the game got out of hand. We are convinced that they are more talented than that and we expect more, completely ignoring the secret of happiness, which is high hopes and low expectations. We wait for the moon and the stars, because sometimes they seem capable of delivering the moon and the stars.

This is what average teams do. Just as good teams tend to occasionally seem like an average team when conditions and the gods of football converge to see it that way, average teams will occasionally find themselves decidedly below average. Sometimes they can seem like a good honest team. Sometimes they can seem like a terrible team. And, most of the time, they look like what they are: a team sitting somewhere in between. This is where our 3-4 Vikings sit now, and this is where they sat last year as well. We need to face these facts.

And also Rick Spielman and / or the Wilfs.

A team that’s as thin as an over-inflated balloon, with an annual salary cap, dances far more depressing than its junior prom, thanks to an embarrassing dedication to protecting a costly defensive core and an even more expensive quarterback, has very little margin for error. in season or in season. The Vikings’ lackluster secondary was one step away from the blues of two weeks ago, and then Patrick Peterson fell. Her solid defensive line was one step away from mediocre last week, and then Danielle Hunter fell and was out for the entire year. Their disastrous offensive line had been one step below mediocrity, when finally, thankfully, they handed over a starting job to Christian Darrisaw, and there they remain, mediocre at best.

Vikings general manager Spielman, who did a masterful job building a list of the 2017 Vikings 13-3 record, winning more games than all other teams except one (the 15-1 ’98 edition ) in Vikings history, and then spent four years reversing the mojo, has conveniently been behind the scenes during the ups and downs of this 2021 season. He’s somehow shaken off the blame, while his coach, Mike Zimmer, has been a popular (and justifiable) punching bag. His work has left the Vikings in the state of mediocrity in which we find ourselves now. His decisions have created the lopsided starting squads, lack of depth and lack of options that have been a hallmark of recent seasons.

That 2017 team felt like a Super Bowl signing and I don’t blame him one bit for overpaying to clearly bring in the best free-agent quarterback in Kirk Cousins. However, I blame him for: spending too much in a desperate attempt to preserve past glory on the defensive side of the ball; for overspending on the next Cousins ​​extension; for ignoring the blatant mediocrity of the offensive line for several seasons in the draft; for treating the kicking game as an afterthought as if the once-headaches Chris Kluwe and Blair Walsh had robbed him of any interest in that phase of the game, and for developing an obsession with collecting draft picks from the mid to late rounds that conveniently and inexpensively end up on the bench, rather than becoming aggressive and moving in the other (positive) direction at draft time.

It’s this lack of aggressiveness, this focus of being content with trudging forward in the hope that something good will happen later that unifies Spielman and Zimmer at the peak of the Vikings’ mental confidence. Adam Thielen’s clever remarks after last Sunday’s embarrassing loss could apply to both the front office and the product on the field: “We have to stop being in the games. In every game we just stay, we stay, we let the (other) team stay instead of putting our foot on the gas and leaving. ” That also applies to both Zimmer and Spielman. What is perhaps most frustrating is that both leaders were once much more aggressive in their approaches to their jobs. His previous job was much more rooted in aggressive building toward a bigger goal, but in recent seasons, it’s all about hanging around.

The Vikings play with our collective minds long enough as it is, so this .500 existence of ours must end. To get there, one of two things needs to happen at the end of the season. 1) Spielman will have to start looking in the mirror and wondering how to get back to his pre-2017 self and build up something, getting off this .500-ish tape, even if it means taking a few steps back before stepping over mediocrity and entering good team territory once again. Or, 2) the Wilfs need to find someone else to do it.

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