NFL football has been ruined for me.
To some, this may be a bold statement. For those of you who live in Minnesota, or are Vikings fans from other parts of the nation, know what I’m talking about.
Since the great playoff choke of 1998, football in Minnesota hasn’t been the same. That year, the NFL saw the most explosive and proficient offense in its history. Randall Cunningham was re-born, Chris Carter found a second life and even Jake Reed got some press time. Randy Moss proved to the 18 teams that passed on him that they were truly missing out on one of the best receivers to play the game.
A tiny Irishman named Gary Anderson refused to miss a field goal and all was good in the frozen tundra.
Until the Falcons came to town.
They were lead by a bruising running-back and a 73 year old quarterback who was thisssclose to having his arm fall off. They won the game in overtime and the Vikings dream was over. Since then, professional football in Minnesota has never been the same.
Randy Moss got more bitter about being there, Denny Green just stopped caring and the curse of the Madden Cover hit Daunte Culpepper pretty hard. Coaches have come and gone and who can forget the infamous boat scandal?
Even with all of this in the past, things are looking up for the Vikings.
We’ve almost made it through an entire training camp without an embarrassing arrest or conviction. Let’s hear it for acting like responsible adults (insert clapping here).
Although the team is very young and is surrounded by question marks, I am excited to say that my enjoyment of NFL football is slowly coming back. Since 1998, I have been a Fantasy Football owner and not a NFL fan. I’ve watched the Super Bowl for the commercials and like 98% of other NFL fans, I never watched the Pro-Bowl. But in celebration of my near NFL recovery, I want to look at some of the questions that surround the 2007 Minnesota Vikings.
This is the Vikings biggest question mark. Starting with the most important part of the Offense, which is the Quarterback…Tarvaris Jackson. He is a very raw talent who has great potential to be a star in the NFL. His two problems are his lack of experience and lack of help. Although he has two of the better running backs in the league, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, he has un-proven wide receivers. The veteran is Bobby Wade and after that is the slippery fingers of Troy Williamson and rookie Sidney Rice. The young group has some promise to impress but will have a lot of work to do.
The Vikings potentially have the best offensive line in the NFL. Behind mammoth men Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Harvard grad Matt Birk, Taylor and Peterson are waiting to run through pretty large holes. This has been the Vikings strong point over the last couple years.
This is obviously the Vikings biggest question. If this can be answered, they should have a strong showing in the NFL.
This is a question surrounding this team for two reasons. One, can Brad Childress help instill his west coast offense into the young quarterbacks on his team? Two, will the loss of Mike Timlin to the Steelers hurt the Defense?
As anyone may have seen last year against the Packers, Tarvaris Jackson has a cannon for a right arm. He can throw the ball. Can he do it without making mistakes? That will be the key to Childress’ west coast offense. He helped bring along another quarterback by the name of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia and has shown that he knows his quarterbacks. If Childress can get Jackson, or any of his other quarterbacks, to understand this incredibly complicated system then the Vikings may surprise some people in the NFL.
Losing Mike Timlin was a huge loss to this team. In reading some stories in ESPN Magazine as well as stories from last year in the newspapers, Tomlin was a very motivating coach and was definitely the brains behind the Vikings defense that ranked 7th overall last year.
My favorite story came from ESPN Magazine. It chronicled some stories of how Tomlin motivated his players. During the week, he would recognize players who worked hard and did things the right way but he would also call out those players who didn’t do things the right way. In Minnesota, the biggest “fan” of this was Fred Smoot. Vikings fans may know him as “that guy who used to be good and who was paid a lot of money to have fun on a boat and be replaced by a rookie last year.” Smoot openly complained about Tomlin’s coaching style, which may tell you why Smoot didn’t have a good year last year. Any 8 year old is taught to listen to his coach no matter what and apparently Fred Smoot forgot that somewhere between Starkville and Minneapolis.
Losing Tomlin could hurt the Vikings defense immensely. Let’s hope that the guys can still tackle without their coach.
There are many question marks that surround this team. They have the 23rd hardest schedule in the NFL, so with this, I feel that the Vikings will finish 9-7. I want to say 12-4 (4 losses coming at Chicago, at Dallas, at San Fran and at Denver) but I think that 9-7 will have less people thinking that I’m crazy. Notice that none of those losses were at home. I am speaking to you Vikings fans. That dome is a mud hole but it is OUR mud hole. Dome-field advantage needs to play a big part this year if we ever want to see the Vikings do well at home.
So there you have it. For those of you who read this, you are a part of history. For the first time in 9 years, I am actually starting to care about NFL football. Will I go out and pay $75 for a Tarvaris Jackson jersey? Nah, not yet. But I will maybe tone down the “Love Boat” jokes and cheer more for the team from the land of 10,000 lakes.