For the dyed-in-purple fan base, the Percy Harvin trade is akin to the day that it was announced Randy Moss had been traded. You remember where you were when you got the news that it was going down. It was a numbing experience.
It was one of those gobsmack moments that won't fade easily or quickly. Even though it was a question that had been hanging over the franchise ever since the Vikings placed Harvin on injured reserve with a month left in the regular season, when it actually came down, there was a sense of loss. Unlike Moss, who had reached his plateau in seven seasons with the Vikings after celebrating his 28th birthday, the offer was right – the seventh pick in the 2005 draft – even if the follow-up execution was wrong. In the case of Harvin, the lynchpin to the deal is the 25th overall pick – an important pick in a draft class that is deep with talent, but not overly strong at the very top. There could be a player many deem as a top 10 to 15 value slip to the Vikings. With two picks in the span of three selections (Nos. 23 and 25), the Vikings could find themselves with a pair of players that had grades worthy of being draft in the first half of the round.
If that's the case, the trade makes sense from the Vikings' perspective. What is known is that Harvin is gone. What isn't known is exactly why it had to come to this. The evidence is there, but its in bits and pieces over a five-year span.
There were the reports of Harvin being hard to deal with in Florida. There was a failed drug test for marijuana at the 2009 Combine. There was a midseason history of suffering from migraines that would keep him out of practice (but only one game) and eventually sent him to the Mayo Clinic so the best medical minds on the planet could "do the Vikings a solid." There was a much-publicized run-in with Brad Childress in which Harvin had to be restrained by teammates. There was the "I'm not happy" speech. There was the dust-up with Leslie Frazier – universally viewed of one of the most even-tempered coaches in the league. It's a laundry list, but, like the list of shame that has always followed Randy Moss, when you look at them individually, there wasn't really much there. When you add them together, it can be seen as a trend.
In my mind, there is only one significant similarity to Moss and Harvin and their mutual exodus from Minnesota. It hasn't been reported on, but it may be the primary reason why both ended up being sent west while they had such high market value.
When Moss came to the Vikings in 1998, there was a new wind blowing throw Minnesota. Veteran QB Randall Cunningham had been lured out of retirement a year early, and when Brad Johnson got injured in the regular season opener Cunningham came in and had the most productive season of his career. It was epic. As a rookie, Moss saw veteran players excited to come to work knowing that this was the team that was going to bring a Super Bowl back to Minnesota.
Moss was weaned on that. With Cris Carter providing tough love, Moss was a critical piece but far from the only piece in the Vikings puzzle. He was the new kid that helped spark the difference that put the Vikings over the top with a veteran QB and a group of players that had been together for years. Flash forward 11 years. You know where this is going.
During his entire football life, Harvin had never experienced losing. He was dominating enough in high school and college to play on wildly successful teams. Losing wasn't an option. When he came to the NFL, he happily took a back seat when the Favre Circus came to town. He was the piece of a bigger puzzle and he was learning at the feet of a legend. One of the moments I will always carry with me from New Orleans was Harvin and Adrian Peterson, both with tears in their eyes, coming up to Favre, hugging him and apologizing for not getting him to the Super Bowl. It sent chills down my spine. It still does.
It was under those conditions Harvin came to the NFL. He idolized Favre, who, in turn, took Harvin and Sidney Rice under his wing. He made Rice a star. He helped make Harvin Offensive Rookie of the Year. Harvin also had one of his other idols (Moss) join the team in 2010, but saw how Moss and the organization rubbed each other the wrong way. When Moss got sent packing, everything changed.
The fact that Harvin wanted to get Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald money is ludicrous. Harvin deserves a big contract and is reportedly going to get one nearly $12 million annually, but Megatron and Fitzgerald have been dominant offense players. Wes Welker doesn't deserve Johnson/Fitz money and he's more proven over a long period of time.
In the end, like Moss, Vikings fans are in a sense or mourning that Harvin is gone – at least with Moss they sent him to Oakland and wouldn't see him for years. The Vikings will play Harvin and the Seahawks in Seattle during regular season and one can only imagine he will be stoked to stick it back to the Vikings. Worse yet, if the Vikings are a playoff team over the next few seasons, there is a good chance they will butt heads with the Seahawks in January – and Harvin will be jacked up to make a difference.
From the strictly personal sense, I'll miss Harvin. He was always accommodating for interviews with me – I often had to apologize when the rest of the media corps showed up after I asked him if he had time for "a couple of quick questions" and it turned into 10 minutes of him answering questions from the relevant to the ridiculous. He was also my 11-year old daughter's favorite player. Breaking the news to her when I picked her up from school Monday was a sad in-car moment that lasted all the way from school to well after we got home. It was like she lost a cousin. Throughout Vikings Country, similar discussions were held.
Ironically, my oldest daughter's favorite player was Moss. Breaking that news was similarly distressing. No tears were shed, but they both were clearly saddened by it.
History will judge whether it was a good move or not. Nobody remembers the Oakland years of Moss. He didn't have a Randall Cunningham or Daunte Culpepper throwing him the ball. When Randy met Tommy (Tom Brady), unbelievable things happened and Moss cemented his Hall of Fame credentials. Harvin may not be heading to the anticipated promised land in Seattle, but he's got a young group that has confidence in him. All things will be good early. Will they sustain? That's the gamble the Vikings were taking, although if Harvin was looking for Megatron money in his contract, that would be enough of a deal-breaker.
Perhaps as early as today, the Vikings will try to bury the Harvin story by signing an impact free agent, especially if that player is a wide receiver. But, March 11, 2013 will be remembered years from now by Vikings fans as a day that stands out – for better or worse.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.