We have reached a tipping point in the Vikings season that will be the source of argument and debate – sometimes spirited, occasionally violent – about how the Vikings approach the final three games of the season.
At the heart of that debate is that the Vikings have officially been eliminated from the postseason. It's December and the Lions are the Lions. They find ways to lose. Unfortunately, the Vikings find more creative ways to lose.
The argument could be heard by the Supreme Court and it would return with a split decision that could go either way. The Vikings can still do a lot of damage to the playoff hopes of the Eagles, Bengals and Lions, but, for the long-term betterment of the franchise, is it better for the Vikings to lose their three remaining games?
Both camps on this debate are as polar opposite as FOX News and MSNBC. Their viewpoints are so far askew that finding a middle ground is all but impossible. You are on one side or the other on this argument.
As things currently stand, the price for the "next big thing" franchise quarterback is in flux. Right now, the talking heads of the college draft scene are cooling on quarterbacks. By March, the pot will start bubbling. By, April, it will be boiling and quarterbacks like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel will be climbing the charts in a big way. It happens every year. That was how the Vikings ended up with Christian Ponder. A feeding frenzy on quarterbacks took place and the Vikings accelerated their horizontal draft board and gave double-secret bonus points to Ponder.
The same is likely to happen next May, because the Vikings clearly seem to be in the market for a young quarterback to sell jerseys in the "TCF Years." But the question becomes this: Will it be with the third or fourth pick that the Vikings select their alleged QB of the future or the eighth, ninth or 10th pick?
The Vikings currently are in position for the fourth pick, which might be good enough for the second-rated quarterback (Houston at No. 1 is likely to take its top quarterback).
If you're a real fan, Sunday was like running a marathon in 17 minutes. You jumped at the highs. You sank at the lows. They just came at such a frenetic pace that it won't be lost from the memory – much like the losses to Atlanta in January 1999 and New Orleans in January 2010 can't be erased from the memory bank.
Had the Vikings won Sunday, thanks to Detroit being the swirling franchise drain that it is, the Vikings would have woke up today with a chance to, if the planets made an unprecedented alignment, still win the NFC North. Now that opportunity is officially and unequivocally gone.
Therein lies the problem.
Those who comprehend the fragility of an NFL career understand how much the game means to players. Toby Gerhart could potentially make $1 million a game if Adrian Peterson is shut down – not from the Vikings, but from somebody else on his next contract. Everson Griffen can do the same. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams could make it harder for the organization to take away the Lennon and McCartney of the Vikings front four.
Players hate to lose. In the NFL, they won't lie down. Perhaps it's the violent nature of the sport that makes the fan base and the players on opposite goals at the end of a losing season. Jacksonville was 0-8 and a punch line to a bad joke. The Jags have won four of their last five games and are looking like a team that could compete in a relatively weak AFC South. They could have laid down, but they didn't. The Browns were accused of tanking the season. Hindsight has showed us that getting Trent Richardson for a first-round pick was the equivalent of selling the cow for magic beans. The Browns aren't laying down and the Vikings can attest to that.
If there is a middle ground to this debate, perhaps it could be in that, while Vikings fans still want a franchise quarterback, they will still cheer for their team to beat the Eagles, Bengals and Lions and do each of them irreparable playoff harm by beating them. But with every win, the Vikings lower their blue-chip draft pick – which many are speculating will be a quarterback. If the Vikings win, they're showing a commitment to what they set out to do during minicamps, training camp and the preseason. If they lose from here on through, their May draft pick in the first round just gets better.
At least they don't owe it to St. Louis.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: Players, some fans have opposite goal
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