All fans know that the turnaround of personnel in the NFL is significant and that a player who can be a franchise star (like Jared Allen or Kevin Williams) can be gone in an instant.
But few teams can claim they've had more turnover of starters in a short period of time than the Vikings. When Rick Spielman took over as general manager early in 2012, he inherited a team he knew he was going to dismantle. Few could have realized how pronounced that dismantling would be.
The Vikings media guide annually lists the year-by-year team and individual stats. Part of that is to list the primary starters on offense and defense. Because the Vikings would occasionally start a game with a two-tight end set, there were 12 primary offensive starters and 11 defensive starters listed. Throw in kicker and punter from the special teams and you had 25 players.
Three years (and two NFL seasons) later, how many of those 25 players are entering the 2014 season expected to start at the same position?
How about five. A case can be made that the number could be six or six-and-a-half, but the numbers are staggering.
In just two seasons, the Vikings have Vikings have almost completely overhauled their roster.
When the 2011 Vikings season mercifully ended on Jan. 1, 2012, the following players were listed as primary starters:
OFFENSE – Charlie Johnson (LT), Steve Hutchinson (LG), John Sullivan (C), Anthony Herrera (RG), Phil Loadholt (RT), Christian Ponder (QB), Adrian Peterson (RB), Percy Harvin (WR), Devin Aromashodu (WR), Michael Jenkins (WR), Visanthe Shiancoe (TE) and Jim Kleinsasser (TE).
DEFENSE – Jared Allen (DE), Kevin Williams (DT), Remi Ayodele (DT), Brian Robison (DE), Chad Greenway (LB), E.J. Henderson (LB), Erin Henderson (LB), Cedric Griffin (CB), Asher Allen (CB), Jamarca Sanford (S) and Husain Abdullah (S).
SPECIAL TEAMS – Ryan Longwell (K), Chris Kluwe (P).
On offense, the only starters at the same position heading in 2014 are Peterson, Loadholt and Sullivan. Johnson is still a starter, but has been replaced as the starting left tackle. Ponder is still on the team, but isn't viewed as a starter this year and, depending on what happens in the draft, he may end up being traded or released during or after the draft. Of the 11 starting positions, the only ones that remain the same are right tackle, center and running back. Everyone else is different.
On defense, not only are there only two sure starters remaining (Robinson and Greenway), eight of the 11 starters from 2011 aren't even on the team anymore. The only other remaining player who potentially could end up being a starter in 2014 is safety Jamarca Sanford. But, considering he's accepted pay cuts to stay on the roster, that doesn't bode well to being a starter moving forward.
The Vikings have spent the last two drafts taking rookies to replace their kicking specialists – Blair Walsh replacing Longwell in 2012 and Jeff Locke replacing Kluwe in 2013.
If you look around the league, there are very few teams that have had this kind of turnover in the span of just three years/two seasons in their history. Even teams that have fired coaches and hired new G.M.s have a core of players that have been keys to the franchise for years.
A case can be made that the team that finished its season on Jan. 1, 2012, will have just five starters remaining when the 2014 season opens – by design, not force.
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.
Lookback reveals major personnel overhaul
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