Conformity of schedule a gift for Vikings

The Vikings face a tough opening month-plus of quarterbacks, but at least they have the comfort of conformity with their schedule. It won't get them in front of a national audience much, but their routine won't be interrupted much.

The general consensus of Vikings fans when the 2014 schedule was released Wednesday was a collective, "What did we do to tick you guys off?"

But if you look at it from the coaching standpoint – and recent history – it may be a good thing for both the Vikings and their fans.

Almost to a fault, NFL teams are regimented somewhere in between prisons and Navy SEALS. They practice at the same time every day. They eat at the same time every day. They even have identical schedules on different days of the week – a Wednesday workday is different than a Thursday workday, but a Wednesday in September is eerily similar to a Wednesday in December in terms of the work that is done.

Anything that disrupts that schedule is a distraction. When uniformity, repetition and similarity are what drives the engine of an NFL team, the more coaches and trainers can make the work week identical to the last one, the better. Fans love prime time games. Coaches usually hate them, especially Monday night games on the road. Changes in schedules break up the routine of the season. Practice schedules become different. The routine gets disrupted and the conformity of the season is altered.
< br> Perhaps the schedule-makers did the Vikings and first-year head coach Mike Zimmer a favor by giving them 14 noon Central starts out of their 16 games – the only prime-time game being the team's obligatory Thursday night matchup at Green Bay in Week 5.

There is something to be said for avoiding the multiple distractions of games on various days at various times. When the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2009, the following season they collapsed – with many of those losses coming under the spotlight of prime time.

The last time the Vikings had a schedule similar to the 2014 slate was just two years ago. After the Vikings hit bottom, they had the kind of franchise stink that the NFL has historically looked to avoid putting in front of a national audience. In 2012, the Vikings were like the Browns and Raiders – heard of, but not seen except for regional local audiences.

The Vikings played 15 of their 16 games on Sunday afternoons. They did have three late games that year, but one them was in Seattle, where they can't play at 10 a.m. local time. The first four games all started at noon "Winter Park time." So did their last seven games.

What happened in 2012? The Vikings got off to a decent start, finished strong, went 10-6 and made the playoffs.

Coincidence?

Don't bet on it. In a league based on conformity, familiarity and routine, Zimmer's greatest coaching gift this year may have happened Wednesday when he saw the schedule.


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.

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