Two positions speak to consistent success

What makes a team successful? Over the last five years, it hasn’t been the number of Pro Bowl players, but there seems to be two positions that speak to consistent success over the last five years.

What makes a team successful?

Is it a star quarterback? Is it coaching stability? You may have to look elsewhere from the Vikings to get an answer to that question, because, for the most part, the Vikings have had neither over the last four years.

The one thing that has been missing with the Vikings over the last several years has been consistency. Say what you want about Brad Childress, but the Vikings were on a consistent upward spike under his watch … until it quit ticking.

In Chilly’s first four seasons as head coach, the Vikings record improved by two games each year – from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 to 12-4. The results were tangible. As he added more of “his guys,” the wins followed. Granted, it took Brett Favre to continue that ascent in 2009, but five years ago, the Vikings were one of the dominant teams in the NFL by any measure.

Since then, however, the Vikings’ fortunes have gone up and down like a heart monitor. Since 2008, the Vikings have either won or lost 10 or more games in every season. Since the 12-4 season of 2009, they’ve posted records of 6-10 (which got Childress fired), 3-13, 10-6 and 5-10-1 (which got Leslie Frazier fired).

Over the last five years, the Vikings have had a losing record (36-43-1), but have made the playoffs twice. Eleven teams have been to the playoffs more during that span, which speaks to the lack of consistency league-wide in the NFL.

During that span, 25 percent of the league hasn’t made the postseason – Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Miami, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. None of those teams is really a surprise.

On the flip side, only five teams have been in the playoffs four times or more over the last five years – Baltimore, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and New Orleans. Only two of those (Green Bay and New England) have made the playoffs in all five seasons.

What those five successful teams have in common is a team element. All developed stars and had consistent role players. Having big-time individual stars doesn’t always get it done in a team sport.

Over the last five years, the Vikings have sent 25 players to the Pro Bowl. That’s more than Green Bay (22), Chicago (22) and Detroit (7). In fact, only four teams have had more Pro Bowl players over the last five years – San Francisco (34), New England (33), Baltimore (27) and New Orleans (26).

In that span, the Vikings have had two head coaches. Mike Zimmer will be the third. Only 11 teams have had just one head coach during the last five-year span, which speaks to the volatility of the head coaching position. Four of those 11 teams are among those that have made the playoffs four times or more in the last five seasons.

But perhaps the most telling number from the last five years that speaks to the success or failure of a team is the number of starting quarterbacks they have had. The Vikings have had seven. Only three teams have had more – Cleveland, Oakland and Arizona with nine each. Those three teams have combined to make the playoffs just once in the last five years.

If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that they will likely win or lose 10 games this season. But what they should show is that, if you have one coach for an extended period of time, add one quarterback to the mix and have enough elite players to make a difference, that is the recipe for success.

Zimmer has yet to officially coach his first game to start the clock on his career win-loss percentage. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t started an NFL game yet. The funny thing about the NFL is that the only two people who have a win-loss record on their job performance review are head coaches and quarterbacks.

We’ll get back in five years and see if the numbers have changed.

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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