Vikings’ 10 worst storylines of 2014

The Vikings showed promise in 2014, but it wasn’t without (sometimes self-inflicted) obstacles to overcome.

With 2014 officially in the books, we look to the new year as a time of rebirth, regeneration and good things to come. As people sang “Auld Lang Syne” last night – a strange song, considering that one of the primary lines in it states “should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” it seems as though the previous year is simply dead and gone and not to be discussed.

On Wednesday, we closed out 2014 with a look at the good things that happened during the year. Today, we see the flip side of the coin – the top 10 bad things that happened in the year that was. Auld acquaintances may well be forgot, but these are the ones that still come to mind.

Regrettably, the Vikings had more than their fair share of bad news. These were the worst of the worst:

1. Spare the Rod, But Not the Roger

The biggest Vikings story of the year had nothing to do with wins or losses. It had to do with the level of discipline to a child that is acceptable in modern society. The use of a switch on a child became one of the biggest talkers in recent memory and, coming on the heels of the Ray Rice video, the NFL started making disciplinary decisions on the fly. The impact on the Vikings was enormous and continues to have more questions than answers as the Adrian Peterson suspension drags on.

2. Sophomore Jinx

Few players in the offseason were getting more hype than Cordarrelle Patterson. Coming off a rookie season in which he caught 45 passes for 469 yards, rushed 12 times for 158 yards, averaged a league-high 32.4 yards per kickoff return and scored nine touchdowns, even the NFL’s official website listed him as one of the breakout stars for 2014. However, perhaps Patterson got caught up reading his own press clippings. He began the year as a full-time starter and ended it as a player who spent about 90 percent of the offensive snaps on the sideline – finishing with just 33 catches for 384 yards, 117 yards rushing (102 in the first game and 15 in the final 15 games), saw his kick return average drop to 25.6 yards and scored just two touchdowns. With such high expectations, the fall from grace was pronounced.

3. The Press Conference From Hell

Rarely has an owner or a general manager looked as awkward as Zygi Wilf and Rick Spielman appeared in their September press conferences – first to announce that Adrian Peterson had been reinstated after what would have amounted to a three-day suspension to taking a 180-degree turn and accepting a provision to put Peterson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List after the backlash from the charges brought against Peterson were made public. The outrage of sponsors and charitable groups was pronounced, injuring the Vikings brand and costing them sponsorship dollars. The Vikings became the focus of the local and national news media for all the wrong reasons.

4. I Priefer to Remain Kluweless

The Vikings’ offseason got off to a brutal start following the 2013 season, as former punter Chris Kluwe went to Deadspin to throw special teams coordinator Mike Priefer under the bus and brand him as a homophobe for an off-color remark made during a special teams meeting in which Kluwe’s advocacy of same sex marriage became a national issue. At first, Priefer denied the allegation, but once it was corroborated Priefer was suspended and showed contrition for the incident. Once again, it put the franchise in a poor light on the public stage.

5. Close, But No Victory Cigar

Early in the season, when the Vikings lost they lost decisively, but starting with the last-second loss to Buffalo the Vikings found themselves losing too many close games that could have turned their season around. The last five losses were all by one possession, including a one-point loss to Buffalo, two-point losses to Detroit and Miami and a three-point loss to Green Bay. If even a couple of those games had gone the other way, there would be a lot more optimism that the Vikings have turned the corner and are ready to make a big splash in 2015.

6. Kalil or Be Kaliled

Few players received more negative press in 2014 than Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil. While battling a knee injury that set him back from training camp, at times Kalil looked awful, being credited with allowing a league-high 12 blindside sacks. In the span of 12 months, he went from being a bookend tackle that was expected to be a fixture on the offensive line to a player who became the poster boy for the 2014 struggles of the Vikings offense. Things came to a head following the Nov. 23 loss to the Packers in which he slapped the hat off of a heckler outside TCF Bank Stadium. Kalil has vowed to come back better than ever next year. He had better, because if he doesn’t the Vikings will be looking to replace him sooner than later.

7. Next Man Up

Rarely has that clichéd phrase been used so often by the Vikings. During the course of the season, they not only lost Peterson to quasi-suspension, but injuries took away starting QB Matt Cassel, backup running back Jerick McKinnon, tight end Kyle Rudolph, offensive linemen Phil Loadholt, Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebackers Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway and safety Robert Blanton. The injuries took a toll on both sides of the ball, but allowed several backup players to make an impact under dire circumstances.

8. Isn’t That Special?

The Vikings’ special teams had more than their share of problems making the transition to The Bank. Blair Walsh, who put himself in the record books for making all 10 of his field goals of beyond 50 yards in his rookie season, has made just seven of 14 long distance kicks in the two years since. He made just 26 of 35 field goals in 2014 (a league-worst 74 percent) and his misses were from both short distance and long distance – three from inside 40 yards and six from 40-plus yards. Punter Jeff Locke was consistently in the bottom third of punters in both net and gross punting average and even reliable long snapper Cullen Loeffler one-hopped a snap on a punt that was blocked for a safety that cost the Vikings their game at Miami. For a group that has been rock solid, those gaffes cost the Vikings a couple of games they could have won.

9. It’s Raining Wrens

For a stadium that cost more than $1 billion, there are a lot of add-ons to the project that have forced the Vikings to kick in additional millions so as not to scrimp on a football palace that will be the envy of pretty much everyone but Jerry Jones. But the Vikings created something of a firestorm when the organization announced it would not be paying an extra $1.2 million to install “bird-safe” glass, Audubon Society officials claimed that thousands of birds could end up dead by slamming into the glass wall on the northern side of the building. While alternate solutions are being looked into, wildlife advocates are still claiming that birds are going to die in massive numbers colliding with the new stadium’s glass.

10. Something to Ponder

It comes as no surprise that the Vikings used a first-round pick on Teddy Bridgewater. Christian Ponder was given every opportunity to progress as the quarterback of the future. Instead, he failed at every opportunity over the last two years and was demoted to the third string prior to the injury that sidelined Cassel. Viewed as a bust with the 12th pick of the 2011 draft – the strike year in which he could have no contact with the coaching staff up until the start of training camp – both the Vikings and Ponder seem willing to go their separate ways and write off his four years with the team as an unfortunate mistake.

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