Sunday slant: 5 names bode well for future

The Vikings appear to have a roster rounding into shape, but five names from the roster and coaching staff on up, paint a positive picture for the Purple’s future.

The Minnesota Vikings haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2011 season. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2009. And, yet, the best era of Vikings football in four decades could be on the horizon.

Bold statement? For sure. Purple glasses? Maybe.

So what in the name of Bud Grant would lead to such optimism? It’s not just one name, rather many names.

  • Adrian Peterson (well, duh!), as long as he is back and motivated, could lead the charge over the next two to three years. Of course, motivation has never been an issue with the 2012 NFL MVP who confirmed just 11 months ago that he still wants to be known as the best running back ever and has Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record on his mind. But Peterson also dearly wants to win a Super Bowl. Perhaps that was the impetus for having his agent push for a trade for much of the previous five months. But now that it appears all but certain that Peterson will be donning purple in at least 2015 and perhaps well beyond, he shouldn’t have a problem returning to his previous productive ways if a championship is what he wants most. He still might be the most important player in making that happen.

  • If it’s not Peterson, then it is Teddy Bridgewater. As the passing game has become increasingly more important in the NFL, naturally so have quarterbacks. The last time the Vikings won a playoff game, they had one of the best in NFL history, Brett Favre, on their side. Bridgewater is no Favre (at least not yet), but that’s also a good thing. Bridgewater is more mature about his profession than a young, hard-partying Favre was early in his career, and Bridgewater is also more cautious with his throws than Favre ever was. So if the young buck wants to be better than the old Brett, it seems he will be more responsible than Favre was in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

  • Norv Turner has developed his reputation as a better offensive coordinator than head coach. There’s no shame in that. Just making it to the status of offensive coordinator in the NFL is a rare task indeed. But Turner has been either an offensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL since 1991. Coaches don’t make it 24 years in the NFL without the chops of the elite, and after two offseasons of acquiring Turner talent, and in their second season under his system, it should be all systems go for the Vikings offense, as long as they can adequately protect their prized-possession quarterback.

  • As Bud Grant slips back into the background after days of publicity for his garage sale, it reminded football fans in Minnesota just how important a respected (sometimes feared) leader can be. When Grant was providing that top-end leadership for the Vikings, they quickly became a winner, just like Grant previously produced north of the border with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. Grant brought the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances, and Zimmer has some of the same qualities as Grant. While many feared Zimmer could be the kind of heavy-handed coach that can turn veteran players fearful and stiff (see: Childress, Brad), Zimmer provided a respected, steadying influence while being able to crack a joke and even be self-deprecating at times. His defensive system works, and ultimately that matters and helps foster respect. But his ability to let Turner navigate the offense and Rick Spielman handle the personnel gives just the right balance of delegation and direction.

  • Finally, ownership is stronger than it has ever been. The Wilfs will surely profit from their investment in a new stadium, but so will the state with the big events the nearly $1.1 billion stadium is already attracting in the coming years. But the Wilfs’ commitment goes well beyond their real-estate-developing roots. At heart, they are football fans. At times, that can be a dangerous ingredient in ownership, but they have empowered their key decision-makers, from Spielman to Zimmer on down, and allowed them to run what they know best. Meanwhile, the Wilfs have never been afraid to spend, as witnessed by the Vikings’ No. 7 ranking among NFL teams in an ESPN/SportingIntelligence report unveiling the sports franchises that spend the most on their players, with an annual average player salary of $2.3 million.

    The arrow appears to be pointing distinctly up for the Vikings franchise, but they still have to prove it on the field with a roster mix of older players – Chad Greenway, Peterson and Brian Robison, among others, are all 30 or older – and a young nucleus that boasts eight first-round draft in the last three years.

    Until they make a deep playoff run, it’s all speculation, but the five names mentioned above sure give the indication that something like that is possible in the near future.

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