Coaches are known for their fiery speeches and their motivational ploys to get players energized. But how often does a coach stretch the truth or even get it wrong completely when using a tactic to make sure players don’t get complacent?
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph appeared on Sirius XM NFLK Radio this week with hosts Brad Hopkins and Brady Quinn. As part of the questioning during the interview, Rudolph was asked about what impact, if any, he felt playing in the new U.S. Bank Stadium would have on the Vikings.
The Metrodome provided the Vikings with a true home-field advantage, growing to the point of myth with allegations of air conditioning ducts being opened at critical times and fake fan noise being pumped through stadium speakers. Anyone who attended games there and suffered from tinnitus for hours afterward knew that it wasn’t necessary to create fake noise. Music cranked up to 11 on the speakers directly behind the opponent’s bench? Well, that might be another story.
While the Vikings played well at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, it was only a two-year rental property for the Vikings and any home-field advantage they might have had playing outdoor football came with a finite window.
The move into U.S. Bank Stadium this year is going to come with plenty of fanfare and publicity. There will be prime-time games played there, a reversal of the recent trend of the Vikings playing prime-time away from home because neither of their facilities had the sway to make it interesting. The novelty of potential deafness wore off with schedule makers, so if you were to see the Vikings playing after dark, more times than not, it was as a road underdog.
Rudolph said that he can’t wait to get into the Vikings’ new stadium, but until it becomes their home, they have to earn a home-field advantage in the new stadium.
According to Rudolph, head coach Mike Zimmer has already addressed the team about the potential pitfalls of getting overconfident and feeling invincible in their impressive new digs. He even provided a cautionary tale about not getting too far ahead of themselves in expecting wins to pile up.
“If you know Coach Zimmer, it all gets back to wins and losses,” Rudolph said. “He brought up an example. When the Cowboys opened their brand new stadium in Dallas, they were 0-8 at home that year. So, if we don’t win games in that Taj Mahal of a stadium, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to win games make sure the NFC North goes through U.S. Bank Stadium.”
There was only one problem with that cautionary tale allegedly told by Zimmer.
It didn’t happen.
AT&T Stadium, known by some of us as the Taj Ma Y’all, opened for play in 2009. Vikings fans who were here in 2009 remember that season more than most. Brett Favre arrived and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game at New Orleans. Their last win of that season was a 34-3 blowout of the Cowboys.
How could a team that went 0-8 at home in its first season in its new stadium make the playoffs?
It didn’t happen that way. Dallas went 7-2 at home that year, including two home wins over Philadelphia in the span of six days – one in Week 17 and a rematch six days later in the wild card playoffs.
Maybe Zimmer was talking about the opening of Texas Stadium, the iconic dome with an inexplicable hole in the middle of the roof.
Texas Stadium opened in the middle of the 1971 season. Dallas played its first three home games in the Cotton Bowl, losing two of three games. They played their first game in Texas Stadium Oct. 24 of that season and crushed New England 44-21. The Cowboys would go 5-0 in their new stadium, beat the Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium in the divisional round of the playoffs and go on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Maybe Rudolph heard Zim wrong, but it sounds like Zimmer was making a point about his players not taking their shiny new home as an automatic free pass to winning. However, it would appear there is a little revisionist history at play for motivational purposes.
- In a story this week on the Sports Illustrated website, writer Chris Burke ranked the top free safeties in the league. Harrison Smith was ranked No. 2, behind only Seattle’s Earl Thomas. Smith was praised for his multi-faceted role in Mike Zimmer’s defense and theorized that, as he continues to improve and learn the game, he could surpass Thomas for the top spot at his position.
- Last month, the Vikings won their lawsuit against Wells Fargo in what became known as the “photobombing” case in which the rival bank to U.S. Bank would have had large illuminated signs clearly visible outside the glass wall looking over the Minneapolis skyline. Now the Vikings are seeking to recoup $665,000 in attorney fees expended to fight the case.
- The Vikings announced Thursday that Mystic Lake Casino, located south of the Twin Cities and the most noteworthy Minnesota casino in terms of celebrity drawing power, was named a founding partner at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mystic Lake will sponsor Club Purple, a club-level experience for fans. It can house up to 1,000 people and includes three bars, lounge-style seating and an outdoor balcony overlooking the Minneapolis skyline. Mystic Lake becomes the seventh founding partner with the Vikings in the new stadium.