It somehow seemed fitting that the end of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 season came on a day when a couple of protesters put their own lives and the lives of others in danger by trespassing to the heights of U.S. Bank Stadium. It should be explained not only how someone got inside with the giant banner, but also got inside with the cables needed to pull off a Phillipe Petit-style heist.
If you needed bizarre storylines for a NFL season, 2016 was the closest thing to 2010 that we may see for some time.
To synopsize 2010: Seal Team Six went to go get Brett Favre. The trade to bring Randy Moss back in after a slow start. Jenn Sterger. Caterers apparently delivering dog food to the locker room. The decision to cut Moss is delayed as Zygi Wilf contemplates firing Brad Childress. Favre’s lifetime games-started streak ends. When stadium roofs go bad. Playing a home game in Detroit. Brett goes from out to starting in the first game at TCF Bank Stadium. Chilly gets gas-piped. Playing on a Tuesday night in Philly when Snowpocalypse 2010 doesn’t materialize.
One of those events was enough to throw chaos into play. The Vikings came into 2010 looking to finish the job started in 2009. It didn’t happen.
The year 2016 started with a division-title winning game at Lambeau Field that got the Vikings a playoff home game for the first time since 2009. Then the real 2016 started rearing its ugly head.
The real 2016 decided to make it butt-ugly cold against the Seahawks – the reward received for beating Green Bay. We all know what happened in that game. Way Wide Left. Who knew it was just the beginning?
In the summer, the biggest question surrounding the Vikings – believe it or not and go back and check if you choose – was how were they going to handle the embarrassment of riches they had on the offensive line.
In 2015, the Vikings had the distinction of being the only of the NFL’s 32 teams that started the same five offensive linemen. The rub was that they had lost two starters – Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan – in the preseason.
If you know your 2016 Vikings, chart the games those guys played at those positions.
We’ll get back to that.
When training camp opened, Loadholt told the team he just couldn’t do it another year. In an attempt to give Sullivan a chance to catch on somewhere else, because there wasn’t any room at the inn in the O-line room, he was let go.
Then Teddy Bridgewater went down. Refuted reports (you know, by those actually on the scene) of players vomiting followed. This one was bad.
The landscape of scrub QBs was broken down. The Vikings made a bold move and, going against type, Rick Spielman gave up his 2017 first-round draft pick – at the time hoped to be the 32nd pick – to Philadelphia for Sam Bradford.
Even those on the tightest of inner circles was contemplating a battle between Shaun Hill and a younger version of Shaun Hill helming the ship. Bradford, a victim of the lack of team success around him and an injury history, was a logical gamble. To their credit, Philly knew Carson Wentz wasn’t going to sit for long and squeezed a first-rounder of a desperate Vikings organization.
No complaints on Bradford.
The ship was back on course.
Then came the subsequent injuries that turned the Vikings ship into the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Harris never played.
The other, non-season-ending injuries were what killed the 2016 Vikings. (A suggestion to NFL Films: when they do the Vikings half-hour highlight video, title it “Next Man Up.”)
Perhaps no phrase got used more than NMU.
With non-suspended players excluded, most great teams have their starters available for every game. The Vikings weren’t a great team. A connection? Maybe.
Then came four turnovers at Philly coming out of the bye and two failed fourth downs in the fourth quarter.
Then came the Halloween nightmare as the ghosts of Soldier Field partied hard.
Then came the abrupt retirement of Norv Turner.
Then came the epic collapse of the Vikings defense against Detroit. No timeouts. Buried. Wait … what? Golden Tate’s summersault is still an ice dagger at Winter Park.
Then came the loss at Washington. Blair Walsh had to go.
Then came losses on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to division rivals.
Then Mike Zimmer was touch-and-go to lose the sight in one eye.
Then came the length of time on a plane typically reserved for Transatlantic flights to London, not puddle-jumps to suburban Appleton.
The pipeline pinheads are merely an asterisk on the season – unless of course you were involved in stadium security or among the six rows of seats determined to be an adequate splash zone in the event one or both of the pinhead protesters who watched the game for a glorious Spider Cam view didn’t take enough time to harness their rigs and came tumbling down to a crash landing on fans or stands.
The best thing about the 2016 season is that it’s over.
The worst thing about 2017 is that the 2016 asterisk is technically the start of the new Vikings year.