The Minnesota Vikings had a difficult 2020 season, finishing 7-9 after a 1-5 start.
Minnesota struggled for large parts of the season but found the reason for hope in rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson who was one of the candidates for rookie of the year and was easily the best wideout of the rookie class.
Head coach Mike Zimmer led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game during the 2017 season, missing out on a place at the Super Bowl which would have been in their own stadium.
Since then, it’s been a mixture for Minnesota. They missed out on the playoffs in the 2018 season but reached the NFC Divisional Round during the 2019 campaign.
After such a dominant 13-3 season in 2017, the Vikings have failed to replicate this success that won them the NFC North. With question marks around their quarterback and defense, has their Super Bowl window closed?
THE DECLINE OF THE DEFENSE
In the 2017 season, no one allowed fewer points (252) or total yards (4,415) that season than Minnesota. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed fewer passing yards than the Vikings. The eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, were the one team to allow fewer rushing yards than Minnesota.
This was a defense that dominated but we have seen a gradual decline. In the 2018 season, Minnesota were ranked fourth for total yards allowed and third for passing yards allowed. However, fourteen teams allowed less rushing yards than Minnesota and the Vikings ranked ninth for total points allowed.
Stopping the run was the Vikings’ Achilles heel and once again this was an issue for the Vikings in 2019. Minnesota were one of the best teams for points allowed but were nowhere near the top of the rankings when it came to both rushing and passing yards allowed.
2020 saw a real decline of this defense that heavily missed defensive end Everson Griffin, who left after ten seasons with the franchise. Just five teams allowed more total yards and more rushing yards than the Vikings.
ISSUES AT QUARTERBACK
Despite reaching the NFC Championship during the 2017 season, many felt that the quarterback position was the reason Minnesota didn’t reach the Super Bowl.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was acquired in the 2018 offseason via free agency and was seen as the missing piece. He was viewed as the top free agency target and was an acquisition that many felt could take the Vikings to a Super Bowl.
Cousins has had his moments but has largely disappointed. His stats suggest he has played better than he has done with 91 touchdowns, 29 interceptions and 12,166 passing yards.
However, Cousins has rarely performed in the big games, excluding his overtime game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph in the Wildcard Round during the 2019 season. His Monday Night Football record hasn’t improved either.
Cousins appears to be a great person but will struggle to get the Vikings where they want to be. The Vikings should consider bringing in another quarterback and trade away Cousins. The San Francisco 49ers have been linked with Cousins, which is a move that would leave a door open at the quarterback position.
A Teddy Bridgewater reunion could be an option with the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback’s future with the franchise in doubt. Despite this, the Vikings now have more problems than just the quarterback position.
Minnesota needs to find a way to build around running back Dalvin Cook, long time wide out Adam Thielen and the aforementioned Jefferson in order to make sure they don’t waste his potential. Otherwise, they will continue to ride the mediocrity train and waste what was once a promising roster.