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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    Posted on Sun, Sep. 10, 2006

    [size=13pt]Super drought[/size]

    This is the 30-year anniversary of the Minnesota Vikings' last trip to the Super Bowl. Can new head coach Brad Childress lead them back?

    __________________________________________________ ______________________________


    Posted on Sun, Sep. 10, 2006

    [size=13pt]Painful past[/size]

    Super Bowl futility has become a distant memory, replaced by winning records that have led to nothing in the postseason. The Vikings have yet to reach the top.

    BY SEAN JENSEN
    Pioneer Press


    Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Vikings consistently have been one of the elite pro football teams.

    In the past 36 seasons, the Vikings are tied for second with 22 playoff berths and rank fourth in division titles (14) and fifth in victories (319).

    But of the eight teams with 300 or more regular-season victories during that stretch, the Vikings are the only one with a losing postseason record (16-22) and without at least two Super Bowl championships.

    Four-time Super Bowl runners-up, the Vikings are the NFL's Susan Lucci.

    Despite their sustained success (only seven losing records in the past 36 seasons), the Vikings haven't been on the grand stage since the 1976 season, when the Purple People Eaters, quarterback Fran Tarkenton, running back Chuck Foreman and head coach Bud Grant led the franchise to Super Bowl XI. But after a 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the Rose Bowl, the Vikings — despite 16 playoff appearances in 29 seasons — reached the NFC championship game three times, losing each time.

    "You could say that the Vikings fan has suffered a long time," said Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, a St. Paul native. "But we've been close a couple of times I've been here. You never know what's going to happen, and we have as good a chance as anyone this year."

    What has taken them so long?

    A variety of reasons over a number of seasons.

    CONTINUITY

    When the Vikings reached the Super Bowl four times in eight seasons, from 1969 to 1976, they counted on a lot of the same faces: Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Alan Page of the Purple People Eaters; center Mick Tingelhoff; linebacker Wally Hilgenberg; and safety Paul Krause. Tarkenton played in the last three Super Bowls, along with Foreman, right tackle Ron Yary, guard Ed White, tight end Stu Voigt, linebacker Jeff Siemon and cornerback Nate Wright.

    "We played together for an awful long time," Marshall said. "The team pretty much stayed intact from year to year to year. There were changes. But not real major changes."

    Voigt said the key to the Vikings' run was "consistency and continuity," half-jokingly adding that the offense could make adjustments "with just a nod, a glance or a wink."

    But the NFL has changed. A rise in salaries led to a cap in payrolls and parity around the league. The continuity that was such a staple for the Vikings couldn't be matched, as teams only could afford to keep so many high-priced players. Making the right choice on whom to pay became critical, and the Vikings' choices didn't always work.

    Before the 1998 season, the Vikings gave lucrative contracts to retain defensive tackle John Randle, left tackle Todd Steussie, running back Robert Smith and guard David Dixon. Then, after the 1998 season ended in postseason disappointment, they re-signed quarterback Randall Cunningham and right tackle Korey Stringer to expensive contracts.

    With their payroll out of control, the Vikings released Randle, Steussie and Cunningham to save salary cap space.

    "You're in a mode now where you're renting your players," Voigt said. "If they get older and carry big salaries, they're jettisoned. Young players in their prime realize that the money is out there, so they don't feel the allegiance to a team."

    That bothers longtime season-ticket holder Bob McNamara more than anything else. Today's players have different priorities.

    "The word loyalty is out the window," said McNamara, who once played with and for Grant on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. "Bud's team had discipline, and the players were loyal to the team and the community. But now it's the almighty buck.

    "This year, you could play for Green Bay; then the next year, Miami. Now, you have to get lucky and get the right mix."

    Former Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel said a lack of continuity took its toll on some of the teams he played on, from 1992 to 2001.

    "I don't think we had a consistent three years in a row, with a group of guys that played together," he said.

    TUMULTUOUS LEADERSHIP

    From its inception, the Vikings' leadership model was different from the NFL standard. The team's founding owners were five men. Led by Max Winter, the owners stayed out of the limelight, and they supported general manager Jim Finks and the coaches. After the club's first head coach, Norm Van Brocklin, resigned in February 1967, the Vikings hired Grant, who had led the Blue Bombers to four Grey Cup titles in 10 seasons.

    Following a 3-8-3 inaugural season, Grant led the Vikings to their first division title and first playoff game during the 1968 season. By his third season, Grant's Vikings were playing in the Super Bowl, and nobody questioned who held the organization's reins.

    "Everything went through Bud," Krause said. "But Bud had nothing to prove. All he wanted to do was win football games, and the owners let him do it his way.

    "You knew he was the constant, and you knew you had to answer to him. You didn't have to answer to an owner or a doctor. You answered to Bud. What he said was law. But Bud was a players' coach. He played the game. He knew what it took to play the game."

    The days of subtle, supportive owners ended in 1988, when the board added four members, including Carl Pohlad and Irwin Jacobs.

    The owners were beleaguered with infighting. One of the few things they could agree on was the sale of the team in 1998 to San Antonio billionaire Red McCombs.

    But chaos still ruled at Winter Park. Dennis Green received a three-year extension from McCombs, then was given final say over all personnel matters before the 1999 season. Partly because of his poor personnel decisions and unwillingness to accept input from McCombs, Green was ousted before the final game of the 2001 season. Mike Tice took over, and he worked on short-term contracts.

    "Everybody is the new sheriff in town, and everybody wants to make themselves look good," Krause said. "I'm not saying this regime or what regime. But everyone is looking out for themselves, so they all have to make their mark, and sometimes that just doesn't work."

    Krause said a lack of stability in recent times has resulted in a lack of communication.

    "It's not a family," he said. "It's all about the money."

    Voigt said the questionable leadership extended into the locker room. He pointed to the 1998 season, when the Vikings outscored their opponents 556-296. Only three of their 15 regular-season victories were by a touchdown or less.

    Voigt said the Vikings seemed ill-equipped to rebound from a rough start in the NFC championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.

    "You've got to have some veteran leaders when things aren't going well," he said. "It's easy to play football when it's going your way. But you need those leaders when you got a quarter or half or a stretch where you have some adversity. They needed something extra."

    Zygi Wilf bought the team from McCombs and now is entering his second season in charge. Wilf said stable leadership is a core goal, along with fielding a championship-caliber team.

    "Our goal was to be consistent and be competitive, and a team that is respected throughout the league for our ability," Wilf said. "This is something I have a passion for and something I expect to be multi-generational."

    DISTANCING OF DEFENSE

    The Vikings' offense has ranked in the league's top five in eight of the past 12 seasons. But since finishing No. 1 in 1993 and No. 5 in 1994, the defense has ranked mostly in the 20s.

    Eller said the Vikings always had a strong offense under Grant, but defense was the main focus.

    "We had players like Foreman and Tarkenton," Eller said. "But we were not offensively oriented.

    "We've had a different philosophy since the Bud Grant years."

    After Grant retired for the second and final time after the 1985 season, longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns took over. Two more offensive coaches, Green and Tice, followed.

    But to put all the blame on the coaches would be unfair; the Vikings' personnel executives made too many regrettable decisions after Finks resigned following the 1973 season.

    Besides trading a handful of draft picks for running back Herschel Walker, including three top choices, the Vikings whiffed on too many defensive players. First-round picks such as ends Duane Clemons and Dimitrius Underwood, linebacker Dwayne Rudd, and tackle Chris Hovan were colossal disappointments. Safety Torrian Gray, linebackers Kailee Wong and Raonall Smith, end Michael Boireau, and tackles James Manley, Fred Robbins and Willie Howard were among the forgettable second-rounders.

    "You can only blame two people, the ones who chose him and the player," McDaniel said. "As another player, you can tell if they got it in them or they don't. We got caught up in a situation where we were losing guys and didn't have enough players in our system to take the place of the veterans like Henry Thomas."

    McDaniel said the Vikings were so desperate to replace Chris Doleman after he left following the 1993 season that they brought him back in 1999.

    "They've brought guys in, but we never had anyone to take that responsibility to get the job done," McDaniel said. "We drafted all kinds of high-profile defensive linemen and linebackers, but none of them panned out."

    Former Pro Bowl NFL defensive tackle Bill Maas said the Vikings need to go retro.

    "What did they have 30 years ago that they're still known for?" he said. "The Purple People Eaters."

    Wilf said the club's future could be shaped by its past. Grant's defensive ethos could reign again for the Vikings.

    "We talked from the standpoint that we would like to get to that point," Wilf said. "We felt a very important part of that is improving the defensive side of the football. Growing up in the (New York) Giants era, that was a very important part of getting us out of the doldrums. It's necessary to have that type of defense, to be really regarded as a top team."

    MISFORTUNES

    Call it bad luck, bad execution or bad officiating, the Vikings have had their share. Consider:

    • During the 1975 playoffs, the Vikings lost 17-14 to the Dallas Cowboys on a controversial touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, who appeared to foul Vikings cornerback Nate Wright.

    • On Jan. 17, 1988, after dominating the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings were pushing to tie the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. But at the Redskins' 6-yard line with less than a minute left, wide-open running back Darrin Nelson dropped a pass on fourth down, allowing the home team to preserve a 17-10 victory.

    • In 1998, with 2:07 left in regulation, Gary Anderson, who had been perfect all season, missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt by a foot. Then, in overtime, Morten Andersen kicked a 38-yarder to give the Falcons a 30-27 upset victory at the Metrodome.

    "The NFL is a game of inches and getting the right bounces," Vikings tight end Jim Kleinsasser said. "There's luck involved, so you need the bounces to go your way. Some years, we didn't hardly get any bounces, and sometimes that plays on your psyche a little bit."

    The Vikings slumped at the end of the 2000 season, when the New York Giants jumped out to a 14-0 lead after barely more than two minutes in the NFC championship game at Giants Stadium.

    "That was pretty brutal," Kleinsasser said of the 41-0 loss. "You could see the air go out of the tires real quick. I'm not going to say guys gave up. But you could see guys had other things on their minds toward the end of that."

    But Kleinsasser expressed confidence that the Vikings' fortunes can turn. Birk agreed.

    "You're trying to be the best of 32 professional teams," Birk said. "But that's why you just keep working hard. And through hard work, you tend to get some breaks."

    Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    COJOMAY is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    I certainly don't see the Vikes going back to the Super Bowl this year, nor do I think that most PPO members feel that way.
    I believe that most fans here are looking for a 9-7 or 10-6 season that will get the Vikes into the playoffs.
    But I hope to live another two years because I think the direction this team is going, they could very well be a Super Bowl team and there's nothing I would like to see more in my lifetime than for them to win it just once.
    Kentucky Vikes Fan

    When you require nothing, you get nothing; when you expect nothing, you will find nothing; when you embrace nothing, all you will have is nothing.

  3. #3
    singersp's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    "COJOMAY" wrote:
    I certainly don't see the Vikes going back to the Super Bowl this year, nor do I think that most PPO members feel that way.
    I believe that most fans here are looking for a 9-7 or 10-6 season that will get the Vikes into the playoffs.
    But I hope to live another two years because I think the direction this team is going, they could very well be a Super Bowl team and there's nothing I would like to see more in my lifetime than for them to win it just once.
    I don't think they'll make it this year either, but wouldn't it be great if we if we didn't make it a 31 year drought.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  4. #4
    gregair13's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    i would be exstatic with a playoff spot. i did pick us to win the division, but only because it sucks so badly.
    We're bringing purple back.

  5. #5
    Braddock's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    shit happens. It'll be very hard to get there. Really good teams that are proven, and some that are overhyped. However, I don't know if we'll get there for at least 5 years... depends on our drafting abilities...
    Trying to bring rationale to an irrational site

  6. #6
    VKG4LFE's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    Wow, it's been 30 years! I didn't even realize that, we need to get back soon!!

    I get the most pissed off looks from people with my VKG 4 LFE Wisconsin license plate, and I LOVE IT!!

  7. #7
    FedjeViking is offline Ring of Fame
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    "VKG4LFE" wrote:
    Wow, it's been 30 years! I didn't even realize that, we need to get back soon!!
    ??? Has it been that long???
    :-\ G. am I getting old, doesn't seem that long.
    :'(
    [move]"Our day WILL come!! I just hope I LIVE long enough to see it!"[/move]

  8. #8
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    We are on the right track in regards to getting a qualified D out there.
    Once TJ gets the job and the O develops a running game, the vikings could make a nice 3-5 year run at the SB.
    Thats wishful thinking, but it could happen in the next two years.
    It wont happen this year, for once we lack talent on the O side to do any damage at all.
    D wins Championships, O gets you to the playoffs.
    You republican whore!

  9. #9
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    "COJOMAY" wrote:
    I certainly don't see the Vikes going back to the Super Bowl this year, nor do I think that most PPO members feel that way.
    I believe that most fans here are looking for a 9-7 or 10-6 season that will get the Vikes into the playoffs.
    But I hope to live another two years because I think the direction this team is going, they could very well be a Super Bowl team and there's nothing I would like to see more in my lifetime than for them to win it just once.
    I feel the same way Cojo.
    I do not think this is our SB year, I would not mind one but I just do not see it happening.
    We made some improvements and have a solid base.
    I think next year will be the push.

  10. #10
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    Re: Vikings: Painful past - Super drought

    I sure as hell hope they will get there sometime in my life time.

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