VOYAGE OF THE DOOMED
Dark days in Minnesota
By Michael Smith
VOYAGE OF THE DOOMED
Vikings coach Mike Tice appears to be going down with the ship, if he isn't fired first.
Ten days after 17 Vikings embarked on an alleged and now-infamous Lake Minnetonka sex-capade aboard what has been dubbed the "Love Boat," Minnesota's 2005 ship might officially have sailed.
Sunday's 28-3 loss at Chicago is the type of embarrassing defeat that prompts an embarrassed owner to ignore the division standings, however encouraging, and a rather well-documented history of interim captains' struggles and fire his head coach. The rumor mill already was turning Sunday night with talk of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf possibly dismissing Tice as early as Monday.
The ship is sinking, for sure, and, frankly, Wilf would be doing Tice a favor by relieving him of his obligation to go down with it. The proper punishment would be to make Tice suffer for the duration of the season. You say his team was distracted? Don't give me that. The Saints won the opener at Carolina days after a natural disaster hit New Orleans. On their best day, the Vikings are dysfunctional.
That Minnesota performed so poorly coming off a bye week (albeit a tumultuous one) makes the loss even more disconcerting. The Vikings committed 14 penalties, several of which cost them points, and Daunte Culpepper tossed two more interceptions, giving him 12 for the year. A year ago Culpepper was worthy of MVP consideration. Sunday, Bears rookie Kyle Orton outplayed him. Ouch.
But this is the NFC North, which is led at the moment by two losing teams -- the Bears and Lions (both 2-3). The 1-4 Packers (idle this week) are some people's favorites after their performance a week ago. Hence, record-wise, at 1-4 the Vikings aren't out of it. But they certainly looked Sunday like a team that wasn't really into it. It's bad enough that many of them allegedly have behaved disgracefully off the field. But for the Vikings to play this bad (outscored 119-34 in losses) after all the moves management made in the offseason designed at improving the club is inexplicable. And for Tice and his staff, this kind of underachievement is inexcusable, even after the events of the past week.
After their last embarrassing loss, 30-10 at Atlanta two weeks ago, several Vikings players spoke of the need for each individual to do his job and not try to do a teammate's, as if that was the problem. Right about now they all deserve to be fired. Makes you want to burn every publication that picked the Vikings to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Which brings us back to Tice. With a promising season having all but gone up in flames, should he survive the year, he almost certainly will not return to coach the Vikings next season. There is still talent on the roster and, to be fair, much of it has been depleted by injury. Culpepper remains the team's best player, and if Wilf wants to do what's best for him, he'll consider bringing former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan back, this time as head coach.
For now, it looks like it's going to be another long, bitter winter in Minnesota.
"From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, save us!"
-- From a monestary in Ireland.