Purple Pain Forums Round Table: Part II
The Vikings Gazette is proud to have the privilege to once again partner with Purple Pain Forums for another round table. In this iteration, we discuss the playoffs, future success, and the confidence of Minnesota’s fan base. I’ve listed my answers first, so readers looking for the real insight can quickly skim down to Forum Funky’s and D-Sizzle’s answers. Of course, be sure to check out Purple Pain Forums for great Vikings discussion.
1) How are things looking for our Vikings in the NFC playoff race?
Norm: In a word: dreadful. Unless someone in Minnesota has some pull with Santa Claus, the Minnesota Vikings won’t be getting a Christmas playoff miracle.
Funk: Funky responded with the Jim Mora playoffs meme. That should tell you all you need to know about Forum Funky’s opinion here.
D-Sizzle: Really bad. Even if they run the table, they still aren’t a sure thing to make it in.
2) If the Vikings sneak into the playoffs somehow, do they actually have a shot at snagging the trophy?
Norm: Frankly, no. The issues are too great. There are pieces in place and there is reason to be hopeful for 2021. On offense, there is an elite collection of play makers. Defense has some really promising young players. It’s plausible that this group will be there soon, but not this season.
Funk: See above.
Love this team, and I love the fight of our guys, but… it’d take several miracles, and last time I checked, too many of those don’t come our way as Vikings fans, so…
D-Sizzle: No. They’re far inferior to the other playoff contenders, and just have far too many problems to win a Super Bowl. I have seen several unlikely teams win championships across several sports, but this Vikings roster is way too flawed to end up in that category.
3) Is Kirk Cousins a franchise quarterback?
Norm: I would have answered this question differently after the Atlanta game. At this point, though, I’ve allowed my Purple Goggles to let me see a franchise QB out there. The issue has never been talent. He has sneaky athleticism and a really great arm. The issue up until recently has been his lack of it-factor. His increased willingness to use his athleticism to extend plays and keep his eyes downfield has been super encouraging.
Funk: Define franchise quarterback.
My definition? Yes, he is. Is he a Mahomes, Wilson, or Rodgers? No, and we all wish he was, but he definitely is a franchise quarterback. He’s a guy you can build around and win games with. The criticism around him and Zimmer are oftentimes how they measure up against winning teams. Well, this is where Cousins falls short of the guys previously mentioned. There are VERY FEW quarterbacks in the league who can mask their team’s flaws against tough opponents. Cousins will never be that, and that’s why people hate the contract. Don’t even get me started on the contract, but, yes, he is a franchise quarterback. I know Vikings fans aren’t all that familiar, but yes, he is one.
More often than not, he’ll do his part, but against good teams, it’s going to take more than that. It’s going to take a full team effort, and so many times, the wheels fall off. Because. Vikings. But Kirk Cousins is absolutely a franchise quarterback. Let’s not confuse “franchise quarterback” with “the franchise“. Mahomes is the franchise–the whole thing! Cousins will never be that guy, but he’s a guy who can get it done with the right pieces around him; and that’s the case for nearly all NFL quarterbacks. If it wasn’t, guys like Wilson and Rodgers would have won several Super Bowls in the last decade. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback — but in the playoffs, against those tough opponents, it’s going to take the whole team. Cousins is a guy who can consistently win games if the whole team shows up. Now, getting the whole team to show up, that’s the tough part, isn’t it Vikings fans?
D-Sizzle: Yes, I think he is. The parameters of what a franchise QB may vary depending on who you ask, but he’s been a starting QB for 6 full seasons now. He’s more in the Stafford/Rivers/Romo tier of franchise QB. Of course, that makes it difficult for roster construction when they’re paying him $33M a year… therein is the issue many are still debating.
4) As we look toward the offseason, what is the main thing the Vikings need to do in order to find success in 2021?
Norm: Make shrewd decisions with the salary cap. The Covid-Cap makes an already tight situation even tighter. I recently wrote about the possibility of borrowing a technique from the NHL. In hockey, it’s pretty common for GMs to move bad contracts. A team will move an overpriced vet to a team with ample salary cap room. Usually, there is a promising prospect or draft pick included to incentivize taking on the bloated contract. I’d be pursuing a similar approach if I was Rick Spielman. This team isn’t that far off, so it’s important for them to spend their money wisely.
Funk: Try not to be so Vikings-y?
Seriously though, has this year been tough to watch or what?! Too Vikings-y, even for my taste! My goodness, if something bad is going to happen, it’s going to happen to our Vikes, right?! What’s up with that?! Clearly our special teams needs completely blown up. Literally or figuratively? I’ll let you sort through your own feelings on that one. We need to improve our OL and DL, as well. Some of that will kind of fix itself with hopefully a healthy Hunter and Pierce back into the mix, and our depth should be pretty good with all of the experience they are getting this year, but … that OL still needs work. If Cousins is our guy, well, we need to do better by him and give him a better OL. But here comes the contract issue again. Where are we going to find the funds?
D-Sizzle: Fix the trenches. Good teams dominate the Vikings O-line and D-line and make it incredibly difficult to win. This O-line is a routine embarrassment in the pass protecting phase, allowing 4 sacks to the Jags who averaged 1 sack per game coming in. The Bucs whipped them. In the San Fran game last year, the most important game in the Cousins era, the O-line was obliterated. Dozier needs to go ASAP, Bradbury needs to be fixed in pass protection or be replaced, and I still think Cleveland belongs at tackle.
Meanwhile, most the Day 3 picks spent on the D-line have flamed out. These guys were never going to replace Hunter, Griffen, and the nose tackles, but the numbers are still pathetic. Odenigbo has proven he can’t lead the unit. Holmes is mediocre at best. Johnson has been downright abysmal. Stephen isn’t awful, but is paid to do more than this. Watts hasn’t done much. Lynch has failed to win any consistent playing time. DL coach Andre Patterson has been hailed for developing some very talented mid-round D-linemen, but that narrative has been turned on its head this year. Things need to change in 2021 or offenses will continue to run and pass all over this unit.
5) On a scale from 1-10, what is the overall feeling in Viking Land? 1 means fans are starting to pin all of their championship hopes on the Wild and 10 means that fans are starting to believe Minnesota will never miss another field goal
Norm: Going against the trend here. Put me in at a 5. Cousins has taken a step forward, and several of the young defensive players are improving.
Funk: Never miss another field goal?! Where do I sign?!
Probably still about a 4. I think it’s fair to concede that this season is about developing the younger guys and testing the mentality of this team. I think it’s okay to be optimistic about both, but it still doesn’t make this season suck any less. It’s been rough, but I feel better about next year. There’s always next year, right? Right?!
D-Sizzle: Probably down to a 2 now. It’s hard to get excited about a small chance of making the playoffs, but conversely it’s also hard to get excited about getting to select around the 14th overall pick in the draft. From what I can tell, there isn’t a ton of hope in ‘Vikings Land’ for the 2021 season to go far better. Sure, our 2020 draft class is panning out well and we should get some key players back, but the fatigue with the Spielman-Zimmer-Cousins trio is starting to become palpable. There’s no doubt about that.