The 2021 Minnesota Vikings Season Will be a Success if ___________

Recently, I reached out to several folks who cover our friends in purple with a simple, yet difficult fill-in the blank: The 2021 Minnesota Vikings Season Will be a Success if ____________. That’s essentially the only guidance I offered. Some asked for clarity on length, and I usually indicated that answers could be anywhere from a sentence to a full paragraph. Otherwise, take the question in any direction you like. Included below are the answers (along with social media and site info).

Ali Sidiqqui – @asiddiqui15
Vikings Territory and The Viking Age

The OL improves.

The guards should be better no doubt, but will Christian Darrisaw be close to what Riley Reiff was last year?

The line will improve but by how much?

Josh Frey – @FreyedChicken05
The Draft Team

The Minnesota Vikings have gone through a perpetual cycle of “good year, bad year” during the Mike Zimmer era. After a disappointing 2020 campaign, it only makes sense for 2021 to be a success. 

Many will associate success with milestones like “winning the NFC North” or “making the Super Bowl”. While these goals are great and feasible, a lot hangs in the balance depending on if/where a certain #12 plays football this season. Instead, I have one player in mind that could define how far this Vikings team can go: Michael Pierce. 

Among Vikings fans, the assumption is that the defensive line will be back and better than ever in 2021. Danielle Hunter got his extension, Dalvin Tomlinson was signed in free agency, and Pierce will finally make his Viking debut after opting out of the 2020 season. 

We saw Tomlinson basically recreate his 2019 season in 2020, so I think it is safe to predict at least somewhat similar production in 2021. On the other hand, we have not seen Pierce play live football since January of 2020. There is a lot of unpredictability here. He could come back with new tools to his game that we’ve never seen, or he could be a step slower in the trenches. 

Ultimately, run defense is still extremely important in this league. Each of the top five run defenses made the playoffs in 2020, and the champion Buccaneers were the best in terms of opponent yards per attempt. If Pierce and Tomlinson are both at the top of their games in 2021 alongside a rejuvenated Hunter and Anthony Barr, the Vikings have an excellent chance to go deep into the 2021 playoffs.

Rob – @RobDN1
Daily Norseman

The 2021 Vikings Season Will be a Success if the Vikings win two playoff games and are competitive in the third.

When is the last time the Vikings won two playoff games you wonder? We’d have to set the Wayback Machine™ to the strike shortened year of 1987, every subsequent year the Vikings made the playoffs they’ve either lost their initial game or been one and done and most recently lost by a wide margins.

GM Rick Spielman made some splashy moves this offseason, from signing Patrick Peterson and Sheldon Richardson to drafting Christian Darrisaw in the 1st round and Wyatt Davis in the 3rd.

I think some fans will feel like the offense was somewhat neglected since the free agency signings were primarily on the defensive side of the ball but HC Mike Zimmer’s focus during his tenure as the Vikings Head Coach has been primarily on the defense, and let’s face it last year’s defense was awful even considering Danielle Hunter didn’t play a down and Anthony Barr played two games. The loss of Hunter, Barr and optout due to Covid-19 by Pierce along with suboptimal talent along the defensive line caused an avalanche effect on the defense; last year’s defensive line couldn’t stop the run or generate a pass rush and with 3 new starters in the secondary had trouble consistently defending the pass. Quite simply, the defense has to be better, and I think it will. Offensively, the Achilles heel on the offensive remains, as always, the offensive line. I do think Darrisaw will win the LT job in training camp but if history provides a guide he’ll have an okay but not great year, but Reilly Reiff is a better than league average LT so Darrisaw’s performance might equal but won’t exceed Reiff’s. However, the tackles weren’t the problem last year, it was the interior which is in flux with Cleveland moving to left guard and either Dozier or Davis playing right guard.

Let’s not forget Offensive Coordinator Klink Kubiak is calling plays for the first time in his career, and the team doesn’t have a proven WR3 as of right now.

The Vikings have to set the bar high in HC Mike Zimmer’s seventh year as Head Coach. The offensive scheme seems to fit the strengths of the players and the defense should be improved over last year’s putrid effort. From developing drafted players to free agency signings, this edition of the Vikings has the talent and coaching staff to make a deep competitive run in the playoffs, anything less should not be considered a successful season.

No matter how this season turns out, I’ll have fun watching the games.

Cole Smith – @SkolSmith
The Vikings Gazette

The 2021 Vikings season will be a success if their two rookie linemen, left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right guard Wyatt Davis seamlessly move into the starting lineup and provide solid play. Darrisaw has some big shoes to fill after the departure of Riley Reiff. Davis, on the other hand, doesn’t have as high of a bar to clear to outperform the likes of Dru Samia and Dakota Dozier. He will need to grasp the offense better than he did in mini-camp once training camp rolls around so that he can crack the starting lineup sooner than later. For a team that relies on the running game and has a quarterback with limited mobility, the offensive line and its rookies need to be at their best.

Jonas – @JonasStaerk
MVFGeV Purple People Talk

The Vikings make a deep Playoff-Run. They went all-in for this season, so not winning a Playoff Game or even missing the Playoffs altogether is not acceptable. Is the roster good enough to be a serious contender? Probably not unless they get lucky. But the front office chose this all-in approach this offseason, so they will be measured by these standards.

Warren Ludford – @wludford
Daily Norseman

The Vikings stay relatively healthy, and are able to integrate the new players reasonably well. This Vikings roster is one that can compete for a Super Bowl, so long as they remain reasonably healthy. Reasonably meaning league average or fewer games lost due to injury. Obviously injuries to key players have a big impact on team success – just look at the Vikings defense last year, or even the Chiefs’ offensive line in the Super Bowl. The Bucs had the fewest games lost to injury last year, and it’s not unusual for teams with deep playoff runs to be relatively injury free compared to league average.

The other key factor for the Vikings to be successful this season is for the new guys- veterans and rookies alike – to be integrated well into the team and gel together with existing players. The Vikings are not short on talent, but sometimes getting new players up-to-speed and playing well their first year can be a challenge. New playbook, new situation, new teammates- it’s a lot of change to adjust to. Most of the new starters are veterans with plenty of experience under their belts, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult for these guys. But getting the rookie offensive linemen playing reasonably well will be a more difficult task. The bar for improvement is pretty low for Wyatt Davis, but Christian Darrisaw will need to have a good rookie year to eclipse Riley Reiff’s performance of a year ago.

But if these two things happen, I have no doubt the Vikings can achieve a deep playoff run. They have a top 10 offense that can improve if the OL improves, and a top 10 defense if the new vets gel. That’s a sound formula for making the post-season, and being Super Bowl contenders. How far they’ll get is difficult to say at this point, but the Vikings are definitely an under-the-radar playoff team this season, and one that if the injury gods cooperate, and team chemistry comes relatively quick and easy, can go a long way in the post-season.

Danchat – @danchat4
Purple Pain Forums

The 2021 Minnesota Vikings Season Will be a Success if We Win the Super Bowl.

It’s Super Bowl or bust time. There can be minor successes in the regular season with the young players improving, defense returning to normal, offensive line taking a step up… but this team has a lot of veterans, and Zimmer & Spielman have been here for long enough. It’s time to win it all, or take a step back to square one and examine the blueprint to how this team is going to win a Super Bowl. No excuses!

Dustin Baker – @DustBaker
Vikings Territory and Franchise Tagged

The Vikings 2021 season will be a success if, once and for all, a typical Zimmer defense coincides with a 2020-like offense. 

Normally, it’s one without the other — or something else derails everything, like the 2019 offensive line at San Francisco in the playoffs. 

The cake topper is the offensive trenches. The excitement is palpable for the homegrown offensive line — Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Wyatt Davis, Brian O’Neill — but it has to actually coagulate. The fivesome is dazzling on paper. But who cares if the struggle bus rides again?

The defense will be reminiscent of 2018. The offense, in theory, should resemble 2020. If the Vikings can attain one or two home playoff games, Zimmer can extend his employment beyond 2021. 

A disappointing year akin to 2018 or 2020 will signal widespread change at the team’s most visible leadership positions.

Editor’s Note: TVG extends a sincere thanks to all those who submitted all of these excellent answers. You can find their social media and work included in the above links.

This article was originally published on July 9, 2021.