If you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan, you probably don’t have a lot of fond memories to look back on when it comes to the 2013 NFL. In fact, it was a year full of disappointment.
In 2012, star running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards (the 2nd highest single season mark of all-time) and led the Vikings to the playoffs with a 10-6 record. In 2013, the team went 5-10-1, Adrian Peterson didn’t repeat his spectacular season of 2012 (running for 1,266 yards), while the team ranked 31st in total defense and dead last in points per games allowed (30.0 PPG). Head coach Leslie Frazer was relieved of his duties as a result.
You’re probably thinking there’s little hope for Minnesota in 2014, right? Not so fast.
During the offseason, the Vikings made a terrific hire by signing Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as their head coach. As DC of both teams listed above, Zimmer’s defense in Dallas gave up the fewest yards in the league in 2003, and in 2013, his Bengals defense ranked third in total yards allowed and tied at 5th (with the Kansas City Chiefs) for points per game allowed.
It’s not just what’s happening on the field that’s made Zimmer a great Vikings hire. Numerous media outlets have praised his work with defenses, inspired by Bill Parcells’ 3-4 defensive strategy with the Dallas Cowboys. And with a team with a horrid defense like Minnesota’s, this hire is huge for the organization, and Zimmer should be able to improve and/or identify and draft defensive talent.
The Vikings also hired a new offensive coordinator as well: Norv Turner from the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland ranked 18th in total yards on offense, but considering the quarterback fiasco that killed the Dawg Pound in 2013, what Turner was able to get out of the team was very impressive. Reports from Star Tribune Sports indicate that the new OC plans on making “an explosive offense” out of Minnesota, which would be vital to Adrian Peterson’s career, as well as the future development of the QB situation in Minneapolis. Nothing sounds wrong there.
It’s clear that the team’s problem last year was never its rush offense, which, although it took a significant step back from the monster year in 2012, still ranked 8th in the league in 2013. The main problem with Minnesota lied with its 23rd ranked passing offense (not to mention the defense in general). There never really was a strong influence by the pass offense on the team, as the leader in passing was Matt Cassel (currently a free agent), who threw 1,807 yards for 11 TD’s and 9 interceptions in 9 games.
Christian Ponder, who was the starting QB for Minnesota prior to 2013, also played for only 9 games (struggling with injuries and inconsistent play), throwing for 1,648 yards, 7 TD’s and 9 interceptions on the year.
Perhaps the biggest alarm for the Vikings offense was Josh Freeman, a QB Minnesota signed after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Only playing one game, Freeman threw for 190 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 interception, and had a completion percentage of 37.7%. These numbers speak for themselves.
However, with the three recent big hires the Vikings made (Mike Zimmer as HC, Norv Turner as OC, and George Edwards as DC), there’s no denying that expectations should be higher for this team come September. Mike Zimmer and George Edwards previously coached together with the Cowboys in the early 2000’s, and their chemistry provides a much-needed boost for the 31st ranked pass defense in 2013. And with Turner planning an explosive offense, all bets are off for a franchise with 12 Hall of Famers in Canton, Ohio.
While I can’t say I 100% believe the Vikings will be back in the playoffs next year, I see a improved team thanks to the hires in the offseason. If given time, Minnesota could potentially be contenders again before you know it. So be prepared for whatever comes your way, The Land Of A Thousand Lakes. Because not only do you get a new stadium, you also get fresh new faces running the show.
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Main Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports