A few weeks ago, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (meaning me, in this case) published the equivalent of a hit piece in which this particular columnist completely eviscerated Minnesot Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for his train of excuses on the ride to the team’s 1-5 start this season.
And yet, over the past three weeks, the Vikings have gone on to win division games against the Packers, Lions and Bears, respectively, and are firmly in the NFC playoff picture, exactly like Spielman said they would be when he chatted with reporters during the bye week.
Our apologies. This is what it’s like to eat crow, huh?
While it’s still unclear whether the Vikings are actually a Super Bowl contender, that’s neither here nor there when retroactively evaluating Spielman’s assessment of the current roster.
He truly believed the Vikings were good enough to compete for a playoff spot despite their play over the first month and a half of the season suggesting the complete opposite. It’s clear now that Spielman had an accurate read on the situation all along.
Not only have the Vikings looked like a team capable of making the playoffs, thanks in large part to star running back Dalvin Cook, they look like a team capable of actually making some noise given the fact the NFC doesn’t have a true frontrunner at the moment.
There’s not a heck of a lot separating the Vikings from teams at the top the conference, like the Packers, Saints and Buccaneers.
That’s not to say the Vikings don’t have their own flaws.
What happens when teams focus on stopping Cook on the ground? Will quarterback Kirk Cousins be able to make a play through the air? Though he recently got the monkey off his back by winning for the first time ever on Monday Night Football, it’s always going to be difficult to trust Cousins when the lights get bright.
That said, the Vikings have some time to build more confidence with the cupcake portion of their 16-game schedule coming up. They will play the Cowboys, Panthers and Jaguars over the next few weeks before getting to the true test, playing the Buccaneers and Saints, before closing out the regular season against the Bears and Lions.
Who’s to say the Vikings (4-5) can’t go 5-2 the rest of the way? That would put them at 9-7 and more than likely into the playoffs.
If the Vikings indeed make the playoffs, it would completely justify Spielman deciding not to blow up the roster at the trade deadline. In fact, the recent success over the past month might have already done that for him.
While the Vikings extracted as much as they could out of the failed experiment that was defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, they held back on shipping out high-profile and high-priced players like receiver Adam Thielen, safety Harrison Smith and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Heck, they even reportedly turned down a deal that would have sent left tackle Riley Reiff to the Titans for draft picks.
All in the name of staying competitive this season. Which is exactly what the Vikings have done.
The day of reckoning could still be coming for the current roster. Maybe this is all a head fake and a full rebuild will still be on the table this offseason if the Vikings fall flat in the coming weeks. Maybe at that point Spielman will regret not starting the rebuilding process sooner.
Those are simply hypotheticals at the moment. That’s because the reality is right now the Vikings are every bit as good as Spielman said they could be. And they look to be getting better by the game.