To some the season was over before it started. Just months after the game icing play, and subsequent "moon" in a playoff game against the Packers, Randy Moss was traded to the Raiders. At the time it looked like he was sent packing for $1.98 and half eaten tuna on Rye. Red McCombs sent Moss to the silver and black just before he got to say the words he had been longing to say since 2000, "Screw you guys, Iím goiní home." It was one last f-you to the state that in his eyes did nothing but wrong him in his tenure as owner. It left many shaking their heads, many repeating the phrase "addition via subtraction" ad nauseum, as if trying to convince themselves there was such a thing, and those in Green Bay cheering. Also lost was offensive coordinator/quarter backs coach Scott Linehan.
Following a draft in which not making the news was news for the team, Tice was fined $100,000 dollars, roughly 1/10 of his salary for scalping his Super Bowl Tickets. Onterrio Smith was found a third time offender of the substance abuse policy (albeit because he skipped a test, which is an automatic fail) and was caught with a fake penis in an airport that was said to be for his cousin. The same cousin I imagine who gets blamed for every crime on "Cops". Subsequently, the Vikings said goodbye to Onterrio for the entirety of í05.
On the offensive line Matt Birk aggrivated his sports hernia, but offered to play through the pain if his salary was guaranteed. The Vikings declined his offer and he got surgery to repair it, ending his season. David Dixon was bid adieu despite coming off of what many thought was his best season.
The Vikings continued their roto kicker approach bringing in both a new kicker and punter.
On defense the team acquired 5 new starters and finally looked like they would be able to compete.
All in all the way I figure it of the 24 "starters" 11 of them would be starting for the purple that werenít the previous year.
However even taking all the change into account, the Vikings entered the year #4 in the ESPN Power Rankings and many peopleís pick to go to the Superbowl. Expecations were high for the team and no one knew what they really had.
The season got off to a Rocky start in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Daunte turned it over early and often, and with no help from the offensive line both halves of the offense struggled. Still, despite playing a terrible game the Vikings were in position to steal the first game from Tampa. The Vikings were driving with little (but enough) time on the clock for the game winning touchdown. Daunte threw a pass to Moe Williams a bit high and the pass was tipped up by Moe and intercepted to effectively end the game. It was the loss that would end up haunting the Vikings in the end the most. In only one game the media stopped repeating the "addition via subtraction" mantra and declared Randy Moss 185% responsible for every yard gained during his tenure in Minnesota. The yearly calls for [fill in current Viking backup QB here] began almost before the season was underway. It was apparent to me at least something was very wrong (and that it wasnít all Daunte).
Although the team thrashed a homeless Saints team during the span, 3 embarrassing losses to Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Chicago did nothing to squelch the "Start anyone but Daunte" crowd. It was apparent the Vikings offensive minds were still trying to run the "we have Randy Moss offense" sans one Randy Moss and with an offensive line that couldnít block anyone for more than half a second if they were protecting their Grandmothers in the backfield.
A consistent running game was no where to be found. Offensive lineman were getting rotated in, out, and around like a perpetual "ball and cups" game. Also some incident on a boat, which Iím sure you heard nothing about, happened. Stories varied from "good boats" and "bad boats," to what boiled down to a strip club, to an orgy of roman proportions. No one knew what happened, but that didnít stop anyone with a keyboard or microphone from telling us what went down.
It was halftime on October 23rd. Sarah had a smug look on her face and my Vikings were 1-4 and down 17 - 0 to the Packers who were coming off of an annihilation of the Saints and, of course, their bye week. Things looked bleak but it was apparent as soon as the Vikings got the ball back that something was different. Suddenly plays were being called to let Daunte take what was there instead of being asked to throw 60 yards downfield to Not Randy Moss. The Vikings were spreading the Packers out and dinking and dunking them to death. The offensive line had no trouble blocking for the quicker timing patterns. They were suddenly unstoppable. They had found their "identity". 30 minutes later Paul Edinger was running after the game winning field goal and the Vikings celebrated what was easily the highlight of the season to date.
Almost inexplicably the Vikings didnít stay in the new found style of offense and found themselves struggling, mostly on defense, and mostly Fred Smoot, against the Panthers a week later. During what was looking to be a fruitful drive, Daunte took a hit in the legs, he grabbed the knee, he was done for the year. It left many shaking their heads, many repeating the phrase "addition via subtraction", and those in Green Bay cheering. Steve Smith single handedly beat the now Brad Johnson led Vikings who gained a total of three first downs from that point on.
They were down, almost out, luckily the cure for what ails any struggling team was around the corner. A game against the Detriot Lions. A streak of 6 wins was begun, the highlight being an odd strategy of "no offense what-so-ever" during a win over the Giants. It was the first game in NFL history to have Kick, Punt and Interception returns for TDs. Suddenly the completely new defense had begun to gel into a unit you could rely on. Suddenly they were the "it" team. Everyone was talking about Brad Johnson. No one was talking about the "Love Boat" anymore, except of course for the 4 times a broadcast they talked about the fact that no one was talking about it. The Vikings were in the playoff mix. However, they'd likely need to win out or get help. They didnít win out, and they didnít get help. They lost back to back games to the Steelers and Ravens. In the game against the Steelers it seemed the Vikings had something and goal from the 1 about 38 times during the game and didnít manage a touchdown on any of them. They were eliminated; there would be no playoffs this year.
The last game of the year was only one week off from being a game for the division title. Instead it was a meaningless game. The Bears rested 7 games in 3 year quarterback Rex Grossman who was in dire need of a breather. The Vikings routed the division champs 34-10 to finish the year 9-7.
After the game Mike Tice was told he was fired, the media was told he was fired in a memo issued by the team. Mike Ticeís wife found out from fans in the Parking lot. Mike Ticeís son found out by finding one of the memos. He entered the locker room where the media was bawling in what was reportedly a "heartbreaking" moment. The players were the last to find out and were none to happy with what happened or how it was handled.
- And that, in a rambling, incoherent, nutshell was 2005 for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Brad vs Daunte debate.
This is hard to argue with people. Iím a Daunte backer, and although there are lots of arguments for Brad itís hard to debate the people when theyíre the same guys calling for Daunteís head last year, when he was on pace after 5-6 games to throw for 234808 touchdowns.
Setting aside a numeric argument for a second:
Although he has never been the shining example of consistency one would prefer at quarterback, Daunte has firmly established he is one of the premiere quarterbacks in the league. The season he had last year, with Randy on the sideline for a majority of it, was in the top 5 for seasons by a quarterback ever. Lost in the stats and contrary to what all the "he canít read defenses" people believe, Daunte was the #1 QB in yards per audible. The organization went through so many changes from top to bottom, to write off a quarterback of that team 6.2 games into that one season is crazy.
Now for the numeric argument:
|Record||Teams beaten record||Teams Lost to record|
|Daunte (3 home games)||2-5||7-25||52-28|
|Brad (5 home games)||7-2||48-64 |
(if you take out the giants game in which he did nothing 37-59)
The Vikings, regardless of who was at quarterback, were an average team at best in 2005. They beat every team they should have beat (except the Ravens) and lost to every team they should have lost to (except the Giants). Itís that simple. Brad played 3 teams with a winning record out of his 9 games. Of his 7 starts, Daunte played 2 games against a team with a losing record, and beat them both.
So even if one ignored all other variables and just took the numbers at face value, the discrepancy is explainable. Add in the fact that the offensive line and defense took a long time to gel and so on and itís pretty clear that at the very least itís unfair to call Daunte finished.
Look the bottom line is this, take the "Daunte needs Randy to be successful" argument and letís set up a hypothetical situation. You have a job in which a certain activity has been done the same way for a long time and all of a sudden itís different. Letís say youíve worked on an assembly line making doors for 5 years. All of a sudden all the machinery changes. The doors come in from the other side and your nail gun loads differently. Even if itís bigger, badder more efficient equipment youíre going to fumble around awhile before you get used to it. The fact that Daunte had trouble with coverages heíd never seen in his career doesnít mean heís incapable of dealing with them, it means he has to get used to them. Plus Randy hardly made an instant Pro Bowler out of Kerry Collins.
A look to the Future - The 2006 Vikings.
Most of the other struggles in 2005 were due to self imposed changes. Unfortunately the Vikings chose to fire Tice. I say unfortunately because with a head coaching change usually comes a wholesale change. Although I donít think Mike Tice is a terrible coach, I'm not going to lose sleep over it either. Personally I would rather have a lame duck coach running a system that has been in place for a long time because otherwise players are always learning new things and canít perfect old things. The Vikings defense has sucked for a number of years, yet every time the Vikings let someone hit the free agent market they are snapped up to start elsewhere. So maybe it is indeed a coaching problem, but perhaps the problem is switching defensive coordinators every year. Add to the firing the fact that about 10 other coaching positions will be available and this just becomes too much of a question mark for me.
The Vikings only glaring shortcoming talent-wise in 2005 was on the offensive line. Hopefully the Vikings can make some solid moves to shore up that problem for í06 and getting Birk back will help. Other than that, if anything the Vikings suffer from a stifling amount of talent. What I mean by that is this: They have a ton of depth at the skill positions without having anyone who can be the guy. Koren Robinson showed potential of being that guy eventually. Otherwise the Vikings are the fantasy team where rather than having Shaun Alexander, Chris Brown, and Tatum Bell you have 3 guys that are all serviceable, all score you points regularly, but every week youíre starting the wrong combo of guys. You have a great team, but no one is a no-brainer start.
This ladies and gentlemen is where is gets interesting because the list of running backs that will be free agents in the offseason reads like a top ten list of best running backs over the last five years. Adding in Priest Holmes and Ricky Williams as likely to be offered up trade bait and the Vikings projected $22 million under the cap and we might see something big happen.
Big things could be in store for next year; weíll just have to wait and see what happens.
Öbut donít be surprised if the Vikings trade Daunte Culpepper for the other half of the Tuna on rye.