Skip to main content

Wide Left: Is the Vikings' championship window still open?

With a lot of holes to fill, Blair Anderson has his doubts.
Mike Zimmer

There has been a lot of talk about boats in Minnesota over the past year and while the Gophers football team have rowing theirs back to prominence, Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman seem to be trying to keep theirs afloat with the belief that their championship window is still open. 

It was just 22 months ago when everything looked surprisingly optimistic for the Vikings. They had a defense that was beginning to enter its prime and with a shiny, new $84 million quarterback, there was a feeling that the Vikings would be NFC contenders for the foreseeable future and possibly have a shot of reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976.

Unfortunately, the closest Viking fans have gotten to that magical game is a former Twins relievers' offspring starting for the Kansas City Chiefs. The past two seasons have come short of expectations, but the Vikings still believe that they can wave their magic wand and fix everything for one last stand in 2020.

"I'll never let go. I promise," says Rose to Jack in the final scene of Titanic, which, to me, feels about as promising as Minnesota's championship hopes at this point. 

Why so negative?

Let's start with the current state of the roster. Last offseason, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski got a standing ovation from the fan base for magically finding a way to extend Adam Thielen, re-sign Anthony Barr and make a couple of free-agent acquisitions while staying under the salary cap.

While this looked great from a 2019 standpoint, the end result was more like taking out college loans for beer, rent money and lukewarm McDonald's breakfast for hangovers. Those bills come rolling in at some point and for the Vikings, that's this spring when they are projected to be $9 million over the salary cap, according to Over The Cap.

This is not a good development considering there are several veterans making tons of money that may not be deserving of that kind of compensation. To name a few: 

  • Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes (LOL WUT?)
  • Left tackle Riley Reiff
  • Defensive tackle Linval Joseph
  • Defensive end Everson Griffen

All of those guys will surely be restructure candidates (or straight up cut) and cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, and safety Anthony Harris, could all be gone next season as free agents because the Vikings currently don't have the money to keep them.

If the Vikings are forced to release or let all of their free agents walk, that would create seven open spots in the starting lineup with very little salary cap space and draft capital to fill those holes.

Despite the potential of having gigantic holes throughout the roster, Zimmer still seems to believe this is a team that can "get over the hump." He believes that he's finally found the offense that he's wanted to run all this time and with Thursday's promotion of Gary Kubiak to offensive coordinator, he can ride Cook and his defense the same way the 49ers rode their running game and defense to the Super Bowl.

While Zimmer's theory of letting Cook and impressive rookie Alexander Mattison do all the heavy lifting on offense makes sense, the problem is that it is the only part of this roster that's actually built to pull off such a scheme.

The offensive line looked like the last five kids from the end of a playground football draft found the ooze from Ninja Turtles and grew up to be NFL football players. Although Brian O'Neill and Josh Kline are alright, Garrett Bradbury already posted two 0.0 pass-blocking games (per Pro Football Focus) and Reiff looks like the offensive lineman version of Smokin' Jay Cutler, making a ton of money to just be OK.

Then there's Pat Elflein, who opted to sign pancake boxes during training camp as if he was about to put a whole bunch of dudes on their backs. This is great fun, but also great when you consider a friend of mine that teaches middle school English uses this photo to help teach the meaning of irony.

If you're keeping track at home that's now nine spots in the starting lineup that might need attention by the time free agency starts. Of course, the Vikings won't have the money to do that because they've invested just over $58 million of this year's salary cap between Cousins, Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who they don't even want to use unless they fall behind 20-0 to a 3-8 team at home (Hi, Denver). 

This is all BEFORE Cousins gets a contract extension on the basis of "Well, we could do worse," instead of diving into a deep quarterback crop that could prevent us from ever muttering the name of Spurgeon Wynn or Sean Mannion as Viking starters again.

With Kubiak running his offense for a second straight year, there's a good chance that the tension that Thielen and Diggs felt after a Week 4 loss in Chicago could turn into a full-blown nuclear meltdown, making Zimmer's 1996-based dream offense become a complete nightmare that moves the ball three yards at a time. 

If this is the case, I'm sure the Vikings could lure Leroy Hoard out of retirement to really get Zimmer aroused.

There's also the matter that his former offensive coordinator went to Cleveland and pulled the "FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM" card with George Edwards and Jerry Gray, who were key parts of the Viking defense behind the scenes.

Now, if you're still keeping score, there are some massive holes on both sides of the ball, an offense that fails to properly utilize its talents and a coaching staff that's abandoning ship faster than the passengers on the Titanic. Sounds like a championship formula to me!

But the harsh reality is that the Vikings are going to do everything in their power to try to go 10-6 again and run into several teams that are better than them including the 49ers, Bears and...(gulp)...the Green Bay Packers. 

With everything going on, this team's ceiling is now getting blown out in a NFC divisional game which makes me ask what the hell are we doing here?

We're not going to convince Zimmer and Spielman to start tanking for Trevor Lawrence in 2021 and we can't even trade up to get Tua Tagovailoa in this year's draft because we'd be basically drafting him to get pounded into the turf. But, with no eye clearly looking toward the future, the last piece of hope for a Vikings championship window seems to be sinking. 

Next Up


Charges: Teen speeding before crash that killed mother, injured her son

The teenager was driving at speeds between 72-89 mph at the time of the crash.

Northland Vapor in Moorhead, Minn.

Northland Vapor calls St. Paul regulators 'overzealous' in lawsuit over THC sales

The small Minnesota business said the lawsuit was "misleading" and "shameful."


Excelsior chocolate shop ransacked by thieves to reopen

Truffle Hill will reopen to the public on Friday.

Company agrees to changes after child workers found in MN meat plants

An investigation found children ages 13-17 working hazardous jobs at the plants.


Drinks can company to lay off almost 100 workers, close St. Paul plant

State authorities were informed of the impending closure.


Suspect in Minneapolis bar killing charged with weapons crime

The suspect has not been charged with murder in the case as of Wednesday.

snow, blowing snow

A monster storm is coming next week: What will happen?

What we know with high confidence at this point is that there will be a monster storm in the central U.S. by the early and middle part of next week.

police lights

Boy safe after kidnapping by non-custodial parent in Mankato

The search prompted the temporary shutdown of I-35 Tuesday night.


11 face charges after being found 'exploring' Fridley sewer system

A 911 caller reported seeing a group removing a manhole cover Monday night.


Mike Zimmer

Wide Left: What the Vikings need to figure out during the NFL Draft

Blair Anderson takes a look at the Vikings' situation in his latest Wide Left blog.

Kevin Stefanski

Wide Left: Revamped Vikings offense needs to be re-revamped

Any other Vikings fans feel the way Blair Anderson does?

Rick Spielman

Wide Left: Why the Rams are a glimpse into the Vikings' future

Paying your quarterback top dollar has its share of consequences.

Vikings fans, U.S. Bank Stadium

Wide Left: Vikings draft hopes? Just address the damn O-line

Introducing "Wide Left," a new column chronicling the emotional rollercoaster of a Vikings superfan.

Mike Zimmer

Wide Left: Tired of Zimmer's defense melting down on the road

Superfan Blair Anderson is breathing fire at a "defensive guru" that just lost to Matt Moore.

Mike Zimmer

Wide Left: The Vikings want to get over the hump, but what has changed?

This year's Vikings team looks a lot like last year's Vikings team.

Wide Left: Midseason report card for the Vikings

With the Vikings 6-2 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race, Blair figured it was a good time to draw attention to those who are excelling and also to those who simply aren't making the grade.

Kirk Cousins

Wide Left: Thank God the Vikings took Garrett Bradbury

Blair Anderson was worried Mike Zimmer would take another cornerback.