After another disappointing effort that concluded with a 5-10-1 record and their third last place finish in four years, the reality facing the Minnesota Vikings was bleak, and the front office knew that significant changes had to be made throughout the organization.
Finding a new head coach with an aggressive philosophy, mending the team’s once formidable defense, and adding to a shallow corps of receivers all ranked high on Minnesota’s ”to do list” heading into the break. But aside from acquiring a new head coach, the Vikings’ most obvious need has been at quarterback.
In today’s NFL however, timing is often everything. And after a surprisingly mediocre showing at the combine and amid concerns that he wasn’t physically capable of a pro career under center, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fell down the draft board and into the welcoming hands of the Vikings, who may have stumbled upon their quarterback of the future.
While the addition of Bridgewater isn’t likely to have an immediate impact, his presence alone bodes well for a team that recently reinvested in incumbent starter Matt Cassel with a two-year deal signed in March, and early reports from mini-camp seemed to indicate that the rookie will play in 2014.
As of Monday, Minnesota’s roster listed Cassel, Bridgewater, perennial disappointment Christian Ponder, and rookie Travis Partridge as the team’s only quarterbacks.
But outside of Bridgewater, rookie Kain Colter out of Northwestern may be the most interesting player to watch, not due to his ability at the pivot, but because the Vikings are attempting to convert the former Big Ten standout into a wide receiver.
Anxious to reload on both sides of the ball, Minnesota took a total of ten players in the draft including linebacker Anthony Barr who was chosen ninth overall, defensive end Scott Crichton, running back Jerick McKinnon, and guard David Yankey. Which is in addition to the 16 undrafted rookies who attended Minnesota’s rookie mini-camp over the weekend.
Since relieving Leslie Frazier of his head coaching duties immediately following the season and naming former Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as his successor less than a month later, the Vikings have also ushered in an entirely new staff that includes former head coach and offensive guru Norv Turner.
With a unit that finished last in total offense among teams in the NFC North and struggled to establish itself as a reliable offensive threat beyond the run-game of Adrian Peterson, Turner’s arrival is expected to go a long way towards the implementation of a more well-rounded system in Minnesota.
But while the draft went relatively well and the new regime has already been put into place, losing a fan-favorite like defensive end Jared Allen to the Chicago Bears is something that hurts the franchise regardless of the various steps that have been taking towards a resurgence.
And unlike others currently caught in a full-scale makeover, the Vikings have been forced to do so without a permanent home to call their own for the next two seasons while a new, $976 million stadium is being built, and will share a field with the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers thru the end of 2015.
On their own, issues such as a completely new coaching staff, a roster littered with uncertainty, and a quarterback competition that could still leave the team without a reliable starter could cripple an NFL franchise until resolved.
But the Vikings will be tackling all of this and more at once, and regardless of the outcome, the upcoming season could easily determine which direction this franchise will go in the future.