The Minnesota Vikings built their training facility at the former Northwest Airlines headquarters in Eagan. It is a compound designed to turn supreme athletes into superstars. There are four full size training fields. An indoor / outdoor weight room with enough equipment to tire a bodybuilder. Dining rooms fit for kings. The main court has a basketball court-sized scoreboard and concession stands. This is the sort of thing you would see in Odessa, Texas. It is worthy of Friday night lights.
Once the players have completed their week of training, they head north for 25 minutes to US Bank Stadium. Experts named the stadium a billion dollars the best of the nfl. He gets strong enough on match days to drown a jumbo jet. The translucent ceiling lets in enough natural light to make the game appear to be playing outdoors, but offers the comfort of 72 degrees a day heat to -20 degrees. You can see the Minneapolis sideline behind the remote area. We are far from the old Metrodome, which was innovative in the early 80s and outdated in the 90s.
The Wilf family invested heavily in the Vikings. Gone are the days of parsimonious Red McCombs. Not only did the Wilfs pay half for US Bank Stadium and have it upgraded from the facilities in Winter Park, but they also shelled out for Kirk’s cousins, Dalvin cook, Harrison smith, and various other stars to keep them in Minnesota. They are exceptionally loyal to leadership, a rarity in the NFL. Rick Spielman has been with the franchise since 2006 and GM since 2012. Mike Zimmer has coached the team since 2014.
Bill Barnwell recently appointed the Vikings the best potential head coach opening in the league because of roster talent and patient ownership. Even with defensive turnover on hold, there are pillars of a good unit in Minnesota. Black-smith, Eric kendricks, and Danielle Hunter give any GM something to work with. The offense offers even more. Justin jefferson is from another world, Adam thielen still has something in the tank, and Cook is a dynamic back. And no matter what you think of Cousins, he gives you a high floor while you search for a young quarterback who has a high ceiling.
The biggest thing that holds Vikings back is their reputation for pulling on your sensitive cords with one hand while cutting your aorta with the other. They earn enough to hire their fanbase every year. But they lose so dramatically that some Skoldiers shouldn’t be medically allowed to watch them play. Their franchise win percentage of 54.5% is seventh all time, nestled perfectly between the Miami Dolphins (55.1%) and the San Francisco 49ers (54.1%). The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens are slightly ahead of them. The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers are right behind them.
The difference between the Vikings and these teams? They didn’t win a Super Bowl. It’s not just that, however. Minnesota has a 41.2% playoff winning percentage. They are usually good enough to do it but can’t chain together when it counts. Check it out, don’t you?
But here’s the thing: The Patriots have been the laughing stock for years – fans in and around Boston were rooted for the Steelers and Dolphins. But then a local businessman, Robert Kraft, bought them. He hired Bill Belichick, the team found Tom brady late in the draft, and now they’re the premier franchise in the league.
It’s not just New England.
- The Seattle Seahawks were so neglected that a famous national columnist wrote that Seattle no sport before Super Bowl XL. But the Seahawks hired Pete Carroll, drafted Russell wilson, and has become an eternal competitor.
- The Kansas City Chiefs won their first championship in 50 years because they had Patrick muhammad and Andy reid, the right coach to maximize it.
- Hell, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the Bucs!) Hired an offensive wizard, Bruce Arians, loaded up a team full of weapons, and pushed Brady away from the Pats. The Bucs were the most losing franchise in professional sports before this race.
The Wilfs can change the perception of the Vikings. But in order to do that, they have to recognize that Minnesota is a top destination because of what they’ve built here. Is Rick Spielman the guy to find a transcendent franchise quarterback to pair with the glowing Jefferson? Keep it. Otherwise, go your way.
Who is the coach who will maximize Jefferson’s otherworldly abilities? Get a guy who makes him dance in the end zone so often he has to replace astroturf. Set off so many fireworks that you have to send an intern to Wisconsin at halftime. Don’t just win because of a lucky bounce. Blast your opponents in Iowa or the Dakotas. As the screen moves to the opposing quarterback walking towards the tunnel during intros (Those who dare to enter), he should consider going back.
The Vikings have a chance to level up this offseason. Become a top franchise – a bona fide competitor. But first, they have to believe they deserve to be.