The Minnesota Vikings did not participate in the 2020 NFL playoffs primarily because of a wretched, injured defense and poor pass protection. In a poetic twist of fate, these same elements disabled the Kansas City Chiefs from winning back-to-back Super Bowls on Sunday night.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl since 2002 while Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring. Head coach Bruce Arians’ team was never perceived as the best team in the NFL at any point during the pandemic season, but they left their own building as world champions. The NFL embraces parity. Because the Chiefs failed to become the first team since the Tom Brady-led Patriots to repeat in the mid-2000s, parity is intact.
The Chiefs played as if they did not belong in the Buccaneers’ class. Brady and Co. flogged the Chiefs defense – especially in the first half behind Brady’s three touchdowns passes. Then on defense, the Buccaneers harassed Patrick Mahomes relentlessly. Before Super Bowl LV, a Mahomes-Chiefs team had never lost a game by more than eight points. Tampa Bay took Kansas City to school with this metric – at the most inopportune time imaginable.
Lessons dribbled from this 55th Super Bowl, and here’s how they pertain to the Vikings.
Monsters of Industry are Beatable
Showcasing the league’s best quarterback doesn’t mean a damn thing in the realm of winning Super Bowls when his offensive line is constructed with paper mache. Indeed, the Chiefs offensive line was not dastardly throughout 2020, but with injuries looming, the unit was dastardly in Super Bowl LV. And perhaps the Buccaneers front seven was just that good – probably a medley of both circumstances.
Moral of the story: Merely “drafting our Mahomes” was never an achievable or ironclad solution for the Vikings maladies. Don’t you think they would just do it if that idea was remotelyrealistic?
Minnesota’s fanbase should end the obsession of singularly pinpointing Mahomes-like quarterbacks in order to finally win a Super Bowl. In this last decade alone, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning have put championship hardware on their fingers. Dream teams like the 2020 Chiefs, 2014 Seahawks, or 2013 Broncos can be stopped. Why? Because it happened.
The blessing of a quarterback like Mahomes on a team’s roster helps a franchise annually partake in the hunt for a Super Bowl. But it is not a rubberstamp for the best quarterback in the league to win a Super Bowl each season. It’s never consistently been that way – ever.
Shockingly, defensive and offensive line performance matters, too. Whooda thunk it?
Defense Matters. So Does Offensive Line.
The Chiefs defensive unit (as a whole) and the offensive line played poorly during Super Bowl LV. Period.
Mahomes could not solely overcome their ineptitudes. If a quarterback could actually do that, Dan Marino would have a litany of Super Bowl trophies to tout. It’s the same reason why a signal-caller like Deshaun Watson witnessed his team finished 4-12 in 2020. Defense is accountable for 50% of the sport. Football culture currently pretends like defense is a footnote. This must cease. Defense is equally as important as offense. Tampa Bay conquered Mahomes because they were defensively superior to Kansas City. This is a boldfaced truth.
As for the Vikings, this offseason must be spent reconditioning its 29th-ranked defense. There should be no better person in the country to do it than Mike Zimmer. His resume is perfect for the task.
For the offensive line, though, the mission is trickier. The Vikings have notoriously skimped at the position for a decade. The Chiefs bellyflop in Super Bowl LV is a case study on the follies of a porous offensive line. Some folks already coin Mahomes as the best passer of a football ever. That young king was dethroned – embarrassingly – because his offensive line did not rise to the occasion. Write that down.
This happens to Kirk Cousins weekly. Afford Cousins some at-least-average pass protection and reap the results.
Young Coach Not Required
The other snazzy talking point by the masses is the necessity for a “young, offensive-minded” head coach.
Those men may be fun to look at or watch their innovative offenses materialize, but the hire-a-young-guy trend has not flushed out any Super Bowl wins as of late. The inverse occurs, in fact. The old men like Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid are winning titles year after year. A sensible argument can be made for the avoidance of young coaches if hoisting trophies is the ultimate objective (Hint: it is). Of course, these young coaches bring neat ideas to the sport, but winning championships is more than state-of-the-art, new offensive playcalling.
The Vikings are not a young, offensive-minded head coach away from playing February football. The team must revive its once-ferocious defense, finally build a formidable pass-protecting offensive line, and steer clear of young-coach mania as a prerequisite for championships.