For the Minnesota Vikings, Going Young May Be a Step Backwards
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The past three seasons, the Minnesota Vikings have parted ways with more than 14 players over the age of 30. These moves, or in some instances the result of doing nothing, has reduced the average age of the roster to 25.5 years in 2012—the youngest since 1967. A direction the Vikings may not want to be heading.
While the result last season was 10 wins and a playoff appearance, franchise history suggests a winning season is not the norm. In the eight seasons the Vikings' roster averaged less than 26 years old, their record is 42-65-7—a .368 winning percent.
In fact, the .625 winning percentage the Vikings had last season is the highest for any of the teams. Of course, the other seven seasons were also the first in franchise history, spanning 1961 to 1967.
As the age of the roster increases, so does the winning percentage. The following chart breaks down the Vikings' 52 years by the age of the roster.
In the 18 seasons the average age of the Vikings' roster was 26 years old, they compiled a record of 141-133—a .515 winning percentage. The Vikings first Super Bowl appearance falls in this age.
The sweet spot for the Vikings has been when the average age of the roster falls between 26 and 28 years old. In 23 seasons, the team has a 215-143-2 record—a .597 winning percentage. It's also at this age the Vikings made another two of their Super Bowl appearances.
In 1974, the average age of the Vikings roster was 27.7 years. That season, the team finished 10-4, winning the NFC Central Division. After defeating the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, the Vikings lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl IX.
The other Super Bowl appearance came in 1976 when the Vikings' roster averaged 27.8 years old. That year, they finished 11-2-1, once again winning the NFC Central Division. Playoff victories over the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Rams sent the Vikings to Super Bowl XI, where they fell to the Oakland Raiders.
The only other Super Bowl appearance came in 1973 when the Vikings' roster was 28.5 years old. This is one of only three teams that were at least 28 years old. These three teams finished 28-14—a .667 winning percentage.
In 1973, the Vikings finished 12-2, winning the NFC Central. After defeating the Washington Redskins in the first round of the playoffs, the Vikings traveled to Dallas, where the Fran Tarkenton-led Vikings defeated Roger Staubach and the Cowboys 27-10. In Super Bowl VIII, they ran into the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Miami Dolphins, losing 24-7.
With the release of 35-year-old Antoine Winfield, 31-year-old Chris Kluwe and 30-year-old Michael Jenkins, the Vikings' roster is sure to get even younger in 2013. The Vikings currently have 89 players on their roster with only seven of them over 30 and the average age of 24.8 years old.
Granted, there are plenty of rookie free agents that are only roster fillers for now that are pulling the average down. Still, by the time the season opens, there's a very good chance the Vikings' roster will be one of the youngest in franchise history—and that will probably mean a losing season.
Roster age data from Pro Football Reference.
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