Before I begin this article, I would like to state, for the record, that I'm a die-hard Vikings fan and will continue to follow, support, cheer for the team, etc. for the rest of my life.
It's been a pretty tough decade for Vikings fans, but things seem to be taking turn for the better, right? Hopefully. Because of the course of events in recent seasons, it's been really difficult for fans to get excited.
Most recently, the team has been having trouble selling out it's home games (although they haven't been blacked out locally since 1997). However, almost every season this decade had some reason for the average fan to just get giddy about only to have those feelings crushed by the sad reality that the team underachieved.
I'm not suggesting that the 2009 season will be one of those seasons (I, personally, am very excited about it), but, unfortunately, I do have some reasons why Vikings fans should be skeptical instead of optimistic.
2000: I would not be listing this season if it weren't for the final game. The vikings had a great year going 11-5 and winning the division. Daunte Culpepper put up pro-bowl numbers in his first full season and the team seemed pretty strong.
2001: The previous season was successful for the most-part and there was plenty of reasons for optimism heading into the season before tragedy struck. Korey Stringer collapsed during training training camp and passed away.
Throughout the season, the team fell apart. Daunte Culpepper had a very subpar season as he was nagged by injuries and team chemistry was nowhere to be seen. The team went 5-11 and did not win any of their road games.
They lost their season opener to the Carolina Panthers, who did not win another game the rest of that season, and later, they gave the 0-12 Lions their first win of that season. Head Coach Dennis Green resigned with one game left to play, leaving assistant Mike Tice to coach the final game.
2002: This season was an exception because the team had a new coach and had lost Cris Carter, one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. Overall, the 2002 season was kind of a chance to start over.
The Vikings had some embarrassing losses, but a couple of impressive wins, including their first road victory in over a year. The team finished 6-10 after winning its final three games.
2003: This was easily the most disappointing season since 1998 (If you don't know about the '98 vikings, don't look them up). The team began the season 6-0 and everything seemed to click. Daunte Culpepper returned to form and even became a finalist for league MVP.
Then there were a couple of losses and it didn't seem so bad. The Vikings had a commanding lead in the division and seemed destined for the playoffs. The there were a couple more losses and reasons to get concerned. The division lead slipped as the Green Bay Packers surged after a slow start.
It all came down to the last game of the season. All the Vikings had to do was beat the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals and the division title was theirs. After leading the entire game, the team gave up a touchdown on the final play and their season ended.
The 2003 Vikings went 9-7; 4 of those losses coming against teams that would end the season 4-12 (which happened to be the worst record of any team in the NFL that season).
2004: This season wasn't all that bad. The team started strong and ended up backing into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. After surprisingly beating Green Bay in the wild card round, the team traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.
Needless to say, Andy Reid out-coached Mike Tice and the team lost in a rather embarrassing fashion. During the off season, the team had a little overhaul.
Randy Moss was traded. Darren Sharper was brought in to help bolster the pass defense, and the team was pretty high on their two first-round draft picks, Troy Williamson and Erasmus James. Once again, there was a feeling that the team could build off of the 2004 season.
2005: In my opinion, 2005 was the most unexciting winning season by any team in NFL history. It started off slow with a couple of losses, and then Culpepper injured his knee and in came Brad Johnson in his second stint with the team.
Johnson ended up winning games for the team as they went 9-7, but missed the playoffs. Mike Tice was fired after the season and Daunte Culpepper was traded and it was time to start over with Brad Childress as coach.
From 2006 forward, the Vikings have improved consistently each year. They have gone from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 and winning the division. Brad Childress, for the most part, has been a competent head coach, with the exception of not being able to settle on a solid starting quarterback.
Even so, the team has showed us that it is moving in the right direction. Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have shown that they're willing to spend the money to bring in players and the personnel have been very smart with the teams draft picks in recent years.
The Vikings currently have a good handful of All-Star caliber players and roster full of solid starters. If you're a Vikings fan, you have reason to be excited for the upcoming season. Besides, after looking back at past seasons this decade, it can't really get much worse.
Go ahead, be really excited; and if the team goes out and has a disappointing season, you probably never would've seen it coming.
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