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Zulgad: A long strange trip: Was Vikings’ 2016 season as bizarre as 2010?

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Vikings’ regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears on Sunday was supposed to be a meaningless game that would cap a disappointing and ultimately miserable season.

Pretty simple, right?

The issue is that’s forgetting nothing was simple during the Vikings’ now-completed season, and the fact the calendar flipped to 2017 on Sunday didn’t mean that 2016 wouldn’t have one last surprise.

The final reminder of this came during the second quarter of the Vikings’ 38-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. That’s when two protesters climbed over a guard rail to access a ridge truss at U.S. Bank Stadium and lowered themselves down with ropes. The two spent the remainder of the game suspended high above section 120 alongside a banner that read #NoDAPL, referencing the Dakota Access Pipeline that has been protested by Native Americans for months.

The game never stopped although six rows of seats in section 120 were evacuated. Authorities wisely decided to wait until after the game to end the situation and arrest the protesters. The situation raises many questions: How did the protesters smuggle in so much gear, where they getting help from someone on the inside and how did stadium security miss all of this? It’s also a mystery how Vikings coach Mike Zimmer somehow missed all of this excitement as he claimed he did in his postgame press conference.

What it shouldn’t have done is surprised any of us.

There was a point earlier this season, when a fellow media member mentioned the events of 2016 might be closing in on the craziness of 2010. The newcomer from Buffalo, N.Y., was quickly chastised for making such a silly statement.

I covered the Vikings that season for the Star Tribune and made it clear that any type of comparison was out of line. Nothing could top 2010!

Some of the highlights from that debacle included Percy Harvin collapsing on the field at Winter Park during a preseason practice; coach Brad Childress sending three veterans to go get Favre out of an attempted retirement in Mississippi just before the season; Randy Moss’ return and departure all within a month after it became clear Childress could not handle him; Childress being fired in November, in large part because he cut Moss without informing ownership.

Give me a moment to take a breath. And we continue …

The Favre sexting scandal from his time with the Jets; the Metrodome roof collapsing under the weight of a December snowstorm, forcing a “home” game to be played in Detroit; the team being stuck in Philadelphia for three days after a predicted blizzard caused the game to be moved from Sunday to Tuesday; and the Vikings then playing a home game at TCF Bank Stadium in which Favre suffered a concussion in part because the field was frozen

And that doesn’t include Moss melting down at a team caterer, Moss going off on ownership about Childress’ lack of coaching ability after a loss to the Patriots or Moss deciding to give an impromptu press conference in New England to praise the Patriots. Oh, yeah, Harvin also tossed a weight at Childress after his coach angered him but, fortunately, someone closed the weight room door at the last second so the dumbbell hit it and dropped to the ground.

Add all of that together and the Vikings’ 6-10 season in 2010 had its own special place among bizarre and miserable years that would make it impossible to approach.

But on the first day of 2017, we have to give 2016 credit for coming far closer than ever seemed possible. The fact it ended with two protesters dangling from the rafters put a bow on the type of season only the Vikings seem capable of pulling off.

The tone for 2016 was set 10 days into the New Year, when Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt left in the closing seconds that cost the Vikings what would have been a first-round playoff victory over Seattle.

If the Vikings thought their luck would turn after that they were sadly mistaken.

This season’s events (and I might be missing a few): Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated left knee, complete tear of the ACL and other structural damage during a preseason practice, forcing general manager Rick Spielman to send first- and fourth-round picks to the Eagles for Sam Bradford days before the regular season; Adrian Peterson suffered a knee injury in Week 2 that effectively ended his season; after a 5-0 start and entering the bye, Zimmer pulled an odd stunt involving stuffed animals in the locker room to show that fat cats get slaughtered. That left many scratching their heads about his motivational techniques.

Another pause for a breath … and we resume.

Zimmer then used the word “soft” – that’s a fighting word in the NFL — to describe his team’s play in the Vikings’ first loss of the year at Philadelphia; offensive coordinator Norv Turner quit after the second loss of the season, a lifeless effort in Chicago; Walsh was cut because he could no longer hit the broad side of a barn; Zimmer missed a game after having surgery for a torn retina; and the Vikings were stuck their team plane in Appleton, Wis., for as long as six hours after it slid off a taxiway following a safe landing. Players had to be taken off the plane by the fire department in a cherry picker bucket.

And that’s not including the eight offensive line combinations the Vikings had to use because of injuries or the fact that during the season news broke that defensive coordinator George Edwards had been arrested for suspicion of drunken driving during the spring in a Taco Bell parking lot.

Personally, I still give the edge to 2010, but 2016 made the type of run that means I owe an apology to my guy from Buffalo. There were three players left on the Vikings roster Sunday who also were here in 2010. One of them was Peterson, who did not play because of injury. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who is likely to retire, was asked how close the race was between the two seasons.

“There are a lot of similarities and I think that comparison has been drawn in conversations with you folks throughout the year,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of things happen to this football team. … There are some parallels for sure but nothing can touch 2010.”

Defensive end Brian Robison, a fourth-round pick in 2007 by the Vikings, gets the final word. So what do you say, Brian?

“It wasn’t quite as weird as 2010 but it’s definitely 2010’s running mate,” he said. “If there’s a president it would be 2010 and then 2016 would be the vice president.”

So what were the deciding factors?

“Well, U.S. Bank Stadium didn’t collapse,” Robison said. “We didn’t play a home game in Detroit. We didn’t spend four days in Philly. The coach didn’t get fired, so that’s always good and then we (didn’t bring in) in Randy and then ship off Randy. …

“(But) we came close. … That was a crazy year. When you start looking at things as far as what happened on the field, the injuries and just all that stuff that happened throughout this season, it was a crazy year.”

The post Zulgad: A long strange trip: Was Vikings’ 2016 season as bizarre as 2010? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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