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The truth and lies behind the Vikings ‘Super Bowl or bust’ 2018 season

By Matthew Coller

Have you heard it’s Super Bowl or bust for the Minnesota Vikings this year? If not, you’ve been living in a hole since April. Every time you turn on a national NFL show talk about the Vikings, that’s inevitably where the conversation ends up.

Now that @KirkCousins8 is in Minnesota, is it Super Bowl or bust for the @Vikings? https://t.co/VJ08fJho6X pic.twitter.com/m5yEOcykAB

— NFL (@NFL) March 28, 2018

With that said, let’s have a look at some of the reasons to believe it’s Super Bowl or bust and why it might not be completely accurate….

Truth

If football history has taught us anything, it’s that winning windows don’t last long for teams without all-time great quarterbacks. In 2016, the Oakland Raiders were all the rage. The next year they fired the head coach (who went 12-4 in ’16) and hired Jon Gruden and signed him up with a 10-year contract. It’s crazy how quickly things can change.

Especially top defenses have a tough time sticking around. It wasn’t too long ago that the 49ers went to the Super Bowl on the back of a great defense. It was ultimately dismantled and went from ranking No. 2 in the NFL to 32nd in five years. So when your calling card is defense, there’s a desperation to every season that you enter with Super Bowl aspirations.

The roster is also years in the making.

On the offensive side, the acquisition of $84 million quarterback Kirk Cousins is supposed the final piece rather than the stepping stone. Not all of the Vikings’ top picks have worked out, but they have spent the last seven drafts picking up cornerstone franchise players in Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Stefon Diggs, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, Trae Waynes, Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein just for a moment such as this.

Not all of the players come from the Mike Zimmer era, but the 2018 Vikings are unquestionably the culmination of his vision.

Last year, the following Vikings players ranked in the top 15 by Pro Football Focus’s grades: Dalvin Cook (in only four games), Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith.

Rhodes and Hunter weren’t far behind. Cousins was in the top 10 in 2016.

With talent up and down the Vikings’ roster, the team’s aspirations should be nothing short of winning the Super Bowl in 2018.

Lies

The part of “Super Bowl or bust” that’s problematic isn’t the first two words, it’s the “or bust.”

To some “bust” might simply mean “disappointment,” but the word has a connotation that indicates that if the Vikings don’t win in 2018, their time as a Super Bowl contender is over.

There are plenty of teams who have been through that — they’ve simply gotten old or lost key players to free agency. The Seattle Seahawks are a prime example. While Russell Wilson will keep them afloat, they simply aren’t what they used to be with the exits of Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman. But the Vikings aren’t really in that boat.

Take those top 15 PFF players, for example. If we look at them by age, this team doesn’t appear anywhere near a cliff.

Dalvin Cook (23), Stefon Diggs (24), Adam Thielen (27), Kyle Rudolph (28), Linval Joseph (soon to be 30), Everson Griffen (30) and Harrison Smith (29).

Cousins is 30. Rhodes is 28. Hunter is 24 and Kendricks is 26.

And there’s another wave of young players that the Vikings have cultivated who could be filling key roles in the near future.

Of course, the salary cap is part of the conversation. No matter how good you are at handling the salary cap, spending $84 million on a quarterback limits flexibility.

But look at the list of Vikings’ players making more than $1 million next year (graphic via Spotrac.com):

They may be able to franchise tag Anthony Barr if he doesn’t work out an extension soon. Even if the Vikings let Barr walk, that will give them room to give Thielen an extension. Plus Spotrac lists the Vikings as having an incredibly low $192,000 in dead cap space in 2019.

There’s another point to be made about the quarterback.

While it’s hard to argue that Cousins is on the same level as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, he went 24-23-1 over the last three years with Washington teams that struggled on defense and went through all sorts of bumps along the road on their quest to be relevant. Even if the Vikings have to lose a key player like Barr because of Cousins’ contract, his history suggests Minnesota can sustain some roster turnover and still remain in the conversation.

Conclusion

Vikings fans — nearly all of whom have been through continuous heartbreak throughout the years — are justified in being all-in on a franchise that has risen from the ashes over the past four years to become one of the strongest in the NFL. If they can’t get the job done in 2018, there will be extreme disappointment considering they are stronger on paper than their 13-3 team from 2017.

However, the window isn’t closing if the Vikings don’t win the Super Bowl. Cousins is under contract through 2020 and Minnesota should be competing for the Super Bowl every year of his current deal. That doesn’t exactly scream “or bust.”

The post The truth and lies behind the Vikings ‘Super Bowl or bust’ 2018 season appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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