POWERS: Vikings' season isn't over, yet there are lessons to be learned

MINNEAPOLIS -- A fellow brings a painting and a violin to a pawn shop. Notoriously unlucky, he is hoping against hope that he will be able to sell them for a few bucks. As the proprietor examines the merchandise, his eyes widen.

Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - A fellow brings a painting and a violin to a pawn shop. Notoriously unlucky, he is hoping against hope that he will be able to sell them for a few bucks. As the proprietor examines the merchandise, his eyes widen.

"The good news here is that you have a Picasso and a Stradivarius!" he declared.

This is exactly how many Vikings fans felt after their team's 5-0 start.

As the fellow hopped around, pumping his fist in the air, he heard the proprietor speak again.

"The bad news," he said, "is that Stradivarius was a terrible painter and Picasso didn't know a thing about how to make a decent violin."


This is exactly how Vikings fans feel at 6-6.

What a season, and it's not over. Yet there are lessons to be learned from the team's mind-blowing skid. Here are a few of them:

- Never hitch your wagon to an over-30 running back. The Vikings continue to mishandle the Adrian Peterson situation. Peterson now has played, basically, one out of the past three seasons. He should have been moved after his 2014 suspension for domestic abuse. That way, the Vikings could have concentrated on finding his successor and moving forward.

At 31, it's no surprise Peterson has spent this season injured. Yet clearly Rick Spielman and Co. still saw him as part of a Super Bowl equation, sort of like Methuselah still is part of the Bible. Meanwhile, Minnesota's running game has been awful, and not just because of a faulty line.

Jerick McKinnon has had every opportunity to establish himself and hasn't done it. So there are those pining for Peterson's return. It would be unthinkable if Spielman were to make the same mistake for 2017. Fortunately, Peterson's ridiculous price tag makes Spielman's decision a no-brainer. It's time to draft the next featured back.

- Tackle Matt Kalil is more valuable than many people thought. Kalil took grief from fans for his occasional misplay, yet he looks like a Hall of Famer compared to those who have tried to fill his position.

This is a classic case of not appreciating what you have until it's gone. Kalil went down with a hip injury in September and has proven to be irreplaceable. Maybe that says something about the quality of the subs, but it also says something about Kalil. He was better than people gave him credit for and is sorely missed.

- Sam Bradford is an excellent quarterback who probably is in the wrong system. Bradford completes a fantastically high percentage of his passes, yet the team rarely scores. That's partly because he's throwing to meat-and-potatoes receivers who don't make big plays. And partly because, with the current personnel, the Vikings need a quarterback who can run like a halfback. He's in a ball-control offense that seldom gets enough yardage to control the ball.


It looks as if Spielman's gamble of trading high draft picks for Bradford won't pay off. And that's through no fault of Bradford's.

- Viking drama never ends. A coordinator quits midseason. The head coach needs emergency surgery. A place-kicker with a mental block. A blockbuster trade. The lingering Adrian Peterson fiasco. Commotion is the norm for this organization. Something is always causing drama and making things complicated.

It seems like a hundred years ago that Bud Grant would take the team for a pregame walk-through in the stadium parking lot and then go out and try to out block and out tackle the other guys.

- Mike Zimmer is not a genius. Not many NFL coaches are. After five games this season, Zimmer was on the verge of being crowned St. Michael the Immortal. But as the year turned into one, big, stress test, Zimmer has proven to be as human as the next coach.

Zimmer has had issues with clock management. He also is ultimately responsible for the limp offensive game plans that have been deployed. It took far too long for Minnesota to start experimenting on offense. Finally, his Vikings did a face-plant after a bye week, a rarity, losing several games they should have won - injuries or not.

- It ain't over. The Vikings have four winnable games remaining. In fact, it could be argued that they definitely should win two, probably three and possibly all four. Jacksonville and Chicago are gimmes. Indianapolis is doable. The Christmas Eve game at Green Bay will be difficult if the Packers aren't eliminated by then.

A 10-6 record after all of this should be considered a success. And if people aren't happy with that, they can at least take solace in the fact that the season will be over.

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