Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, apparently not around the franchise long enough to know much about the "curse" that many say haunts the team, but also not naive enough to reject various measures offered up to help end the supposed hex, a while back accepted as gifts for his office a Native American-inspired "wooden spirit" and a crystal ball.
There is no Vikings curse. To think that there is, you have to buy as fact the notion that there are ghosts or spirits or demons or other malevolent forces floating around in the ether that pass the time doing things like making sure nothing wonderful ever happens to a professional football team, at least nothing sustainably wonderful. (See: The Minneapolis Miracle followed by the NFC Championship Game debacle in Philly.)
I think the Vikings are blessed, and, therefore, their fans are blessed. Is there a better color in the NFL than the Vikings' purple helmet? And the team name and horn logo? There's nothing better in all of sports. These are the defenders of the north land, the Vikings, and their geographical location means they have ardent fans in several states that lack not only pro football teams but pro franchises in any sport. Travel to Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Montana, and you will find concentrations of Viking devotees. The Vikings are a lot of people's team.
But you need more than a great uniform color, classic logo and fans from a wide swath of the country to be blessed.
They say the NFL is a "quarterback-driven” league. That means teams that consistently line up the right quarterbacks behind center are going to enjoy extended runs of success. Teams that don't? They're going to be hiring and firing coaches all the time and always picking high in the draft.
If you think this team is somehow cursed, how do you explain the mind-boggling number of quarterbacks who have started games for the Purple, and somehow jibe that with the fact that the Vikings are almost always at least sort of good, or just a shade above mediocre...enough to give their fans hope deep into the season year after year...hope that this team might find a way to sneak into the playoffs and then surprise the prognosticators with a Super Bowl push.
It is, absolutely, a quarterback-driven league. In recent memory, only three teams have ridden a stellar defense and an average-at-best quarterback to Super Bowl glory, the Buccaneers with Brad Johnson, and the Ravens twice, with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, and then Joe Flacco.
So let's go back to 1980. The Fran Tarkenton era was officially in the rear-view mirror, and fans of the Purple were in the process of falling in love with "Two-Minute" Tommy Kramer. A gunslinger from Texas, he was heir to the Tarkenton throne.
That was 38 years ago. Starting with Kramer in 1980, starting quarterbacks for your blessed Minnesota Vikings have included Steve Dils, Wade Wilson, Archie Manning, Tony Adams (replacement player during the 1987 strike), Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Tavaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill, and Case Keenum.
What is that, 29 signal callers? Clearly, not every quarterback who has lined up behind center for the Vikings since 1980 has inspired tremendous hope in fans' eyes as the long-term answer at the position. Some of the quarterbacks on the list inspired little or no hope for any length of time behind a game or two. They were stopgap measures at best, even one-game desperation measures.
But, still, 29 quarterbacks in 38 years? Most hockey fans would agree that the goalie is the most important player on a hockey team. How well do you think an NHL team would perform over 38 years if it had suited up 29 different starting goalies over that time? They'd be awful.
And yet the Vikings always battle. They're almost always in the mix. After a decade of mostly dominance, things started to head south as the quarterback carousel commenced, and yet, the Vikings' regular season won/loss records since 1980 have been as such: 9-7, 7-9, 5-4 (shortened by players' strike), 8-8, 3-13, 7-9, 9-7, 8-7 (shortened by players' strike), 11-5, 10-6, 6-10, 8-8, 11-5, 9-7, 10-6, 8-8, 9-7, 9-7, 15-1, 10-6, 11-5, 5-11, 6-10, 9-7, 8-8, 9-7, 6-10, 8-8, 10-6, 12-4, 6-10, 3-13, 10-6, 5-10-1, 7-9, 11-5, 8-8, and 13-3.
You can count on one hand the number of seasons during those 38 years that were disastrous and offering no promise of greater things. Otherwise, the Vikings have traditionally been at least half-decent, and in today's NFL that means you're competitive. There's a reason, week after week and season after season, to invest time and passion in this franchise.
Cynics will say the quarterback position for the Vikings is itself cursed, which means the franchise is cursed. (Conversation starter: Is the team blessed or cursed to be debating who’s worth keeping between Keenum, Bradford, and Bridgewater?) Skeptics can say the team almost annually teasing its fans with just enough success, only to break their hearts once again, is somehow part of a curse.
But it's not. If something is cursed, it fails to inspire hope. The Vikings almost every single season inspire hope. We're lucky to have them.