Vikings: 2014 Super Bowl Possible?
The Vikings haven’t played in the Super Bowl since 1977 but it’s not a completely Pollyanna approach to think the Purple could be back in the big game next year or in 2015.
Emerging talent—including a list of impact players 27 and younger—led a turnaround season in 2012 when the Vikings finished 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time in three years. Improving dramatically on their 3-13 record in 2011, the Vikings ditched their “rebuilding” label and gave notice they’re contenders in the NFC North.
But a Super Bowl in 2014? Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema doesn’t scoff at the question.
“If they get a deep threat, they have a great opportunity to definitely get in the playoffs, and then it’s a crapshoot (to the Super Bowl),” said Lurtsema who predicted last summer the Vikings’ 2012 record would be 9-7.
He wants the Vikings to not only acquire a deep threat to loosen up opposing defenses but also add a defensive back. “We could (then) be in great, great shape,” he said.
Lurtsema suggested there is a “70 percent chance” Packers’ wide receiver and free agent Greg Jennings will play for the Vikings next season. The Packers, with a stable of young and productive wide receivers, are believed to have minimal interest in the 29-year-old Jennings who missed games the last two seasons because of injuries and has seen his statistics decline. But Jennings’ age doesn’t bother Lurtsema who said peak years for NFL players are 28 to 33. He believes Jennings, who has 53 career touchdown receptions in seven NFL seasons, is just what the Vikings need.
In the parity-based NFL, the separation in talent is so minimal among at least several teams that a surprise entrant or two can make it all the way to the Super Bowl. The teams most likely to do so, according to Lurtsema, are the ones with outstanding lines, particularly on offense.
Lurtsema said the importance of the offensive line can be measured not only in scoring points but in controlling the clock with consistent play. That kind of performance minimizes “three and outs,” and the number of plays a defense has to be on the field.
“The success of a lot of teams still comes down to the offensive line and quarterback,” Lurtsema said.
He likes the work of left offensive tackle Matt Kalil who minimized mistakes in his rookie season and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl invitation. The drafting of Kalil allowed Charlie Johnson, the 2011 left tackle, to play left guard where he’s more effective. Kalil, Johnson and the other offensive linemen helped Adrian Peterson, 27, rush for 2,097 yards in 2012, the second highest single season total in NFL history.
Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder’s play stabilized during the team’s drive to make the playoffs. “I am happy with Christian Ponder,” Lurtsema said.
If you want to hear excitement in Lurtsema’s voice ask him about second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph. Two years ago Lurtsema described him as “the steal of the draft.” Earlier this week Rudolph’s performance in the Pro Bowl earned him the MVP award.
And Lurtsema could really get excited about the Vikings playing in the 2014 Super Bowl that will be hosted by the Giants at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. He spent part of his NFL career with that franchise and is planning to attend the game where he and other Giants alumni will be hosted by the club. “The Giants really take care of their alumni,” Lurtsema said.
Of course Lurtsema, who remains close to the Vikings and has lived in the Minneapolis area for years, will be excited to see the Purple in any Super Bowl in the near future. The franchise is 0-4 historically in the big game. “Sometimes I wonder if the good Lord doesn’t want the Vikings to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Minnesota,” said Lurtsema who played for the Vikings in their Super Bowls of 1973 and 1975.
Lurtsema also said “I love the kid” but he expects much talked about Vikings’ receiver-kick returner Percy Harvin to be traded.
Vikings fans will closely watch 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss in the Super Bowl on Sunday. At 35, Moss doesn’t have scary speed anymore but Lurtsema said the former Viking is a “tremendous student” of the game.
Often quoted pro football writer Peter King said on SI.com video last Thursday the only for sure hall of famer playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl is Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis. That leaves doubt about hall of fame chances for Moss and Ravens center Matt Birk, another former Viking. Both players could retire after Sunday’s game.
A Monday e-mail from Sports Media News reported the Super Bowl culminates “three years of record-breaking NFL TV viewership.” SMN noted that since September 1, 2010, NFL telecasts have accounted for 55 percent of all TV shows averaging 20 million viewers, 70 percent of programs averaging 30 million viewers and 92 percent of shows averaging 40 million.
It will be 10 years this spring that Delmon Young was the No. 1 overall pick in baseball’s amateur draft. Young is now with the Phillies after the Rays, Twins and Tigers decided not to retain him. His best year in the majors was with the Twins in 2010 when he hit .298 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI.
Big Ten followers don’t believe the conference—with the recent additions of Maryland and Rutgers—is done expanding at 14 teams. A 16-team league could be next, with perhaps two of the following joining the Big Ten: Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh or Virginia.
With six days until college football’s National Signing Day, Scout.com and Rivals.com have the Gophers last in 2013 Big Ten recruiting. Scout ranks the Gophers’ class at No. 84 nationally based on verbal commitments so far. Rivals ranks Minnesota No. 72.
Supporters of Gophers coach Jerry Kill, though, insist the Minnesota recruiting classes of last year and 2013 are much better than the rankings of national experts.
The Timberwolves—starting tonight against the Clippers—play six consecutive home games. Other games are the Lakers (Feb. 1), Hornets (Feb. 2), Trail Blazers (Feb. 4), Spurs (Feb. 6) and Knicks (Feb. 8).
The Wolves have lost four consecutive games and nine of their last 10. “We keep fighting, even with injuries and everything else,” guard Luke Ridnour said last week. “We’re not going to get down.”
As of Monday, Wolves guard Alexey Shved ranked second among NBA rookies in assists (4.6), and fifth in minutes (288) and scoring (10.7). His Russian teammate, forward Andrei Kirilenko, has seven double-doubles after having a combined five in his most recent NBA seasons of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.
Tim Larson, who once worked in the Gophers’ sports information office, has resigned his position as Jostens president and CEO.