Franco Harris is a rookie. Terry Bradshaw is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. There are several missing from that legendary Pittsburgh Steelers defense that would go on to win four (4) Super Bowls ... and we watch the Minnesota Vikings lose a regular season game in Pittsburgh. Here's the thing ... that great Viking defense that should have played in four (4) consecutive Super Bowls (1973, 1974, 1975 & 1976) was for all purposes in-tack on that day ... but something was askew.
The Vikings are Central Division Champions in 1968 at 8-6-0. In 1969, the Vikings are in the Super Bowl under Joe Kapp at 12-2-0. In 1970, once again we are 12-2-0 under the likes of Couzzo and Bobby Lee. In 1971 we record an 11-3-0 season under Cuozzo, Lee and Sneed. For those that didn't live through those 1970 and 71 campaigns ... it was like not having a quarterback at all. For all purposes, the Viking achievements become legendary as they tally it all primarily with smash mouth defense.
Then the savior returns. Tarkenton comes back to Vikings in 1972, and somehow it all comes across that he alone is going to bring this organization it's first championship. The prodigal son returns. It didn't happen.
In 1972, the Vikings solved their quarterback problems ... or better said ... their offensive problems by recording top offensive stats across the board in 1972, but the defense slumped well off it's super levels registering a 7-7-0 season. Sure there were injuries on defense. There were countless other factors but there was something else entwined within the fabric of this stellar defense ... the same defense that was about to re-energize itself and continue upon a legendary Super Bowl run in 1973. So what was it could have possibly thrown this team into it's 1972 spiral that might have resulted in something completely different. One thing is for certain ... those unbeaten 1972 Dolphins got smashed in the mouth by this franchise and it took a miracle at the old Met for the Dolphin's to walk out a 16-14 winner ... on its way to securing a perfect season.
Pride ... is something that can screw with a man's head. Here this defense that accomplished all these incredible feats ... year after year ... and now this Super Star is going to save this organization from itself. How do you think that would sit with you? Could you envision a shower at the end of the season where someone whispers to old Tark by saying, "Hey, we didn't play it ... to send a message ... but from here on out ... it's hammer time"? "What? This team killed itself and you guys were slacking off." "Yup ... with a smirk on his face ... that's right Super Star." Keep in mind that this defense was a unit ... and no one had more pride than DiMaggio. No one!
Now its 2013 ... and history never repeats itself ... or does it? We hear that the 2-years left on Kevin Williams contract is now just one. Jared Allen ... a free agent after the 2013 season. Everson Griffen ... playing out his rookie deal. Brian Robison ... you guessed it ... a free agent after 2013. There it sits.
So my first thought is ... hey, there is no way these guys are going to slack off as this just might be their last chance at the leagues biggest prize. Even if Jared Allen and Kevin Williams hate each other (which isn't true) ... there has always been a wall of respect between them. Their histories are now tied together for all time as they made historic magic on that field. Even if there were jealous brotherly tiffs between them ... there is no way to separate them as their souls have been sewn together. When Kevin went down in the preseason ... so did Jared Allen metaphorically. So we ask the question ... What gives?
We all know the answer ... we just don't want to talk about it. They all call it a business but it has always been much more than that.
Kevin Williams is Minnesota ... the heart of it. It's never comes out in words ... but we all know it to be true. He is the anchor and he does not want to leave this community. Sure both Matt Birk and Mckinney won a championship in Baltimore together but they were never true Raven's ... even though they were clad in that putrid garb. Winning one more for that Cleveland Brown franchise. Sure, they did their job at elite levels. Sure, they led their teams but they were never part of that organizations life of blood. You saw them standing there as a unit but they were all teetering ... like walking the plank. Hired guns to do a job. Not much ... in the character building process of ones life. Sure, look down at that ring ... but there was somewhere else left behind ... unfinished business ... and for them ... for all time.
Now we watch, wondering what are the thoughts of this present defense. Wondering if they truly realize that the earth is still in motion around the sun ... in short ... it matters. Someone tanks a play or is only in it half hearted and it spreads like a disease. Every day, it slips further away from their grasp. They wonder, what do we do ... what can we do?
The answer is obvious. It starts by taking that smile off your face. Hey ... Awe Shucks ... They don't want me here ... otherwise I'd have a long term deal.
What it takes is leadership. No. I stand alone. I'm not here to play the mind games anymore. It's not about money anymore. When I look back on this day and I find myself back in this community with the other retired old salts, I never want to have to thing back and wonder about what people remember about me. I don't want to have to remember the lies. I don't want to have to look back knowing that someone on that field saw me tank a play or just played it half-hearted. No one is going to wonder if I gave all I have to give. No one is going to think that I was absolutely full of crap.
No! I'm going back to the only thing that I know that is true. No excuses. No games. No half hearted attempts. The only thing that was true was in watching my youth ... as if standing suspended above myself ... observing that little child scoot around that field. Sure ... Brett Favre ripped our hearts out throwing that interception in New Orleans ... but he gave us all a gift ... and somehow it was all forgotten. We saw this little kid scoot and dart, and rip them down the field with reckless abandon. Somehow I've got to get back there and when I do ... other will follow. Gus Frerotte gave it to us too, until all he had was beaten out of him. He's known as concrete wall concusion-head ... but we know him different. He was the integral link that brought us to the playoffs in 2008.
So go ahead ... keep acting that way. Maybe no one will notice the little tells but I can promise you one thing. If you show me your inner child, just one more time, leaving behind "THE BUSINESS PART OF FOOTBALL", maybe we can all see you once again ... one more time.
Sure ... we're 0-3-0. We can't win it all this year. Really! Really! You have no idea what you have. Maybe you'll recognize it before it's too late.
The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: September 27, 2013