By Timothy Ellingstad
The 2010 NFL football season, for a number of reasons, was particularly satisfying for fans of the Green Bay Packers. That season ended with a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, it was not until very late in the season that it appeared things might go well for the team. The Packers finished a decent, but not extraordinary 10-6. There were multiple injuries that threatened the season. They needed help from other teams just to get into the playoffs. But, as they now say, the Packers got hot at the right time.
Things certainly could have gone differently that year. Teams that needed to lose could have won, knocking the Packers out of the playoffs. Playoff games could have gone differently. Jay Cutler could have stayed healthy in the NFC championship game. Jay Cutler could have played to better than half of his potential prior to getting injured. Any number of things could have changed the course of that season, resulting in some other team’s Super Bowl victory.
Had that happened, we would not be looking back at 2010 as one of the most memorable seasons in recent Packers history. Instead, perhaps we would look back at 2010 as one of the worst seasons for our (at the time) key rival. It is worth it to take a moment to relive some of the misfortunes of the Minnesota Vikings during that year.
This, of course, came just one year after the Vikings signed former Packer great Brett Favre, resulting in two Packer defeats and the collective bundling of all of Wisconsin’s panties. The strategy to sign Favre, which worked out quite well for the Vikings that first year, turned out to be a major setback in the development of their quarterback position. It was clear before long that the 2010 Vikings were not in the same class as the 2009 Vikings (and the 2010 Favre was not in the same class as the 2009 Favre). Despite the original angst caused by the Favre move, the failure of one of the Packer’s main rivals to develop their key offensive position proved quite significant in the years following, and likely made the whole Favre debacle worthwhile.
The team finished 6-10, and last place in the division. They continued to struggle in 2011. They made the playoffs in 2012 but continue to struggle at the quarterback position, where there is still uncertainty.
Speaking of debacles, prior to the week five game, the Vikings traded a third round draft pick to the Patriots for a disgruntled and head-case Randy Moss in a highly publicized return to Minnesota. Moss was waived after one month due to being unproductive and a toxic presence. More than anything this highlighted the coaching staff’s loss of control over the players, ultimately resulting in the firing of head coach Brad Childress in late November following a loss to Green Bay.
During this time the state of Minnesota was negative about approving a plan for a much-needed new stadium. There were more and more rumblings about a team moving to Los Angeles, with the Vikings as one of the primary possibilities given the uncertainty of their stadium issue. This was only compounded when the roof of the Metrodome dramatically collapsed under the weight of a heavy snow fall, resulting in the unusual circumstance of the upcoming home game being delayed, and a forced venue change from Minnesota to Detroit.
The following home game was played at the University of Minnesota on a field that was ill suited to the cold weather of late December, contributing to the concussion that ended Brett Favre’s streak of consecutive games started (and his career). The loss of Favre ended up magnifying how ill-prepared the Vikings were at the quarterback position and made it clear that they would be desperately starting over from a quarterback development standpoint.
Finally, consider how nightmarish it would be for Packers fans to watch the Chicago Bears play the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, which would inevitably result in one hated team or the other making it to the Super Bowl. To have the scenario of Green Bay versus Chicago in the NFC championship game on the heels of one of the Minnesota franchise’s most cruelly inept and randomly unfortunate seasons is beyond the proverbial salt in the wound. It must have turned people of faith into Nihilists, and Nihilists into believers of Satan (but not necessarily God). One may ask if this characterization is overly dramatic. The answer: No.
It can be argued that the Green Bay’s run to the Super Bowl, along with Chicago’s near miss, helped to detract attention from Minnesota’s disastrous season (though Minnesota probably noticed). Why call attention to it now? Is it to laugh at those less fortunate? Sort of. There was a point when it seemed imminent that the Vikings would be moving to Los Angeles. My first reaction was to revel in Minnesota’s misfortune (this does not speak well of me, but the animosity about the Favre thing was still fresh). But it soon occurred to me that I would no longer hate the Vikings if they moved. For one, the name would probably be changed to something more California, like the ‘Avocados.’ And they probably wouldn’t tolerate that dreadful purple in LA, unlike the hardy folk of the upper Midwest. The Vikings would become unrecognizable, and no longer an enemy. I would miss the Vikings if they left. Like defense contractors missed the Soviets after the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
I love hating the Vikings (and the Bears, and kind of the Lions). The hate is the reason I love football. So, let’s all hope the Vikings don’t have another run like 2010. But let us not mistake that for pity. I do want them to suffer. I just don’t want them to die.