You could spend 50 sleepless hours re-watching the entire 2021 Vikings season in an attempt to understand what went wrong, but that would be two entire days of your life you would never get back.
Or … you could watch a three-minute clip from Season 3 of “Seinfeld,” which aired in 1989, for the same effect.
If you choose the former, for some reason, I’ll see you when you are done. If you prefer the latter:
In the scene, Jerry and Elaine are at a car rental booth when Jerry becomes quite annoyed that he made a reservation for a midsize car, only to be told by the woman working at the desk that they are out of midsize cars.
“So you know how to take the reservation,” he says. “You just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”
Substitute “lead” for “reservation” and you have the story of last year’s Vikings.
While the team finished just 8-9, triggering the firing of GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, it had a lead at some point in all but two of its 17 games.
While that isn’t a perfect predictor of overall success — Carolina, which also led in 15 games, is the ultimate outlier given its 5-12 record — most of the league’s best teams last year were among the NFL leaders in games led.
The Packers, who cruised to the NFC North title, as well as the teams that played in the NFC title game (Rams vs. 49ers) led in 15 games, just like the Vikings. Those teams just happened to do a better job of expanding those margins and closing out games.
Why do we care about a season that already happened under leadership that has been replaced?
Because it does offer some support for the way the Vikings’ new leadership under GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell seems to be approaching this offseason: Keep the roster largely intact, add a few new supporting players and a lot of new systems, and hope those tweaks produce a different outcome.
I’m still not convinced it’s the right path, nor do I think the ceiling is all that high even if 2022 is a relative success, but it’s not hard to imagine better results after getting the lead against what looks now like an easier schedule adding up to a 10-win season instead of eight.