The Minnesota Vikings are 1-1 and are coming off a road game they lost by three points. All in all, it's not a bad start for a team almost everybody outside the organization felt was one of the NFL's have-not clubs heading into the 2012 season.
So you'd think the players on this young, rebuilding squad would be fairly upbeat about what has happened so far. Well, based on some comments and actions from some Viking players this week, you'd be very wrong to think that way.
Today, we learned veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield gave the team, coaches and general manager a stern 10-minute talking to during Monday's practise. Winfield wouldn't say what the briefing was about, but you don't have to do any mental gymnastics to surmise that Winfield was upset that the Vikings have allowed their opponents to march down the field and score at a critical junctures in the first two games.
On Sunday, All Pro defensive end Jared Allen was upset about the same issue. He called the Vikings failure to stop the Colts offense from marching 40 yards down the field in less than 30 seconds – a drive that ended up leading to Adam Vinatieri's 53-yard game-winning field goal – as "embarrassing."
And, finally, veteran wide receiver Devin Aromashodu seemed to throw offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave under the bus when he was asked about the Vikings inability to complete a pass five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. "We can only go with what's being called. If the opportunity's given, we try to go and make the play."
I don't think this is a good sign – not for the fans. not for the players and not for head coach Leslie Frazier. If we're only two games into the season and veteran players are already giving their teammates private lectures and blaming the coaches for their own poor performance, this season could go south very quickly.
That's why Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers is a critical one for the team. They are playing a very good team, and one that looks very capable of dealing the Vikings an embarrassing lopsided defeat at the Metrodome. And if the some of its veterans reacted poorly to a loss to the Colts, imagine how they'll react to a beatdown at the hands of the 49ers?
If you're trying visualize what that might look like, try rehashing memories of the Vikings 31-3 loss at the Metrodome to Green Bay in 2010. It was a humiliating performance with the team fighting among themselves and seeming out of control. Head coach Brad Childress lost his job the next day.
I don't think a blowout loss to the 49ers would cost Frazier his job, but it could certainly lay the ground work for it to occur later on. With two frustrating losing seasons behind them, there are some fragile psyches on the Vikings roster. It might not take much for them to check out on the 2012 season.