By Paul Allen, 18-year play-by-play for the Minnesota Vikings
Given today's "Classic Vikings Game" takes us to 2005 and a thrilling victory at home over the Green Bay Packers I thought I'd write something about a non-playoff season of distraction and the head coaching career of Mike Tice coming to an end.
Then I recalled some times lines, some non-obvious things that occurred and, my lord, the calendar year of 2005 was simply awful for Our Favorite Team. AND it began positively with a new era known as Wilf-family ownership, and for many reasons and many years they have established themselves as the all-time best stewards of this franchise and have provided every dollar needed to build teams, practice facilities and US Bank Stadium.
Then the rest of the year happened, and holy cow what a doozy.
First, the KFAN classic game today at 1 p.m.. Green Bay opened a 17-0 lead week seven at Metrodome, Brett Favre was lights-out good, Marcus Robinson caught a TD on bleep-talking corner Ahmad Carroll, the Vikings got hot, and Paul Edinger walked off from 56, which still is the longest field goal in team lore.
Now to, well, the unbelievably unfortunate year of 2005. Let's zip through it:
Owner Red McCombs absolutely was selling the team and had a prospective buyer named Reggie Fowler. Guess the Fowler Flock didn't have requisite funds, so heading into the 2005 offseason January was weird due to uncertainty with ownership.
At this stage of the equation I legit was concerned OC Scott Linehan, one of the best friends I ever have had in sports, would not be retained because Red wouldn't pay him. The vibe was accurate when Scott left for Miami to become Nick Saban's OC in his first year running the Dolphins. Scott would have stayed for a matching offer of I believe around $800k per season. Didn't work that way, and the next step here didn't work either. More on this is a minute.
So, after the Fowler bit fell through the Wilfs pounced, and near the end of May became owners of the Minnesota Vikings. It widely had been known for at least a month they were purchasing the team, but a month before it became official NFL history was made when RB Onterrio Smith was fingered at the airport for transporting through TSA a prosthetic penis known as The Whizzinator, a device used to circumvent marijuana tests. That happened April 21.
Very embarrassing for the organization, and for the Wilfs, who weren't even "officially" owners, I only can wonder what types of questions they received from those within their covenant.
Okay, let's all take a deep breath, laugh off the prosthetic-penis bit and crush this April 23rd draft. After all, in March of 2005 the Vikings traded one of the team's most popular players to Oakland, and seven years with HOF WR Randy Moss had become nothing but a memory.
The 2005 NFL Draft arguably is one of if not the worst, least-productive drafts in the history of the team. Trade Moss in March, look to sell some hope -- and seats -- with the rookies and two first-round picks, and you start with WR Troy Williamson and Wisconsin DE Erasmus James. Both were "busts," and the rest of the draft yielded OL Marcus Johnson, CB Dustin Fox, RB Ciatric Faison, DT C.J. Mosley and CB Adrian Ward.
Wow. That's the swing and a miss.
And now with the Fowler Flim Flam, Linehan getting lowballed and leaving, the prosthetic penis, the Wilfs long-term saving the day and becoming team owners, Moss getting traded and that horrendous draft, yep, let's play the season and see what the dice show when they stop tumbling.
It was "seven out" for QB Daunte Culpepper and coach Tice.
Given Linehan bolted, McCombs knowing he was selling the team refused to bring in an offensive coordinator, so offensive line coach Steve Loney took the job along with leading the OL. Steve is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people the NFL has known, and during his run coaching the OL was considered to be very good.
As offensive coordinator of the team, well, that didn't exactly work out. To wit, in Loney's first game coordinating the offense they had five turnovers and failed to score a TD. The next week at Cincy they were manhandled, and Daunte threw five interceptions. In 2004 it took a monumental effort by Peyton Manning to beat Culpepper for MVP, and through two games in 2005 he had eight interceptions.
After the loss to the Bengals and by the team busses Loney was very down and overtaken by emotion. He was embraced by VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski -- yep, no GM in 2005 because Red was selling the team -- for quite some time to console an awesome guy who never wanted to coordinate the offenseand coach offensive line but did so for the greater good.
They started 1-and-3 and had an early BYE. October 6 CB Fred Smoot slapped down a credit card for two boats on Lake Minnetonka, and "Love Boat" lore was unfurled. There allegedly were, um, flown-in "professionals" on board, and after the proverbial dust settled it was deemed a sex-boat scandal by many, misdemeanors were given out by police, and the Wilfs had to face a second embarrassing incident in their first five months of ownership.
Out of the off week and sex-boat scandal they went to Soldier Field and got whooped, didn't score a touchdown then came home to play the Packers. After that come-from-behind win and a tiny bit of happiness entered the covenant it all changed on a Sunday in Charlotte.
Daunte was running down the field and was chopped down by CB Chris Gamble. Culpepper's ACL was mangled, and that was it for his seven-year run wearing our colors. They, of course, were slaughtered that day, and insult, indeed, was added to injury.
Amazingly and led by QB Brad Johnson and a defense that became unbelievably stingy they rattled off six consecutive wins.
Holy bleep! How?
First two weeks didn't score an offensive touchdown, the coordinator is melting down, Smoot christians the waters of Lake Minnetonka, Daunte knocked out for the season yet into the final three they have a decent chance to make the playoffs with an 8-and-5 record. That was until a suddenly surging Steelers team rolled into Metrodome and taught lessons.
They beat Minnesota, 18-3, and would eventually win the Super Bowl at Ford Field. The Vikings lost to Kyle Boller and the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day the next week, and there was your dagger for the postseason.
After the final game of the season Tice was fired, and Brad Childress was hired shortly thereafter. That they managed nine wins off the calendar year the team, fans and new owners endured is a minor miracle.
I still can't believe how bad that 2005 draft was and wish they never had traded Randy Moss. This one for me from an oddity standpoint ranks right there with 2010, and it's almost impossible to overcome all of that and more and make the payoffs, yet they almost did, which is as astounding as Smith and his prosthetic penis.