Since the NFL went to 16 Games in ’78, the Vikes Have NEVER Had a QB Start All 16 Games in Back to Back Seasons… That’s Not All…

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I’ve had this nagging feeling that I’ve mentioned on the purpleJOURNAL Podcast a few times that now that the Vikings have fixed up their offensive line (On paper, but let’s be honest, nothing could be as bad as the offensive line they had during the second half of the 2016 season), added two new running backs to help fix the league worst rushing offense in 2016 and the fact that they’ve also added some play-making targets at wide receiver, that Sam Bradford will now get hurt and not be able to play this season. It just seems like something that would definitely happen to the Vikings. The weird thing about it is that I’m actually not a pessimist either by nature or when it comes to the Vikings (My site’s name, notwithstanding). I love the Vikings and I always pick them to go at least 12-4 (The T-Jack and post-Moss era notwithstanding) each season (Including this one). Apparently, thanks to an article from the Daily Norseman (Which was pulled from a thread on Reddit’s NFL Sub, shout out to /u/WhirledWorld who will actually be writing for purplePTSD.com once the season draws closer. If this is the type of stuff he’s finding, look out, me!), there’s a completely valid reason for my fear/expectation, one that I’ve lived through but really never actually realized the extent of but still obviously incorporated into my daily anxiety.

That reason? Buckle in, as I’m about to blow your minds and prove that the original owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Bill Boyer, Max Winter, H.P. Skoglund and Ole Haugsrud (Seriously, now wonder they’re named after something Scandinavian) had to have done something drastic back in 1961 to anger the gods, I’m guessing it involved Ole and a bumper sticker (I always see those bumper stickers more and more as I drive up north, it’s like Northern Minnesota’s Wall Drug). Because this, beyond anything else I’ve ever come across, proves that the Vikings have the worst luck ever, at least upon first read. It’s actually a bit more nuanced than that, so let’s delve into a topic that fits this site like a Sven and Ole bumper sticker fit’s any normal sized bumper… Oh god, they’ve gotten to me too.

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I’ll quote the paragraph for you…

“Since the advent of the 16-game NFL schedule in 1978, the Minnesota Vikings have not had the same quarterback start 16 games in back-to-back seasons. In fact, in the 34 seasons since the 16-game schedule began, the Vikings have only had a quarterback start all 16 games in a season nine times overall.”

What. The. Crap. I was born in 1984, and now that I look back at it, perhaps outside of the Culpepper era, it always seemed like the Vikings quarterbacks always ended up on IR the season after we blew a big game (The NFC Championship, typically). Randall Cunningham in ’99 went down and was replaced by Jeff George, Iron Man himself Brett Favre (after playing every game possible in his amazing career) went down in 2010, the entire team imploded after 2001. It all makes sense now! So, the Vikings never have had back to back seasons with the same quarterback playing every game that season. That’s astounding but makes so much sense, like learning I’m not able to get a checking account at any major bank.

That actually does make some sense as the Vikings, at least since the early 90’s when they picked up the aging but still very effective Warren Moon, have made a habit of picking up great to Hall of Fame level quarterbacks during the twilight of their careers. There’s Moon, Cunningham, George and Favre. Because of their age, just as the Vikings learned last season with their offensive line free agency pick-ups, they’re more susceptible to injury or death by natural causes. The reasons isn’t solely because the Vikings don’t pick the right QB’s in the draft, either (Even though they’ve struggled there, too). It’s because, at least from my perspective, the Vikings are never really, really bad. Sure, we had a 3-13 season a few years ago, which tied the worst record in team history, but the Vikings actually have one of the best winning percentages in the NFL and especially one of the top winning percentages as a team that’s never won a championship not only in the NFL, but across all sports.

There was 2011, for example. I seem to remember the narrative being that the Vikings simply needed to lose out and they would’ve had a decent shot at drafting Andrew Luck (Or RGIII). It was week 16 and the Vikings were 2-13 going into a game on the road against the Washington Racial Slurs (Coining it! Alliteration!) in which starting quarterback Christian Ponder and starting running back and team MVP Adrian Peterson ended up going down with injuries (Peterson went down with his ACL tear in this game, thanks /u/Random124578 for clarifying my spotty memory of those… Years).

So, the Vikings, lead by Joe Webb (Who somehow only threw five times but had two TD’s) and Toby Gerhart (Who is named Toby) decided to “try” and ended up beating the Slurs thanks to a late game surge. That win took the Vikings out of the running for Luck (Or RG III, who had that amazing rookie year) and ended up dropping them all the way to the fourth spot in the 2012 draft where they selected “sure thing” Matt Kalil at left tackle. While a lot of things would’ve had to happen (That if memory/comments on Reddit serves correct) for the Vikes to end up with one of the top picks (Which didn’t end up happening because teams with 1-2 wins late in the year typically don’t try to win, especially when their best player goes down with a devastating knee injury), it still would’ve been nice if they realized the situation they were in and didn’t lose out by winning for no reason. I know professional teams aren’t supposed to tank, but considering the reality laid out in this article, I think we as fans would be okay with the team trying to buck history by going after a quarterback that they can develop after being picked first or second overall.

The Vikings are always around .500 and thus have never been able to land a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck. So, again, we end up picking those types when they hit the inevitable free agency period that every legend seems to have at the tail end of their careers (Joe Montana to the Chiefs, Manning to the Broncos, Ponder to the his house). So it’s not really as much bad luck as it’s just bad timing. The next part, though, is pretty iffy.

In the 34 seasons since 1978, the Vikings have only had a quarterback play all 16 games NINE times. That’s 26% of the time. Not all of that can be chalked up to free agent QB’s. I decided to do some “Luke Braun-ing” and looked up the percentage of NFL quarterback’s that finish all 16 games in general. What’s amazing, before we get into general percentages is the following stat from the 2015 (I think?) season, “Eight of the 11 teams that won 10 or more games last season had quarterbacks that started all 16 of their games in the regular season.”

Another stat that the Vikings have seemed to buck is the following, from TodaysPigSkin.com:
“The win-loss record of the 17 teams that started the same QB for all 16 games in 2015 was 150-122 (a .551 winning percentage). Those teams that started more than one QB last season were a combined 106-134 (.442 winning percentage.”
That’s actually amazing and shows how important it is to have a good quarterback and to keep that quarterback healthy. Even a mediocre QB can get in a groove with the rest of the offense and make a run at the Lombardi Trophy (Just ask Eli Manning or Joe Flacco). But I was looking for a percentage of other teams’ ability to have the same QB play every game season to season. I found it, kind of. Here’s a breakdown from 2015 of the teams that played the same quarterback each year (Going back to the year 2000… Cue La Bamba from Conan), the numbers to the left being the number of times each team had a quarterback that played all 16 games:

14: Indianapolis, New England, N.Y. Jets
13: Green Bay, San Diego
12: New Orleans
10: Cincinnati
9: Baltimore, Detroit
8: Atlanta, Carolina, N.Y. Jets
7: Denver, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle
6: Buffalo, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, Tampa Bay
5: Arizona, Oakland, Pittsburgh
4: Jacksonville, Philadelphia, St. Louis
3: Washington
2: Chicago, Tennessee
1: Cleveland

Of the 32 teams, 16 of them (Including the Vikings) had access to their quarterbacks for a full year less than 37.5% of the time this century. With a few exceptions (Namely the Steelers), those 16 teams have been at the bottom of their divisions for most of the millennium. Look at poor Cleveland, for example, it just explains so much! So, perhaps we’re not alone when it comes to having our quarterbacks miss games. That makes sense as football hurts and injuries are common. Where I’m sure the Vikings do stand-out, however, is in regards to the fact that they’ve never had a quarterback start all 16 games in two consecutive years since the league expanded to 16 games (They did have Fran Tarkenton start 14 games in back to back years back in 1972-73, however). I can’t find that stat, and think that the Browns would probably give us a run for our money, but the point is that having a healthy quarterback is very, very important in the NFL. Increasingly so.

So, it’s actually pretty amazing that the Vikings have had such a great winning percentage over the course of their 50+ year existence, considering the fact that they’ve had what should kill their chances… The combination of the inability to draft and develop young quarterbacks, a rotating door of fill-in QB’s and over the hill legends and essentially a ridiculous amount of injuries at the position. A lot of that stems from the fact that the Vikings used to play in the “Black and Blue” division, where you could get by with a great defense and running game because you had to. The NFL in 2017 isn’t like that anymore, so inconsistent quarterback play (Or availability) will really, really hurt any team that doesn’t have a great to elite passer that can play week in and week out. Now that Adrian Peterson is gone, one of the last power backs that dictated their team’s offense and could make up for the lack of that at the QB position, the Vikings can no longer rely on a once in a generation talent to off-set their mediocre quarterback carousel. So, it looks like it’s up to Sam Bradford (and head trainer Eric Sugarman) to lead the team to the promised land.

Based on these stats, I really worry that he’ll be able to. Or rather, be available to.

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