Charlie Johnson isn’t exactly sure what he’s going to do with himself this weekend. He’s never been in this position before, watching the first round of the playoffs from his home and not preparing to play himself.
Johnson, who spent his first five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, had never missed the playoffs in those five years. For him, Peyton Manning and the rest of their Colts teammates, the regular season was simply prologue for what they hoped would be a Super Bowl run.
“It’s going to be surreal,” Johnson said. “I’ve never had a season like this. You get used to gearing up for the playoffs and trying to get to the Super Bowl. It’s even weirder this year because the Super Bowl will be in Indy. I’m sure the Colts guys feel the same way.”
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Instead, their disappointing season led to 10 losses. As the Colts prepared for the 2011 season, they had the same dream – with even more disastrous results, going 2-14 and not only missing the playoffs, but earning the first pick in April’s draft.
Johnson isn’t sure what he’s going to do during the wild card weekend of the playoffs, but said he won’t be boycotting the games.
“It might have been one thing if we had been knocked out of the playoffs on the final week of the season,” Johnson said. “But we’ve known for the last few weeks that we weren’t going to the playoffs, so there isn’t that feeling you have when you believe you’re going to the Super Bowl and one loss eliminates you. I’ll probably check out the games, but it will definitely be a different feeling.”
Johnson doesn’t know what the future is going to hold for him and his Vikings teammates and has reason for his own concern. His exit from Indianapolis was predicated by the Colts drafting left tackle Anthony Castonzo is the first round of last April’s draft and the Vikings are widely being speculated as having their sights on USC left tackle Matt Kalil. For the second straight year, he faces the potential of having his team draft a player at his position in the first round with every intention of starting him from Day One.
“That’s part of the business,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason. All I can do is prepare myself to stay in shape and work hard to improve for next season. All players can control is keeping themselves in a position to play when the time comes. The decision on who plays is up to the coaching staff and front office. I can’t concern myself about who might be coming in or not. You do your best and keep focused on being out there. There isn’t much more I can do.”
There continues to be growing momentum for a stadium site in Minneapolis that is known as the Basilica site. While the Vikings remain adamant that the Arden Hills site is their preference and the ideal site for a new stadium, there is a building sentiment that the stadium (if approved by State Legislature) will end up remaining in Minneapolis.
When the NFL hands out its annual awards, it will be interesting to see if Jared Allen wins the Defensive Player of the Year award. Allen, who finished just a half-sack short of the all-time sack record, would have to be viewed as a favorite, but the award typically is handed out to the defensive standout of a playoff team, not a team that finished 3-13, which could play against Allen’s chances of winning the award (although deserved).
The firing of the father/son G.M. tandem of Bill and Chris Polian in Indianapolis came as a surprise to many outside observers, but word is starting to get out that the younger Polian was rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. While there was no arguing the success of Bill Polian, he too had a strong personality that often led to conflict because of his belief in his opinions and his ability to bristle at those who disagreed. There has been some reaction that the Vikings should have investigated the option of bringing one or both of them into the Vikings organization, but it won’t be a shock if neither of them has a job with an NFL team in 2012.
For those who saw the injury to Brian Urlacher Sunday against the Vikings, it would have been easy to anticipate that he would be the next NFL star to visit Dr. James Andrews. As it turned out, Urlacher injured both his MCL and PCL Sunday, but it is the type of injury that heals without surgery.
The Bears will be in the market for a new G.M. with the firing of Jerry Angelo. It’s hard to blame Angelo for the team’s late-season collapse because Chicago was primed in playoff position before QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte went down due to injury. The new G.M. will also have to find a new offensive coordinator. Mike Martz coached his last game with the Bears Sunday and resigned before he was going to get fired – a fate that had been widely speculated over the last month.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.