There have been a lot of questions concerning the Vikings' level of effort in their games this season and speculation that the coaching staff might "lose the locker room." Truth is, when times are bad in the NFL, teams tend to stick together up until the point when it's clear the war has been lost. Even then, most players on the field are giving their full effort knowing that the next coaching staff will be looking at that film.
Rumors that the Vikings might start becoming disengaged couldn't be further from the truth. Does it happen? Definitely. Take a look at the Vikings midway through the 2010 season. They came into the season with a veteran core of outlaws making their last ride and the posse was chasing them down. When those guys got injuries, they didn't rush back. If losing meant getting rid of Brad Childress, there were some among the veteran core of the team that felt "so be it." When the organizational guillotine added a round, suddenly the players rallied around Leslie Frazier. Coincidence? Not likely. Mission accomplished. Let's get back to work.
With the Vikings at 1-6 and with the legitimate prospect of being a touchdown-or-more underdog in every game they play from here on in, the odds of double-digit losses seems more inevitable than possible. If that happens, there will be changes at the top. It wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if, barring a season-salvaging finish in December, the coaching staff is dismantled.
On a veteran-infested team, that is bad news. That's when wake-up calls are made and check-out times are confirmed. The Vikings aren't one of those teams. The team has systematically weeded out the veterans from before Rick Spielman was the lone shot-caller. If you're over 30 on the Vikings roster, you're an endangered species getting more endangered by the day.
If the Vikings do decide to make a regime change at the end of the year, one thing is certain: the new head coach and his staff will have the unfortunate task of breaking down film on every play the Vikings will have run in 2013. Over and over again.
The first three game films were dramatic tragedies. After one feel-good British export, the last three have been horror flicks. Not like Friday the 13th. More like Saw.
As such, whether the current coaching staff and front office remain the same or undergo partial or complete implosion and rebuilding, the Vikings have a team so young that they don't have the luxury of taking plays off. The NFL is a game of relationships. Why is Chilly working with Andy Reid in Kansas City? They have a longstanding professional relationship. Whether Leslie Frazier and his staff are back next year or the Wilfs decide to go in a new direction as the Vikings move to a new home outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014, that coaching staff will be making outside evaluations. Being a good "locker room guy" won't carry as much weight with a new staff and new vision.
In short, if you want to keep your job, you'll have to earn your spot, whether Frazier is running the show in late July 2014 or it's someone new. There are changes coming. There always are after a disappointing season. Sometimes, it's an exodus of players. Sometimes, it's an exodus of coaches. Sometimes, it's both.
The 2013 Vikings may have the chaplain who will deliver last rites on speed dial, but there is a lot to be proven by this collection of Vikings that wasn't there in 2010 or 2011. Many of them didn't go through those years. Jobs are on the line and there are nine games left to "put it on film" – whether for those who know you or those you have yet to meet.
If this was the 2010 Vikings, you could legitimately say they are done and there is little effort left to give. The 2013 Vikings don't have that fallback plan. They are going to have to keep fighting and scratching. They're members of a team, but now is the time when you see individuals making plays for their own benefit as well as the team's.
If the current pace continues, the organization is going to break up the band. The only question is to what extent? When futures are at stake, strange things are possible. Get your popcorn ready and contained for the rest of the movie. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
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.