An inevitable train wreck like the Detroit Lions is always TV-worthy, which is why they’d be the chosen team to feature on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in 2022. But make no mistake, there was enough choo chooing and billowing clouds of smoke from the Minnesota Vikings last season to give “Hard Knocks” viewership a boost.
It was a blow to HBO, which instead spent the season following the Indianapolis Colts.
The Vikings had yet to reach the struggling level of the Lions – no playoff berth in the past six years and one NFC North berth last in four straight seasons. But the fight bus was still rolling around in the not-so-pretty country of Minnesota with general manager Rick Spielman and trainer Mike Zimmer overseeing things.
The defeat, in-fighting and a likely lame duck training situation would have left football fans missing out.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks hinted at a “fear-based culture” as he gave a little insight into what things were like behind the scenes under the previous regime. Everyone thought the same thing when he made those remarks: God, if those walls in Minnesota could talk, they’d have some great stories to tell.
Legendary cornerback Deion Sanders, a friend of Zimmer, claimed there was no communication between Spielman and Zimmer in the months leading up to the team’s firing of both men. To add to the miscommunication, there was also an accusation that Spielman went rogue in the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting offensive guard Wyatt Davis in the third round.
Granted, I wouldn’t expect Spielman to be on the court or in the locker room enough to be filmed for the shows, unfortunately. But the trickle-down effect of some of his incendiary decisions has been a lingering problem for the Vikings.
Zimmer looked almost as disinterested in playing against Davis last season as he looked at Spielman’s first-round third-round pick, quarterback Kellen Mond. He actually admitted he didn’t want to see Mond on the court when pressed by reporters ahead of the team’s season finale against the Chicago Bears.
“Do you want to see Kellen Mond next week?”
Mike Zimmer is stone cold pic.twitter.com/KI1usresi7
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 3, 2022
On top of all the Spielman and Zimmer drama, there was the Kirk Cousins contract situation bubbling to the surface. It was the year Cousins had to prove himself worth the huge salary cap his contract would impose on the team ahead of his eventual extension by the new regime.
A chance to see how he led behind the scenes and how the rest of the team reacted to him would have been worth the price of admission. Add a mega personality like Justin Jefferson, All-Pro player and future Hall of Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson, and you’ll need snacks and sodas, too.
TD ➡️ Griddy
It’s Justin Jefferson’s routine ⭐️
—ESPN (@espn) December 21, 2021
It was all popcorn entertainment at its finest, and the good folks at HBO should be kicking themselves for missing it.