During it's run on CBS, the TV show 'How I Met Your Mother'  aired an episode that epitomizes what it's like to be a Minnesota Vikings fan. In the episode 'Little Minnesota' Jason Segal's character, Marshall, takes one of his friends to a Vikings-themed bar. In the bar hangs a banner that reads 'I'm drinking to forget the 1999 NFC Championship.' When asked about the banner, Marshall gives her a crash course on that notorious game, one of many such games for one of the most tortured fan bases in all of professional sports.

Things aren't much different for the Vikings and their fans this year. Despite heading into the season widely considered on of the top contenders in the NFC, the team will be watching the playoffs from home this year after being manhandled by the Bears on Dec. 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium, a game that would have secured a playoff spot if they had won.

Ultimately, the 2018 season was a disappointment. But what went wrong? Who is to blame? What did we learn, if anything?

Below are the top reasons Vikings fans found themselves drinking to forget as they entered the New Year.

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    The Front Office Fell For The Oldest Trick In The Book

    Heading into the offseason, the Vikings' front office fell into one of the oldest, and most tempting, traps to exist in pro football.

    They thought they were just one piece away. 

    It's understandable how a team, specifically this one, could fall into that line of thinking. After all, the Vikings had a hell of a ride in 2017.

    • They posted a 13-3 record that included an 8-game winning streak in the middle of the season, and had one of the all-time greatest finishes to a playoff game with 'The Minnesota Miracle.'
    • Their defense was consistently mentioned as one of the best in the league. With a scary pass rush coming from Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes announcing himself to the league as one of the best at his position, where was a weakness in the unit?
    • The emergence of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs suddenly gave them one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league.
    • The running game looked dominant at times, even after promising rookie Dalvin Cook went down with injury. Getting him back surely would improve the run game.

    And they did all of this with a career backup at quarterback for most of the season. So upgrading the position seemed like a no brainer.

    However, the problem with this train of thought is it assumes that all of the positives from the previous season are repeatable and that all of the negatives will be fixed with no new flaws or challenges emerging.

    Things like...

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    Injuries, Injuries, Injuries

    It shouldn't be overlooked how fortunate the 2017 Vikings were in regards to health. For the most part, the defense and the offensive line, were able to avoid long-term injuries.

    That kind of fortune should not be expected on year-to-year basis though. Even with complaints from some that the game is getting 'too soft' with all of the penalty changes surrounding contact, football and the NFL is still an extremely violent sport, and injuries are the norm, not the exception.

    Case in point, the 2018 Vikings saw Xavier Rhodes miss time this year, impressive rookie corner Mike Hughes went on injured reserve, Everson Griffen missed over a month with what was described as concerning behavior that had his family and the team concerned for his mental health, and the offensive line (which was not considered among the league's best to begin with) had to use over six combinations over the season.

    Cook and the rest of the running game also never reached the heights of last season. Whether that is more to blame on rust or the injuries to the offensive line, the Viking's offense significantly lacked balance. Perhaps most shockingly, John DeFilippo — who was a popular name for a possible head coaching job in 2019 — lost his job before the year ended.

    All of these factors contributed to the team falling short, but most of these are arguably symptoms of...

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    Let's talk about that contract

    This might be old news by now, but the Kirk Cousins' contract looks like it might have closed the Vikings' Super Bowl window, not widened it.

    Cousins famously battled for years with Washington over his contract, causing them to repeatedly franchise tag him and increasing his price tag in the process. This summer Cousins was the defacto top QB in free agency. After a fierce bidding period that saw Cousins turn down a $90 million contract from the Jets to sign for three years and $84 million guaranteed with the Vikings.

    And that's where the Vikings problems lie. Regardless of how well Cousins could have played, dedicating that much money to one position prevents them from spending it elsewhere. Problem areas like the offensive line and defensive depth take a hit in older to shoulder Cousins' contract, and if injuries strike the team has limited options to fix the problem.

    When you consider what type of player Cousins is, it only makes matters worse. Throughout his career, Cousins has posted respectable year-end stats, but those numbers are often deceptive. This year, Cousins threw for over 4,000 yards, had 30 touchdowns, completed 70.1 percent of his passes, and only threw 10 interceptions. Not bad right?

    Well, as anyone who has watched his career will tell you, these hide some very apparent flaws in his game. Similar to Keenum — who the Vikings let sign with Denver rather than overpaying — Cousins has demonstrated that he is very much a product of his environment. He is not a the type of QB that can elevate a flawed roster to victory, and his career 5-25 record against winning teams has been much maligned in recent weeks. Cousins is not a player who has shown he can thrive if the play breaks down.

    The Vikings could possible trade him, but they'd have to find a team willing to take on his contract first, but there's just one other problem. They gave him a no-trade clause in his contract. 

    So strap in and keep those drinks flowing Vikings fans. It's gonna be bumpy couple of years.

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