Shawn ZobelComment

Tears of Joy

Shawn ZobelComment
Tears of Joy
Stefon-Diggs.jpg

By putting on the proverbial glass slipper, Stefon Diggs transformed the Vikings into the Cinderella of the 2018 Playoffs

On a team with a cupboard chalk full of sought-after head coaches and general managers, and on a roster with three quarterbacks due for free agency, there is zero doubt that Case Keenum’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as time expired re-wrote the history books for a fan base that has endured as much heartbreak as any. 

Yet, for a split second on Sunday night, there was another impending feeling of doom – of yet another let down by a team that had built expectations on the very foundation as the Super Bowl hosts this year. The #BringItHome movement nearly was a one-week social media fad that evaporated faster than the Vikings' 17-0 halftime lead. And should Keenum’s pass had sailed incomplete, and the Vikings had walked out of a frozen and stunned US Bank Stadium without a playoff win, changes likely would have been coming.

Keenum’s career in Minnesota—void a playoff victory and entering free agency—could also have ended as quickly as it started, after his Brett Favre-esque wounded duck pass to Marcus Williams late in the third quarter aided the improbable Saints comeback more than any other play. And with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur considered a lock to become the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals or New York Giants, the possibility of either team pairing up Shurmur-Keenum was a rumor that had increasingly gained steam in recent days.

 US Bank Stadium, home of Super Bowl 52

US Bank Stadium, home of Super Bowl 52

Sunday’s result, however, dramatically changes things. Now, Keenum should almost assuredly return as the starter in Minnesota in 2018, with either or both of Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater exiting stage left. Bridgewater’s deactivation on Sunday, allowing Bradford to suit up as the No. 2 quarterback, was a tell-tale sign that his knee is further away than Bradford’s, and that neither can be counted on for 2018.

Although Keenum was far from perfect, the fact remains his future has changed more than any player in football over the past four months. Ultimately, he went toe-to-toe with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees in a playoff game, and won the battle. With his immediate future in Minnesota all but decided, Keenum’s legacy, which mirrors a path similar to Kurt Warner, is what we will all be watching to see unfold next.

Stefon Diggs, expecting a new contract extension from the Vikings this offseason, most certainly will be asking for more after his late-game heroics. By putting on the glass slipper last night, Diggs transformed the Vikings into the Cinderella of the 2018 Playoffs. A player who has battled the injury-prone tag throughout his college and pro career, Diggs’ raw talent and playmaking ability broke through a symbolic ceiling, as if Diggs had finally established himself as a bona-fide star on the national level.

Whether or not this historic and emotional season ends in a Super Bowl victory at the confines of U.S. Bank stadium, the Minnesota Vikings and their fans, who have endured more heartbreak, grief, and sadness than any other fanbase in sports, deserved and finally had their moment of divine intervention last night. 

 

Shawn Zobel
shawn@thesidelinepass.com
@ShawnZobel