Minnesota teams often find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Wild of Parise and Suter played their best when the Chicago Blackhawks of Kane and Toews were at their best, leaving a good Minnesota team outclassed.
The Timberwolves’ best team ran into Shaq and Kobe, and their recent trade for Jimmy Butler barely made a ripple in a Western Conference that looks like the basketball version of “Mission: Impossible.”
The Twins of the 2000s turned Yankee Stadium into a brick wall into which they could run. Many Vikings teams writhed in the chokeholds of arms attached to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
With the Oakland Raiders’ trade of the great edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears on Saturday, a very good Vikings team will face a familiar script in 2018. The Vikings have built an excellent roster, paid for a franchise quarterback, and now will face conference and divisional competition that threatens to suppress their good work.
In the past few days, the Packers signed Rodgers, the Rams signed defensive end Aaron Donald and the Bears traded for Mack.
The Vikings will face an intimidating Rams defense in September, the Bears should have rookie linebacker Roquan Smith and Mack integrated into a very good defense by the time the Vikings travel to Chicago in November, and the Packers will continue to be a threat as long as Rodgers is upright.
The NFC features a handful of potential super teams: the defending champion Eagles, the rising Rams, the Vikings, Saints and Packers.
The NFC North might now be the best division in football. All four teams either have their long-term quarterbacks or believe they do. The Vikings have the best overall roster; the Packers have Rodgers and his new best friend, tight end Jimmy Graham; the Bears should have an excellent defense; and the Lions remain dangerous if perpetually frustrated.
The Bears are now the key variable in the division. With the addition of Mack, they have a remarkably young roster, and their willingness to deal two first-round picks and other considerations for one quite expensive defender should be read as an indication they believe second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky is ready to win.
If any Vikings fans are giddily thinking the Bears just made their franchise-shredding version of the Herschel Walker deal ... well, stop it.
Walker was a fading star on a bad Cowboys team that engineered its offense to fit his one-dimensional skills, and the deal hinged on Jimmy Johnson’s ability to fool Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn into thinking that Johnson valued a handful of average players more than the draft picks to which they were attached.
This isn’t that.
This is new Oakland coach Jon Gruden asserting his authority over personnel moves and making a bad decision based on dubious rationale.
He wanted to prove he is the boss and can’t be pushed around by a star holdout.
He revealed his preference to spend his money on offense, where he made his reputation, even though the moment that made him a celebrity was winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s defense and Brad Johnson’s smarts.
He signaled he cares more about winning in Las Vegas than this season in Oakland.
Gruden could make this all work, if he capitalizes on the draft picks he receives for Mack, but he’s taking a massive risk.
Mack is nothing like Walker. He is a young star at a much more important position who is entering his prime. His addition to the Bears lowers the chances that the Bears’ picks will be high enough in the draft for the Raiders to find a player like him.
The last time the Vikings had first-round picks in consecutive seasons, they chose Laquon Treadwell and Trae Waynes. One might prove to be a bust; the other is a solid player who might get bumped aside by another first-rounder, Mike Hughes.
By proving he’s the boss, Gruden took a risk that might prove he’s not worthy of the title. The NFC benefits, which means the Vikings might not.
Jim Souhan’s podcasts can be found at TalkNorth.com.
On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org