Tag Archives: Vikings

The ‘Minneapolis Miracle’ is the only bobblehead you really need

We’re about 10-15 years removed from the peak of the intense bobblehead craze during which fans would line up outside stadiums for hours (or days) to get their hands on the must-have items.

But that’s not to say the dolls are no longer popular or relevant.

If they weren’t popular, would there be a National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, founded a couple years ago and headquartered in Milwaukee?

And if they weren’t relevant, would that very same Hall of Fame have released a bobblehead of January’s Minneapolis Miracle hookup between Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs?

Those answers are obviously “no,” as a result you can purchase a limited edition (1,000 of them at $60 apiece) bobblehead of that very description produced by FOCO. Per the news release:

The Minneapolis Miracle was one of those plays that gives a sports fan chills and that you remember forever,” said Phil Sklar, Co-Founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. “As soon as Diggs crossed the goal line and after seeing the euphoria at U.S. Bank Stadium, we knew a bobblehead would be a perfect opportunity to commemorate the play forever. This is one of those bobbleheads that fans will hand down to their kids when they tell them about the amazing game.”

The initial production batch of 180 bobbleheads sold out, but orders are being taken for the remaining 820 with delivery by December.

As for the artwork, I’d say they captured Keenum’s appearance pretty well and definitely put Diggs in the right pose, though I’m not sure they quite captured the spirit of Diggs’ face.

Larry Fitzgerald bleeds Vikings purple, but his path is still with Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald spent his formative years in the Twin Cities, with the coolest first job ever as a ball boy with the Vikings while shredding defenses as a wide receiver with Holy Angels.

And he’s about to enter the 15th season of what almost certainly be a Hall of Fame career — all of it with the Cardinals.

Vikings fans have been dreaming for years of Fitzgerald coming back to play for his hometown team, but something so tantalizing will probably never happen — even though Fitzgerald said Monday, “I’ve got purple running through my veins.”

He was speaking to reporters at his annual football camp at Holy Angels, where reinforcing life lessons outweighed football lessons.

“You bring a bunch of kids who have never met before … and they start building relationships,” Fitzgerald said. “Sports are the great equalizer. You don’t see race. You don’t see religion. You don’t see gender. You just see competition and someone you can go out and have a good time with.”

Minnesotans probably just need to be content to admire Fitzgerald’s game from afar and his personality from up close.

Fitzgerald, No. 3 on the NFL’s all-time receptions and receiving yards list, signed a one-year extension to stay with the Cardinals in 2018. He’ll turn 35 before the regular season starts, but with three consecutive 100-catch seasons on his ledger Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to be slowing down or going anywhere.

He tried to recruit Kirk Cousins to Arizona in the offseason, but the QB wound up in Minnesota. He had nothing but good things to say about the Cardinals’ veteran consolation prize — former Vikings QB Sam Bradford — but wouldn’t there be a path by which Cousins could recruit him here next year for a Super Bowl push?

“No, no. If I’m not playing in Arizona, I won’t be playing anywhere,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve built a good life for myself there, and to be able to play anywhere for 15 years is a true blessing.”

What’s clear is the Vikings still hold a special place in his heart. Fitzgerald spoke of his “wonderful childhood” filled with local sports icons like Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett and countless Vikings. He lamented the fact that the Vikings are shifting training camp from Mankato to Eagan this year.

And he showed that he still pays plenty of attention to the Vikings’ roster.

“(Cousins) made his decision and what was best for him and his family. You can’t go wrong with the Vikings,” Fitzgerald said. “They were knocking right on the door last year. They’re pretty much returning all their offensive weapons, and all their defensive players are coming back. They have a franchise quarterback and Dalvin Cook coming back. They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Of his age, Fitzgerald said it’s all about hard work. “People look at age, but Serena (Williams) was at the finals again in Wimbledon. LeBron is still the best player in the world. It’s about your mindset and what you put into it.”

Of Bradford, Fitzgerald said, “He’s one of the pure passers in the National Football League. … There’s nothing he can’t do.”

Bradford could become the 15th different Cardinals quarterback to throw at least one regular-season touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.

He might not be the last. Just don’t expect No. 16 to be a QB wearing purple, no matter how much mutual admiration exists.

Vikings’ Barr on contract extension: ‘It’s not my decision; it’s on them’

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler. Answer a brief survey at the end of today’s edition for 25 percent off Wednesday’s edition. Let’s get started:

*Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has had an interesting offseason, if we are using interesting the same way many Minnesotans do (usually followed by a long and exaggerated “hmmmmm” and a bone-deep sigh). He watched his fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks become the first of the Big Four extension candidates to cash in with the Vikings, then skipped some non-mandatory (but strongly suggested) workouts, then returned to the Vikings and talked a couple of times about how things are going.

Now it’s late June, and Barr did a recent SI.com interview in which he shed a little more light on how he feels about an extension with the Vikings. Here’s Barr:

I don’t really get into the numbers (with contract negotiations). It’s more about feeling valued and respected than the actual dollar amount. They kind of go hand in hand, I suppose, but I love being in Minnesota and I love my teammates. I want to be there long term. I’ve felt I’ve worked really hard, improved from my first day there to where I am now. I think I’m a totally different football player. It’s not really up to me. I feel like all the work I’ve done so far, you’ve got to go off that. You can’t really go off what-ifs or this or that. Let the chips fall where they may. It’s not my decision; it’s on them, and I would like to get it.”

There’s nothing really shocking in there, but the “It’s not my decision; it’s on them” part is interesting at least. This is just Barr’s side of it, but clearly he is setting himself up as very willing to sign and positioning the Vikings as the ones — at least right now — who aren’t committing.

It will be interesting to monitor as the summer lurches forward, with Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter also targets for extensions and the Vikings trying to maneuver within the salary cap.

*The Timberwolves’ Instagram account posted a picture Monday of general manager Scott Layden at the New York City Pride celebration this weekend in support of both the NBA and WNBA. And … then the Wolves’ account spent most of the rest of the day battling homophobic commenters and bigots, calling some of them out in the process. The full trail of comments is a mix of good and bad — about what you would unfortunately expect, even in 2018.

*Kennys Vargas is having a rough year. After spending parts of the last four seasons with the Twins while trying to establish himself as a big league player Vargas, 27, has been at Class AAA Rochester this whole year and is hitting just .214 with a .633 OPS. To make matters worse, Vargas had a rough end to Rochester’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse on Monday. With the score tied 2-2, Vargas fielded a sharp ground ball at first base, stepped on the bag and attempted to throw home … but he tripped on the base and fell as the winning run crossed the plate.

Keenum, Bradford or Bridgewater: Who will have best season in 2018?

One of the most potentially fascinating, fun and/or frustrating things to watch during the 2018 NFL season figures to be the play of four specific quarterbacks: the Vikings’ $84 million man Kirk Cousins and the three men he is replacing — Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, the three former Vikings QBs who all signed with new teams in the offseason.

The season is still three months away, but with teams deep into Organized Team Activities I thought I would engage in an Organized Though Activity and attempt to handicap how the year might unfold for all four quarterbacks. I’ll do that in two stages: First, which of the three departed QBs figures to have the best year next season. Second, what are the chances that any of those three has a better year than Cousins.

Part I: The Departed

Case Keenum, Broncos: 60 percent chance he has the best 2018 season.

There is some recency bias at play here, since the thing we most clearly remember is Keenum playing quite well for almost all of the 2017 season while Bradford was out with a knee injury and Bridgewater couldn’t supplant Keenum in the return from his injury.

But the word “injury” also plays a big role in this as well. While there is little evidence to suggest Bradford and/or Bridgewater will hold up for 16 games, Keenum has no injury red flags. Combined with the fact that he went to a team (Denver) that like the Vikings figures to have a strong defense (and therefore he shouldn’t have to play beyond his means) and that he has some capable playmakers to work with, Keenum has a reasonable chance to at least approach last year’s production. Keenum seems to be fitting in with the Broncos quite nicely already.

Sam Bradford, Cardinals: 30 percent chance.

Bradford set an NFL record for completion percentage in 2016 with the Vikings even though he was playing behind a patchwork offensive line that more or less torpedoed Minnesota’s season. If his knee remains sound — and lord, that is a big if given how cautious Arizona is being with him still — he could find short-term success with the Cardinals. The problem is that he not only has health concerns but also a first-round QB (Josh Rosen) with whom to contend. If Sam stumbles early, he might lose his job even if healthy.

Teddy Bridgewater, Jets: 10 percent chance.

The OTA reports on Teddy have been favorable, which makes for a nice early story line. But he’s coming back from an injury even more serious than Bradford’s, and he has to fend off not just a veteran (Josh McCown) but also a top rookie (Sam Darnold). That said, it’s a bad idea to count out Bridgewater. If he’s healthy, he could be the Jets’ starter — or he could become trade bait if another team loses a starting QB to injury.

Part II: Three against one

Percent chance any of those QBs has a better season than Kirk Cousins: 35 percent.

Looking at it from the Vikings’ point of view, I’m saying I think there is roughly a 2 in 3 chance Cousins has a more durable and productive season than any of those other quarterbacks in 2018.

Those odds — and the comfort that goes with Cousins’ historical production and durability — are what the Vikings bought this offseason.

The nightmare scenario for Vikings fans, of course, is that one … or two … or all three (!) of the guys they let go ends up shining while Cousins fizzles. The Vikings played the odds right, but there are always risks.

To sustain success, Vikings must avoid past draft mistakes

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said all the right things in his pre-draft news conference with reporters on Tuesday, including this: “Every year is a big draft, but the more heavier or front loaded our roster gets with those big contracts the more important the backups or the role players that you’re hoping will develop into starters make a significant difference.”

Spielman likely doesn’t need further reminders of the importance of the draft even as the Vikings come off one of their best seasons in franchise history, but in case he does here’s a quick look back at how poor drafts have slowed the franchise’s momentum after similarly big seasons.

In the 1999 draft, the Vikings grabbed QB Daunte Culpepper in the first round and blocking tight end Jim Kleinsasser in the second round but largely swung and missed with the rest of their picks.

*In 2000, they plugged in defensive tackle Chris Hovan with their first round pick, but with nine other selections in that draft the Vikings didn’t get much impact or depth.

I*n 2001 and 2002, it was largely the same story: Decent value in the first round (running back Michael Bennett and tackle Bryant McKinnie, respectively) but not much else.

The Vikings went to the playoffs every year from 1997-2000, including two NFC title game berths, but those poor drafts hastened the demise of their championship window. They missed the playoffs from 2001-03 and again from 2005-07.

The cycle didn’t really break until 2006 (Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin and Ray Edwards) and 2007 (Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Brian Robison), helping the Vikings reach the playoffs in 2008 and the NFC title game in 2009.

But in 2010, with the Vikings holding the No. 30 pick — just like they do this year — they ended up trading down with Detroit. Using the Lions’ No. 34 pick early in the second round, Minnesota chose defensive back Chris Cook.

At No. 51 overall, Minnesota spent a second-round pick on running back Toby Gerhart even though Peterson was in his prime. Everson Griffen was a fourth-round steal, but he didn’t blossom until later in his career. The rest of the draft was forgettable, and the Vikings slipped from 12-4 in 2009 to 6-10 in 2010 and then all the way to 3-13 in 2011.

Kyle Rudolph was the best draft pick in 2011 (second round), a 10-selection draft that also included Christian Ponder in the first round, Brandon Fusco in the sixth round and a bunch of players who never became meaningful contributors. From 2010 through 2014, the Vikings made the playoffs just once and went a combined 31-48-1.

There were some notable draft hits from 2012-14 (first-rounders Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr chief among them), but it wasn’t until 2015 that the Vikings really hit the jackpot. That draft haul, which included Trae Waynes, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs, might go down as one of the best in franchise history.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those players were all major factors in helping the Vikings reach the NFC title game in 2017. The Vikings are 32-16 in the regular season since that 2015 draft.

Now is the time the Vikings to heed the lessons of past failures. It’s not as though previous regimes attempted to fail at the draft, but perhaps success clouded their thinking and made them feel as though the draft had less urgency.

What we know now is clear: To sustain success in a league with thin margins and tight salary caps, a team must constantly replenish its stock of cheap, young contributors.

Failing to do so might not catch up with a team immediately, but it will at some point — and when it happens, the consequences are often both swift and long-lasting.

By one measure, Vikings’ schedule is actually relatively easy

The caveat before we get started with this exercise is to point out Mark Craig’s very good piece last week about how the strength of schedule of NFL teams going into a season is not a good indicator of how that team will fare — or even how hard their schedule will really be.

The NFL is a league of change, with half of all playoff teams being displaced routinely from year to year. And because there are precious few games, the difference between 9-7 and 7-9 is pretty tiny. One bounce here, a missed kick there, and the fortunes of a team and their seeming outlook going into the next season can totally change. The difference, say, between 91-71 and 71-91 in baseball is not that subtle.

But we can acknowledge that there are a lot of variables from year to year and inherent flaws in trying to predict based solely on the past while also asking this: Are we doing the actual tabulation of strength of schedule incorrectly?

In an interesting 538 piece, the answer is invariably, “Yes.” Long story short, using “Pythagorean wins and losses,” which is a fancy word for what a team’s record was expected to be based on point differential, we get a more accurate picture of how good each team was and how good we should expect them to be the following year.

It makes sense, right? Not all wins and losses are created equally. A team that wins a lot of close games one year might be due for a regression, while a team that loses a lot of close ones might be due for a jump up in wins the next year. So if we look at a team’s 2018 opponents using their expected wins/losses in 2017 rather than their actual wins and losses, we get a more accurate picture of the outlook.

And here’s where the narrative changes for the Vikings. Based on just wins and losses of their 2017 opponents, the Vikings are deemed to be tied for the eighth-toughest schedule in the NFL. That sounds pretty daunting, right? But 538 ran the numbers and adjusted all of the SOS for Pythagorean winning percentage instead of actual winning percentage. Using that more accurate measure, the Vikings are tied with the Eagles for the 18th-toughest schedule — actually on the easier side of average.

The Vikings have a lot of teams on their schedule deemed to have been won/loss overachievers in 2017 based on their point differentials, including Buffalo, Arizona, Philadelphia, New England and Miami.

Before you start planning a Super Bowl route, 538 acknowledges the obvious: “There’s no model that can account for player age, coaching changes, free agency, the draft or player injuries before they happen.”

Even using this new projection system has its flaws. The Packers, for instance, were expected to win just 6.3 games last season, but they were also 4-1 before Aaron Rodgers was injured. With Rodgers presumably back and healthy, this year’s Packers are not a six-win team — but they are treated as such when considering the Vikings’ strength of schedule, appearing on it twice.

But the adjusted method is at least a better predictor than just using wins and losses. And it should make us look differently at the Vikings’ 2018 slate.

Vikings’ Zimmer thinks in-game video would make coaching too easy

What if I told you there was a way to make your job easier and to make your work decisions more precise — and therefore better?

You would probably jump at the chance, right?

But unless you are one of 32 people in the world, you are not an NFL head coach. And if you were an NFL coach, you would be fighting hard against such a thing.

And you’d be winning. Or at least succeeding in your fight.

Here’s the upshot: at the NFL owners meetings, the league’s competition committee proposed changing existing rules to allow coaches to see video replays on tablets during games instead of just still images, as is allowed now.

The coaches seem to know almost unanimously that this would help them make better decisions. But it would make their decisions … too easy? So they don’t want it?

Yes, pretty much. Here is Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s take on the subject, as quoted by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert:

If I’m looking at the video, I’ll never be wrong. I’m against it because I think it takes some of your true coaching skills away and it makes it even for everybody, for good coaches and bad coaches.”

He added later in the story: “It takes coaching and all of the things out of this when you go and sit there and watch it. Anyone can do that.”

Well, that’s interesting. Zimmer and other coaches are worried that giving everyone the edge of using video would make the playing field too level, so to speak. So they helped shoot down the bylaw change swiftly and vociferously.

Seifert describes the level of angst expressed by coaches to be “an amusing journey into the deep but occasionally absurdist minds of the top 32 football coaches in the world.”

But I kind of — kind of — see why they reacted this way.

Say there was a specific program designed to allow every member of the sports media write DEVASTATINGLY INTERESTING BLOG POSTS. How would I, someone who delivers on that promise at least 23 percent of the time already, feel about everyone suddenly having access to such a tool?

I might not like it.

If suddenly anyone could do your job just as well as you could — or at least you perceived that to be the case — you might feel threatened, too, just as NFL coaches apparently are.

That said, there’s another (perhaps more rational) school of thought that says an advancement that provides an edge to coaches won’t be applied equally by all of them. Some would inevitably benefit more from the use of video, and perhaps those who benefited more would be the coaches who are already skilled at diagnosing what an opponent is doing and counteracting it.

It’s not like the game has stood still since its invention. Tablets replaced black and white printouts a few years ago. Early coaches had no pictures to look at, period. Technology is merely a tool; it’s still up to humans, by and large, to use it to their benefit (or detriment).

Just not NFL coaches. Seifert quotes several other coaches, including 32-year-old Rams coach Sean McVay, in being just fine relying on pictures instead of videos.

Maybe their analog stance will become a broader trend in thinking about technology this way: Just because we have it doesn’t mean it’s in our best interests to use it.

Inside the deal that landed the Vikings their other QB — Trevor Siemian

The biggest, most important and most expensive move the Vikings made this offseason came with the three-year, fully guaranteed $84 million deal they gave QB Kirk Cousins. At the same time those negotiations were ramping up, though, the Vikings also made another low-key acquisition that could prove to be vital.

In a deal last week, they sent a fifth-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for quarterback Trevor Siemian and a seventh-round pick. Siemian, also formerly a seventh-round pick himself, started 24 games for Denver over the last two seasons. Given that the Vikings have had to go to Plan B at quarterback quickly each of the last two years, having a capable backup is important. The fact that Siemian is relatively cheap and young adds to the nice fit.

The move for the Vikings seemed to come out of nowhere, but for Siemian it was the end of a months-long process. He and agent Mike McCartney — who is also Cousins’ agent, which helped facilitate the deal — shared some of the back story with SI.com. Here are some interesting items from that piece:

*Siemian was called into head coach Vance Joseph’s office at the end of October and was told the Broncos were benching him in favor of Brock Osweiler. “I knew from that point on,,” he told SI.com, “that it would probably be unlikely that I would be the guy here.” Near the end of the season, McCartney advised Siemian that trying to orchestrate a trade might be in the QB’s best interests.

*In mid-January, Siemian watched the “Minneapolis Miracle” unfold with Stefon Diggs’ TD catch from Case Keenum. “That sequence of events was so cool to watch,” Siemian told SI.com. “I’ve been in Case’s shoes, obviously not the same experiences, but I know what it’s like to be kicked in the teeth a little bit in this league. Case has gone through a bit of a tough stretch, but to see him playing really well, I was so fired up for him.”

Watching Keenum play gave Siemian hope that he could resurrect his career. Interestingly enough, Siemian wound up in the same role Keenum had last season, as the Vikings’ low-cost backup. And the team he left is the place where Keenum is now the starter.

*In early March at the Scouting Combine, McCartney mentioned to some friends who work with the Vikings that they might want to scout Siemian — hinting that he could become available. That perhaps laid the groundwork for what was to come.

Per SI.com, McCartney was tied up with Cousins negotiations, but: “At some point during those discussions, Siemian’s name comes up. McCartney seizes the opportunity to advocate for another one of his guys, and tells the Vikings why Siemian would be the ideal backup for Cousins, if Cousins chooses to play in Minnesota.”

*A couple days later, the deal was done. Siemian says he wants to learn from Cousins and is embracing the backup role as a step forward. The kicker? There’s a Minnesota connection. There’s always a Minnesota connection. Per SI.com, his fiance, Bo Podkopacz, grew up here:

“I’m pumped,” Siemian says. “I don’t think I could have gone to a better place.” He can’t wait to tell Podkopacz the news. She grew up a Vikings fan in a Minneapolis suburb and had brought Siemian, a Florida native, back home to Minnesota many times. She can’t believe they’ll be moving to the Twin Cities.

Sheldon Richardson: The final piece for the Vikings’ defense?

The Vikings announced Friday they signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a one-year contract, and at 4 p.m. they introduced him at a news conference at their Eagan headquarters.

Here are five quick thoughts on the signing of Richardson — who was with the Jets from 2013-16 and Seattle last season — and what it might mean for the Vikings:

*Much like the signing of Kirk Cousins on Thursday, the Richardson move speaks to a team that believes it can take the next step after reaching the NFC title game a season ago — and players who are eager to latch onto that.

When Richardson was asked if it’s “Super Bowl or bust” for the Vikings in 2018, he said this: “I’m not the predicting type, but that’s what we’re chasing. … I wanted the best opportunity to win a Super Bowl. I feel like this is it.”

*Richardson seems like he might be a good talker in the locker room. He was asked about the Vikings’ new headquarters/practice facility, and he quickly called it the “best building in the league.” When asked why he feels that way, Richardson looked a bit incredulous. “Have you seen the building?” he said, even though he was still inside it. “It’s pretty nice, ain’t it? Smells like new paint, don’t it? Everything is state of the art, top notch. And it’s a beautiful stadium. … I could see myself making a lot of plays in that building.”

*Richardson was chosen in the first round of the 2013 draft, No. 13 overall — 10 picks ahead of Sharrif Floyd, whom the Vikings took No. 23 overall. Richardson is essentially a replacement for Floyd, who has battled nerve damage in his leg after a promising start to his career. Floyd played just one game in 2016 and missed all of last season. He is now a free agent.

*Richardson’s best season came in 2014, playing as a defensive end in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. That year, Richardson had eight sacks and was the second-highest graded 3-4 defensive end in Pro Football Focus’ metrics.

But even last year playing as a defensive tackle in the Seahawks’ scheme, Richardson showed he can still influence the passing game. Though he only had one sack, he was credited by PFF with 28 quarterback hurries in 2017 — tied for seventh-most among all interior linemen in the NFL.

Geno Atkins — who was coached by Mike Zimmer with the Bengals before Zimmer joined the Vikings — had 50 last year for Cincinnati to lead interior linemen in hurries. Tom Johnson, the Vikings’ primary tackle next to Linval Joseph last year, had 20 hurries.

“We felt like one of the positions we needed to get better at on defense was our 3-technique,” Zimmer said Friday. “Those guys can affect the quarterback as much as any position along with defensive ends. … Sheldon was a guy that has been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen. … Sacks are not our number one goal. It’s about disrupting the quarterback and getting him off his spot and timing.”

*It’s clear the Vikings are loading up for 2018 while still saving resources for 2019 and beyond. The structure of Kirk Cousins’ three-year deal — with cap hits rising from $24 million to $29 million to $31 million over the length of it — was an indicator the Vikings had another significant move to make in free agency. Otherwise, it would have made sense to front-load the deal before having to pay other expensive extension-eligible players in 2019 and beyond.

They clearly had to pay for Richardson, but the fact that it’s just for one year means he could end up just being a stopgap while a low-cost replacement is perhaps drafted in April and groomed to take over in 2019.

In fact, Zimmer said that when Richardson stopped by his office during his free agent visit, Zimmer was studying 3-technique tackles available in this year’s draft.

Kirk Cousins is part of a shifting narrative in Minnesota sports

Kirk Cousins was officially introduced as the new Vikings quarterback Thursday, finishing off a process that was both incredibly short and impressively long.

While free agency only officially started one day earlier, Cousins scouted the Twin Cities for almost a week when he was here for the Super Bowl last month and has been doing research on potential teams for more than two years with possible free agency in mind.

He said the Vikings “checked all the boxes,” but in addition to the millions they will give him — other teams probably would have given him even more — Cousins singled out one factor that stood out above the rest.

“I would be here a long time if I were to read off the grocery list of why this is a great fit,” Cousins said, adding a moment later. “I came here because of the chance to win.”

Toward the end of his introductory news conference at the Vikings’ shiny new headquarters in Eagan, Cousins also said this: “This TCO Performance Center is over the top. It’s just a tremendous place to go every day. … The stadium. The practice facility. It’s a great place to live.”

Winning and facilities. Those are two game-changers in sports these days — the first more than the second — and they are part of the reason the narrative has changed for multiple local teams in the last year.

The Twins suddenly became a free agent destination this offseason after winning 85 games a season ago while offering a jewel of a ballpark and a recently renovated spring training facility.

The Timberwolves nabbed Jimmy Butler in a trade last June, and a group of veteran free agents flocked to him as well as youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins for a chance to win. It helps that the Wolves have one of the nicest practice facilities in the NBA — after having one of the worst for a long time — and just renovated Target Center.

And now the Vikings — with their billion dollar stadium that just hosted the Super Bowl and their brand new headquarters — signed the best available player in free agency.

If you want to win and you want a nice place to play, Minnesota is suddenly where it’s at.