Jeff Diamond remembers listening to the first game in Vikings history on the radio while playing football in the backyard with his brothers. He was 8 years old.
He would get an entry-level position in the team’s media relations department in 1976, then work his way up the organization to become general manager and senior vice president. He was running the football operation when the Vikings went 15-1 in 1998, setting offensive records.
Diamond has seen (or heard) it all when it comes to Vikings. He thinks it’s the most exciting season in franchise history.
More exciting than that 1998 top-flight team with rookie Randy Moss. More exciting than Brett Favre’s drama king role in 2009. More exciting than the Vikings of the good old days that sent so many players and coach Bud Grant to the Hall of Fame.
“I believe this is the most exciting and dramatic regular season so far in Minnesota Vikings history,” Diamond said. “They’ve played nine games with a score. They’ve had six wins from behind in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“I’ve watched this team since 1961 and spent 23 years in the front office, and I’ve seen a lot of exciting seasons. I’ve seen the Super Bowl and NFC title games, and I think it’s ‘is the most exciting Season of the Vikings ever.’
As with all comparisons, this one requires context.
The 1998 and 2009 Vikings thrilled because they hinted at greatness. You knew these teams were talented enough to win a Super Bowl.
The 1998 team set offensive records and generally won easily. The 2009 Vikings threatened to claim the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history with a proven Hall of Fame quarterback as their main rival.
These teams were sufficiently dominant, however, that many of their victories were not suspenseful. To win by two touchdowns is impressive. It is not the same as “exciting”.
The Vikings of 2022 are unique. They could clinch the division title in their 14th game. Nine of their last 10 games have ended in a tiebreak late in the fourth quarter, and many of their game-winning plays have been unlikely or downright lucky.
The Saints hit the upright and the crossbar with what would have been an equalizing field goal. Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios had the football slipped to him as he lay in the end zone. Bills star quarterback Josh Allen inexplicably committed turnovers in every end zone.
All four starters from a secondary that ranks last in the NFL in yards allowed had an interception that led directly to a win.
From week to week, Diamond is right: there’s never been a Vikings season featuring this kind of relentless drama.
“That’s life in the NFL,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “If you go back and look at most seasons in the past, most games come down to the last minute, the endgame. It feels like the weird game when you’re at the start of the fourth quarter and it’s decided.
“It’s a chore, man. I mean, it’s a chore.”
The pivotal moments of the fourth quarter are easy to identify. The proximity of these games means players recognize that a game can be won or lost at any time.
“I remember when we didn’t connect on that third down at the end of the first half against the Jets,” Cousins said. “I’m like, ‘Just that missed throw on a third down, trying to get into the field goal range – that could be why we lose the game. Because if you convert that and stay on the field, you either get a touchdown or at least slow down time so the Jets can’t come down and kick a field goal.
“A moment in the first quarter, in the second quarter, several times can make the difference, and I think that tension – I feel it on Wednesday at 12:30.
He turned, looked at the clock, and suppressed the urge to call a timeout.