American Football: From Vikings to vanquished

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The Independent Online

Earlier this month, 17 of their players were accused of drunkenness and sexual misbehaviour following a debauched boat cruise, but now the hapless Vikings are embarrassing themselves on the field, too.

On Sunday evening, they were humbled 28-3 by the ailing Chicago Bears. The brilliance of the quarterback Daunte Culpepper's play last season has become a distant memory: in the loss to the Bears, Culpepper threw two interceptions, making 12 after only five games. Culpepper was not the only culpable Viking as the team conceded 14 penalties.

News of the offshore misdemeanours broke last week, although the team's head coach, Mike Tice, was unsure what effect it had had on his team. "I don't know. I'm not a psychologist," was his testy retort.

Tice, it seems, will soon be pursuing alternative career options. Indeed, he was lucky to keep his job in the summer after being found guilty of selling his allocation of Super Bowl tickets for personal gain.

A new owner, Zygi Wilf, has promised an overhaul, with Tice a likely scapegoat. It speaks volumes that Wilf has created a new job title, director of security, and filled the post with a retired FBI agent.

Meanwhile, the Vikings looks likely to continue to struggle. Discipline and leadership have sunk without trace under Tice. "I came here thinking we had a chance to win the championship," said the safety Darren Sharper, who joined Minnesota in the summer. "Right now, it doesn't look as if we even have a chance to win."