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New Vikings QB coach painful reminder of most frustrating year

As word spread Tuesday that the Vikings were hiring a new quarterbacks coach, Vikings fans/pain historians had similar reactions.

Wait, isn't Josh McCown ...

Yes, he is.

McCown, the newest member of the Vikings staff, was the Cardinals' quarterback in 2003 during the fateful play that ended the most frustrating season I can remember the Vikings — or any Minnesota pro team, for that matter — having in at least the last quarter-century.

On fourth-and-25 from the Vikings 28, McCown rolled out and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Nate Poole in the corner of the end zone as time expired. Final score: Arizona 18, Vikings 17.

A win would have put the Vikings in the playoffs as the division champion. Instead, they missed out and the Packers earned a berth instead. In the words of KFAN's Paul Allen: Nooooooo. Nooooooo.

Poole earned the key to the city of Green Bay, which is about as realistically useful as Packers "stock," but still. McCown went on to have an absurdly long playing career, mostly as a backup QB, and last appeared in a game in 2019 before transitioning to coaching.

And now he's the Vikings QB coach. I'm sure he'll do a fine job at that, though I can't tell yet if hiring him is tempting fate or flexing on the ghosts of the past — as I talked about on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.

Because, folks, in case you forgot just how maddening those 2003 Vikings were:

*Sticking just to that Cardinals game for now: Arizona entered the game with a 3-12 record. The Vikings led 17-6 midway through the fourth quarter against a team clearly begging for the season to end before the Cardinals drove for a TD with just under two minutes left to cut it to 17-12. From there, all the Vikings needed to do was recover an on-side kick and they were off to the playoffs. But of course they didn't do that. The Cardinals got the ball and quickly advanced inside the Vikings 10, only to be pushed away by back-to-back sacks. That led to fourth-and-25. And, you know.

*The Vikings started the 2003 season 6-0, including a surprising Week 1 win at Green Bay. Their next four wins were by double digits. They had Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss rolling. Moss would finish the year with 111 catches, 17 for touchdowns. This was a legitimately elite offense and a good team overall.

*However: After starting 6-0, they lost to the Giants. New York would finish 4-12 that season. Four teams finished with that identical record, tied for worst in the NFL: the Giants, Cardinals, Raiders and Chargers. The Vikings lost to all four of them over their final 10 games. A major factor in their undoing is that they committed 127 penalties, tied for second-most in the league that year.

I defy you to find a more frustrating team in recent Minnesota sports history. Maybe it was just as well that McCown found Poole in the end zone 20 years ago and gave them what they deserved?