Stefon Diggs was called pretty much every name in the book after forcing his way out of the Twin Cities.
Most opted for “diva” as a way to characterize the way the former Minnesota Vikings star handled himself before being traded to the Buffalo Bills last offseason. Others went with the word “distraction” based on the way he regularly used Twitter as a medium to voice his displeasure.
In reality, everyone should’ve been using the word “genius” to describe Diggs as he rid himself of a run-heavy scheme in exchange for a team committed to throwing him the ball as much as possible.
It has resulted in the Bills developing into arguably the most explosive offense in the league. They will play the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Meanwhile, the Vikings stayed committed to the ground game this season, missed the playoffs completely and are looking for an offensive coordinator once again after Gary Kubiak recently announced his retirement.
In other words, Diggs is getting the last laugh, his new team flourishing, his old team floundering.
Some thought Diggs was getting exactly what he deserved this offseason by getting traded to a franchise that had only made the playoffs twice this millennium. Instead, it was the Vikings getting exactly what they deserved for trading their best player, forced to watch helplessly as he parlayed an enhanced role into incredible production.
The stats speak for themselves as Diggs put up a ridiculous stat line that featured a league-high 127 receptions for a league-high 1,535 receiving yards. He’s gone from undeniable talent to arguably the best receiver in the league simply because he’s getting the ball more.
That’s something Diggs could’ve done with the Vikings if they gave him a chance.
Some apologists will note that the trade worked out fine for the Vikings as they drafted receiver Justin Jefferson, who looks every bit like a potential superstar. That’s absolutely true as Jefferson put together the best rookie campaign since Randy Moss, hauling in 88 catches for 1,400 receiving yards. Just imagine what Jefferson could have done if the Vikings had thrown him the ball more. He finished with 41 fewer targets than Diggs this season.
That’s the real issue at hand.
As explosive as the Vikings were on offense, they limited their ceiling by making running back Dalvin Cook the focal point. He’s undoubtedly a tremendous talent, and might have flirted with 2,000 rushing yards had he played a full 16-game slate. But he didn’t and he hasn’t at any point in his career. Ultimately, Cook finished with 1,557 rushing yards, second in the league to Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry, and the Vikings still missed the playoffs.
That’s not an indictment of Cook; he simply plays a position that isn’t as impactful as it used to be.
The fact that coach Mike Zimmer wants the Vikings to stay committed to a run-heavy scheme moving forward is concerning. That stubbornness has already ostracized a bona fide superstar in Diggs, and if the Vikings aren’t careful, it could happen again with Jefferson down the road.
Now, that doesn’t mean Jefferson will force his way out. All signs point to him being an affable kid that values the team over himself.
The same could be said about Diggs early in his career. Until he realized the Vikings were limiting themselves by limiting him.
That’s the point Diggs was trying to make all along. He knew he could take the Vikings to the next level if they let him. They didn’t, and now he’s doing it for the Bills.