Saturday, March 3, 2012


As I'm sure you've all heard by now, being the educated, well-read individuals you are: the NFL has confirmed that the Saints defense had a bounty program dating back to the 2009 season. This news comes as no surprise to anyone who watched the Saints play in the 2009 playoffs. Before today, the depressing memory of a 3rd failed NFC Championship bid in my lifetime had been supressed deep into my subconscious. After today, the recollection of 'balls on the ground, balls on the ground' and the Ol' Dongslinger's ankle even more swollen than mine is currently (intramurals mishap) is fresh and stinging like a wound reopened. Breathe it in, Vikings fans. We all knew they were trying to hurt Favre. For Pete's sake, they tackled him on a run play 3 steps after he handed it off in that game (among many other obvious cheapshots that the league admitted to missing a week later). The Saints may not have succeeded in their bid to knock the toughest quarterback to ever play the game out of it, but on that fatal across-the-body interception, every Viking fan in the universe was screaming "RUN FOR IT!"

Favre had all the green he needed right in front of him. Hell, there may as well have been tickets to Miami sitting on the other side of that down marker as far as I'm concerned. If Favre runs those 12 feet and slides, he walks off, and we trot on the most accurate kicker in the league. I would've liked our odds. But after absorbing a brutal high-low hit only minutes earlier that nearly took him out of the game, he just mentally cashed in. We all know how the rest of that story goes. But you know what? We aren't allowed to care about this. If any team wanted to stop their quarterback from getting murdered, there was an easy and obvious answer: do it right back. My dad claims to not care about sports, but he watches them, knows a ton about them, and always said exactly that when we talked about the '09 NFC Championship. He'd say, "if we didn't want them to hit our quarterback dirty, after the first shot, Hutch or Kleinsasser or anybody needed to tell them, 'if that's how you want to play, we're taking out Brees' knees.'" He's absolutely right. If we didn't want our quarterback being hit illegally, we should've sent Letroy Guion or Fred Evans or Jayme Mitchell out and had him roll up on the Breesus. I bet if the 2009 Vikings had that attitude, we wouldn't have lost that game.

For anyone who follows big-time college football and the NFL closely, this bounty stuff isn't a groundbreaking case. Judging the response from the NFL player community, it isn't something that's even irregular. This may have just been an operation that got too big to ignore, since it was known about from the front office all the way down. I mean, nobody needed to do an investigation to tell me the Saints were trying to hurt their opponents' key players in 2009. There are surely many facts that will come out in the following days, and I'd like to admit I didn't read the report in full detail. My first question would have to be who instituted this practice. I know Gregg Williams is taking the majority of the heat on this one so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jon Vilma was heavily associated with it either. My reasoning on this (BESIDES the 10K he reportedly put on Favre's head in the NFC Championship) is Vilma is an alumni of my favorite college football program, the University of Miami. Despite it's many accolades, the program has also gained infamy over an "alleged" bounty pool run by 2 Live Crew frontman Uncle Luke. If nothing else, the bounty culture was certainly nothing that made Jon Vilma uncomfortable. EDIT: News has come out that both the Redskins and Bills had similar bounty programs during times Williams was coaching there.

At this point, I need to be clear that I don't think we should be mad about this. I'm sure they would have been gunning for Favre in that game even if there were no bounties. Still, that game made me hate the Saints.So I am nothing but excited about the fact that we'll soon find out what the worst punishment in NFL history looks like as a small consolation. The actions of Roger Goodell will be swift and impactful., because this is the first time something like this has ever happened. After dust settles, the SpyGate punishment will look like a weekend retreat. I can only hope that the punishment is 1/100th as devastating on the Saints' franchise and fans as the loss in '09 was for us. Unlikely, since it most definitely won't bring a Lombardi trophy to Minnesota, but cross your fingers. Perhaps the Rog will choose to crucify his only son, the Breesus, to pay for the sins of the Saints.  More likely, players involved will be suspended for at least 2 games, and I would not be surprised to see as high as 8 games for the most poignant offenders. Gregg Williams and Sean Payton will also likely be suspended or potentially lose their jobs following this, along with the fines that are sure to be well over the 500K Bill Belichick forked over for his part in SpyGate. Finally, the Saints stand to lose a few draft picks along with a substantially larger amount of cash than what Payton and Williams are fined. Good thing those Cajuns like things spicy... because this one is gonna burn more than Snoop Dogg in Jamaica fresh off of a glaucoma diagnosis.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Your Super Bowl Winner Is...

Congratulations to the New York Giants. Sadly, we all were put in the position where New York winning a title was the better outcome for the sports world. In my playoff predition post, I suggested that only a fool would draw connections between the 2008 Giants and this year's team. Clearly, I am the fool because this team, and their playoff run was eerily similar to that year. Yet again, they pulled out a close one in a well played football game over a Patriots team that made just a couple more mistakes than they did. Small breaks like recovering 2 of your own fumbles can end up being the difference in the game, and it was again.What a great story for them. Between the injury bug biting them early on, Eli having to deal with his status as an 'elite' quarterback being debated all year, losing to the Redskins twice and sneaking in the playoffs in week 17, this team defied the odds to become the first in NFL history with only 9 wins in the regular season to win the Super Bowl.

I was rooting for the Giants in this one myself. I expected the Giants' wideouts to dominate the outmatched New England secondary (they did) and Tom Brady to miss Rob Gronkowski just enough for it to matter in the end. It turned out that was just the case. Brady looked great for the most part, including a Super Bowl record 16 consecutive completions, and I thought the Giants were in trouble when he masterfully engineered a Super Bowl record 96 yard drive at the end of the first half that gave the Patriots the lead. When that happened, I thought it would be the turning point of the game. It completely voided all of the Giants' first half dominance. Instead, it ended up being a fight to the finish, and Brady simply didn't have enough magic in the end. His move to throw the ball away downfield on what ended up being ruled intentional grounding seemed like a savvy one, but it was a great call on the referee's part. There was clearly no one from New England headed in the direction he threw it. His lone interception was on a play (1st down if I'm not mistaken) that a healthy Gronkowski would have been much more likely to make, and that was a crucial moment in the game.

Eli Manning picked apart a New England secondary that was held together with chickenwire and dried loogies, methodically moving his offense downfield. How sick must Peyton feel? This was supposed to be the year that the Colts won it in their own house (not sure why but yes, people were saying it), instead we watch his younger brother surpass him on the Super Bowl totem pole (hey that rhymes!) while rumors swirl about him being CUT in the near future. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Tom Brady spent an hour staring at the ground or something in the locker room after the game he was so pissed. There's an article on Yahoo! about it even. The now ringier Manning was on point when it counted, just as he was all year long. I will say this though, the fact that the Patriots were playing a wide receiver as their nickel cornerback and in the Super Bowl is a true testament to what good coaching and Tom Brady as your quarterback can do for a team. Both defenses played very well, and the Pats got away with at least one pass interference call.

There were two plays that were very similar to the last Super Bowl matchup to me. In '08, Asante Samuel dropped a gift wrapped interception that directly preceded the Tyree catch play that is arguably the greatest in Super Bowl history. The drop:

In tonight's game, Tom Brady lofted a pass to a leaping Wes Welker on a second and long with 4 minutes to play that would've given the Patriots a first down in Giants territory with the Giants having only 1 timeout left. This likely could have sealed the game. Instead, two plays later, we have the Manningham catch that broke the back of the Patriots. One might even argue that Welker's drop completely demoralized the defense if you saw how the entire defensive line reacted. Here's Wes's drop, slightly higher difficulty but it hits him right in between his hands...

I couldn't believe that Ahmad Bradshaw "accidentally" fell in the end zone like that, either. Then I thought a little deeper and considered that a player on even the grandest of stages might be selfish enough to want the glory, the title of having scored the game winner in the Super Bowl. Say it ain't so, Ahmad. Is it otherwise that A.) this finely tuned, world class athlete whose entire career is reliant on his ability to control the direction of his momentum, was not able to, or B.) he was not aware of the situation in the biggest game of his life? Believe what you like, but it tastes like there's a turd in the punchbowl if you ask me. He must have had a lot of faith in his boys on defense to pull a move like that. Great game. Maybe one day the Vikings can win one of those shiny trophies.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Heart-Wrenching Season Finale of Odin's Eye

(Turns lights on, peers around, dusts things off)

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a good holiday season. It's definitely been a little while since I've hopped on here.That's what happens when someone like me finally gets a new Xbox 360 for the first time in 2 years. Dear lord how I had missed that wonderful, beautiful machine. If it had a built-in refrigerator and some sort of sexual port, I'm not sure I'd ever leave it's side. Not that I do besides to go to work, anyway. But enough about sexual ports and such. Since my last entry a lot has happened, but at the same time not much has changed. The Vikings season is now officially over and we have months to ponder what to do with our #3 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and how to solve the laundry list of woes this team is facing. From stadium deals to franchise players, it's tough to put into words how disappointing and painful the season went. When I tried to think of a word for it, all I could really picture was this:

Here are my position grades for season's end, and since we are dealing with a bunch of dum-dum football players we will utilize the elementary school grading system:

E = Excellent
S = Satisfactory
N = Needs Improvement

Quarterback: N
The season started off the same way it ended for our offense, with an interception. In between, there was a whole bunch of what was mostly junk kept afloat by a handful of nice plays. Donovan McNabb's career as a Viking was short lived and disappointing as the passing attack was a complete non-threat with him at the helm. Once Christian Ponder stepped in, the offense started moving a bit. However, he was not only a threat to the other team but a threat to us as well, throwing many interceptions at the worst possible times. Ponder spent the last quarter of the season pretty dinged up and Joe Webb got to play in several games, leading us to victory against the Redskins and nearly doing the same against the Lions and the Bears. The quarterback position remains unstable enough for some fans and writers to start wondering if the Vikings should consider drafting Robert Griffin III with the 3rd overall pick. Personally, I don't think any of our current quarterbacks are good enough to get us to the top, but we also have bigger needs to address.

Running Backs: S+
Adrian Peterson was a stud all year until his knee was shredded in the Redskins game. Kevin Siefert has noted that over the past few years, AP has made the transition from being a back with game-breaking speed to a power runner with less huge gains. This is important because after that injury, his speed may be diminished. However, as any Vikings official or fan will tell you, Adrian Peterson is the one guy who can come back from this injury as good as he was before it. Toby Gerhart played well in his absence, but now he is faced with coming back from a torn MCL. It was not a good year for health on the Vikings roster, and very few areas of the team escaped the injury bug.

Receivers/Tight Ends: S
Percy Harvin did end up having a breakout year as I predicted with 87 catches, 967 yards and 6 touchdowns as well as over 300 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. If there were any other semblance of a threat in our receiving corps, I think he ends with closer to 100 catches and 1100-1200 yards. Several teams with smart game plans were able to key on Percy late in the year and slow him down since he was our only explosive offensive threat in games AP wasn't in. The rest of the receivers are garbage you can pick up off of anyone's practice squad at any time, other than Michael Jenkins. Shiancoe showed that he has lost a step and is not as good as he once was in the years prior to the last two, while Kyle Rudolph made a handful of highlight reel catches in limited action. I predict we will not be seeing Visanthe in a Vikings uniform next year, meaning it is time to see if Kyle Rudolph can become as good of a tight end as it seems he can be. We need to sign a blocking specialist, because Jimmy Kleinsasser played his last game in Purple this past Sunday and he was the best in the business. Kleinsasser will be missed. He was a Vikings icon in a weird way that only players like Chris Walsh and Mike Morris can understand.

Offensive Line: N
Umm... awful. Need I say more? 49 sacks given up this year. John Sullivan had a decent year and got a contract extension. Don't expect to see Hutch back in Purple or  Anthony Herrera. Phil Loadholt will have his final shot next year in a contract year, and Charlie Johnson may remain, but you can be damn certain it won't be at left tackle. As fans, we should hope that somehow Matt Kalil falls to us in the draft. If he does not, the only way we're drafting OL in the first round is if a Ponderesque reach occurs or we trade down. Either way, expect to see at least 2 new starters on the line come September.

Defensive Backs: N
Why did I decide to do these two groups back to back? Evaluating the Vikings offensive line and defensive secondary is like being the judge at a beauty pageant in central Wisconsin. No matter how you look at it, it's gonna be ugly. We set the NFL record for the longest span between interceptions. TRANSLATION: There isn't a ball-hawk on our roster. There isn't a freakin' chicken hawk on our roster for christ's sake. Of the week 17 starters, Mistral Raymond may be the only one back in Purple next year. We're pretty screwed in this area for next season as well, barring a high draft pick and a couple free agent pickups with breakout performances in 2012.

Apparently, this post is Looney Tunes themed.
Linebackers: S
Chad Greenway tackled people that had the ball and were near him. He did it a lot. Other than that, he didn't do anything. I don't think much of that. Any linebacker in the NFL can tackle people. Take a look at the league leaders in tackles sometime. I'm willing to bet more than half of the top five are players not on playoff teams (Just checked, 4 out of 5 are on non-playoff teams). Erin Henderson played well enough to warrant a second season as a starter, while his brother lost a step and looked bad in pass coverage with no help from the secondary. Don't expect to see the Henderson brothers repeat in our LB corps in 2012. Other than that, this position group played just well enough to not be noticed. Way to strive for the middle, guys.

Defensive Line: S+
The Dongslinger got us again this year, guys. He teased us with a near Super Bowl appearance in 2009, he broke down on us and crapped himself in 2010, and in 2011 it was his lay down in front of Michael Strahan years ago that would ultimately cost us what would have been our only positive milestone of the season, the all-time sack record. Jared Allen had a monster year and deserves the defensive player of the year. If he doesn't get it, it will be entirely the fault of the sad excuse of a defense we had around him and no fault of his own. Without him, this group gets an S- or N grade. Remi Ayodele was our most useless free agent pickup in the past off season, Brian Robison pulled his best Bobby Fischer impression and disappeared after 6 weeks, and Kevin Williams battled a slow start to prove he was still starting-caliber. I think Everson Griffen and Christian Ballard will be seeing extended playing time on this line in 2012, and also would not be surprised to see the Vikings draft a big space-eating defensive tackle in the mid rounds of this year's draft.

Kicking: S
Longwell has definitely lost a little power in his kicks, but we need to bring him back as long as he's willing to play for us. No need to have to worry about finding a decent kicker with all of our other problems.

Punting: S+
Kluwe did just fine this year. He's also one of the main reasons this blog exists, because he made up the name and inspired me to follow through on my talk of creating one. He is the Godfather.

Returners: S
Marcus Sherels had a decent year AS A PUNT RETURNER. See how I emphasized that last part? It's because he looked like an idiot bringing out kickoffs from 8 yards deep far too many times this season. That goes for you too, Lorenzo Booker. This season started out better than any season I've ever seen when Percy took a kickoff 100+ yards for a touchdown and took out the other team's kicker for the season in a single play. From that point on, the season only got worse. However, I digress. If we can't find a guy other than Percy that can be an above average kick returner, then he should be doing the job. The reason why he couldn't do it this year was because he was relied on so heavily on offense. No matter what way you slice it, this means we need more dynamic weapons on our team.

Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round

Cincinnatti @ Houston: Cincinnatti
Did I spell the name of that crappy city correctly? Anyways, the Red Rocket Andy Dalton gets one more game to play and the AFC North represents 75% of the AFC playoff bracket after round 1 on a count of Houston having to use their 3rd string quarterback and God not actually caring about football. (More on that in a second.)

Detroit @ New Orleans: New Orleans
They already played this year and New Orleans kicked the crap out of them. At this time last year, a lot of people were picking NO to go to the Super Bowl and they promptly wet themselves against a sub-.500 Seattle team and gave up the greatest touchdown run in playoff history in the process. Oh, and the term "Beast Mode" went viral thanks to them as well. However, this is in the Superdome, so Saints roll.

Atlanta @ New York: New York
I don't have a ton of reasoning on this one, I just think Tony Gonzalez will be doomed to the shameful title of  greatest player to have never won a playoff game. New York also has the homefield advantage and some momentum after picking up the NFC East in a winner-take-all matchup last week against Dallas.

Pittsburgh @ Denver: Pittsburgh
I don't like Pittsburgh much at all, so I would love to see some real Angels in the Backfield action happen in this game. However, it isn't likely since God, if he existed, does not care about football. Even the corn in his holy poo would not give a single gram of fuck about football. Think about that the next time you hear or see people connecting a lucky fumble recovery or an untimely run out of bounds to divine intervention.

Divisional Round

New York @ Green Bay: Green Bay
Green Bay is a far too consistent team going against a far too inconsistent team, plus they are at home and defending champs. Packers roll in this one, though some could make an idiotic connection between this being the second game against them after coming very close to beating them in the regular season, and their second game against a certain heavily-favored team in the Super Bowl after nearly beating them in the regular season.

New Orleans @ San Francisco: San Francisco
New Orleans' offense runs best on turf. Anywhere outside of a dome, this team's offense runs like an Audi A8 filled up with diesel. San Francisco's defense will stymie the Saints' explosive offense and move on to the NFC Championship.

Cincinnatti @ New England: New England
I want to preface this by saying New England hasn't won a playoff game since about 2007, but an inexperienced Bengals team that backed into the playoffs is the perfect way to get off of that schneid. Gronk get touchdown, Patriots move on.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore: Baltimore
This will be a huge matchup as it always is. Baltimore has beaten the Steelers twice this season already, and if Big Ben is healthy by this game it will be a battle to the final whistle as usual. As I predicted at the beginning of the season, this is the year Baltimore comes out on top.

Conference Championships

San Francisco @ Green Bay: Green Bay
Green Bay will blow this game out. I think this is the point where Alex Smith's fantasy season finally ends and implodes upon him. I expect Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson to force turnovers and the Packers to win handily.

Baltimore @ New England: Baltimore
This is Baltimore's year! I have predicted it since the beginning of the season, and I'm sticking with them. They won't make it all the way to the championship parade, but they'll get their Super Bowl appearance.

Super Bowl

Baltimore vs. Green Bay: Green Bay
Despite there being a handful of weaknesses that Green Bay has shown this year, they are still the best overall team in the league. They showed the ability to be consistent throughout the season outside of the KC game, and they will win this again. Boyee, I hope I'm wrong, but I'm stickin' by mah story on these predictions. Lord have mercy.

Anyway, it has been a great time running this site for the first year. I should have started one the second I heard Brett Favre was joining the Vikings, but hell, now I'll say I stuck with them through thick and thin. This truly was an awful year for the team, but this place was a great medium for me to vent and just do something somewhat creative. I give myself a B- on the year as a blogger. I should be more consistent with my postings, and I plan to improve that. I also will continue to post on here, whether it be Vikings related or otherwise. I might have a thing or two to say about the Timberwolves since Ricky Rubio finally got me back on the bandwagon. Thanks for reading as always folks. For the Vikings season, it's lights off.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Every down Everson?

"Where am I gonna hide the body?"
Welcome back everyone! This piece is the second in a series of moves that Odin's Eye would make if I were the Triangle of Authority. Even looking up the pictures for this post, I got excited. Dude is a physical freak.  Everson Griffen stands 6'3, 280 pounds and runs a 4.66 40-yard dash. According to his NFL combine report, he is especially powerful in confined space and his agility and speed in space are better than most DEs. His agility and speed stems back to his days as a high school running back. As any NFL draft analyst worth their salt would tell you, you can't get caught up in measureables, as some fans may with a player like Joe Webb. We aren't the Raiders here, setting our depth charts by 40 times. However, I've watched the Vikings nearly every play of every game this year, and this guy is an animal. He plays mostly on special teams and rotates in on defense sparingly as a linebacker or defensive lineman. He has accumulated 21 tackles (15 solo, 3 for loss), 4 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in that time on defense, as well as 9 tackles and a forced fumble on special teams.

Introducing "The Spear." Popularized by Mr. Bill Goldberg.

 Despite trying not to fall in love with the sheer athleticism that Griffen has displayed in his time on the field, it's hard not to. He is a gunner on special teams, and is probably one of the biggest gunners in the entire NFL. He can really move. Last week, on a screen pass to Darren Sproles, he caught up to Sproles from behind before Sproles was knocked out of bounds by Jamarca Stanford. How many 280 pound men have you seen catch a guy with Sproles' speed, from behind no less? Don't act like you're not impressed. He also scooped up a botched snap by the Saints in stride and would have scored if not for the Breesus' all out effort to stop him. If you skip to the 0:40 second point in this highlight, those plays are back-to-back. I just re-watched the play where he catches up to Sproles from behind, and I recommend you do too. He is on the opposite side of the field when Sproles catches that ball. Holy sh*t. He also blew by the Saints' left tackle on that fumble recovery.

Note: I had to watch the discount double-check commercial to get to those highlights. Man do I hate that ad and everything it represents.  For those keeping score at home, that's two Saints-Vikings searches in a row that have resulted in a kick to the plums. RODGERS!?! DISCOUNT DOUBLE-TWAP!!

Not only has he wowed me with his athleticism, but unlike Joe Webb, Griffen has made the most of his opportunities. His 4 sacks this season are good for 3rd on the team behind Brian Robison (6.0) and some other guy with a mullet or something. I'm no mathemetician, but I'm willing to bet if you projected Griffen's statistics over how many snaps a starter like Robison has gotten (I tried, but could not find how many defensive snaps Griffen has been on the field for this season), they would look pretty, prettttty, pretttttty, prettttttay good.

Going forward, I expect big things from Griffen. His draft stock dropped a 2 years ago because of concerns about his work ethic, and  he was seen as a high-risk, high-reward pick. As long as he keeps his name out of the police reports, I believe this man will replace Brian Robison or one of our linebackers by next year. I mean, for Pete's sake, isn't it about time the Vikings got a pick right that wasn't in the first round? Think of the damage this 280 pound beast can do to an offensive player when he can get the type of short-range momentum that comes with a 4.6 40. He has the potential to be an absolute sledgehammer on the field. His abilities as far as pass coverage and hands go, are still mostly unknown. The good news about that is if he struggles in those areas, he is originally a defensive end. Brian Robison signed a 3-year, 14.1 million dollar deal this offseason, which makes him relatively cheap and a leading candidate to be replaced after an underwhelming first season as a starter this year. Chad Greenway signed a big deal, so don't expect to see Griffen replacing him. Erin Henderson has played decently enough this season to garner a starting spot next year. My opinion about his brother E.J. has been made here before, but to refresh you all, I feel he has lost a step and is one of the players that needs to go in order to improve our NFL-record breaking (and not in a good way) defense.

I don't see the Mike position as a good fit for Griffen if he were to play in the linebacking corps, so Greenway or Erin Henderson would have to convert to the middle to make room for Griffen. Otherwise, he may end up replacing Brian Robison, who has really dropped off the radar after a solid start to the 2011 season. Wherever Griffen ends up being plugged in, it's this blogger's strong opinion that he needs to be utilized more frequently in any way possible. There's really nowhere to go but up for this defense and Everson Griffen himself. One might say the sky is the limit for him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's up with Webb?

So tonight I was at work when I felt like I had a bit of an epiphany. I kind of hate that we have Joe Webb on our team.

Before you bash me, listen for a second. It is well documented that Webb is a phenomenal athlete. He is big, fast, and can jump high. It's all really breathtaking to witness.

HOWEVUH *Stephen A. Smith voice*, while he may be a considerably better all-around athlete than your average NFL-er, what is he really good at? He has shown almost nothing at the WR position in the two years he's been in the league. He has one catch in his career as a Viking. and this is the position we originally drafted him for. Webb hardly can get on the field even with our terrible receiving corps. My argumentative mind tells me this may be because he is also our backup QB and our coaching staff wants to keep him healthy, but if you're going to try to use a guy like we have tried to use Joe Webb, I doubt his status as backup quarterback is what's holding our coaching staff back. If he was good enough to be on the field as a receiver, he would be in my occasionally not-so-humble opinion.

Webb's running abilities have really been at their best (actually, they have only been effective) when he is in as our main QB, because the defense can't automatically assume he's going to run it like they do when he lines up in the backfield in the "Blazer" formation. When Joe has operated out of the Blazer formation he's gotten stuffed like a holiday turkey. He could be amazing if he had much for passing skills, but at this point those are questionable at best. As a quarterback, he is a 58% career passer with a 1:3 TD-INT ratio and a 5 yard/attempt average.It's a small sample size, but in my mind, his position will never be at quarterback. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why.

One aspect of his failures has been the timing of them. This aspect is not Joe Webb's fault at all. That's on the coaching staff and more specifically, Bill Musgrave. At times, Musgrave's offense looks like it could be very effective. At others, the playcalling makes you throw your hands up and wonder what the heck he was thinking. We ran two straight plays last week where Joe Webb faked handoffs to CHRISTIAN PONDER. What starting defensive player in the NFL is going to believe for a second that Christian Ponder is taking that handoff? (Vikings players not included.) Sure enough, no Saint did and he was promptly stopped after 3 yards. The next play Webb was hurried into an incompleted pass to Percy Harvin. (He also had one play earlier in the game where he was dropped for a 3 yard loss from the same formation.)

NOTE: As I was looking up the exact results for those plays, I Googled "Vikings-Saints recap". I clicked the first result, and quickly realized it was the recap for the 2009 NFC Championship. Talk about an unexpected kick to the plums. Not cool, Google.

Again, this is a great athlete, and I acknowledge that. But guess what? The NFL has seen plenty of Joe Webbs. If you're not able to apply your athleticism to a specific part of the game (receiving,  passing, blocking, returning or rushing the ball), you really aren't good for much. Josh Cribbs has been successful in Cleveland, but mainly for his return prowess (Joe has shown little to nothing in this area) while Brad Smith has made a decent living doing the same for a couple AFC East teams. Both have had decent success running Wildcat formations (Webb has not), but their marks have been made in the return game and as wide receivers as well. Joe is a 6th round pick, so we don't have a ton invested into him. He certainly wouldn't be the first 6th round pick by the Vikes that hasn't succeeded, if in fact he doesn't.

So what I'm asking, is how much longer do you folks think we should try to find ways to get Webb involved when he really hasn't shown much in the opportunities he's been given? Has his lack of success been Bill Musgrave's fault? Is it a collective problem between not being able to sustain drives long enough to utilize the Blazer formation properly, an inconsistent offensive line, and coaching mistakes? I really can't be sure. I'm glad I'm only pretending to be the Viking coaching staff and not actually a part of it. They really have a mess on their hands. We're almost to the end of his second season, so attributing it to adjusting to the NFL is an argument that's running out of slack in a hurry. I personally am getting a little tired of seeing every gimmick play we try for Mr. Webb fail miserably. Maybe it's time we give up. To decide whether to give up on Webb or Musgrave is not my problem, but at least one is at fault here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Losses For The Greater Good?

Helmet? I don't need no stinkin' helmet.

The last two games for the Vikings would have been painful if we weren't completely out of the playoff hunt and if we weren't, well, the Vikings. First, let's get through my notes from the loss to the Denver Tebows that I totally called:

Finally, an exciting game played by the Vikings. Christian Ponder shows signs that he is a good quarterback and also shows signs that he may be not so great of a quarterback -turnovers at terribly inopportuned times - is this guy Romo 2.0? Very similarly to the Raider game (and the Lions game), Ponder has turned the ball over both deep in our own territory and deep in enemy territory. This is a big red flag to me as a great football mind for these reasons: turnovers deep in your own territory equal easy points for your opponents, and turnovers deep in enemy territory equal out to forfeiting the opportunity for points for your team. These are the biggest momentum killers in the game of football.

 Even with all the missed tackles and blown coverages by the secondary, I wasn't getting angry like I do sometimes when the Vikings are up to their typical ridiculously idiotic things. Say it out loud: our fourth string cornerback is #1 on our depth chart. The secondary we are fielding has no business starting, and they wouldn't be without the barrage of injuries we've faced this year. The defense played wonderfully in the first half and awfully in the second, while the offense did the opposite and played pretty badly in the first half and quite well in the second, thanks to some great plays by Percy and Gerhart wearing down the Broncos defense.

However, at the end when the Broncos were in extra-point range and we had no timeouts, the decision to just let them run the clock enraged me. In a situation where it is clear the other team can run the clock down to nothing and kick a <30 yard field goal and you have a minute left, you gotta let them score. At least then we would have a fighting chance. I do not believe you can hold out and hope for a forced fumble or a blocked/missed chip shot FG in the NFL (Frazier indicated later in the presser that they were going for the block), because NFL teams will execute in that situation 99% of the time. This is not the NCAA where field goals (especially indoors) are commonly missed from short range. On ESPN's NFC North Blog, Kevin Seifert disagreed, and had this to say on the matter:

The Broncos had a 95.3 percent chance to win the game the moment they made the interception. Had the Vikings allowed an immediate touchdown, their chances of driving the field for a touchdown on their ensuing possession and ultimately winning the game in overtime was 2.5 percent. So statistically speaking, the Vikings had a better chance of stopping the Broncos' final possession, as they tried to do, than pulling off a non-traditional miracle.
 I agree with the idea that directly after the interception when we had 2 timeouts that we should've tried to make the stop, and if we did not allow a first down our worst-case scenario would have been the ball back with about 25-30 seconds and no timeouts. But once Willis McGahee broke off a 15 yard run down to our 4 yard line, I doubt we were better served by letting them run the clock down for a 21-yarder, which is essentially an extra point. Think fast, how many extra points have you ever seen blocked? Okay, now how many times have you seen a team score in 50 seconds? The percentage of us winning may have only been increased slightly if we let them score, but in "the game of inches", those are inches in the right direction.

Positives from this one included: Jared having another awesome game, Percy absolutely BEASTING for possibly the best game of his career, including two 50+ yard catch and runs for touchdowns, Kyle Rudolph having another ridiculous catch and Devin Aromashodu looking halfway like a passable starting receiver (he would go on to drop a long pass late in the Lions game).

The Lions game started out worse than any game this season, and if not for a late rally engineered by Joe Webb and aided by a penalty-prone Lions squad, would have probably gone down as the ugliest, most unwatchable game of the season. Yes, I know you're thinking about the Packer MNF game, but this was 21-doughnut 9:06 into the game. In the Packer game, the score hit 24-doughnut on a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch 4:15 into the 3rd quarter.  Anyhow, it ended the way we probably needed it to end, with a loss. Spoiler victories are fun to watch, and knocking the division rival Lions further away from the playoffs would have been nice.You know what is nicer than that? The #2 pick in the draft. Tell me how much you remember that great Viking victory last year over the heavily favored Eagles which cost us a few draft slots. Nobody gives a hoot about a victory when it doesn't mean anything, and that's exactly what this would have been. With Ryan Matt Kalil, the only top-5 OL prospect in the draft, most likely headed back to USC for his senior year (turns out this was just a rumor), we may be able to command a king's ransom to whatever team is desperate to trade up for a player like Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III. The Browns have 2 number 1's they may be willing to give up in order to get their shot at a franchise quarterback, since Colt McCoy hasn't exactly been setting the world ablaze. Even if we kept the pick, we could end up with  Mo Claiborne from LSU, who is considered by many to be every bit as good as last year's top-5 cornerback from LSU Patrick Peterson, or 2-time Biletnikoff award winner Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State. Both of those players would fill big needs and have the potential to produce immediately. Check the links and see what you think for yourselves.

For crying out loud though, did it really have to end with a blatant facemask no-call on our quarterback? You know, the same position that Tom Brady, the guy who got a penalty called on the defense for tackling him, plays? The last thing we needed this season was another terrible insult-to-injury type loss that FaceMaskGate has now provided us with.

Christian Ponder looked awful in this game. He threw 3 interceptions, one was returned for a touchdown, and also had a fumble lost in the end zone for a Detroit touchdown. He could have easily had 5 or 6 interceptions by my count if the Lions defensive backs caught balls that hit their hands and chests. This kid is really starting to worry me. I get it, rookies make mistakes. The problem is, he isn't learning from the mistakes. He is making the same turnovers every time. The greatness of my football mind is arguable at best, and perhaps the plays need to get more creative, but it seems to me that he really gives away the hitch routes that we throw. That was the route he was intercepted on multiple times today and the nature of that route makes TAINTS (touchdowns after interceptions) a frequent result if intercepted.

With all that said, there is no quarterback controversy here. Ponder is a rookie and I will begrudgingly accept his mistakes. I am simply outlining the areas in which I think he needs to improve. As Vikings fans we all know that excitement need be tempered at all times. Christian Ponder has shown flashes of potential and nothing more. While some may point to inconsistent first year stats of Mannings and Aikmans, there are also Tim Couches and David Carrs out there whose starts were very similar to our rookie quarterback's. For now, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in recent memory and a wide receiver corps that is pretty thin as well. Let's just say the cupboards are pretty empty for Chef Christian at this point, and over the next few years he should have some better ingredients to work with.

Doing it wrong...

Anyway, after Christian was benched for his performance/health reasons, Joe Webb brought us back with some spectacular running plays, breaking Fran Tarkenton's franchise record for rushing yards in a game by a QB with 109 and a TD, and our defense played pretty darn well all game. Our secondary was pretty bad, but pretty bad is actually pretty good at this point in time for us. If you're excited to have your 4th cornerback back in the lineup as the starter, you might be a Vikings fan. We're so beat up in the secondary we should probably contact the Make A Wish  Foundation and see if any of their kids' wish is to play in the NFL, then at least we'd get some positive headlines. Go ahead Leslie, throw Little Jimmy back there at strong safety. He surely couldn't get burned any worse than Jamarca Sanford and Ced Griffin have been, even if his condition does include club feet and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Jared Allen picked up his 100th sack as a Viking and 3 sacks overall, though that may be subject to change. The three sacks brought his season total to 17.5 with 3 games remaining, meaning he will need to average 2 sacks per game for the rest of the season to break Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record of 22.5.

Doing it right, all the time.

It's really becoming a strong opinion of mine that the Vikings need to clean house. I don't mean cut a couple players or veterans to send a message, either. I mean it in the sense that if the Vikings were a country, we need to drop an atom bomb on them. Look at who has come to play every game this season. It is literally the same 3-4 players, every time. Percy Harvin is a swiss army knife of an offensive weapon. How awesome is it to have a guy like Percy at 5'11, 180 pounds breaking tackles, refusing to go down until 4 guys make him? Jared Allen may give us the only good memory of this year if he can have a couple nice games in the next 3 and set the sack record. If we had 11 Percy Harvins on offense and 11 Jared Allens on defense, that'd be one hard-nosed, game breakin', mullet rockin', spear huntin', quarterback strippin', touchdown scorin' Super Bowl champion of a team right there.

"Mighty Mouse ain't got nothin' on me"

There are also a handful of solid players that do not make a ton of standout plays (Greenway, Kevin Williams, Erin Henderson, John Sullivan) but are still worth keeping. Finally, there is a good-sized portion of the team that has shown they do not have the ability to make plays that need to be made. Phil Loadholt was the 2nd most penalized offensive lineman in the league last year, and is good for at least one sack allowed/false start/hold per game this year. Charlie Johnson gives away more sacks than Santa gives away Christmas presents. Jamarca Sanford has no concept of how the Cover-2 defense is supposed to operate. Cedric Griffin has been beaten like a rented mule this season. Lorenzo Booker has about half as many fumbles this season as he has touches.

You're doing it wrong.
Devin Aromashodu has just as many drops as he does great catches. Even the ultimate warrior, EJ Henderson, needs to go. I've got a lot of respect for EJ as a football player for battling back from what should have been a career-ender and starting. That said, he doesn't have the mobility needed out of an effective Cover-2 Mike linebacker anymore. We need a sideline to sideline playmaker in the middle who can cover the increasingly athletic tight ends in the league, and I don't believe EJ is the guy we need in that position if we are to return to the top of the NFC Norse division.

The way the team has battled back in games recently is a great sign that our coaching staff still has the players playing hard. Some of these players (hell, who am I kidding, plenty of these players) at this point simply are not equipped to be playing in the roles they're in. The defensive backs that are playing now are a product of injury forcing them to be in, so there's really no question that the players we have seen the last few games back there will not be starting next year. The offensive line's issues however, are a product of lack of talent.

Both of these groups need to be almost completely rehauled. This means one of two things: either the Vikings will be active in free agency this year and will add starters in the secondary, offensive line and/or receiving corps, combined with at least 1-2 added immediate starters through the draft, or we will try to build strictly through the draft and potentially have another rough season next year. If we can add two or three impactful free agents and have a decent draft, we could be looking at competing again next year. With Allen and AP approaching the back end of their primes and Percy Harvin only having a couple years left on his rookie deal, we should be looking to compete sooner than later. To do so, we're gonna have to make some big changes. Thanks for reading y'all. Have a good week and as always, SKOL.