According to Dante Alighieri, the eighth circle of hell is divided into ten concentric ditches. Into these ditches fall those guilty of sins of fraud and malice. Dante offered a sample of persons who had fallen into each ditch, but did not have the foresight of Nostradamus to predict which 21st century figures would help fill the never-ending void in these trenches. Alas, that is left to us.
Although Vikings' Coach Mike Tice seems like a nice enough fellow, in Dante's time, Tice's afterlife certainly would have involved eternal torture. Given his penchant for pandering to and seducing fans, Tice surely would have been destined for at least the first ditch of the eighth circle of hell, where he would have been lashed by horned devils throughout eternity. Tice would have earned this plight by his straight-faced contentions that the Vikings' (1) have depth on defense and (2) as of Tuesday, have depth, in particular, at cornerback. Gaaahhh--straight to the first ditch of the eighth circle, coach.
Tice might not think that eternal damnation in the first ditch is so bad, however, being the product of a system that relishes motivational lashings, even if they are normally of the tongue-variety. But a glimpse down the concentric ditches suggests a presumably more disconcerting destination for Tice. Past the bodies of those mired in excrement and those baptized in fire prior to being welded into the fabric of the crevices below Hell's eighth circle--way down at the depths of the eighth circle--are those guilty of the sin of falsifying. Falsifiers are left to create and pick their own scabs--much like a coach who must live with the lot that he has created. And, judging from the rantings of coaches when questioned about decisions gone awry, most professional coaches, including Tice, likely would prefer to avoid this fate.
Today, with most established religions being so forgiving, Tice might fair better in the afterworld--but he may want to be more honest on matters of import if only to hedge his bet. If Tice had been honest in the off-season, he may have said the following of the Vikings' defense:
1. We expect something from a first-round, pass-rushing defensive end, but not as much as we would have expected out of the incumbent to the position who will miss several games at the beginning of the season while serving a league suspension for his second DUI.
2. We expect something from a second-round, second-year middle-linebacker, but not as much as we got out of an aging, but veteran middle-linebacker.
3. We expect our newly signed cornerback to be an upgrade to the secondary, but only because last year's incumbent was beyond awful.
4. We expect improvement out of our strong-side linebacker, but only because he was injured so often last year that he could contribute almost nothing.
5. Given our expectations, to make significant strides on defense this year, we need to add a veteran middle linebacker, two veteran corners, two outside linebackers, and a veteran defensive end.
Because Tice became enamored with his own prediction that the Vikings would fill their defensive chasms with draft picks--in a manner no current-era team has accomplished en route to the Super Bowl--and the addition of one veteran starter, he did not make these statements. Nor did he make these additions. Tice went one better yesterday when he announced that the Vikings are now deeper at secondary with the additions of two cornerbacks--free agents Terrance Shaw and Ralph Brown. Tice called the move "an upgrade in our depth."
As Tice did in the off-season with the defensive line--calling it the "deepest in the NFL"--he is now doing with the secondary. On Monday, the Vikings put Ken Irvin on IR (out for the season). That left the already much-maligned Rushen Jones as the only nickle back and the Vikings without an NFL-caliber dime back. Tice immediately scoured the wires and found the eminently unwanted Shaw and Brown.
How bad could Shaw and Brown be? Considering that, last year, Shaw was a backup for Oakland's porous secondary and Brown was a reserve for the Giants and considering that Brown was cut by the secondary-challenged Skins this year, pretty bad. But Tice is bound to confound the issue by extolling the "depth" that Shaw and Brown bring to the Vikings' secondary. The addition of Shaw and Brown undoubtedly gives the Vikings more active corners than they had on Monday (though the Vikings have the same number of active corners today as they did going into Sunday's game, with the loss of Irvin and the cutting of another corner corner from the active roster to make room for the additions), but neither Shaw or Brown--or even, were it possible, the two morphed into one--represents an upgrade over Irvin. As such, this sounds like another Tice canard.
Tice may not like what he sees when he looks at his defense. That would not be all that revealing for a team that has short-changed its defense for several years running. But selling the defense as a Superbowl defense when it is not does more harm than Tice apparently realizes. Not only does it make fans surly when they realize the truth, it also sets the coach up for a fall at the end of the season when Red--though equal as an accomplice--looks to satiate the surly fans by letting the ax fall.
Had Tice been more transparent about the shortcomings of the Vikings' defense, Red might have opened his treasure chest to sign a Holdman, Trotter, Wistrom, Sapp, Gold, Ogunleye, or the like. At a minimum, fans might have understood if the Vikings were done in by their defense again this season. Instead, Tice chose to go the sell route--a route with a steep slope, in or outside of Dante's Hell. Only a deep run through the playoffs can give that sell a happy ending and remove--and that run, it appears, will rest on the shoulders of the Vikings' offense.
Up Next: Numbers--I mean it this time! Plus, the depression that is Detroit and Chicago.