Sunday, March 13, 2005

Glad Handing

In the wake of the Vikings' most recent free-agent acquisition, former Green Bay Packer's safety Darren Sharper, Vikings' fans were inundated with another rousing rendition of how the Vikings have turned the corner. One local scribe went so far as to laud the recent signings as a clear indicator that the Vikings, particularly Vikings' owner Red McCombs, had discarded their parsimonious ways.

There really is minimal, if any support, for this notion, however. And there is mounting evidence that the Vikings recent foray into free agency is all about two things--reaching the NFL-mandated salary floor and selling the off-season as a success to the fan base.

It is hard to dislike the signing of Fred Smoot or Darren Sharper. Both players provide an immediate upgrade to the Vikings at their respective positions. Smoot adds a bit of brashness that the Vikings have lacked in recent years (at least from anyone qualified to be brash), while Sharper adds both ability and a degree of professionalism, a venerable combination the likes of which the Vikings desperately needed at the back of their secondary.

And although I have expressed concerns about Patrick Williams' fitness level, playmaking ability against the run, and the Vikings' commitment of resources to a player the Vikings hope to spell with Spencer Johnson on most passing downs and even on some running downs, Patrick Williams has to be an upgrade over Chris Hovan. That makes his addition at least positive, if not necessarily the highlight that the Vikings' front office would have us believe.

The re-signing of Jermaine Wiggins is the Vikings' lone off-season offensive move to date, but it is large. The move, as I have noted before, permits the Vikings to use two-tight-end sets in a manner essentially akin to using one tight end and a receiver. With Wiggins back, the Vikings will be able to keep Kleinsasser on the line more often, a move that could be particularly beneficial should the Vikings fail to shore up their offensive line this year.

Head Scratching

The free agency signings have led the Vikings' biggest chearleaders--their own front office--to engage in the type of glad handing not often seen in this part of the world. Between self-congratulatory praises and genuflecting moments of fealty to Red, it is a wonder the Vikings' front office has had time to sit down and draw up the relevant contracts.

But more curious than this absurd ritual is the response of the Vikings' front office to the trade of Randy Moss to Oakland. After the eye of the storm passed, and the personnel people had passed along their obligatory "it was in the best interests of the team" line to anyone who would listen, little was heard of or, apparently, spoken about the trade.

And that's odd. Particularly since the very little bit that we did hear--straight from the owner's mouth--suggested what many fans all along have speculated, that this was a poorly orchestrated trade in which the Vikings were fleeced. And, for no apparent reason, a deal in which the Vikings willingly were fleeced.

The Vikings have used the free agency period to persuade fans that the Moss deal was part of a larger agenda. The plan, the personnel folks have suggested, is to change the team's dynamics by changing the team's philosophy. That required, so goes the implication, that the Vikings part ways with their aerial maestro, Randy Moss. Only by parting with Moss, they have suggested, could the Vikings truly improve their defense. Sacrifices needed to be made.

Details Missing

What no member of the Vikings' front office has explained to anyone's satisfication, as yet, is why Moss' departure was necessary to improve the team. Nor has anyone explained why any sacrifice needed to be made of a young star in his athletic prime. At least not one that anyone--including the party who purportedly ordered the trade--is buying.

At first, fans were led to believe that Moss' antics had become too burdensome on teammates. Fans were told he was a distraction, a lockerroom cancer.

That story was plausible. After Moss left the Washington game rather than take the field for an on-side kick in an already lost game, several teammates and coaches openly expressed their disapproval. And, while Moss had every reason to be disgusted with his team's performance and the performance of the coaching staff in that game, it was impossible to excuse his actions. Matt Birk, for one, did not, and spoke of his frustration with Moss' antics. After the season, Daunte Culpepper was quoted as having said that "maybe it is time for a change."

The sound bites made it appear that Moss had worn out his stay in Minnesota, despite the fact that the receiver wanted to remain in Minnesota.

At least that's how things appeared to stand. Except most teammates even refused to support that theory. And, when questioned after the trade, Culpepper refused to stand by his earlier comments and was critical of people "putting words in my mouth." And Culpepper reiterated his position that, were Moss to remain a Viking, it would not be a problem.

That got fans second-guessing the trade, if receiving Napoleon Harris and the seventh pick in the 2005 draft were not enough to do so already. But fans surely wondered what was going on at Winter Park when Red revealed that: (1) he almost fired Tice in 2004 to "light a fire under Moss;" (2) he never wanted to trade Moss; (3) he believed that Moss was capable of achieving much more given the proper coaching; and (4) most incredibly, he did not believe that the Vikings received a proper return in the trade.

For a hands-on owner like Red, that's quite a telling indictment of the Moss trade.

Even more damning, however, is the fact that the Vikings have done nothing in the off-season to support the post-trade front office suggestion that moving Moss would pay dividends by allowing the team to shore up the defense. Even with Moss' salary, the Vikings could have signed Wiggins, Sharper, Williams, and Smoot. And they could have added Edgerton Hartwell, another linebacker, a placekicker, and signed all of their draft picks, and--without any capology hocus-pocus (such as when they gave Brian Russell a $7 million bonus incentive for an unattainable special team's performance)--they still could have found themselves teetering on the fringe of the NFL's salary floor.

So, while I laud the Vikings for making moves that they incidentally had to make to reach the salary floor, I cannot help but vomit at the suggestion that the Moss trade in any way made the recent free agent moves possible.

Red's post-trade comments suggest that Red wishes that he did not make the trade; that Red wishes that he had, instead, found a coach willing and able to coach Moss; that Red realizes that the Vikings would have been better off keeping Moss than trading him for what they did; and that Red is worried that the Vikings were bamboozled.

Whether this impression reflects Red's true impressions of the Moss trade is irrelevant. What is relevant, and what the Vikings' front office and the new owner should care about, is that that is the impression that the vast majority of Vikings' fans hold.

Up Next: What's Next?

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Vikes wanted to get rid of Moss, whether that was justified or not, every NFL team knew this. And that's exactly why we couldn't get a fair trade for him. The team didn't do a good enough job hiding their desire to rid themselves of Moss. If they did this from the get-go, they could have gotten more or still have Moss. Alas, what's done is done.

VG, you are dead on right about the front office and their "phantom connection" between the Moss trade and this improvement on Defense. Your average joe (who doesn't read your column) will think that we freed up all of this money from the Moss trade. It's a PR/Marketing move more than anything else, and from a business perspective it appears to be a good one. From a fans perspective though, it's transparent.

Ringmeister said...

Once again, VG, you are the voice of reason. The Moss trade seems to have been orchestrated by, and the ongoing "validity" thereof propagated by, the media. We vikes fans have been aware of Moss's personality flaws since somewhere aound draft day 1998. Some time around the infamous early exit from the field, did the non-stop Moss bashing start. Finally, after the poorly timed, although well deserved, faux-mooning of the Packer fans, the media decided the Viking fans had had enough. And around the loss to the Eagles in the playoffs, the media decided that it was time for Moss to go. A sentiment that was supported by a continual anti-Moss media barrage, and out-of-context "quotes" by the vikings players themselves. Surely this, the media wanted us to see, was why Moss needed to leave. Publicly people like Tice, who was probably busy scalping Super Bowl tickets, were decrying any knowledge of this impending trade. It seems then, the Viking front office started agreeing, as if to say, "Um, Er, Oh...., Yes! Yes, exactly, We do indeed need to get rid of Moss. Yes, let's begin trading him at once! And then the media exclaiming, "See??!!!, we told you!! This pandering by the media is grossly self-serving, and downright insulting. The tainted Moss, whom the Vikings are now "begging to unload" (media), garners only a 7th rounder and an average linebacker. The Oakland Raiders and Jerry Jones are certainly toasting one another saying, "Can you believe these guys? It's like taking candy from a baby"

Vikes Geek said...

I particularly appreciate the incessant attempt by local sports writers/voices to compare this trade to the T.O. trade. For what I hope is the last time, I will note that the two trades are not comparable. T.O. had to go. He was not going to play for S.F. and the league supported his position.

Unlike T.O., Moss had four years remaining on his contract, was happy to be in Minnesota, and was not lobbying for more money or a trade.

Ergo, unlike the T.O. deal, a deal that was determined first by T.O.'s unhappiness and apparent unwillingness to play for SF in 2005 (the deal that would have sent him to Baltimore) and next by the league (the deal that sent him to Philly), there was no need to accept the "best offer" for Moss in 2005.

We know that one of the reasons the Vikings made this deal is because they have rookies in the front office who, unfortunately, lack trade-making skills. We have also heard, however, that the Vikings were concerned with Moss' attitude in the lockerroom and with his lingering injuries. Immediately after the trade, however, we are informed that the Vikings are courting an oft-injured malcontent, Plaxico Burress, who has one-tenth the playmaking abilities of Moss. That, as much as anything, confirms that this deal was done by those who should not be in a position to make deals--not because the deal was necessary.

VG

vikinghooper said...

VG,

A snake oil salesman does not let himself get fleeced.

Red let Moss go plainly because Moss is EXTREMELY talented, and the way he is used is piss poor.

I have my own thoughts that Culpepper's slow reads and slow delivery have frustrated Moss to the point of ultimate frustration. I just watched a tape of the Cowboys Vikings wild card game 1999, and Jeff George ZINGED passes to Moss.

My logical explanation for the Moss move is that Red is leaving, Tice costs a nickel, and Red saves a few million bucks this way.

Can you blame Red for making gobs of cash while stupid fans live and die by the Vikings?

A sobering thought hit me the other day; I started a new job the same year Red bought the Vikings. In that time, Red made 600 million bucks while I rooted for the Vikings.

Who is the idiot Vikinghooper or Red?

Vikes Geek said...

Hoop,

Everyone has their own measure of others' worth. I will never measure someone's value by their salary, however. To me, Red's take is $6 bucks with a bunch of zeros after it. But what does he have to show for his profit, other than the profit itself?

The wise man understands that profit alone makes neither him nor others happy. What makes him and others happy is how he invests his profit. It's difficult to see how Red has made anyone any happier with his profit off of the Vikings. Who does that make sound like more of a fool--you, who got some entertainment value for your buck, or Red?

While I will continue to rail against those who buy season tickets with full knowledge of the type of ownership that they are supporting, my pick nevertheless is the latter.

VG

Lichty said...


Vikes sign Travis Taylor



One of the commenters over at the Viking Underground said it best. This means that Campbell is gone and Campbell is then apbtly described as David Palmer with a mouth.

Vikes Geek said...

Lichty,

I agree. Campbell billed himself well, but sure didn't play up to that billing--when he did play.

I hope the Vikings look at this signing as the signing of a number three receiver rather than as the last piece in their receiving corps puzzle. It would be a sad day indeed if the Vikings were to have a set of wide receivers more lightly regarded than that which the Bears possess.

VG

Anonymous said...

With regard to the Moss trade: yes this was a incredibly boneheaded deal; by Red, nobody else. And yes, I agree that Red is regretting his rashness now, which is the only thing that explains his astonishing comments afterward.

But that in itself doesn't explain why the Vikings got hosed on this one. Something else was going on that I don't get. Remember, we're talking about the guy people call the best player at any position in the league. There is such a thing as competition in trades. Why weren't teams lining up to offer attractive deals? It sounds as though nobody but the Raiders tried to close a deal at all. It doesn't make sense to think that every other team was waiting for the price to fall even more, not for that player. Are all the other team personnel people just a bunch of sheep, just following the same herd mentality? Something doesn't smell right on this one.

Prediction: Moss gets 2000 yards and 20 TD's this year.

lichty said...

VG:

I don't think the VIkes front office necessarily sees Taylor as the final piece to the receiver puzzle, but that does not mean they will be able to pull the trigger on improving the receiving corps significantly.

If Edwards/Williams are gone by number 7, I think things become tougher, and the Vikes will likely sign a past- his-prime name type receiver see e.g. Derrrick Alexander.

The vikes may be able to swing a trade for Gardner for a draft pick closer to the draft, but I think Washington is playing the reputation of the Vikes for giving up way too much or getting way to little in trades.

I would not expect more than a third round pick to be offered until the Vikes see if they can nab one of the playmakers in the draft.

Anonymous said...

VG: I could not see your e-mail so I'm just posting here in hopes you see the message. I'd like to use your site for the "Is it Sponge Worthy" section of my blog at the Viking Underground.

Based on Elaine Benes of the great Seinfeld sitcom, each week or so I will introduce another blog that I have come across and have begun reading on a regular basis. You, my valued reader, will decide if it deserves a permanent link on my site under the category of Sponge Worthy Links.

You recall the Seinfeld episode. Elaine only uses the sponge as her form of birth control. When the sponge is to be discontinued she scavenges the city buying in hordes any sponges she can find. From then on, if a man was not sponge worthy, then he was not worth Elaine's troubles.

The blogs are chosen at random and I'd like to post your blog this coming Friday (3/18) for vote. Let me know if you are interested. My e-mail is briankeithmaas@msn.com

Thanks!

Mr. Cheer Or Die

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/maasx003/Vikings/

Anonymous said...

VG: I could not see your e-mail so I'm just posting here in hopes you see the message. I'd like to use your site for the "Is it Sponge Worthy" section of my blog at the Viking Underground.

Based on Elaine Benes of the great Seinfeld sitcom, each week or so I will introduce another blog that I have come across and have begun reading on a regular basis. You, my valued reader, will decide if it deserves a permanent link on my site under the category of Sponge Worthy Links.

You recall the Seinfeld episode. Elaine only uses the sponge as her form of birth control. When the sponge is to be discontinued she scavenges the city buying in hordes any sponges she can find. From then on, if a man was not sponge worthy, then he was not worth Elaine's troubles.

The blogs are chosen at random and I'd like to post your blog this coming Friday (3/18) for vote. Let me know if you are interested. My e-mail is briankeithmaas@msn.com

Thanks!

Mr. Cheer Or Die

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/maasx003/Vikings/

Vikes Geek said...

Brian,

Feel free to do so. Though I am not sure if I really want the honor of being spongeworthy.

VG

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