Monday, December 18, 2006

Flatline

The post mortem on the 2006 Minnesota can all but be written. Because, even if the Vikings somehow manage to climb into the playoffs--a faint possibility that the Vikings will probably put to rest in convincing fashion on Thursday at Lambeau Field, there is little reason, if any, to get excited about this football team.

The Vikings' short-comings over the past three seasons have been well-documented. They included an inability to run the ball, an inability to catch the ball, an inability to pass the ball, a porous offensive line, a defense that cannot stop the pass, and coaching decisions that make the most hardy squeamish. On Sunday, 14 games into the season, the Vikings displayed each of those failings.

All of which raises the question whether the Vikings have made any meaningful improvements since their infamous 41-0 loss to the New York Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship game.

The short answer is that the Vikings have made some improvements. They have more depth on defense, a solid interior to the defensive line, some capability in the secondary, and improvement at linebacker.

But the Vikings have also failed to address the short-comings on the right side of their offensive line, continue to struggle to stop the pass, continue to play too far off of receivers, and continue to struggle in the passing game. Worse yet, in one year, the team has regressed at several positions, most notably at quarterback, wide-receiver, tight end, cornerback, safety, left offensive tackle, right offensive tackle, right offensive guard, and on kick returns.

Add to these problems the fact that a rookie coach surrounded himself with rookie assistant coaches, that the best coach has found the formula for obliterating the running game but has no answer for stopping the more dangerous passing game, that the rookie head coach is more stubborn than the veteran coach who he replaced and who lost his job, in large part, because he was stubborn, and you have a team that has six wins in 14 games, all but one of which came against a team picking in the first ten of the 2007 draft.

Tarvaris Jackson might provide some excitement along with his certain growing pains the remainder of this year and next year, but there's far more that ails this team than merely the quarterbacking position. And odds are that the Vikings have no clue how to address these ills.

Up Next: Who's Out in 2007 and Who Will Stay In Spite of Themselves.

5 comments:

ss said...

I'm excited about Tarvaris. I'm also interested to see if Tarvaris's starting takes the pressure off Williamson, so that Williamson can gain the confidence to start making some plays.

But this "conservative" offensive philosophy is terrible. It's a high risk/low reward undertaking. Just stupid. Dink and dump passes behind the first down markers rely completely on reliable downfield blocking, elusive playmakers, and bad tacking. We've got practically none of the former two, and we're only lucky enough to play Detroit twice. We're constantly putting the ball up for grabs for gains of two to six yards. Not only does this increase the risk of fumbles, batted balls and interceptions, but it creates more opportunities for getting interceptions returned for touchdowns. At least Daunte got picked on long, ill-advised bombs into quintuple coverage. On third downs, that's just about as good as a punt--with a big payoff if it works. On the other hand, Johnson gets picked off by guys jumping routes and going the other way on plays that would have gained us four measly yards.

Vikes Geek said...

SS,

You're preaching to the choir. I've long stated that one of Johnson's problems with the Vikings is that Childress' short-game offensive philosophy allows teams to put 9 or 10 in the box and jump routes. It doesn't help that Johnson has a weak throwing arm, but that's always been true of Johnson. It's up to Childress to plan accordingly.

While it was nice to see Jackson throw beyond the first-down marker and with some zip, the jury is still out on how well-prepared he is to play at this level at this time. The Jets were in a prevent D package the entire time that Jackson was in the game and even went to a one-man rush for a play. Clearly, Jackson will face tighter defenses going forward.

The question for the Vikings is whether Childress opens games with Jackson at quarterback using the same, plodding, run on first down, run on second down, pass short of the sticks on third, punt offense that he used with Johnson. Jackson's ability to scramble and his arm strength could serve the Vikings well as long as the offensive line continues to collapse in the face of even the most modest of pressure, but even Jackson will find the going difficult if he is as handicapped as Johnson was by Childress' horrific playcalling.

Funny how the Vikings' receivers suddenly became respectable when the Vikings called mid-range pass plays, a la the rest of the NFL.

VG

ss said...

While I think Tarvaris will keep some drives going with third down scrambles, he'll also kill a drive or two by trying to force balls into tight coverage.

But, especially given the bad play-calling, there's no way we don't improve with some athleticism at QB. While Johnson would have been sacked or intercepted on lame, predictable plays sniffed out by the defense, Tarvaris will have opportunity to escape and improvise, and his mobility alone will slow down the rush. And Wiggins is great at making himself available as a emergency option. I think he could have a big day if kept on the field.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to tonights game. Of course we all hope Tarvaris plays well. I think will see a lot of the running game. However, we're going to get so much more from our qb in passing situations. He can get out of the pocket and be threat to run or pass.

I was never enamored with Brad Johnson. For a veteran guy, he made way to many mistakes. I'm pinning three losses on him along.

That's all in the past. I like our chances tonight. I think Tarvaris will do more good things than bad.

Vikes Geek said...

Anonymous,

How do you like Childress now?

VG