Sunday, January 21, 2007

With Tomlin Gone Will Childress Pull Another Bevell?

Just when Vikings' fans were settling in for another off-season of promising rebuilding, it appears that one of the primary bright spots of the 2006 team will be leaving--possibly as soon as Monday. On Saturday evening, reports began circulating that Vikings' defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin had been offered the head coaching position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Predictably, given the league's desire to showcase its championship games, the Steelers, on Sunday, denied the reports, going so far as to post an ambiguous statement on their official site.

With the Steelers stating that they would have no statement on their head coaching vacancy until at least Monday and Tomlin denying that he had accepted or even been offered the position, more telling was Tomlin's seeming uneasiness that all of the media attention might somehow give the Pittsburgh management team cause to reassess their offer. Clearly, Pittsburgh has made an offer. And, just as clearly, Tomlin already has agreed, at least in principle.

If Tomlin does leave, he will leave behind a defense that was greatly improved last season. But with that improvement seemingly the result not only of coaching but of an additional year of experience for several players, increased continuity at certain positions, and an influx of young, ready-for-the-NFL talent, whomever replaces Tomlin will be in an eviable position.

And Tomlin's departure might just give the Vikings the push they need to bring in a seasoned coordinator or defensive specialist who is able to control both the running and passing game. To be certain, the Vikings' difficulties stopping the pass in 2006 were not all attributable to coaching. But, as coaches accept blame at all other positions when things fall apart, so, too, must Tomlin accept some blame for the Vikings' seeming inability to adjust to opponents' passing games. Tomlin never did make the adjustment and never was able to come up with any semblance of a pass rush. And, in that respect, and perhaps only in that respect, Tomlin came up a bit short as a defensive coordinator--still a nice showing for a first-year coordinator, however.

The only obstacle to the Vikings' search for a seasoned defensive mind to replace Tomlin--somebody like Mike Singletary, for example--is head coach Brad Childress' ego. Already clearly disturbed by the plaudits that Tomlin received for his work with the defense, Childress might very well pull a Bevell in his hiring of the Vikings' new defensive coordinator. If that happens, Vikings' fans not only will regret that the Vikings opted for Childress over Tomlin but also that next year wasn't as good as last year.

Up Next: Still Building a Better Mousetrap.

11 comments:

Lichty said...

Oh, this will hurt recruiting. Oh, waith, you mean that the Vikings are in the NFL and the MAC. My bad, couldn't tell.

Vegan Viking said...

It's a bit of a myth that the 06 Vikes struggled against the pass. They gave up a lot of yards, but that's because teams didn't try to run much. According to "Cold, Hard Football Facts," passing yards don't tell much, but defensive passer rating does. The Vikings ranked 5th in defensive passer rating. They were actually good against the pass, but you can only do so much when teams are throwing on you constantly.

That said, the Vikings inability to create a pass rush led to several very good passing performances. Too often QBs were able to stand in the pocket and find open receivers, and teams with short, quick routes destroyed the Vikes (Pats and Jets). But the defense overall, including the pass defense, was good.

Vikes Geek said...

Vegan,

I understand that teams threw against the Vikings more because of the Vikings' stellar run defense, but the pass defense still stunk. You might want to adjust your ranking for the first-half of the season when teams still attempted a balanced attack. After the New England game, the Vikings were awful against the pass. Stats might lie, the eyes do not.

VG

Vegan Viking said...

They were 5th in defensive passer rating. By my count, they had 8 games in which the defense held opponents to 1 TD or fewer. Evidence suggest that this was a good defense overall.

Eyes are much more likely to lie than numbers are.

Vegan Viking said...

Make that 10 games. I have a hard time accepting that the pass defense was atrocious when the defense held opponents to 0 or 1 TDs in 10 of 16 games.

They had some bad games against decent QBs, mostly because they totally lacked pass rushers. But mostly, they gave up passing yards because they didn't give up running yars.

Vikes Geek said...

Vegan,

I'll take my eyes and stats over your stats, not only because you do not elaborate on what goes into defensive passer rating but also because the stats that you want to use show that the Vikings need to improve on pass defense if they want to rely on their defense to win games.

The argument that the Vikings gave up big chunks of passing yardage because they were strong against the run is the fallback for not being able to stop the pass. Baltimore offered a stark contrast to the Vikings in 2007 and helps demonstrate the point. While the Vikings were number one against the rush with 61 yards allowed per game, they were tied for last in the NFL with 238 passing yards allowed per game. Baltimore, in contrast, was number two in the league against the rush allowing 75.9 yards per game but was also number six in the league against the pass yielding 188 passing yards per game. Other teams faired similarly well against the rush and pass. All of which suggests that a strong rush defense need not lead to a weak pass defense.

The point is not that Tomlin was not a good defensive coordinator. He did a nice job in his first year on the job and was a marked improvement over Ted Cotrell. But the Vikings' difficulties against the pass were only partially the consequence of ineffective defensive ends. Better use of blitz packages might have off-set the weak rush, as might have using more of a bump-and-run on the corners, as might have allowing Sharper to roam more. Whatever the right solution was, Tomlin did not identify it. And that created problems for a Vikings' defense that had to win the games for the team.

Again, none of this is to suggest that Tomlin was inept, merely to suggest that he still had some important learning to do. Maybe that reality helps take some of the sting out of losing Tomlin--and being left with Childress--if, in the end, the Vikings locate a defensive coordinator who can adjust to a league that is increasingly about passing.

With all that said, the Vikings' problems on defense in 2006 were miniscule compared to their offensive woes. And, were I in a position to make changes, I wouild have opted for Tomlin over Childress in 2007. Whatever warts Tomlin has, he also has the eyes and ears of his players and has shown an ability to coach. And, more importantly, Tomlin probably will learn and learn quickly. Childress on the other hand appears quite content with the status quo as it pertains to his specific performance.

VG

Vegan Viking said...

I didn't think I had to elaborate: defensive passer rating is essentially the opposing QB's passer rating. That tells us a lot about how the defense is actually performing--most teams will compile numbers if they throw all the time, but they might not be efficient at it against a good defense.

At no point do I suggest that the Viking defense was as good as the Raven defense in 2006; I'm merely suggesting that people are wrong to say the Viking pass defense was bad in 2006. Also at no point do I suggest that the Viking defense needs no improvement next year--the obviously lack of a pass rush is a problem.

I agree with your last paragraph (mostly)--2006 wasn't the defense's problem, it was the offenses. If you don't like the defensive passer rating, at least look at points allowed. The Viking defense was good enough to go into 9 or 10 games and hold opponents to 1 or 0 offensive TDs. That's not a defense I would complain about, against run or pass.

Vegan Viking said...

If you're interested more on how defensive passer rating is a more important stat, you can read articles at Cold, Hard Football Facts. The basic premise is that good teams usually have good defensive passer ratings (the 06 Vikes are an exception, of course!).

Here are some URLs:
http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Article.php?Page=857

http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Article.php?Page=999&Category=2

The second article looks at '06.

Vikes Geek said...

Thanks Vegan. I'll check it out.

VG

Mark said...

Where the fcuk are you? Are you OK?

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.