Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two Leagues Behind

There are several levels in the current composition of the NFL. At the bottom are teams such as Miami, Kansas City, and Oakland. These teams not only have no shot at winning a championship, they have little chance of winning any given week.

At the top of the heap are teams such as Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay, all teams that expect to win each week and have realistic expectations of playing for a championship at the end of the season.

One rung below the top teams in the NFL are the teams that are favored to win more often than not but lack a key ingredient necessary to become a bona fide contender for a championship.

In the third rung, just above the bottom-feeders, are the teams that want desperately to join the top rung of teams but which show too little attention to what matters to be taken seriously.

In which level do the Minnesota Vikings currently reside? At the beginning of the season, head coach Brad Childress and the chearleading members of the Vikings' coverage team attempted to convince Vikings' fans that the Vikings were ahead of Green Bay and Indianapolis in the top tier of teams. That take was based on the assumptions that Bernard Berrian would replace the deep threat that the Vikings have not had since the departure of Randy Moss, that Visanthe Shiancoe would begin to catch the ball, that the offensive line would improve, that the additions of Madieu Williams at safety and Jared Allen at defensive end would improve the pass defense, and that Tarvaris Jackson would return to the team a much improved player over last season.

To date, all of those assumptions have proven false. Chester Taylor has more receptions and Shiancoe more yards than does Berrian, Shiancoe has more drops than receptions, the offensive line continues to sieve, Madieu Williams, following his trend in Cincinnati, has yet to play in the regular season, Jared Allen has one of the team's two sacks, the team ranks 24th in the league against the pass and eighteenth in points allowed, and Jackson mostly looks hopeless, ranking 26th among NFL starters behind such NFL luminaries as Brian Griese, JaMarcus Russell, and J.T. O'Sullivan.

The result might be a Vikings' team clinging to its slot in the second tier of NFL teams, still well outside the top tier of teams, but for one additional short-coming, that of coaching. The 14-20 record aside, and notwithstanding his purported recognition that Jackson simply might not be a viable NFL starter right now, Childress continues to dismay. Forever banging the "play it close" drum, Childress seems utterly incapable of taking the type of risks that the heretofore most risk-averse coaches assumes as a matter of course. The result on Sunday was yet another conservative loss with yet another series of laments about "one play here, one play there."

With a different coaching philosophy, Jackson might mature into an NFL player, the Vikings' receivers might catch the ball, the running game might become unstoppable, and the Vikings might rise to the second or even first tier of NFL teams. Under the current coaching philosophy, a philosophy that seems as stuck in neutral as ever before, however, movement seems unlikely.

Up Next: What Pete Said, But the Opposite.

1 comment:

Cabrito said...

Thanks, VG. Good points. Did you watch the Monday night game? What a pleasure it was to view two excellent football teams, both blessed with great quarterbacks and fine receivers, lighting up the scoreboard the way they did. And against good defenses, as well, showing that with good coaching and imaginative play-calling, proficient offenses can usually find a way to outwit the defenses, as we saw last night. Contrast the Cowboys and Eagles with the Vikings. Do they have vastly superior players? Well, at QB and receiver positions, yes, but that's only part of the Vikings' problem. The main part, as you and just about everyone else in Minnesota know, is the incompetent coaching and ineffective strategies of one BC. I really got a laugh out of one of his statements at a recent press conference, something to the effect that his team hadn't quite caught onto his "system" yet this year. When one reporter pointed out that many of his current players had been with him for two full years now, Chili replied that the chemistry of the team is different each year, and everyone has to catch onto things anew (or something to that effect). Hmmm. Let's see -- two new starters on offense (fullback and WR) and two on defense (DE and S). So the other 18 out of 22 need to recapture the spirit of Chili's plan from scratch. What a pompous, prevaricating windbag! And one final thought -- inserting Gus (as many bloggers recommend) would probably result in a few more wins this season (maybe 8 instead of 6?), but how would that really benefit the team? May as well go with TJ and aim for better things in '09. I still think the kid would do a lot better if Chili would let go of the reins and allow the kid to play loose and have some fun out there.