Monday, December 20, 2010

Vikings' High School Performance Puts Frazier Behind the Eight Ball

On Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings made a strong case for calling it a franchise. When ESPN's announcers were not shilling for the NFL's and Vikings' stadium drive, the Vikings were making fans wish that that was all that Monday night was about. With bad play on all fronts, Leslie Frazier has moved from a near-certainty to be the Vikings' next head coach to almost a certainty not to be.

Last week's performance at Detroit was putrid. This week's performance against a Chicago Bears' team that had been throttled at home one week earlier was putrid to the nth degree. The performance made Les Steckel's team, Denny Green's Spurgeon Wynn season, and Mike Tice's run in Minnesota seem laudable. In short, it was an utter disgrace.

Even those of us who like Frazier and believe that Frazier might have the makings of a good NFL coach have a hard time defending him in the wake of this performance. Yes, Brett Favre was hurt in the game and Joe Webb looked the rookie that he is, but the Vikings did everything poorly on Monday, when they were even making an effort.

Whether Madieu Williams was taking yet another impossibly inept route to the ball/receiver/neither, Ben Leber was dropping an easy pick (yet again), Toby Gerhart was fumbling, Sidney Rice was going through the motions, Ryan Longwell was giving up on a return by Devin Hester, the entire special teams coverage unit was MIA, Bryant McKinnie was taking another night off, John Sullivan was snapping balls over the quarterback's head or at the quarterback's feet, Phil Loadholt was taking another penalty, or Chris Kluwe was punting both short and to Devin Hester, there was no shortage of inexcusable miscues from this group of misfits.

Those who earned at at least some of their salary tonight, included a very small group of players--Antoine Winfield, EJ Henderson, and Percy Harvin. The rest should mail their weekly check back to the team or, better yet, to those who shoveled out the stadium so that the Chicago Bears could clinch in Minnesota instead of in Detroit.

It's very difficult to shake the stink of one putrid loss and virtually impossible to do that with two such losses--particularly when they are back to back. This will be a difficult hole out from which for Frazier to climb.

In Frazier's defense, the Vikings have an awful offensive line, a limited play caller in Darrell Bevell, no safeties, sub-par corners, and no receivers, after Harvin. Those limitations, albeit mostly of his making, were not enough to save Brad Childress' job in Minnesota and now seem unlikely to give Frazier the opportunity that he might deserve.

Up Next: Time to Discard Tampa Two.

9 comments:

Cabrito said...

You said it all, VG. The Vikings obviously have a major rebuilding job to do. The final absurdity of Childress's reign: his exit statement that he had left the team in better shape than it was when he arrived. Sure, Chili.

What made last night's debacle particularly galling, rubbing salt in the wounds really, was the 50 year celebration thing. All those great players showing up to honor the occasion! They must have been really proud of the effort these clowns put out for them.

Maybe it briefly crossed Fran Tarkenton's mind that 50 years earlier, on a somewhat warmer day in September, he had led the team to victory in its very first game, against -- you guessed it -- the Chicago Bears. What a stunner that was, and an auspicious debut for an expansion team. Who could have foretold that 50 years later, the Bears would exact their revenge by making the Vikings look like a high school team.

vikes geek said...

Cabrito,

Well said. And you've again identified a subject of a future post. Childress' comment was laughable when he made it and even more absurd, if that's possible, with the benefit of minimal hindsight.

VG

MN said...

That they showed Tice doing his job on the Bears side only made it more laughable.

HBandM said...

VG,

Excellent post as always. A few points here:

1) Cabrito & VG, not to play devil’s advocate, but how do we rectify the fact that this team had an NFL high 94% retention rate going into the offseason last year – basically as close as you can get in the modern NFL to the same team and staff that came within 1 pass of a Superbowl. Losses of course included Chester Taylor, Artis Hicks, Sidney Rice, and Cedric Griffin, but for the most part the chemistry should have been there and continuity seems so highly regarded in NFL circles. Any thoughts?

2) Given the continuing demise of Frazier’s job performance, can you think of a short list of prospects that may be viable for the Head Coaching job?

3) You’ve mentioned Logan Mankins as a possible expensive stopgap for the putrid offensive line. I don’t know much about NFL contracts, but I’m wondering if the Steve Hutchinson “poison pill” may come back to bite us on this end…

On the bright side there’s only 120 minutes left of football to put this season out of its misery.

vikes geek said...

HBand,

The Vikings did have a very high retention rate, but they also had retention of some known problems--i.e., safeties, McKinnie, Sullivan, Cook. They also had a poor draft, taking a modest-at-best fullback over offensive linemen, safeties, and corners. The draft has not been the Vikings' ally since Adrian Peterson fell into their laps. That means that, retentions notwithstanding, the Vikings actually lost ground to competitors who drafted well the past two or three seasons. There is also the unfortunate timing of their success last season, coinciding as it did with the one-time free-agency signing limits. Those limits handcuffed a team that otherwise could have shored up its weaknesses through free-agency.

Who will coach the Vikings next depends on what the Vikings want to do. Should they attempt to continue with the core that they have and add players or blow the team up? If they opt for the latter, they can bring in a younger coach--maybe even Frazier (young in head coaching experience). If they want to bring back the core of this bunch, however, they need someone with steel-toed boots, because there are far too many players on the current roster who have no pride in their performance or who simply do not know what it means to perform at a high level on a consistent basis. In this category, you need someone like Parcells, Gruden, or Cowher, and Parcells is the only one of the three likely to deliver on both sides of the ball and merit the arrogance that he will bring to the position.

VG

Will said...

Mckinnie isn't a problem. Sure the guy is an idiot, gets into too many brushes with the law and plays too inconsistently for the massive amount of raw talent he possesses, but the fact is the guy steps up to play in big occasions.

In our playoff games last year, he faced up against arguably the best pass rusher in the league in Demarcus Ware and another extremely underrated end in Will Smith and he didn't allow a single pressure, let alone a hit or a sack, to either one of them.

vikes geek said...

Will,

Against a rookie, last night, when his quarterback needed him most, McKinnie didn't even show up. That's the McKinnie I know. I also find it difficult to look beyond his criminal off-field behavior (for which he skated) and his inconsistency--I actually find him more consistently bad than even remotely good. In fact, you probably singled out his one shining moment in the past three years (the game against the Cowboys). Unfortunately, he is paid handsomely to play in all of the games, not just the ones following a night that he was not at the House.

VG

mark_w said...

While I think Frazier might end up being a good head coach in the NFL, he can't be the choice for the current nucleus of players - they have clearly stopped responding to anything he and this group of coaches has to say.

In addition to all the positions that need to be overhauled, this team needs a coach who has been an NFL head coach before unless they are getting rid of nearly the entire team. A young team might be able to work through the growing pains with a rookie head coach, but not these guys. They also need a more traditional NFL organization (i.e., a GM) and get rid of the "triangle of authority" or whatever the Wilfs call it. I can appreciate trying something new, but the structure is not working for the Vikings. There's probably a reason most (or perhaps no) other teams operate this way.

As for Childress' claim that the team is now better off than when he arrived, I suppose they have a better rule book/behavior code than before. Some positions are better off (WR, RB, DL), but I don't know how much Childress had to do with acquiring Harvin, Peterson, and Allen - in fact, he was probably the one who had to be convinced to bring any of them on board.

Cabrito said...

A couple of the comments posted here are so provocative that I can't resist putting in my two cents worth. First, the question posed by HBandM is the one that has left most Vikings' fans scratching their heads all season. How come a team that came so close last year collapsed so dismally this year, when so many of its key personnel returned? I'll venture two opinions. First, last year's success hinged on what can only be termed Brett Favre's legerdemain. At this time of year, it's more than appropriate to parody a few lines from "Frosty the Snowman," to wit, "There must have been some magic in/That old QB they found..." And magic it was, so much so that it seemed to rub off on the entire team, even the defence.

But opinion #2: Last year's Vikings weren't really as good as they seemed to be. Favre's magic won the SF game, which they probably should have lost. They should have lost the home game against Baltimore also, but somehow they lucked out. And wasn't anyone but me a bit disconcerted by the fact that they might well have lost to the Rams, the worst team in the league, if the latter hadn't self-destructed by fumbling twice in the red zone? Then the end of the season came, and the mighty Vikings were humiliated by the powerhouse Chicago Bears (Favre's fourth quarter heroics notwithstanding), Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. Here's what I think: the weaknesses in this year's team were evident in last year's team as well, if one were astute enough to identify them.

Ah yes, I know the likely response to all this -- the Vikings looked superb at the very end of the season, clobbering the Giants, and they then rolled their proficiency into the playoffs, destroying Dallas and outplaying New Orleans (only to lose because of AP's fumbles and Chili's bungles). How does that square with my analysis? I can't really answer that question. It seems to me that certain players stepped up and made the difference, Ray Edwards most notably. And unaccountably, the secondary shone against Brees, holding him to less than 200 yards passing. Go figure. I admit, the success of last year's team is something of an enigma, considering its ineptness as the season wound down. I still think it was mainly due to Favre's magic, almost totally lacking this season. Therein lies the difference between last year's Vikings and the present edition.

I leave aside the matter of injuries, obviously an important consideration as well. Losing Rice was especially damaging, though the team doesn't seem to have improved with him back in the lineup. The current secondary is something of a joke, really, with Griffin gone and the safeties even more inept than expected. As for the OL, well, what can I say?

Finally, on a different issue, I couldn't agree more with Mark_W's assertion that the Vikings need an experienced NFL coach to deal with the veterans on this team. They need somebody to kick their butts, not be palsy-walsy with them. The team needs a new orientation from a hard-nosed coach like Cowher or, less likely, Bill Parcells. I desperately hope that Wilf doesn't make another mistake and hire Frazier to turn this thing around. I agree with Mark_W that Frazier may make a good head coach someday, but this isn't the place for him.