Monday, October 17, 2011

86 or 84?

In 1984, the Minnesota Vikings finished 3-13. That was the year that Les Steckel and his no-nonsense boot camp received a tryout in the NFL. That tryout lasted but that one year, never again to return to the league.

2011 is shaping up to be every bit as uninspiring and demoralizing as was that 1984 debacle, only this version of 1984 comes courtesy of a soft-spoken, eminently likable individual in Leslie Frazier who appears utterly incompetent as a head coach. Where Childress stood by the likes of Bryant McKinnie and Bernard Berrian, Frazier stands by the likes of Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian--the former shows Frazier can be every bit as stubborn as his predecessor, the latter shows he has an even flatter learning curve.

But while Steckel at least left the Vikings with a roster including some young talent such as Steve Jordan, Wade Wilson, Joey Browner, Carl Lee, Tim Irwin, and Darrin Nelson, Frazier presides over a team with the bulk of the talent residing in the "veteran" category. Only the rarely used Kyle Rudolph, Percy Harvin, and possibly Joe Webb and/or Christian Ponder can be said to represent the up and coming youth of this Vikings' team. With veterans Kevin Williams, Chad Greenway, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, and Jim Kleinsasser, Frazier and the Vikings have proven that veteran talent cannot compensate for a lack of a plan. And this Vikings' team, unlike that 1984 disaster, bent on being more conditioned than the opposition, has no plan of which to speak.

Among the numerous confounding coaching decisions in last night's game were the decision to pull McNabb for Webb after McNabb had connected on one of his few completions. The first play called for Webb was bizarre, still not completely computing. The second appeared to be one for which the Vikings' coaching staff told Webb that he must refuse to run no matter the circumstances and that he must make the worst pass of the game to take some heat off of McNabb. Webb followed the plan to a "t" and McNabb re-entered on third down, only to throw a pass behind his intended receiver (the announcers, so accustomed to McNabb's utter inability to throw the ball, gushed over the pass, blaming the receiver for the incompletion).

That fiasco paled, however, in contrast with the debacle that was the two-minute warning timeout turned missed field goal attempt turned loss of timeout when the team could have used it. Returning from the television timeout for the two-minute warning--a lengthy timeout befitting Sunday night football--Frazier sent his kicking team onto the field to attempt a field goal on 4th and 3 then immediately called a timeout.

There can be no good explanation for Frazier's timeout immediately following a timeout--though that did not stop the ever implausible Greg Coleman from making the effort. "Cat and mouse," Coleman lauded. "Leslie's just playing his chess pieces."

Not even the heretofore ultimate homer, Paul Allen, was buying Coleman's pollyanna puke on this night, however, as PA turned to his broadcast partner, Pete Bercich, stating "I don't get it." Neither did the Vikings, as the timeout was followed by a false start and a failed field goal attempt--all a microcosm of everything that the Vikings have represented under Frazier.

In a season in which the Vikings are paying a running back $14-16 million to play behind a putrid offensive line, with an awful quarterback, non-existent wide-receiving corps that includes, as its best receiver, a player ranked 86th in the NFL in yards receiving, for an offensive coordinator with no sense of a game plan and a head coach apparently willing to just soak it all in, there is no doubt that this Vikings' team is far worse than the '84 disaster. What's not clear is whether anyone in this organization has the sense to make the proper adjustments.

Up Next: Berrian Still Being Frozen Out.


Joel said...

Unfortunately, VG, I agree completely. I was hopeful for the hiring of both Frazier and McNabb, but they are both failing miserably. Things haven't looked this dismal in a long time.

comet52 said...

Wilf has been clueless from day one. Hires the first guy who interviews, doesn't take a look at anyone else. Fran Foley, Childress, now Frazier. Triangle of stupidity. Declaring preseason 2010 that this would be their best team. He's a football idiot yet most of the fanbase counts him as the "greatest owner in Vikings history." Why? I have no idea. Apparently the Jared Allen deal gave him carte blanche with the fanbase and free pass on all of his boneheaded moves.

Childress of A Lesser God said...

I agree with comet52 to the extent that Wilf certainly has failed in hiring coaches and executives. However, the players also have to share in the blame. Where is the fire? Where is the pride? Hell, where is even a hint of interest in overcoming a deficit and fighting to win a game? The game was basically over when they fell behind 7-0. The fact that McNabb could not be bothered to extend his arm outward so that he could avoid a safety is an concise summary of this roster. No effort whatsoever. Definitiely blame Wilf and Frazier - but please save a little for Greenway, Sullivan, Johnson, Williams, Griffin, etc., etc., etc.

vikes geek said...


Anything to push a stadium deal. If you think this is a house of cards, wait until the paperwork is done on the stadium--think Twins on a larger scale.

All of this truly does go to the bottom line. The Vikings front load payroll to give the team an option of taking the foot off the pedal if and when a new stadium deal is struck. Frazier represents a side-bar to that front-loading. Eager to show the fan base that the team had found its long-term coach, Zygi inked Childress to a five-year extension. The Vikings are still on the hook for the subsequent settlement of that deal and Frazier, a friendlier face but unproven head-coaching commodity, came cheap. The only way to ensure that the Vikings continue to care about the product on the field is to ensure that any stadium deal does not, in and of itself, ensure massive returns.

Regarding McNabb and Ponder, the change you see this week represents Frazier's failed efforts to forestall the inevitable--to his great detriment. When I said that the call for change was from above, I meant what I said. I also meant what I said when I reported that Frazier was wedding himself to McNabb at his own peril. Even installing Ponder does not necessarily guarantee Frazier a one-year reprieve, however.


vikes geek said...


When players see that the head coach has committed to a player that nobody else views as even remotely viable, the players begin to approach the game in similar fashion, if different form, by giving less effort. This is not unique to sports, it's just patently evident in a sport like football when the player who is not up to the task is the quarterback. Frazier made a monumental blunder, not necessarily in giving McNabb a shot, but in riding too long with McNabb on the theory that he would improve (though Frazier almost certainly was also given to riding with the sunken cost that he was unwilling to acknowledge as sunken).

That said, it will be interesting to see if a change in quarterback improves an offense that has zero identity--save for Peterson's runs up the gut and three and outs. If Frazier is not up to the task, Musgrave has yet to identify the task--pitiful hire at the time, equally bad in hindsight.


vikes geek said...


I think everyone wanted Frazier to succeed--nice guy, takes responsibility for his failures. That's what fans like in a coach--as opposed to Childress' finger-pointing at all but himself and his generally horrible public presentation of self. McNabb is another story. He looked mediocre for much of his run in Philly and awful in D.C. In pre-season, he seemed more intent on playing the role of sideline high school jock than focusing on his role as offensive leader of the team. That McNabb has the same approach to studying the game is not surprising. Neither, therefore, is it surprising that McNabb not only fails to inspire or perform on the field, but also fails to give his all in games (no better example than the safety last week with McNabb folding to the ground to avoid contact).


comet52 said...

VG, are you saying the change to Ponder this week came from above and Frazier would have stuck with McFlabb again? That blows my mind if true. (And how btw do you know this?) If Frazier is this slow-witted this team has no future with him in charge. I can't disagree on Musgrave either. The organization has just been so poorly run under Wilf yet his p.r. arm has him painted as the greatest thing for Viking fans since sliced bread. Which is doubly amazing considering what a hopeless public speaker he is.

vikes geek said...


That is precisely what I am saying; Frazier still believes that the season is salvageable under McNabb.

Everybody loves Wilf because he comes on the heals of Red McCombs and helped the locals avoid Reggie Fowler. That meant that nobody ever examined the Wilfs as potential owners or the fact that, as much as is made about Wilf as a "successful developer," what he really is is someone born into a good situation who has managed to not piss it all away. He is not Robert Kraft, however, when it comes to football acumen or necessarily business acumen.