Monday, November 28, 2011

Toby Gerhart Demonstrates Peterson's Potential and Vikings' Draft Failures

Absent injured starting running back Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings turned to slow-footed Toby Gerhart, a short tight-end in fullback's clothing, to carry the ball on Sunday. For the season, Peterson had averaged 87 yards on 18 carries per game with just over one touchdown per game rushing. On 17 carries yesterday, Gerhart mustered 44 rushing yards. He was also stopped for a two-yard loss on a 4th and goal attempt.

Gerhart's numbers on Sunday were consistent with his career numbers of 484 yards on 122 carries. Peterson's are 10 yards per game below his career average but two carries below his career average, as well.

Gerhart's numbers, both Sunday and over his career, support the general impression of Gerhart as half the back--or less--than Peterson. That's not necessarily a bad place to be in the scheme of things and does not necessarily make Gerhart unworthy of an NFL roster spot on some team, but it does make clear that Gerhart is neither the number two, or even the number three back on the Vikings' roster--those roles rightly belonging to Percy Harvin, no matter his roster designation, and Lorenzo Booker. And it demonstrates, yet again, the Vikings' poor recent draft approach, obvious picks of Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin aside.

Gerhart, through no fault of his own, sits directly in the middle of one of the Vikings' most quickly discernible draft-day debacles, the 2010 NFL college entry draft. In that draft, the Vikings traded out of the first round to select Chris Cook early in the second round and then ceded a second-and a third-round pick to move up in round two to select running back Toby Gerhart. Both moves proved poor in all respects.

Trading down to the second round, the Vikings passed on two players that would have greatly improved their roster--running back Jahvid Best and offensive tackle Rodger Saffold. Both Best and Saffold were projected as middle to late first-round picks, with some mocks having each player going off the draft board in the first third of the draft. In short, there was no mystery surrounding either Saffold or Best with both regarded across the league as strong prospects.

Passing on Best was somewhat understandable as the Vikings already had a starting running back in Peterson, but Best was the change-of-pace back that the Vikings sorely needed given the loss of Chester Taylor. Moreover, the Vikings demonstrated their own belief in the need to identify Taylor's replacement by trading up to take Gerhart in round two.

Far more discouraging than the Vikings' decision to pass on Best, however, was the team's decision to pass on Saffold, a player that the Vikings expected the Rams to take one pick before them in round two. Saffold became an immediate starter for St. Louis and was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team.

The Vikings' decision to pass on Best and Saffold was magnified by the team's subsequent decision to select cornerback Chris Cook. Cook had demonstrated physical ability at the University of Virginia, but he also demonstrated his significant short-comings in the mental realm, having been suspended not only for the Cavalier's 2007 Gator Bowl, but also the entire 2008 season, as a result of failing grades. For a team purportedly all about talent combined with good character, Cook seemed to fall short in at least one regard. Nearly unintelligible interviews ought to have tipped the Vikings' off that Cook was not second-round worthy, at the least; two arrests since arriving in Minnesota, however, still have not cemented that notion.

Compounding their problems, the Vikings traded up to take Gerhart in the hope that Gerhart would more resemble John Riggins than Gino Torretta. Unfortunately, but predictably, Gerhart looks far more like a college player than he does an NFL back. Worse yet, however, is the fact that the Vikings utterly blundered in any respect in taking Gerhart. Though the team needed a change of pace back, Rick Spielman and company viewed Peterson as a speed back and Gerhart as the change of pace brute back. Clearly, Peterson is not a speed back. Rather, he is a very strong back with very good, not great speed. Gerhart merely represents an utter downgrade of a similar style back.

In trading up to take Gerhart, the Vikings essentially passed on all players taken from 52 to 99 in the 2010 NFL draft. That's a failure of epic proportions when the team's first two picks of the draft are Cook and Gerhart. That failure is magnified when the entire draft produced zero starters for the 2011 team, and the likelihood of zero starters in 2012, and the additional very real possibility that none of the Vikings' 2010 draft picks ever starts a game for a team again after this season. In contrast, the Green Bay Packers drafted four starters in the 2010 draft, Bryan Bulaga (OT), Morgan Burnett (S), Marhall Newhouse (OT) and James Starks (RB).

And if the Vikings' 2010 draft is not deflating enough, consider that since Rick Spielman became the Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel five years ago, the Vikings have drafted an average of one starter per season--Harvin, Peterson, Brian Robison, Phil Loadholt, and Christian Ponder--with Kyle Rudolph a notable non-starter. After this season, there very well could be zero draft picks from the 2008 and 2010 draft classes, combined, left on the roster. In a league with team turnover of nearly twenty percent per year and a constant need to address starting positions, clearly the Vikings' current draft scheme is untenable and destined to decimate a team that is unable to land free agents. With declining play, that latter issue will more greatly affect the former.

Up Next: Defense.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Tweaking" the Offense

The Minnesota Vikings began the year suggesting that there was a new sheriff in town and that things would be run differently. For Vikings' fans who have lived through this sort of mess in the past--see circa Les Steckel, Denny Green, Mike Tice, Brad Childress--the promise seemed more hortatory than certain. But with so many holes to fill and so little pressure on the team to make the playoffs, there was at least a measure of promise that things would not be run to rote.

Things did change for the Vikings in 2011, just not in any of the ways that Vikings' fans had hoped.

In place of Bryant McKinnie at left tackle was a lesser version of Bryant McKinnie, in the form of Charlie Johnson; in place of an injured, undersized, and ineffective John Sullivan at center, was a healthy, undersized, and ineffective John Sullivan; in place of a very slowly improving Phil Loadholt at right tackle was Phil Loadholt, easily underperforming McKinnie's least productive days on his most productive days. The play of Johnson, Sullivan, and Loadholt overshadowed the general ineffectiveness of Steve Hutchinson, for whom the best days are clearly behind, and veteran guard Joe Berger.

At wide-receiver, the Vikings stuck with Bernard Berrian two years and five games longer than they should have, finally releasing the purported receiver after the number one wide-out on the team had hauled in seven receptions for ninety-one yards--at the time placing him outside of the top 100 receivers in the league, regardless of salary.

Ousting Berrian left the Vikings with "possession" receiver Greg Camarillo (4 receptions for 62 yards), receiver Michael Jenkins (36 receptions for 441 yards), Devin Aromashodu (8 receptions for 195 yards), and the poorly utilized, sometimes injured Percy Harvin (43 receptions for 459 yards). Camarillo, Jenkins, Aromashodu, and Harvin have combined for five receiving touchdowns this season. Twenty-five individual NFL receivers have at least as many. New England tight end, Rob Gronkowski, has double the number of receiving touchdowns and nearly the same yardage, as the entire Vikings' receiving corps.

At running back, things are humming along just as well as ever, if by "humming" one means that Adrian Peterson is given the ball on most first-down and short-yardage plays, is stuffed or held to a short gain by an anticipating defense, and finishes the game with about 87 yards rushing on 18 carries--good for seventh in the league and $11, 494 per yard. Peterson has added eleven rushing touchdowns. Most of these have been gratuitous short-yardage touchdowns, however, the type that Green Bay's John Kuhn, at 1/32 the cost, routinely chips in for the the Packers.

The Vikings would be delighted if these were the only personnel issues on the team and if the personnel issues did not extend so clearly to the coaching staff. Predictable play-calling, underuse of some players, overuse of others, and inclusion of awful players make clear, however, that the Vikings' coaching staff is, at best, in its infancy. Certainly, head coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave would look infinitely better surrounded by more talent, but there is every reason to believe that talent is not the primary issue for either Frazier or Musgrave.

For a team with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Joe Webb, much more should be expected than what the Vikings' have produced in 2011. Numerous examples highlight the dysfunction that has been this offense in 2011. The team is among the league leaders in sacks allowed, quarterback hits, and missed blocks and, with the introduction of Christian Ponder at quarterback, is slowly inching up the board on interceptions ceded, despite employing what Vikings' coaches term a "controlled" passing attack.

The good news is that there are fixes for the Vikings' ills. The bad news is that this staff might not make them out.

The most pressing problem clearly is along the offensive line. The Vikings are several starters away from solid play along the line. The best bet for the team is to move Hutchinson to right guard, Loadholt to left guard, draft two tackles in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft and find a center in free-agency. Given where the Vikings likely will finish and the ample cash that the team will have on hand, that ought not be too difficult a task.

Nor should it be difficult to identify one or two free-agent receivers that produce more than the Vikings 2-4 receivers. Justin Blackmon would be a nice receiver to have in any offense, but the Vikings do not have the luxury of drafting an outside speed demon as the offensive line will undermine the passing game until it is rectified. That means that it would behoove the Vikings to decide whether Webb is, in fact, the receiver that the coaches claim him to be--rather than the quarterback that some of us maintain he ought to be.

At running back, the Vikings' have long had the wrong approach. Peterson needs more touches in the flat and over the middle and needs to be part of a oft-used two-back system, teamed, not with Toby Gerhart, but with Percy Harvin. Putting Peterson and Harvin in the same backfield would be a logistical nightmare for opposing defenses and give the Vikings the flexibility of running virtually any play on any down. That flexibility would give the Vikings the opportunity to use the wide-outs more effectively, regardless of speed, and should permit the team to make use of Rudolph.

Up Next: "Tweaking" the Defense.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fantasy Fans Only

In less than one-half hour, the Minnesota Vikings will take the field inside the frozen tundra materializing outside yesterday to take on the Oakland Raiders. At 2-7, the Vikings are only mathematically alive in this year's playoff race. At 5-4, the Raiders stand atop the AFC West. Combined, the two teams account for a negative 90 scoring differential.

Unfortunately for Vikings' fans, the only meaningful reason to tune into this game is for the stat lines. Running back Adrian Peterson is held in 100% of most fantasy football leagues and Jared Allen might be good for a sack or two. On the other side of the ball, Sebastian Janikowski, the early season point leader in fantasy football on the strength of numerous fifty-yard plus field goals, has come back to the pack following a groin injury that has limited his range and participation.

So it is in Minnesota, where the local team's marketing gurus are left with not even the common stand-by cliche of welcoming fans out to watch "tomorrow's stars." There are no clear future stars on this Vikings' team and the current stars--Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen--appear destined to receive little in return for their play, outside monstrous paychecks.

For the Vikings, this is now familiar territory following last year's debacle. For the front office, however, this is relatively new terrain. Last year, the Vikings were showcasing rookie Joe Webb, an athletic, intelligent player who appeared on the verge of making something happen at the quarterback position in spite of playing behind a broken-down and otherwise inept offensive line.

In the 2011 off-season, the Vikings committed to drafting quarterback Christian Ponder, a slightly slower, shorter version of Webb with comparable arm strength in the short game and less strength downfield. The jury remains out on Ponder who appears to have relatively good pocket presence for a rookie and who can move out of the pocket and around the end at this level.

What Webb brought to Minnesota that Ponder heretofore has not, however, is a penchant for an exciting play or two. Where Ponder wisely throws the ball away or takes a sack when the blitz comes through Phil Loadholt's slot, Webb steps up in the pocket and takes off, alternately challenging would-be tacklers, and winning, and bursting downfield for the endzone. It is a trait that is likely to get Webb killed sooner than Ponder, should the Vikings continue to employ a no-blocking offensive line scheme. It is also a trait that adds an element of excitement to the Vikings' offense that Ponder, so far, has delivered but once--that on his first pass from the line of scrimmage.

I have made no secret of favoring Webb over either any of last year's options at quarterback that the Vikings had any prospect of drafting and over Ponder after the Vikings' settled on Ponder. Despite the value of using a high draft pick on an offensive lineman or cornerback, the rationale was that the Vikings had, in Webb, not only the quarterback around whom the team could build for the future, but also a player that the team could market as an attraction in and of himself. Having Webb on the field today would make the game interesting, despite the Vikings' predicament in the standings. Having Ponder on the field merely makes the game one in which the Vikings spend another weekend assessing the quarterback position with the end game apparently already determined.

Wake me when the game is over.

Up Next: Five Linemen and a Secondary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Poorly Conceptualized Plan Leaves Vikings in Worst State Since Inception

If a veteran NFL General Manager were asked how to construct the prototypical unsuccessful NFL team, he undoubtedly would suggest that one must draft poorly, mismanage personnel, coach poorly, employ a run-first philosophy in a pass-first league, employ a run-stop defense in a pass-happy league, and give little regard to rules of play. Of those criteria, this year's Minnesota Vikings have attained all.

Establishing an awful NFL team in an era of mediocre play league-wide is a daunting challenge, but the Vikings appear more than up to the task. The work, of course, begins at the top, with horrendous decision-making in the NFL draft.

Since arriving in Minnesota after being released in previous stints with Chicago and Miami, Minnesota Vice-President of Player Personnel, Rick Spielman, has used high draft picks on Tyrell Johnson (2d), Toby Gerhart (2d), Phil Loadholt (2d), and Chris Cook (2d). He has also thrown away a third-round pick in the Randy Moss deal and traded out of the first round to take Gerhart.

Last year, Spielman used the Vikings' first and second round picks to select Christian Ponder, despite already having a taller, stronger, faster, more experienced Ponder in the ranks in Joe Webb, and Kyle Rudolph (2d). Rudolph looks every bit the talented receiver that the Vikings proclaimed him to be coming out of Notre Dame, but it hardly matters if the team virtually never calls his number, a hallmark of this Vikings' team when it comes to making use of talent.

Spielman has had the benefit of picking up passed over players like Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, and he made a sagacious move in dealing a first-round pick for Jared Allen, but two gimmies and one bold move hardly make up for the disaster that has otherwise been the Vikings' draft under Spielman. Not only has Spielman not selected very many legitimate starters in the draft, he has had a grave tendency to reach where others have leapt back--see Johnson, Jackson, Cook, Cook, and Gerhart--and his draft picks seemingly have had little in congruence with the plan of the head coaches to incorporate players into the game plan.

Selecting players not fit to start in the NFL and/or drafting players rounds ahead of where they otherwise would have gone, sometimes even trading away picks for the right to make such a mistake, is a good enough start to putting together a worse-than-Les-Steckel type of team. Adding a head coach that appears utterly incapable of managing the team helps, however.

Determinations of who will coach the Vikings has fallen squarely on the ownership group and demonstrates how little that group understand the league. After firing Mike Tice, Zygi Wilf locked in Brad Childress, famously quipping that he wanted to make sure Green Bay did not get a crack at Childress. That decision clearly backfired in every conceivable way. Childress, known as quarterback guru despite never really doing anything to merit that or any other NFL accolades, was abrupt off the field, disingenuous on the field, and easily the worst coach in team history not named Les Steckel.

When Wilf and Company had seen what others saw of Childress before Childress even was hired, they settled on Leslie Frazier as Childress' replacement. Frazier, a defensive coordinator who had not shown an ability to stop opposing offenses and had demonstrated a particularly alarming ineptitude, having been a former cornerback and safety, at shoring up the secondary, has surpassed Childress--and Steckel--in ineptitude. A nice guy whom everyone wants to succeed, Frazier simply does not appear anywhere near up to the task of organizing an NFL team.

Among Frazier's major gaffes this season were his decision to stick with Donovan McNabb five games after it was clear that McNabb had nothing to give the team, failing to utilize Rudolph despite scheming for Rudolph in the shortened pre-season, sticking with Bernard Berrian into the regular season, failing to establish any semblance of a solution along the offensive line, at wide-receiver, or in the secondary, and, perhaps most egregious, making a mockery of a very talented Webb by inserting Webb into the game for one or two plays a game, at the most inopportune/inexplicable moments, for zero return.

There is very little, if any, evidence that Frazier has improved the team since taking over for the challenged Childress and substantial evidence to suggest that Frazier has accomplished the nearly unfathomable feat of making the team worse. Showing so little progress given such a tremendously low bar is more than embarrassing it is also one of the hallmark features of a decrepit NFL team.

All of Frazier's flaws could be forgiven if the team consistently came into games prepared to compete, Frazier made good use of his talent, the Vikings did not have Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe "Who" Shiancoe, Kyle Rudolph, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Chad Greenway, and team did not forever emerge from losses dumbfounded about what hit them.

Alas, the Vikings increasingly appear unprepared for the competition, unable to adjust to opponents' game plans, unable to make use of the talent that they have, incapable of abiding by simple rules such as the off-sides rule, and increasingly incapable of even competing. Some of that is on the talent pool, but even the talent on the team is woefully underutilized and bad players continue to get run using the same bad schemes--how does one explain, for example, cover two defense routinely failing to cover on deep plays and corners failing to face the quarterback on corner-of-endzone routes?

Add to all these woes the team's seeming denial of its current status and the Vikings meet several of the criteria for achieving wretched status in a league in which wretched status is nearly impossible to attain.

Up Next: Fixing the Mess.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Soft League Might Tempt Vikings' Trade

Depending on the outcome of tonight's game at Lambeau Field, the Minnesota Vikings could find themselves caught betwixt and between--betwixt and between good teams and bad, rather than merely drifting aimlessly among the bad. For, with a victory over the Packers tonight, the Vikings would move from 14th place in the NFC to 10th place in the Conference. Though the leap would still leave the Vikings three games out of a playoff spot, that the teams ahead of the Vikings that will be competing for a playoff spot play many games against each other would at least keep hope alive in the Great White North.

Even should the Vikings fall to Green Bay tonight--the oddsmakers and Packer fans have set the odds at Packers -13--and should the Vikings subsequently fail to make the playoffs, the weakness inherent in the NFC for several years now gives the Vikings reason to believe that stabilization of the quarterback position and the addition of a few players could turn the team's fortunes.

Chief among the Vikings' weaknesses, in addition to offensive line, safety, and cornerback, is wide receiver. The Vikings' current leader in receptions is Percy Harvin, with thirty-one receptions. That's good for sixty-fifth in the NFL. The League leader, Wes Welker, has seventy-two receptions.

More glaring are the Vikings' deficiencies in receiving yards. The Vikings' leading receiver in yards gained is Michael Jenkins with 362 yards. That's good for seventy-first in the NFL. The League leader, Wes Welker, has 1006 receiving yards. That represents a gap of approximately seven outstanding receiving games between the Vikings' best receiver and the League's best.

As soft as the NFC and the NFL have been this year, two or three more victories and the Vikings could be drafting near the twentieth pick in the draft--only slightly ahead of the playoff teams. That means banking on next year's draft to fortify the team's weak spots might be more of a gamble than it seemed when the Vikings were rolling out Donovan McNabb to take a knee in the endzone.

All of which means that the Vikings ought at least to be investigating what their options are with respect to next year's draft. And now might be a good time to begin prospecting.

If the Vikings fall outside the top five in the draft, they might miss out on two of the draft's best receivers--Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State and Robert Woods of USC. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given that, were the Vikings in position to draft Blackmon or Woods and were the team to select either receiver, the team would be using yet another high draft pick on a wide-receiver. Failure would be unacceptable both to the fan base and team ownership.

A more certain route, though one that could cost the Vikings a high draft pick in next year's draft, would be to trade for a proven receiver. As it happens, there is a receiver currently in the NFL who fits the Vikings' needs. Better yet, that receiver plays for a team that the Vikings already know to be willing to part with premium talent for market to below market price.

The team is Kansas City. The player is Dwayne Bowe.

Bowe, in his fifth season out of LSU, has 41 receptions this season for 667 yards and four touchdowns. That, despite playing with a quarterback that appears competent to bench-worthy in most of his starts and without a legitimate running back on the roster. When paired last season with premium running back Jamaal Charles, out this year with an injury, Bowe hauled in 72 passes for 1172 yards and fifteen touchdowns. The Vikings' receivers combined this season likely will not touch those numbers. Imagine, however, what Bowe would do in a system employing a quarterback at least as competent as Matt Cassel, with a running back such as Adrian Peterson and a slot receiver such as Percy Harvin.

The Vikings almost certainly could have Bowe for a first-round pick in next year's draft. But there is reason to believe that they could obtain Bowe for far less, right now, and on terms most favorable to Minnesota. That's because Bowe becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the receiver has already intimated that he is not interested in returning to a Kansas City team that Bowe believes failed to deal with him in good faith.

That could mean that the Vikings could swing a deal for Bowe for as little as a third-round pick and, perhaps, some cash. That would appease Kansas City's always frugal front office and net the team some return on a player that the team is unlikely to resign should he reach free agency. For a third-round pick in the middle of the draft board, that's not a bad move for Minnesota--presuming the Vikings can negotiate a pre-trade contract extension for Bowe.

Up Next: Addressing the Offensive Line.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vikings and Their Cohorts Continue to Pitch Half-Truths and Pandering Logic in Stadium "Debate"

The drum beat goes on from the NFL, local media, and NFL-orchestrated call for a publicly funded stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Those whose jobs and/or high salaries depend on the Vikings remaining in Minnesota--virtually everyone working at the Vikings' flagship station, those with high paying sports commentator salaries, those working local news, and those with connections to the team--are, of course, among the most vociferous proponents of a publicly funded stadium, with the "what me worry" segment of the fan base, a small, but vocal group, a close second.

As the Vikings amp up their contributions to the coffers of those willing to play henchman and inform Minnesotans that the Vikings will leave if a new deal is not soon completed, thereby leaving the Wilf's the claim that they "have never threatened a move," the team has prevailed upon its many minions to trot out the same tired lines. Many of the lines, of course, would be readily diminished, if not otherwise debunked, by anyone inclined toward objectivity. Among these cliches:

1. "The stadium will create jobs." True, constructing a stadium will create jobs. So, too, however, would the construction of a stadium without use of public dollars. But if one is really interested in using public funds to build a stadium, then one certainly ought to be aware that public funds can be used for a whole host of things that would generate jobs.

2. "Keeping the Vikings means tax revenue for Minnesota." True, again. The Vikings certainly generate tax revenue--on ticket and merchandise sales and on employee and player salaries, at least the portion that stays in state. Again, however, so do all jobs. The question is how does the public get the best--or even a sound--return on its investment? The Vikings are selling the stadium deal as a panacea for the state's job ills. A more likely panacea would be taking all of the money that the Vikings are requesting from the public and funding public projects in numerous areas--particularly infrastructure. That would create tax-revenue creating jobs, provide tax-revenue creating services, and reduce the need for additional taxes in other areas, all well into the future. And it would do so without relying on the magnanimity of a single professional sports entity that almost assuredly will be back at the door with at least one hand out in five-year's time.

3. "I didn't support the Shubert, now it's my turn to get something others do not support." In addition to epitomizing the decline of civilization and the rise of the tit-for-tatters-no-matter-the-consequences, such rants miss the mark. That mark is that foolish spending in one area does not support foolish spending in another area. It also, of course, grossly exaggerates a purported parallel. The Shubert Theater, one of the most expensive renovation efforts ever in the world of dance venues, cost the state approximately $16 million, with the bulk of the $60 million or so needed to complete the job raised from private donations. That's about 25% public funding. It's also about $16 million in arguably mostly unwarranted public spending. That certainly does not justify engaging in even more egregious public expenditures by providing 67% (and up) of the funding for a grossly over-priced facility. With the nearly $700 million that the Vikings are demanding from the public to build them a new stadium that will return the team an estimated $225 million per year in revenue, the State of Minnesota could fund nearly 45 Shuberts. And that's before accounting for the fact that bonding $700 million will cost the public more than $2 billion when it is all paid off--this in a state that only recently auctioned off its future income from the tobacco settlement to bridge a far more modest budget gap today. Criminal.

4. "It's like $200 per person per year--get over it." Yes, it is like that. Like $200 a year for every affected resident for the next 30 years. It is just like that. And that means that it is just like taking $6,000 from every resident--adult, child, fan, non-fan, attending fan, non-attending fan over thirty years, or $24,000 over that thirty-year period for a family of four. For some--namely those willing and able to plop down the seat-licensing fee, $100/game ticket fee, and other costs of going to a game--that's chump change. But to the vast majority of Minnesotans, that at least causes pause. And if that does not cause pause, what should is that that cost comes with an opportunity cost--diminished flexibility for the relevant municipality to address some future crisis with a bonding measure. At some point, a society simply can no longer accept paying $6,000/person for every project. Ask the people of Minneapolis who already are paying for a Twins' stadium, and the Shubert, and the Guthrie, and the Walker, and a poorly managed Police pension fund, and a school board that appears to have run amok, all on top of already high property taxes. And pity the outlying areas if Minneapolis ever turns the tables on them and goes to Court to stop paying into the LGA fund from which it receives less and less return each year. In short, despite what to some appears to be a small amount of pain for those not interested in participating on this venture, the pain is actually far greater. If this is the Vikings' strongest selling point, they need to rethink their strategy.

There are many, many more such contentions, but none more ardently pressed by those who believe that these are the winning arguments. But all such contentions take a back seat in the panoply of this debate to the strategy of attempting to win the debate by making the same contentions over, and over, and over again, and making them louder. If you have not tuned into the Vikings' flagship station recently, that is all that you have missed. Under the guise of "just being sensible," the flagship folks have opted for full sell-out. Their jobs are at stake, they are under orders, but, they also, most assuredly, have discarded all semblance of personal pride.

I've stated it before and one would think that it was obvious, but apparently it is not. A publicly funded stadium for the Vikings can make complete sense if those bargaining the deal for the state understand the game. The Vikings can be a revenue asset for the state--and that is the only manner in which anyone in state government ought to view discussions over a new stadium--if the deal is a partnership that returns to the state revenues in proportion to the state's percentage of investment. If it does not, it's not a good deal for the state and the state ought to let the Vikings leave for wherever it is that the Wilfs think the NFL will let them go. If that's LA, that means the Vikings will have saved at least four other cities from being held hostage by an entity not worth being held hostage by, and permitted the residents of Minnesota the opportunity to more effectively invest their tax revenue.

Up Next: In Awful NFC, Vikings Not Yet Eliminated.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Astute Reading of League Rules Secures Vikings' Victory

Adrian Peterson was fumbling along in his attempt to gain traction against one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL, mustering a paltry fourteen yards on six carries with half of his carries going for zero or negative yardage. That's when the Minnesota Vikings' coaching brain trust decided to consider the alternatives.

Option one was to continue banging their collective head into the proverbial cement wall. Reflecting on the stunted head-coaching careers of former Vikings' coaches Mike Tice and Brad Childress--both of whom employed said tactic, current head coach, Leslie Frazier, and offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, opted against this option. Former Vikings' quarterback, Gus Frerotte, silently nodded his approval.

Option two was to stop running the ball and stop using Adrian Peterson. Frazier and Musgrave gave this option considerable thought, before recalling that they had tried this approach through much of the season without success. The Vikings' front office, which only recently inked Peterson to a contract extension worth $36 million in guaranteed money and as much as $100 million through the end of the deal, provisionally agreed, anxiously awaiting the alternative of which nobody had yet thought.

Flummoxed, Frazier suggested that there ought, indeed, be a third option. But what could it be?

Checking his rule book to confirm a sudden suspicion, Frazier got a gleam in his eye. Slapping his offensive coordinator on the back, Frazier doubled-over, half in tears, half laughing. "Mus!" Frazier quietly guffawed, if that is possible, "that's it! We can do it--at least until they tell us we can't."

Hesitant, at first, Musgrave for a quarter before finally relenting, agreeing that Frazier's take on the NFL rule book was at least plausibly sound. They would try it, the two coaches agreed, and, if they got flagged, well, they got flagged.

Thus was born the play that helped salvage a Vikings' victory in Carolina, a play that could revolutionize how the Minnesota Vikings, in the modern era, approach the game. Thus was born the forward pass to Adrian Peterson. Word is that, failing a league ruling that the team misread the rules, the Vikings might just try to make use of Peterson in similar fashion in coming weeks. That's not yet etched in stone, but, as Frazier suggested after the game, in his usual effusive manner, "it's possible."

Stay tuned.

Up Next: In a Weak NFC, Vikings Can Still Dream.