Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ownership Disgruntlement Could Spell End to McNabb Era in Minnesota

The word out of Winter Park is that, not surprisingly, the Minnesota Vikings' ownership group is substantially disgruntled with the Vikings' 0-3 start and, more specifically, how the Vikings' first three games have played out. In order of displeasure, Zygi Wilf and company are dismayed by the poor play of quarterback Donovan McNabb, the offensive playcalling, and the overall handling of the club.

The Wilfs' displeasure with the Vikings' poor start to the 2011 season appears already to have set change in motion with the Vikings contemplating a move at starting quarterback to either Joe Webb or Christian Ponder. At 0-3, a move to Webb would signal that the team still believes it can be competitive this year. A move to Ponder would more likely suggest that the team already has surrendered.

Replacing the starting quarterback will not alleviate the need for much more astute playcalling, better management of the team, or, more problematic, a lack of personnel at key positions. It will, however, address the question of whether the quarterback, poor play notwithstanding, is the primary source of an anemic offense that has produced nary a touchdown in six second-half quarters this season.

Replacing McNabb with Ponder will help mask the coaching staff's deficiencies, allowing coaches to blame poor performance on growing pains. It will also put under a microscope the Vikings' decision to select Ponder, rather than a cornerback, lineman, or receiver, in the first round of this year's draft. Both realities, in addition to experience and present ability, argue for Webb replacing McNabb--or at least for such a move to have the imprimatur of the Vikings' ownership group.

What is clear is that the Vikings already are setting the table for McNabb's departure, with head coach Leslie Frazier absurdly stating after last week's debacle that the team was going to "work on McNabb's footwork and throwing mechanics." That statement says as much about why there already are some questions about this coaching staff as it does about McNabb's present ability. But it also permits the Vikings to fall back on Mike Shanahan's excuse--that Donovan did not want to work on the little things--for parting with a quarterback that has been with the team for less than two months.

Also clear is that whatever the decision at quarterback, once that decision has been made, the magnifying glass will be shifting to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. That will shield Leslie Frazier from scrutiny, but only for the moment. For an ownership group looking to build equity to secure a publicly funded stadium, there is little patience. And waiting on Frazier to remember that he has Adrian Peterson on his team or to acknowledge the end of the Brad Childress era is not something that this ownership group signed onto when removing Childress from his throne.

Up Next: If KC is Willing, Vikings Should Deal.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vikings' Institutional Blinders Threaten Monumental Franchise Blunder

It's troubling enough that the Minnesota Vikings have blown three seventeen point or greater first-half leads in three games this season. It's even more troubling that those leads have turned to losses. But most troubling of all is that the process that has led to the Vikings' come-from-ahead losses this season has been both the same in each game and indicative of a seminal concern, the failure of which to recognize could lead the Vikings to make one of the greatest blunders in franchise history.

As an organization, the Vikings have not escaped the imperfection that is assessing talent and properly aligning personnel. But with another season with a team mixed with quality veterans and youth about to go down the drain, the Vikings find themselves in the crosshairs of a potentially franchise-altering decision--a decision to which the organization appears utterly oblivious.

As in weeks one and two, the Vikings' difficulties in the second half of week three can be directly traced to the team's focus on keeping their own quarterback in the pocket. Pocket quarterbacks thrive when they have solid offensive lines and a deep threat. The Vikings have an improving line that requires fortification by two, sometimes three tight ends. This makes the probability of a deep threat less likely. Add to the equation the fact that the Vikings' sole downfield receiver is Bernard Berrian and there is a nearly zero probability of a deep threat for Minnesota.

Given the Vikings' shortcomings along the offensive line and at wide receiver, the most sensible offensive philosophy to employ is one that makes liberal use of the quarterback outside of the pocket. If the Vikings could depend on Donovan McNabb to roll and avoid injury, and if McNabb could deliver the pass, McNabb would be the most logical answer at quarterback in such a scheme.

But McNabb clearly no longer has the legs to be a consistent roll quarterback and his accuracy this season--particularly in the second half of games--has been nothing less than putrid. Sailing passes miles over receivers' heads, behind sloth-footed tight ends, and to areas of the field where nary a player on either team can be seen makes clear that, as McNabb no longer can be relied upon consistently to roll out of the pocket, neither can he be depended upon to pass in or out of the pocket.

On Sunday, Vikings' backup quarterback Joe Webb, a player who can roll and who now appears to be at least as accurate of a passer as McNabb, played exactly one down. Following this strategy of using Webb, the Vikings appear intent on sticking with McNabb, using Webb as an ineffective gimmick player who doesn't really even factor into the gimmick play, and ensuring that Webb's career in Minnesota amounts to nothing. For, if this is how the Vikings use Webb when his abilities are clearly better used as a rolling, starting quarterback, whatever could the team have in mind for Webb as the backup quarterback to Ponder in 2012?

It makes one wonder. It makes one vomit. And, most sadly, it suggests that the Vikings are in the process of making a colossal personnel decision by sticking with McNabb and relegating Webb to the long-term role of little- and improperly used backup--a waste not only for the future, but also in a season that can still be salvaged.

In short, if the Vikings want to fix their second-half problems, largely created by a failure of the offense to stay on the field, they need to convert to a system that rolls the quarterback out of the pocket on a regular basis. McNabb cannot be that quarterback. Either Webb or Christian Ponder could be that quarterback. Webb is infinitely faster than Ponder and has a stronger and more accurate arm and, therefore, deserves the nod.

It's not so difficult to see, unless, as the Vikings did in hiring then extending former head coach Brad Childress, you opt to put on your institutional blinders because what you would see does not conform to what you expected and therefore wished to see.

Up Next: B Factor.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Failure to Roll Dooms Vikings in Second Half

In the first half of the Minnesota Vikings 24-20 come-from-ahead home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Vikings mixed their offense nearly to perfection, lacking only a deep pass in the team's arsenal. Included in that mix were tight end passes, passes to Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, and runs by Adrian Peterson and the surprisingly capable Toby Gerhart. More importantly, however, that mix included a blend of pocket and out-of-pocket passes by Donovan McNabb--with a heavy emphasis on rolling McNabb.

The second half of Sunday's second consecutive second-half disaster offered little of what the Vikings had to offer in the first half in building a 17-0 lead. That's largely the consequence of a complacency that led the Vikings to hold to pocket passing. This allowed Tampa Bay to focus its defensive efforts and made the Vikings' offense, clearly absent the deep-threat that makes the pocket pass so valuable, one and one-half dimensional, with only the run and short pass available.

Not surprisingly, the Vikings failed too often to move the ball in the second half. And Tampa Bay took advantage, dominating both time of possession and yardage total in the second half. The result was an exhausted Vikings' defense, most aptly epitomized by Cedric Griffin's non-play on Tampa Bay's final passing touchdown.

If the Vikings hope to overcome their second-half malaise, they must acknowledge two things--that they lack any meaningful downfield threat (leaving aside, for the moment, whether Donovan McNabb has the accuracy to hit such a target) and the offensive line is unable to maintain a consistent pocket. To win, the Vikings need either a quarterback who can roll out of the pocket on a regular basis for an entire game....or they need a much larger half-time lead. The first half of Sunday's loss suggested that McNabb is at least willing to roll. If he is not, or if he is unable, it would behoove the Vikings to move to a plan that permits them to dodge their greatest deficiency.

Up Next: Stadium Numbers.

Answer is Using Peterson More Intelligently

Around the water cooler this past week, broad discussion has been had of the need for the Minnesota Vikings to give Adrian Peterson more rushing attempts this week and beyond. The thinking, presumably, is that more carries equates to more yards and a greater likelihood of Peterson breaking a large gain or two--all of which, presumably, will bolster the Vikings' offense.

There is no question but that giving Peterson the ball more times will equate to Peterson gaining more yards on the ground and increase the probability that he breaks a big play. And this all could help the Vikings' win games.

The bigger, and more appropriate concern, however, is not giving Peterson more rushing attempts each game but making certain that he is more wisely utilized. When Bill Musgrave joined the Vikings as offensive coordinator after yet another long stint as a quarterbacks coach, he emphasized the need to make better use of Peterson. Such use, Musgrave made clear, required that the Vikings more effectively utilize their best offensive weapon in the passing attack--something that former Vikings' head coach Brad Childress all but refused to do.

Musgrave's purported philosophy was hardly on display last week, despite the fact that the Vikings were facing a team absent one of its primary linebackers--a situation that should have opened up opportunities both in the middle and in the flat. That the Vikings did not utilize Peterson in the passing attack thus says more about Musgrave's unconvincing offensive philosophy and fear of losing than, unfortunately, it says about a particular scheme for a particular game. It also says something about the current coaching staff's short-sightedness, albeit in limited showing, regarding the use and preservation of a player to whom the team just committed no less than $44 million.

Getting Peterson the ball should be one of the Vikings' primary goals. But that goal should not come at the highest cost to Peterson. The most certain way to injure a running back or shorten that back's career in the NFL is to run that back up the gut on play after play. That was the Vikings' recipe against the Chargers and it appears that the team's greatest lament in the wake of a narrow loss to San Diego was that Peterson was not given more opportunities to run up the gut behind a loathsome offensive line.

The real concern for Minnesota, regardless of the opposition, should be balancing Peterson's rushing and receiving totals. Though, as Brian Westbrook certainly would attest, that is no recipe for running back health, it was the recipe for a long career for another great back, Marshall Faulk. Moreover, while one method of using a running back no more guarantees a long career for that back than another, the fewer hits any player takes, the greater the likelihood of longevity. Reducing hits by defensive linemen would go a long way towards ensuring that Peterson is both more productive and more productive through the life of his seven-year deal. And getting Peterson the ball in the flat would help ensure not only fewer hits for Peterson on a given play, but would also ensure the Vikings more long drives and increased scoring odds--a welcome possibility in the wake of a thirty-nine yard, one-touchdown opening week performance.

Up Next: Is Bernard Berrian Again Being Shut Out?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

For McNabb's Sake, Time for Vikings to Install Webb at Quarterback

In Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Donovan McNabb went 7 for 15 for 39 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The woeful numbers speak volumes on their own, ranking McNabb dead last by a wide margin in any meaningful quarterback statistic.

Although it has only been one game, one game in the NFL is akin to ten games in MLB at 1/16th of the season. One more game like Sunday's and fans will be left pondering whether the Vikings can climb out of their 0-2 hole and finish strong over the final 7/8ths of their schedule. In short, while one game does not a season make, there is little time to remedy a poor start when the season is as short as is the NFL's.

While McNabb's performance was poor on Sunday, a great deal of his struggles were other than self-inflicted. In addition to playing on a team that confoundingly continues to view Bernard Berrian as a legitimate deep threat, McNabb finds himself mired in a system that requires nimbleness in the pocket and elusiveness for escaping the ever collapsing pocket. And all of those problems are dwarfed by the threat that is the reinvention of the Childress Coast Offense to an impossibly more offensive degree.

Given that the Vikings' offensive line is terrible and the offensive play-calling is fathoms below NFL grade, there already appears to be no point in retaining McNabb as the starting quarterback. Despite having the strongest arm on the team, McNabb is too slow to escape trouble, too errant on his throws, and too late on some of his reads to any longer support the claim that he is the Vikings' best quarterback under the circumstances.

Were McNabb playing behind the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line of the late 80s and early 90s, he would have the luxury of surveying the field and waiting for receivers to get open. This Vikings' offensive scheme, mired in the notion that a ten-yard play is an "explosive" one, and fixated on encouraging opposing defenses to stuff the box, thus creating more readily disguised blitz schemes, works against everything that ever made McNabb a success early in his career--particularly when McNabb appears to be in late-in-his-career running condition.

Both Joe Webb and rookie Christian Ponder offer greater elusiveness than McNabb and both appear to make good reads and have good releases out of the pocket. The great irony, in fact, is that both Ponder and Webb need to improve their pocket play. Given that the Vikings rarely have a pocket in which to play, Ponder's and Webb's greatest and similar weakness is essentially irrelevant and their abilities outside the pocket become all the more meaningful.

If the Vikings insist on playing Musgrave Coast Offense (MCO), there simply is no point and no value to having McNabb in the game getting pummeled and making bad plays. The wiser option would be to insert either Webb or Ponder. And given that Webb has more experience than Ponder and is more elusive, Webb is the better choice.

Switching to Webb not only would allow the Vikings to spread the defense horizontally, it should free up the middle of the field for one of the team's three tight ends as the middle linebacker would have to stay home to cover Webb.

Although it is early in the season, there is reason to worry about where this Vikings' team is going, both this year and beyond. Bill Musgrave appears to be about the same guy that was relegated to career quarterbacks coach before the Vikings--in another move wreaking of misguided ownership support--came to the rescue, Leslie Frazier appears unaware of the magnitude of the situation, and the Vikings' $100 million signee is stuck in a system that leads to him finishing in the middle of the pack or worse, week after week. It's beginning to resemble a house of cards at Winter Park with the builders having failed to recognize the need to establish a proper foundation. Only a dramatic change in philosophy now can salvage this season and give hope for the future.

Up Next: Musgrave Showing to Form.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings took a quick 17-7 lead over the heavily favored home team, San Diego Chargers. Several attempts at stuffing Adrian Peterson up the middle later and the Chargers, absent their placekicker after the opening kickoff, emerged victorious, 24-17.

The stat of the day? Thirty-nine. That's how many passing yards Donovan McNabb had for the game. Thirty-nine yards on 7 of 15 passing. Pitiful on several fronts. Poor play-calling. Poor execution. Weak offensive line. Non-existant deep threat.

Apparently the Vikings were not merely "keeping it vanilla," as Paul Allen contended, during the pre-season. Rather, they are who we thought they were and, on Sunday, far worse offensively.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vikings Flaunt Risk in Favor of Reward in Resigning Peterson

Rather than wait for the off-season in what portends to be a season in which Adrian Peterson is both heavily utilized and shows that he can handle the heavy workload better than any other NFL back, the Minnesota Vikings, on Saturday, agreed to terms of a seven-year, $100 million dollar contract with Peterson. If done properly, the deal, which includes $36 million in guaranteed money, could be a boon for the Vikings. If done improperly, or if Peterson has a career-ending injury in the next two years, the deal could sink the franchise for years to come.

Though the full terms of the Peterson deal have yet to be disclosed, the deal must include no less than $14 million in guaranteed money, and cap hit, this year--a figure that assumes that the Vikings have designated all of Peterson's guaranteed money a salary bonus. That's a good deal for the Vikings on a year-by-year basis versus what Peterson would command on the free market and slightly more than what the Vikings would have had to pay their star back as a franchise player in 2012. The deal is not without substantial risk, however.

The greater the salary bonus, the greater the peril for the Vikings moving forward. If the Vikings designated all of the guaranteed money as salary bonus, rather than as a roster bonus, the team will be on the hook for $14 million plus for Peterson each of the seasons that he plays in Minnesota for up to seven years. That's in addition to the $8 million that the team is on the hook for for Chad Greenway for each of the years that he plays over the next five years. And all of this assumes that neither Peterson nor Greenway have any meaningful incentive clauses in their contracts, almost certainly not the case.

The Vikings' signing of Greenway and Peterson to large contracts demonstrates the team's continuing efforts, in the midst of a stadium drive, to portray itself as a team intent on winning. With a salary cap that will remain intact for the next two seasons and increase only marginally thereafter, however, the Vikings are banking large on both the success and the health of just two of the team's players with Peterson's and Greenway's contracts eating up nearly 20% of the Vikings' salary cap.

Despite the tremendous risk involved with assigning so much cap space to two players, the Vikings are signing two players who should be on the right side of their prime years to contracts that should carry both players through the end of those years. By signing Greenway and Peterson, the Vikings also ensure that they control the players but that the players are content--hopefully not too content. That means both players should remain tradable, should the Vikings falter and need to shed star power for potential and cap space.

Up Next: But Can They Win? Plus, money matters.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Vikings Have Options With Peterson

The 2011 season marks the end to Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson's rookie contract. Unlike any other major league sport, however, free agency in the NFL rarely means free agency--at least to the extent that cornerstone players are involved.

Last night's season-opening game between the Green Bay and the New Orleans Saints displayed the value of a competent running game. Alternating Ryan Grant and James Starks, the Packers were able to coax just enough out of their running attack to keep the Saints honest--a condition that became all the more significant in the waning seconds of the game than it had seemed in the opening quarter.

With good, not great, running backs, Green Bay is among the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year, with the running attack meaningfully augmenting a passing game that is the best in the league.

The Vikings find themselves in a diametrically opposite, if also less overwhelming, offensive position to that of the Packers. While the Packers rely on the passing game to set up the running game and rely on good to above average running backs to balance their passing attack, the Vikings rely on Adrian Peterson to set up everything in their offense. Given their lack of a deep threat at receiver and their shaky offensive line, that's both good, because Peterson is the best running back in the league, and depressing, because opposing teams know that, if they can stop Peterson, they can stop the Vikings.

At 26, Peterson is thus the face and the future of the Vikings. The question for the Vikings is what to do with a player on whom the team so heavily relies if continuing to rely so heavily on Peterson either coincides with or means that the team remains starved at other positions?

The ready answer for the Vikings front office is that, for the sake of the near-term bottom line, Peterson's return is essential. Jersey sales and interest in watching Peterson play eight times a year aside, without Peterson the fan interest in the Vikings almost certainly would precipitously decline. That's not necessarily an argument against trading Peterson for some healthy combination of picks and players, but it is the punctuation for being clear about what Peterson's departure would mean to the franchise in the wake of such a move.

The Vikings, of course, need not concern themselves with Peterson's departure if the team wants to keep him in the fold. All the cards, as they say, are in the Vikings' hands. The team can trade Peterson at his peak or retain him on the NFL's terms. And the worst case scenario for the Vikings is that the team loses Peterson for two first-round picks.

What makes the Vikings' situation relatively simple is that, barring a block-buster offer from another team, they have only one decision to make. That decision is whether to allow Peterson to negotiate a trade with another team, after the 2011 season, and after the team has franchised him. Any other ostensible decisions are made irrelevant by the fact that franchising Peterson ensures the Vikings the best return on the running back, not factoring in Peterson's possible sullen response to being franchised, and assuming no trade.

Franchising Peterson will cost the Vikings the average salary of the five highest paid running backs in 2011 or 120% of Peterson's 2011 salary, whichever is greater. At the moment, Peterson's 2011 salary is greater than the former. That means that franchising Peterson for the 2012 season would cost the Vikings approximately $13 million in 2012, or more than ten percent of the team's available cap space. Barring injury, Peterson probably will live up to such a salary in 2012, but the large cap hit might mean that the Vikings are without space to sign players to fill other voids already evident on the team.

The counter-concern to franchising is that re-signing Peterson outside of the realm of franchising continues to go up. With Chris Johnson recently signing a contract with $30 million in guaranteed money over six years, the much younger, stronger, and more productive Peterson almost certainly will command an additional $10 million in guaranteed money over five years. That's an $8 million salary cap hit per season without even accounting for what is certain to be an equivalent dollar figure in non-guaranteed money that becomes guaranteed each season. That likely would put the Vikings on the hook for $16-17 million in cap space over five years, just for Peterson.

For 2012, franchising Peterson, while expensive, appears to be the Vikings best salary cap move. The same can be said for 2013, during which the Vikings may again, for the final time, franchise Peterson. That would cost the Vikings 120% of Peterson's 2012 salary--approximately $15.6 million--in guaranteed money, but would still be less than the $16 or $17 million that the team likely would owe Peterson should it work out a contract with him rather than franchise him.

Where the Vikings would find themselves up against it would be in 2013, when the team could not franchise Peterson and Peterson could leave the team without any compensation to the team. Assuming Peterson remains a highly functioning running back in 2013, 2013 would be the year for the Vikings to negotiate a contract with Peterson. At that point, however, Peterson will see the light at the end of the tunnel and likely opt for free-agency, barring a market friendly offer by the Vikings.

What does all this suggest? it suggests that the Vikings' best option with Peterson, barring a lucrative trade, is to franchise him in 2012, assess his performance during the 2012 season, and, if merited, negotiate a three- or four-year extension, backloaded on non-guaranteed money, near the end of the 2012 season.

The alternative is to franchise Peterson after this season, allow him to negotiate with other teams, and let him go for two first-round picks--or to do the same after next season. That's not as bad as it might seem, as it would allow the Vikings to identify high-end free agents to fill at least two other holes and bring in the type of good to above average running back that suffices to make most NFL teams function these days. It would also save the Vikings the heartburn of having too many eggs in the basket of a position well-documented as the most injury prone in the league.

Decisions, decisions.

Up Next: The half-billion dollar fraud. Plus, playing more games with Webb.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Greenway Resigning Among Other Items Offers Yet Another Glimpse of Lack of Transparency on Stadium Issue

If you think that the Vikings' extension of Chad Greenway is primarily about winning football games and appeasing fan sentiment to retain the second best linebacker on the team, think again. Greenway's five-year, $40 million deal includes $20 million in guarantees. Prior to negotiating the extension with Greenway, the Vikings were on the hook for $10 million for Greenway's franchise year. That meant that the Vikings had to count $10 million against this year's salary cap of $120 million--a hefty percentage of the payroll for an outside linebacker.

The new deal, depending on how the Vikings structured Greenway's bonus, means that the Vikings are on the hook for a minimum of $8 million against this year's cap and a maximum of $25 million--if the Vikings designated 100% of Greenway's bonus a "roster bonus." Because the Vikings were approximately $12 million under the cap prior to Greenway's extension--a figure that does not take into account allowances under the new CBA to spend over the cap to retain a veteran or to borrow from future caps--the most that the Vikings could put towards this year's cap from Greenway's contract is $12 million. The additional allowances would permit the Vikings to put an extra $5 million or so towards this year's cap, effectively overspending this year's cap by the same value.

All of this is interesting, at least to me. But what is more compelling is the minimum figure noted above. After Saturday's cuts, the Vikings shed approximately $3 million in salary cap space. They have since added at least $8 million for Greenway's contract and $2 million for post-cut pick-ups. That potentially puts them $3 million below where they were prior to extending Greenway and close to the salary cap floor. If the Vikings extend Adrian Peterson this season, we will know for certain that the Vikings had ample room to sign whatever free agents they wished to sign, and that they simply opted out, allowing their minions in the media and at their radio station to parrot the line that the Vikings are "hard against the cap." That's a line the Vikings, themselves, have never offered. But it's also a line that the Vikings have never denied, other than to say that the team was "in better position than many believe."

How much better the Vikings are under the cap, however, is less relevant in the current climate than how well off the Vikings are financially. In the context of number finagling, nothing quite bests the Vikings' constant drum beat of poverty and inequity in its commercialization of its stadium push. Conveniently quiet on the numerous cascades of revenue bestowed upon all NFL teams--and particularly NFL teams in the bottom third of the stadium revenue stream category--the Vikings continue to imply that they need a new stadium to make a go of it in the NFL. League revenues, salary cap ceilings and floors, and the Vikings' recent signing of Greenway clearly argue otherwise, however. Other indicia are even more condemning.

In a recent national posting, one of the architects of the Rams' move to St. Louis recalled team officials asking the City of St. Louis for the stars and the moon and suggesting, behind closed doors, that if the City did not agree they could always say "no." The City, the Rams' official somewhat embarrassingly acknowledged, said no to nothing. Worse, yet, for the City and its taxpayers, however, was the Ram officials' statement that the Rams knew they would get a sweetheart deal no matter the deal because the City was woefully uninformed on revenue streams and team officials were well versed on the subject of their enterprise. The Ram official even noted that the City was so clueless about such negotiations that they agreed to a stipulation that stated that the Rams could break their lease any time in the future should the City fail to maintain the Rams' stadium as a "state of the art" facility. Sixteen years later, the Rams are invoking this clause to get a new stadium on the taxpayer's dime.

As revealing as all of this is, the Rams' story and the Vikings' recent escapades still fail to detail how truly lucrative the NFL is for teams. In addition to all of the various revenue streams--national television, local radio, stadium advertising, naming rights, suite revenue, ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales, franchise fees, parking, seat licenses, and additional revenue sharing for teams like the Vikings--NFL teams are permitted to deduct their expenses at tax time.

The last item might cause a shrug and a comment that teams ought to be allowed to expense. Yes, that's how our tax code is written and, frankly, that is for the better of businesses and growth.

What most fans almost certainly do not understand, however, is how a contract like Greenway's significantly benefits the Vikings' bottom line. That's because most fans presumably do not know that Greenway's contract can be amortized. Not only are the Vikings allowed to claim Greenway's contract as an operating expense, they also are allowed to claim depreciation on the contract. That leaves the Vikings actually paying a fraction of Greenway's and other players' contracts, rather than his entire contract. That's a pretty good deal for teams, and one absolutely not afforded most employers with respect to their employees. It's also something that the do not reveal when disclosing the team's full revenue streams--at least as a normal person would understand them.

Here's how one sport's economist, courtesy of deadspin.com, described this tremendous tax benefit:

"This can't be emphasized enough: Every year, taxpayers hand the plutocrats who own sports franchises a fat pile of money for no other reason than that one of those plutocrats, many years ago, convinced the IRS that his franchise is basically a herd of cattle. Fort calls it "special-interest legislation." "It's not illegal," he says. "It's just weird."

The rules have changed over the years, but the depreciation shelter remains one of the great graces of owning a sports team. In some ways, it's gotten more fanciful. Between 1977 and 2004, owners could write off half the team's purchase price over five years, thanks to the pretend-loss of player value. One consequence, Fort notes, is that teams would change hands every five or six years, once the exemption had dried up. Now, after tax law revisions in 2004, owners can write off 100 percent of their team's purchase price, albeit over a 15-year span. What they're buying, as far as the RDA is concerned, is a set of players — the brand identity, the right to stage games and charge admission, and everything else are throw-ins. (According to Fort's analysis [pdf], the new RDA rules had the twin effect of increasing both tax payments and team values.)"

Is it any surprise that, after fifteen years in their new stadium, the Rams are seeking a new facility?

In short, as the Vikings continue their pitched wail about poverty and inequity, it is worth reminding them what most in the public ought to, but, unfortunately, probably do not. That is that they already benefit far more greatly than any other business venture in town.

One would think that that reminder would humble the Vikings and quiet their insufferable whining. One also would think that such information would provide considerable leverage--as if any more were needed--to those offering a deal to the Vikings. Alas, that's probably wrong on both counts, but one would think.

Up Next: Options for Peterson. Plus, When you start at $1 billion anything less sounds relatively reasonable or How the Vikings pitched a $300 million deal as a billion dollar necessity.