Friday, April 27, 2012

Vikings' First Round Accomplishments Magnify Free-Agency Failure

Minnesota Vikings' GM Rick Spielman is receiving plaudits from all corners for his round one maneuverings in this year's NFL draft.  Convincing Cleveland to cede three second-day picks to move up one spot in the draft certainly supports that view--if not also saying something about Cleveland.  Spielman relied on those extra picks to support a five-spot move out of the second round and into the bottom of the first round where he took Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

Most draft experts had Smith pegged as a late first round or early second round selection.  Given that he fills a dramatic need for the Vikings at safety, and given, as well, that teams drafting between where the Vikings took Smith and where the Vikings otherwise would have drafted in the second round, the move up and the selection of Smith appear astute.

But as much as his first round maneuverings appear sagacious, the results merely reinforce the perception that Spielman's approach to free-agency was grossly flawed.  Contending that the Vikings were "not merely one player away" from competing next year, Spielman essentially opted out of free-agency, signing only secondary players and doing little to address the Vikings' pressing need for starters at several positions.

In Matt Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have filled two immediate needs, leaving the team with needs at cornerback and wide-receiver.  The team could have filled either need in free agency, leaving it either one or zero players away from fielding a competitive team at all positions in 2012.  Instead, it opted for a route routinely debunked as a necessary or even useful route to success in the NFL--that of the slow build.

If the Vikings happen to identify a receiver or corner in pre-season cuts, all might still work out.  If not, Minnesota ought justly to lament the missed opportunities presented in this year's free agency and, at the very least, consider the 2012 free-agency a learning moment going forward.

Up Next:  More Draft.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spielman's First Draft Starts Well

There is much to come, but, so far, Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman has made sound decisions in his first solo effort in charge of the Vikings' draft.  Drafting offensive tackle Matt Kalil is the type of no-brainer that Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin were, but without any medical or off-field concerns.  Obtaining three late-round picks from Cleveland to move one spot down could play well if the Vikings bundle the picks to snare another second-round pick.

Kalil the Choice

The Minnesota Vikings continue to signal an interest in drafting LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne rather than USC left tackle Matt Kalil.  Assuming that even a scintilla of this message represents the Vikings' actual interest, now is the time to put to rest such a notion.

While Claiborne appears to be capable of immediately stepping into a starter's role in the NFL, so, too, does Kalil.  Either, too, would fill a glaring need for the Vikings at a position at which finding star players is often a challenge.

That, however, is where the meaningful comparisons end.  For, as much as Claiborne meets the prerequisites of a first-round pick, he has one notable short-coming when compared to Kalil.  That short-coming has little to do with Claiborne and far more to do with the position that he plays.

Even if the Vikings were willing to invest star dollars on Claiborne--a dangerous proposition for all but the most elite cornerbacks--the most substantial drawback to selecting Claiborne over Kalil is that Claiborne plays a position that requires nearly full health, whereas Kalil plays a position that is the most forgiving in any sport where injuries are concerned;  offensive linemen routinely play with borderline serious injuries--cornerbacks rarely play with far less serious maladies.

There is also the matter of expected playing career longevity.  Assuming both Claiborne and Kalil meet league averages for career longevity for players of their caliber, Kalil can expect to play until he is in his mid to late 30s.  As a cornerback, Claiborne can expect five fewer years of effective production.  While it is true that the Vikings would pay for either player's extended service, having someone in the system for a longer period of time and continuing to perform is preferable to having someone for a shorter period of time and waning in performance.

The Vikings' secondary mostly has been bad for several years running.  The Vikings claim that that's strictly the result of talent on the field.  Being consistently bad with new faces and with players that showed at least competence at other stops more than suggests that talent is not the only, and possibly not the most significant, suggests a far greater problem with the Vikings' secondary, however.  Adding a star cornerback might improve the situation and it might not.  Adding Kalil, however, almost certainly will improve the offensive line with the trickle-down effect on the running and passing games and, consequently, on the defense.

A savvy GM might make an astute move where the Vikings currently stand, trading down to a position that still ensures that the Vikings get a quality offensive lineman and are able to add even more high-end talent.  It is not at all clear that Vikings' GM Rick Spielman falls in this category, however--yet another reason for the Vikings to make the most certain move by staying put and taking Kalil.

Up Next:  Who We Got.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plenty of Blame to Go Around for Vikings' Stadium "Predicament"

Of course the Minnesota Vikings' stadium dilemma is entirely of the team's making.  The Vikings routinely point to their low ranking among league teams in terms of stadium generated revenue and permit the logic to flow that that signals the team's utter financial disarray.  That, of course, is all misleading nonsense.  The Vikings generate the vast bulk of their NFL wealth, as do most NFL teams, not from stadium revenue, but from television deals and licensing, and, in the Vikings' case, from additional generous revenue sharing.  This all leaves the Vikings well in the flush, just not as in the flush as they would like to be.

The Vikings have exacerbated the situation by playing a card that teams like the St. Louis Rams employed when negotiating their stadium deal--demand everything and see what holds.  That worked for St. Louis and the Vikings appear convinced that it will still work in Minnesota, requesting more public funding for an NFL stadium than any other team in NFL history.

The Vikings also continue to trot out the line--employed consistently since Zygi Wilf's arrival in Minnesota--that they are "not threatening to move the team."  Again, that's nonsense.  That's precisely what the team is doing by reminding everyone that they are not doing it.  Add to that the fact that everyone in the local media, and particularly those affiliated with the Vikings' flagship station, has made the threat for the team, and the claim is less than hollow.

As much as the Vikings have made a mess of their own plight, there are many others who have contributed to the current situation, including politicians on both sides of the aisle, obtuse fans, narrow-minded non-fans, and a Governor who cannot decide if he wants to press for a good deal for the public or cow to the league.

Politically, Minnesota is enduring at least an element of what we all must endure at the Federal level--too many Republicans who think that spending, in and of itself, is the root of our demise, and too many Democrats who fail to see the correlation between keeping the engine running and greater opportunity.  That's meant that, even before the details are defined, the state legislature, bent on competition from within without any meaningful nod to the public they are to be leading as much as representing, will do little--at least without prodding.

Unfortunately, Governor Dayton has vacillated wildly on the stadium issue, at least in the public eye, vowing one limit on state support then another, calling for a stadium at one location before allowing that another site may still be an option, and doing little to lead with respect to how the state's portion of the bill is to be raised--despite seemingly having some viable options on the table.

From the beginning, whether a new Vikings' stadium will be built in Minnesota should have been all about revenue--who gets what and at what cost.  Instead, the Vikings remain committed to demanding the moon, legislators remain wedded to idiotic catch phrases, and the Governor seems rudderless.  All of which gives credence to the rantings of partisan fans and non-fans, alike, rather than allowing for consideration of the fact that the question is not whether the stadium is a sound public investment but under what terms that can be true.

Up Next:  Spielman's Subterfuge Comical.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Defeated in Stadium Vote, Vikings Threaten to Call Vote in Other Cities

"I don't know what more we can do," an exasperated Lester Bagley, long-tenured head of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium push, offered, clearly conflicted with facing the prospect of having job security for yet another year.

When suggested that the Vikings might want to change game plans and employ the persona of the party seeking gifts rather than that of one bearing gifts, Bagley's eyes opened wide as if such a suggestion were impossible to fathom.  "We waited our turn," he gruffly intoned.  "It's our turn, now.  The Twins got a golden goose from the City of Minneapolis.  The U got a golden goose from the State.  Now it's our turn!"

Quickly exiting the Capitol rotunda, Bagley and Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf fumed out of the building, with Wilf instructing one of his aides to bring around the limo parked diagonally across several handicap spaces in front of the Capitol.

Before tucking into the luxury of his vehicle, Wilf curiously pumped his fist in the air, smiled beneath his bushy mustache, and began offering his now oft-stated refrain, "storied franchise . . . ," pausing only after being nudged by brother Mark.  With that nudge, the smile also disappeared and Zygi immediately brandished a combined look of despair and contempt.

Two hours after pulling away from the Capitol, Zygi offered some terse words, apparently for the benefit of the metro area legislators on whom he had made frequent recent calls lobbying for largely metro-area funding of a new stadium.  "We will now consider our options," he railed.

Less than one hour later, news "leaked" from Winter Park that the Vikings were making their move.  "We have informed the Mayor of Mobridge, South Dakota and Topeka, Kansas that we can no longer wait," Bagley is said to have stated.

Pressed for clarification, Bagley would neither directly confirm nor deny the statement, noting that the Vikings had "never threatened to move."  Bagley quickly added, however, that the Vikings "have been just as patiently waiting our turn in Mobridge and Topeka--and lots of other places, and we are tired of waiting."

A seemingly anxious Bagley, no doubt stressed by his failure to secure a new Vikings' stadium despite more than a decade of compensation to do nothing but that, immediately opened up.  "We have sent written notice to the Honorable Kyle Jensen of Mobridge, South Dakota, that we expect to be next.  The new legion field is done, the outdoor public pool has been resurfaced, and we have had people standing in line in that town for some time.  In short, our time is now.  Mobridge either needs to step up and play ball or we will look elsewhere."  Bagley offered the same stern warning for Topeka and noted that "there are many other towns in which we have had people waiting."

Bagley was quick to note that the Vikings were not threatening to leave either Mobridge or Topeka.

There was no word on whether these recent revelations would prompt a revote on the Vikings' stadium proposal at the Minnesota Capitol.

Up Next:  If Francine Could Pick Her Shoes.