Friday, August 10, 2012

Vikings' Play-By-Play Man Sandbagging Webb?

First it was the stadium drive, now, it appears, it is an effort to recreate history.  If nothing else, Minnesota Vikings' play-by-play man, Paul Allen, is a pitch man.  The question is whether he even knows any more whether he is pitching or reporting.

As the Vikings made their push for a new stadium that would more than double the team's value, Allen was at the fore chiding the "uneducated" for not supporting something clearly so good for them and threatening the imminent move of the Vikings to LA (the city that purportedly has two nearly ready-to-go NFL stadiums and which is poised to pluck a team from among the few that have not recently been gifted glowing new stadiums).

Most saw through Allen's clear self-interested pandering, even if the Vikings still got their gift.  Allen's current position on Vikings' backup quarterback Joe Webb offers much the same subterfuge and yet more evidence of Allen's pitching proclivities.

At several points during training camp reporting this season, Allen has offered the unsolicited wisdom that Webb is essentially the beneficiary of "catching teams by surprise."  In support of this position, Allen points to Chicago's ability to "shut Webb down after seeing game film on him."

Notwithstanding Allen's N of 1 problem, his own example does more to undermine his position than to support it.  Webb entered the Chicago game last year in replacement of the ineffective/injured Christian Ponder.  Ponder left the game having completed four of ten passes for 28 yards and a pick returned for a TD.  Entering the game at the start of the second quarter, Webb finished 17 of 32 for 200 yards with two picks in a 17-13 loss.

If Webb's statistics in the Chicago game suggest that Webb is not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback, as Allen claims, Ponder's statistics more than make the point that Ponder's prospects are even more dire.

An objective assessment of Webb last season is that he did a fairly good job at quarterback, facing the same limitations that his counter-part, Ponder, faced--a limited offensive line and wide-receiving corps and generally superior opposition.

This year, Allen appears intent on creating among the fan base an impression that Ponder is the only true option at quarterback, no matter what struggles Ponder might endure.  That belief would help diminish any fan sentiments that the Vikings should do anything other stick with their 2011 first-round pick, no matter the results.

Allen's position, in addition to being myopic, helps promote an environment antithetical to the competition that exists on strong NFL teams and potentially reinforces team justifications for sticking with a sunken cost, should Ponder not succeed.

At this point in Ponder's career, it is unclear whether he will mature into an NFL starter.  Last year was not impressive.  Allen and the Vikings blame that on Ponder not having a full camp (something that Webb, without Ponder's benefit of the new playbook, also did not have) and having to play behind a wretched offensive line.  This year, there will be no such excuses, however, as Ponder will have a much stronger offensive line, a full camp, and a full season to have digested Bill Musgrave's playbook.

That should suffice for Vikings' fans, as the team continues to come to grips with the reality that, as currently comprised, it is not a playoff team.  Unfortunately, that does not suffice for Allen, who appears to be openly lobbying for Webb's trade, pointing to the arrival of McLeod Bethel-Thompson as "a threat to one of the two backup quarterbacks" and noting Webb's "poor" performance in passing drills (guess who Allen things is most in jeopardy of losing his job) .

If the Vikings hope to crawl out of the hole that they have made for themselves the past two years, they will need to do a better job of assessing personnel.  That begins by being objective, not fanciful.  Disparaging Webb's NFL credentials in an attempt to bolster Ponders serves neither this goal nor Ponder's interest.  If Ponder succeeds this year, he will have the position that Allen and the team so desperately hope he can secure.  If not, however, it would be beyond foolish to have dismissed candidate number two merely to protect candidate number one.

Up Next:  Are Vikings Buyers or Sellers?


Childress of A Lesser God said...

Allen certainly has an agenda in everything he does. He was definitely working in both his personal interest and the team's interest on the stadium issue.

However, I highly doubt that he is shilling for the team on the Webb issue. His questioning of Webb's abilities reflect his own personal opinion which he is entitled to. I don't believe that he is, in essence, speaking for the team on that point.

I understand why the team would want to build up Ponder, but why in the world would they want to denegrate Webb (a guy literally a play away from taking over)?

Vikings fans (like all fans) just want to win. If they do, Ponder will be the king. If they don't, "We Want Webb" chants will echo through the dome. Allen's opinion is really irrelevant.

(Plus, I have a soft spot for Allen after he offered his candid and accurate disgust for Favre's awful interception in the 2009 title game. In my view, his call on that play was as iconic as "Down goes Frazier" or "The Giants win the pennant.")

vikes geek said...


Allen can be taking team cues (to discount a contest for starting quarterback) and still be taking it to an extreme (suggesting Webb will not make the team)--I believe he has raised this misfortune to an art form. Allen is most honest (for better or worse) when he is speaking in the moment. His Webb bit is entirely rehearsed as is evidenced by his repetition of the same line ad nauseam. I, too, appreciated the Favre line, however.

If tonight's performance is any indication, Allen might actually convert to Joe Senser before the season is over. No running game. No receivers after Harvin. New holes on defense. Yuck. At least one person on KFAN's nine to noon show will intone that the Vikings are purposefully "showing vanilla" right now. That's probably right--that's what you show when that's what you've got.

Childress of A Lesser God said...

I can't argue with you there.