Monday, September 23, 2013

While Vikings Continue to Look at the Tape, Opponents Appear to Have it Down Perfectly

At Winter Park, coaches and executives gather in their respective groups after each week's games and assess the landscape.  Coaches "review the tape" and look for "corrections that need to be made."  Executives rank assets and liabilities.  Despite an 0-3 start, the Vikings' coaching staff remains unable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to transform the Vikings from a team that competes to a team that wins.

The front office is only, somewhat different, as the Vikings PR people have clearly defined the number one liability as the starting quarterback, Christian Ponder.  Others, including General Manager Rick Spielman, remain committed to Ponder, however.

Spielman can point to two intelligent runs for touchdowns by a quarterback left with room to run by a defense completely disinterested in him, but that's feint praise.  How do we know it is feint praise?  We know because the Browns told us as much.  After the game, a member of the Browns' defense noted that the team's plan played out--"Our plan was to stop Peterson and force Ponder to throw."

The Browns' game plan has been the recipe for success against the Vikings since Ponder became starter.  Epitomizing why such a plan succeeds was the series of plays concluding the game.  With 51 seconds remaining and needing a touchdown to win, the Vikings started with the ball on their own 29-yard line.  On first down, Ponder dumped short to Peterson.  On second down, he dumped short to Rudolph.  On third down, he passed short to Simpson for a first down.  Ponder then went short to Rudolph, yet again.  With 15 seconds now remaining, the Vikings were forced to burn a timeout and still needed to go 48 yards for a touchdown.

After the timeout, Ponder dumped short to Peterson who ran out of bounds.  With the opportunity for one or two more plays remaining, Ponder finally elected to go deep.  Not close.  Fittingly, Ponder concluded his day by taking a sack.

Prior to that series, the Browns' third-string quarterback, a player who had not played all year and who had been relegated to career backup, drove the Browns 55 yards for a game-winning touchdown--four of Hoyer's passes went for more than ten yards.

The tragedy of the Vikings' commitment to Ponder is that it delays other necessary evaluations.  Is the offensive line playing poorly because linemen do not know what to expect behind them?  Is the defense collapsing because it is being put in bad situations by the offense?  Is the offensive coordinator making poor calls or is the execution simply bad?  Is the head coach the head coach of 2011 or the head coach of 2012?  Lots of questions for an 0-3 team.  Few that can be properly assessed if the clear short-comings are not first addressed.

Up Next:  A Bit of Change that Would Do Some Good.


Childress of A Lesser God said...

Here are the answers to the questions you posed in your last paragraph:

-No. The offensive line has measurably regressed from last year, regardless of Ponder. And the coaching staff simply is not taking that into account in game planning. As just one example: Where were the screen passes in response to the heavy rush?

-No. The defense is simply bad, separate and apart from the failings of the offense. Part of the problem is again coaching. When Josh Gordon was going crazy, there was no change in the approach. The other problem is the players are not that good. Its one thing to give up a scoring drive at the end of the game to Cutler in Chicago. Its quite another to do the same for Hoyer in the dome.

-Both, but with an emphasis on bad coaching. The approach is simply wrong. You play action on first down rather running a dive play up the middle 75% of the time. When you can't hold out the rush, you run draws and screens to slow it down. Half of the boot legs would have resulted in a three yard gain if Ponder could actually throw an accurate pass (which he can/t). The entire system is flawed. But it probably would not matter, Ponder is not an NFL starting QB, pure and simple. The fact that coaches are ignoring that fact speaks to their intelligence as well.

2011. The Browns had every reason to roll over, especially after being down 7-0, and after the really bad interceptions. But they kept going. And they threw caution to the wind with fake kicks. When is the last time the Vikings faked a kick of any kind? Seriously, I can't remember. Fraiser may be an ok coach for a veteran team when things are going well. However, he has no answer for handling adversity and is not nimble enough to change his vanilla-simplistic approach to all phases of the game. Nice guy, but by no means a blue-chip NFL coach. The Wilfs learned their lesson from Childress and were smart not to extend him after last year.

You will have to check me on this, but I don't believe the Vikings have ever hired a head coach with prior NFL head coaching experience. Perhaps its time.

ErictheRed said...

So Spielman made a collossal blunder with Ponder. A mistake of that magnitude will often cost someone their job. Quarterback are drafted too high all the time in the NFL though, it is the toughest position to evaluate in American sports. He has otherwise drafted pretty well, and was smart enough not to extend Frazier. Would you give him another chance to get it right next May? The coaches have to go, but do you let Spielman choose the next guy? I hope they keep him on.