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dogfish
09-26-2007, 08:50 PM
VIKINGS MISSED THE BOAT


Are the men who compose the Minnesota Vikings braintrust disingenuous, or are they just dumb? Well, perhaps before attempting to answer this question, we should give credit where credit is due. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has been quite willing to shell out money in free agency, and the front office has done a respectable job of accumulating talent. Except for the most important position on the field. Before the 2006 season, the Vikings spent forty-nine million dollars to grab the best offensive lineman available, road-grader Steve Hutchinson. The team also used the draft to add two important pieces to their Cover-2 defense, athletic weakside linebacker Chad Greenway and imposing cornerback Cedric Griffin. But perhaps their most interesting addition was quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from Alabama State. Undersized but athletic, Jackson was raw as a wound. Most scouts looked at him as a long-term project who would take years to develop, and it was generally felt that the team showed awfully long arms reaching for Jackson in the second round.

Minnesota got a gift when talented but injury-prone running back Adrian Peterson fell to them in this year’s draft. Peterson is probably the most impressive runner to come from the college ranks in the past decade or so, a workhorse back that an offense can be built around. They also added wide receiver Sidney Rice, a perfect fit for head coach Brad Childress’ west coast offense. Cornerback Marcus McCauley and defensive end Brian Robinson fit the Cover-2 defense just as well. Although defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was lured to Pittsburgh to fill the Steelers’ head coaching vacancy, former Indianapolis Colts coordinator Leslie Frazier was considered an adequate replacement. The Vikings also cemented a major building block when they signed monstrous defensive tackle Pat Williams, the foundation of their intimidating run defense, to a three year contract extension.

And no one was surprised when they cut the cord with last year’s top quarterback, Brad Johnson. For most of the season, Johnson looked like he belonged in the AARP more than the NFL, and the Vikings offense was slower and less effective than a Congressional inquiry. The only problem? The team had no one to replace him but Jackson, who was greener than the artificial turf of the Metrodome. The backup plan in case Jackson couldn’t handle the starting job just yet was Brooks Bollinger. In other words, there was no backup plan. At the eleventh hour, the Vikings did at least add a quarterback with some experience, sending a draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for journeyman Kelly Holcombe.

Still, this is where they dropped the ball. Jackson was clearly not ready to be a fulltime starter at this level. After playing for a small college, he had a grand total of four NFL appearances with two starts. As a rookie he completed fifty-eight percent of his passes, and threw only two touchdowns compared to four interceptions and four fumbles. This year, Jackson’s numbers have actually regressed. In two games he has completed less than fifty-four percent of his passes, and has tossed four interceptions and only one lonely touchdown. Though they are running the ball well, the Vikings offense is averaging a meager one-hundred and sixty passing yards per game, twenty-eighth in the league. Worse, their twenty-five third-down conversions through the air are tied for thirtieth in the league. A weak receiving corps doesn’t help, but Jackson is obviously not ready to lead a productive NFL offense.

Of course, it makes sense to get the young man some experience, if he’s intended to be the quarterback of the future. The question is, does it make sense to get him experience at the cost of a season? Not when there was a veteran quarterback available who could have mentored Jackson for a year or two and made the Vikings a competitive team in the process. Jeff Garcia has a lot of similarities to Jackson, and the young signal caller could have learned a lot from watching the wily vet. Garcia has years of experience with the west coast offense, and proved last year in Philadelphia that he can still lead a team to victory. But the Vikings showed no interest. Instead, they let Garcia go to Tampa Bay, where he is completing over sixty-six percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. With lots of help from a stout defense and a solid running game, Garcia has led the Bucs to back-to-back impressive victories after losing the season opener, and the team looks to be gaining momentum under his savvy leadership. The Vikings, losers of two of the past three and apparently dead in the water, would probably love to be in that situation. Right?

This is where it gets a bit sticky. Wilf has been pushing for the Twin Cities taxpayers to provide the bulk of the funding for an insanely expensive new stadium. But Wilf recently backed out of a deal to purchase additional pieces of land around the proposed stadium site, and in the wake of the tragic collapse of Interstate 35W, the entire proposal has been put on hold. Wilf’s representatives have been saying all the right things, but is this tact and compassion on his part, or is he reconsidering the long-term economic viability of the area?

Let’s give Wilf the benefit of the doubt for now, and assume that he isn’t engaged in a conspiracy to move the team, ala the movie Major League. The decision to not pursue a capable veteran quarterback was likely not treachery, just bad football. In the NFL, the clichés about having a small window of opportunity are nothing but the truth. The prime of Pat Williams won’t last forever, and the health of Adrian Peterson shouldn’t be taken for granted. With a strong defense and potent running game, this team could easily be a contender in a wide-open NFC. Instead, they’re taking their lumps to get Jackson ready for next year. It better be worth it.

BigBroncLove
09-26-2007, 11:17 PM
Interesting article dogfish. I feel the Vikings did grab an interesting prospect in JAckson, even though he has had a checkered past, in a few games he showed real promise earlier in his career. If they had someone mroe experienced at the helm, like Garcia, I think they could be a more complete team. I do understand wanting to get a new QB into a system, but I can't imagine throwing him so quickly out there will give as many positives as there are negatives. AS it is, he has already been injured and seems to be struggling. They will also be forced to a more limited playbook because of it. Hwoever, with a better Oline, good looking D, and my favorite RB in the draft AP, I think they have quite a few weapons. I didn't know abotu the current state fo the stadium, so that was very much worth the read. Good story. I like your subjects.... and those metaphors and similes are top notch. They add to the writing ten fold.

Retired_Member_001
09-27-2007, 04:16 PM
Another brilliant article from Dogfish!

Interesting subject, I'm not convinced with Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings definitley should have signed a experienced Quarterback, Garcia would have been a brilliant signing. I don't think Tarvaris Jackson will ever show up, they might aswell go looking for a new Quarterback. Of course they would never do this because the Vikings have faith in Tarvaris.

As you said, the Vikings have a great offensive line, Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchingson are one of the best players in the positions they play, Adrian Peterson looks very promising and their D is solid. But they are struggling with the passing game. You can't win when you struggle so badly when passing. In a few years time I think the Vikings Quarterback situation is going to look very much like the Chicago Bears situation looks like.

King87
09-27-2007, 07:26 PM
Very nice article. I am not sure that I agree with you on the Vikings having a good defense. I am aware that they are statistically great against the run; however, they gave up the most passing yards per game last year in the NFL. Their opponents did not have to run the ball as much as they normally would because the Vikings secondary was wretched. That being said they still have some pretty good defensive talent against the run, and they still would have done well against the run if the opposition ran the ball against them more. I think you are right on the money when you say that it is not a conspiracy to move the team, from the very second Zygi bought the Vikings he was serious about having a competitive team. He made what now looks like a pretty good trade with Oakland for draft picks and some talent. Sure Moss may be tearing it up right now, but there is plenty of time for him to revert to his old ways. I think that the Vikings will be able to contend for the NFC North title this year. The bears are looking bad, it wasn't just Grossman who was playing bad on the offense. The Lions are the Lions, they may be considered a flavor of the month pick, but as a Bengals fan I can tell you that Jon Kitna equals pain, for the team that has him. I still do not trust their defense, and I don't trust their running game either. The Packers are also not as good as they look, they barely beat the Chargers when the Chargers where playing their worst football, and it is very likely that the old Favre will resurface when he has to face the tough Bears defense. If the Vikings can get hot within the next few weeks they could very well shock the world.

I think they may have missed the boat because the last time they where on a boat there was a slew of arrests.....and weird Culpepper stories...:ahhhhh:

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