I like Jim Souhan. He's a great columnist, and although I can't go all Sid Hartman on you and call him a 'close, personal friend', I have met and chatted with him before when I was covering the Vikes training camp in 2006. He went out of his way to help a schlub like me out, and meeting and chatting with him was one of the highlights of covering camp for me that year. I like his baseball stuff better than his football stuff, but the football writing is pretty good.
So it pains me to have to write this, but I think Souhan, while correct in his premise that the Vikings and Packers are teams separated by a few key decisions, took an unnecessarily cheap shot at the Vikings in his latest column.
At least in some respects.
So let me pick a war of words I probably can't win, but I'll give it a shot.
After the jump.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to re-look drafts several years down the road and see who team A 'should've' drafted, and compare that person to the flop the team actually did pick.
Minnenia from now, when archaelogists are sifting through the rubble of the American civilization, they'll come across the Vikings 2005 draft and say that was the definitive tipping point for the demise of Western Civilization. As Vikes fans, we know the deal--two first round picks that were absolutely whiffed on in ways that are almost mind boggling six years on.
No one denies that this was a disastrous draft for Minnesota, and it was also the draft where Green Bay picked Aaron Rodgers, and this is where Souhan catches the red herring he was fishing for.
In one paragraph, he says:
In 2005, in the wake of their trade of Randy Moss, the Vikings entered the draft with two first-round picks. They had many needs but felt confident in the future of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who had performed like an All-Pro in 2004, and were desperate to replace Moss.
And Souhan is absolutely correct. Culpepper was 26 or 27, and would've probably been the league's MVP had Peyton Manning had not out-ridiculoused Culpepper's ridiculous season. They needed help at just about every position on defense, and had created a vacuum at WR with the trade of Moss. Jim tells us that the Vikes really whiffed with WR Troy Williamson (aptly described by our esteemed Mr. Gates as a guy that couldn't catch VD in a Vietnamese cathouse) and DE Erasmus James. No disagreements from me so far.
At the time, Williamson was a big question mark, but James seemed like a good pick at the right point in the draft. Obviously, they didn't work out, so using his hindsight glasses, Souhan opines:
The Packers, picking 24th and in possession of Brett Favre, chose Aaron Rodgers.
All drafts can be second-guessed, but this is a doozy: The Vikings could have drafted DeMarcus Ware and Rodgers, perhaps the NFL's best current defensive and offensive player. Instead, they allowed Rodgers to fall to the Packers.
Um, Jim...didn't you just say the Vikes felt confident in Culpepper? If they felt confident in Culpepper...which they were absolutely correct to feel that way...why in the name of Great Odin's Raven would they draft Rodgers?
They wouldn't, which makes this whole column a disappointment. Now, I'm with him about Williamson. I wanted the Vikes to pick anyone but a WR with that #7 pick, because no matter how good a guy could've been, he was always going to be compared to Moss, and Williamson was probably the biggest reach in the first round.
But that's not my beef. My beef is with Rodgers at 25. He says the Packers had Favre, and the Vikes 'allowed' them to draft Rodgers by passing on him. First off, teams should never draft to thwart somebody else; it should be to build their own team up. So the Vikes 'allowing' Green Bay to draft Rodgers seems almost nonsensical. Secondly, he says Green Bay had Favre, yet still picked Rodgers.
And Green Bay picking Rodgers made as much sense as the Vikings not picking him at the time. Culpepper was a better QB than Favre was in 2004, and you could make a strong argument that Culpper's career was on the way up, and Favre's on the way down. Favre had started the 'I might retire' drama that would engulf the NFL for over half a decade, he had played poorly in their wildcard loss to the Vikings, and he was getting old. Culpepper's future looked bright and promising, the Vikings looked to be a team on the rise, and no one saw Favre still being in the league in 2010 while Daunte was in retirement. No one.
Jim also looks back at who the Vikes and Pack chose as their head coaches in 2006. At the time, probably the hottest assistant name out there was Brad Childress, while Mike McCarthy was hired away as the offensive coordinator from San Francisco, unit that had finished dead last in offense in 2005.
The Vikings needed a 'big splash' hire. 2005 had been a disaster, from The Love Boat, to Culpepper's knee getting shredded in Carolina, to DC demanding a $10 million/yr contract, to Tice's Super Bowl ticket scalping, it was probably the worst year to ever be a Vikings fan. The franchise was a PR train wreck, and Childress was the one consensus guy that people said would be a good coach. Instead of interviewing him and letting him go to Green Bay for an interview with them, WIlfkept Chilly in Minnesota until he agreed to a deal.
Suppose Chilly did go to Green Bay, and the Vikes had hired MCarthy, or somebody equally anonymous?
Yeah, you're right. It would've been an unmitigated PR disaster, one that the Vikings could ill afford at the time. Granted, it didn't work out with Chilly, but to look back and say that the Vikes shouldn't have hired him---when looking at everything that was going on with the franchise at the time---is a cheap, unnecessary shot.
I know things didn't work out on either of those choices, but playing the hindsight game does us all a disservice.