Good morning, kids. Soooo, how 'bout that game? I don't know where to go with the SMR anymore, because other than Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield (who's out for the year) and Christian Ponder, everyone is a junk bond.
Well, everyone except Kyle Rudolph. And, of course, The People's Champion. I mean really, I am at a loss to explain away this embarrassing display of football we watched last night, and I am beginning to doubt the entire structure of this organization, with the exception of the owner.
Is this a kneejerk reaction? Maybe. I'll be the first to admit that losses to Green Bay are particularly worse than other losses, but this seemed like a franchise changing one, and not in a good way. Last year, they came in to the Metrodome and spanked the Vikings, but the silver lining in that was that it was the end of the Brad Childress era, so we had hope moving forward that the worst was behind us.
But now? I don't know. Are the Packers that good? Are the Vikings that bad? Three weeks ago, the Vikings played them pretty tough, and were in position to win in the fourth quarter. Maybe it was me, but this game felt over at halftime.
I've decided to eschew the traditional format and just write, and see where it takes me. Join me, won't you?
I'm not going to give you a silver bullet, magic potion fix to cure what ails the Vikings. Because what ails the Vikings is one that runs deep, and will take more than a season or two to fix. A couple weeks back, I did a couple of stories on our recent draft history, and the results weren't pretty. In a nutshell, the Vikes have been pretty good in the first round, pretty bad in the rest.
A poor draft means you have to do other things to keep your team competitive, such as make big trades or sign marquee free agents. But that can only work so long, and then you are left with a few great players, but an overall team that lacks playmakers at too many positions with little to no depth in case those front line players go down due to injury.
And that's where we find ourselves today. But let's start with the front office, and work our way down.
The Vikings front office structure is not working, and this I lay at ownership's feet. Zygi Wilf has been a first class owner for this team, but in his first major front office restructuring, he blew it. After Wilf fired Mike Tice at the end of 2005, he had no GM and no coach. Most people thought he would hire a GM first, then a coach, and go from there. Instead, Wilf hired the coach, then two front office guys (Fran Foley and Rick Spielman), and called the three the 'Triangle of Authority'. It was lampooned and lambasted, but I was willing to give it a chance. The most successful teams in the NFL have a fully dilineated chain of command, from the owner down to the ball boy. Who's in charge at Winter Park? Spielman? Studwell? Frazier? Wilf? I honestly don't know.
It has failed, and had it not been for Brett Favre's improbable 2009 season, the TOA era would be bordering on unmitigated disaster. There have been too many bad drafts, not enough good picks at the line positions, and a reliance on fixes and patches through free agency when those picks don't pan out.
The one area where where the Vikings have been as good or better than most other teams is in acquiring premier talent through free agency or trade. Antoine Winfield, Steve Hutchinson, Chester Taylor, Visanthe Shiancoe, Brett Favre 2009 version, and Jared Allen have been great additions. But the last significant free agent/trade acquisition the Vikings made, not counting Favre, was Allen on draft day in 2008. And there has been no backfill for these players as they have aged, and now we are faced with the stark realization that once these guys are gone, there is no one behind them to pick up the baton.
To address the bad drafting, especially on the lines, either the Vikings need new scouts, a new method at evaluating talent, a new guy to make the final decision on who to pick on draft day, or all of the above. I understand that the NFL draft is a total crapshoot, but the Vikings miss way more than they hit on mid round picks. Successful teams do not; it's about 50-50 or better. The talent and depth on the Vikings will not improve until the drafting does, it's just that simple. And then it will be up to the coaching staff to get them ready for the game.
Ahh, the coaching. Last night in the post game 'Seppuku' thread, Wytefang essentially asked the question 'why are we getting upset? We knew we were going to lose because they're annonyingly good and we're not'. And yes, he's right, to a large extent, but this was my response:
Because the Vikings have a knack for looking disinterested, at best, against their top rivals. Deep down, did I expect them to win? No, but I did expect and NFL team to show up and play like an NFL team. The coaches had two weeks to get ready for this game, and this was the most woefully unprepared and undisciplined team I have ever watched coming out of the bye. It was goddamn embarrassing.
And the morning after, I still feel that way. Going back to the beginning of Frazier's tenure as coach, the Vikings have not only failed in their biggest games, they have been embarrassed. Last year, the Vikings were celebrating the 50th anniversary team on Monday Night against Chicago at TCF Bank Stadium because of the Metrodome fiasco. It was outside, snowing, and a perfect tribute to those great Vikings.
The Bears blew out the current edition 40-14, and ended Favre's career.
This year, they've lost to bad teams they should have beaten, and have been blown out by our two biggest rivals. Leslie Frazier has never beaten an NFC North team as head coach, and over the course of this 8 game losing streak against NFC North teams the losses keep getting worse. When the stage is the biggest, at least during Frazier's tenure, the team seems to quit. Yeah, I said it. Quit. Individual players like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson don't, but overall, they just give up.
I don't know the answer to that, but I do know a team's preparation is directly related to coaching. And coming out of a bye, against your biggest rival on Monday Night, I have never seen a Vikings team look this unprepared. Well, the defense played well for about a quarter and a half, but other than that? They looked awful. The discipline is atrocious, they are schematically owned play after play, on both sides of the ball,and at some point during the game Leslie Frazier just gets this thousand yard stare, folds his arms across his chest, and seems to mentally check out. I'd hate to see what would happen if the players didn't like playing for Frazier, as they all professed during training camp.
The Emperor has no clothes, kids. Think about this for a minute--the two starting cornerbacks for the rest of the year are now Asher Allen and a hobbled Cedric Griffin, with the worst safety tandem in the NFL backing them up. The defensive line can be pushed around, and the linebackers can't cover anyone coming out of the backfield and have forgotten how to tackle. On offense, the best offensive lineman is 34 with a bad back, and other than Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, there are no playmakers. But it doesn't matter, because Christian Ponder is running for his life the moment the ball is snapped, because the Vikings have, for at least the third year in a row, the worst offensive line in the NFL.
Like I said earlier, I wish I had an answer. But I don't. This organization needs a philosophical change, from the top down. I doubt Wilf will do that, though, as this team is two years removed from the NFC Championship, and as an organization they keep telling themselves they are a team that has enough talent to compete for the playoffs.