So, I'm writing a story on Thursday afternoon about some news from Tuesday morning... why? Well, I had the best intentions of writing it a bit sooner, but was under the weather and just couldn't bring myself around. So there.
Anyways, late's better than never. As Chris already mentioned... a few pages ago... Leslie Frazier spoke a bit on the Vikings' need for a QB and some of the strategies we could possibly take in that quest at the coach's breakfast Tuesday. (Assuming you believe a word Frazier said, of course.) I wanted to examine a few other things Frazier said that, quite frankly, surprised me considerably. (Assuming I am to believe a word Frazier said, of course.)
Now, aside from the faction here that genuinely believes Webb should be the out-and-out anointed starter, we're all pretty united here in our belief that the Vikings certainly need to have QB near or outright at the top of their priorities list. So OK, nothing too earth shattering I suppose for us in Frazier saying that- we like to hear it because, well, we all pretty much agree with it.
But a fairly large percentage of us here also believe the O-line is in desperate need of a patch-up job. It's largely aging and also largely devoid of sure-fire talent. Our best lineman, Steve Hutchinson, was even finally forced out of some games last season thanks to a broken thumb, and he's one of those guys you'd be placing into the ‘aging' category regardless. And since we're going to continue having a run-oriented offense for a while, as well as probably an older vet behind center for a season or two to keep together (you know, unlike how we did with Favre last year), it seems this is pretty logical.
But wait... what's that, Star Tribune? You reported that "Frazier said right now the Vikings offensive line would feature few changes. Bryant McKinnie would be at left tackle, Steve Hutchinson at left guard, John Sullivan at center and Phil Loadholt at right tackle. Right guard Anthony Herrera is coming off an ACL injury and his status is a bit more uncertain. Chris DeGeare or Ryan Cook, if he is back, could be candidates to compete with Herrera for the starting spot." Ummm.... Uh....
Well, at least Frazier fired our old offensive line coach (as well as his assistant). Perhaps he really does believe that if we move away from zone-coverage and begin to blend a better man-coverage scheme into it, things will pick up without any need for immediate roster turnover. Fair enough- hey, the man's got the job and we don't for a reason. (Side note: I will pay someone... I didn't say well, mind you... to go out and find me the scoop on what's up with this supposed personal trainer who's been following Bryant McKinnie around. I haven't forgotten about that bold statement, Mac.)
Alright then, onto other things. So, as divisive as we fickle and tortured fans can be about matters that pertain to our beloved Vikings, we're also fairly united in what we don't need, or better I should say, who we don't need. Ya know... two-thirds of that supposed Free Agency superstar trade from a few years ago, Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams. They're overpaid, underperforming, and generally can't be counted on for squat in a clutch situation. Berrian certainly was a great land once upon a time, but aside from the NFC Championship against the Saints and the game against Arizona last season, he's pretty much been non-existent over the past two seasons. And with the need for a massive roster turnover, we'll need cap space- something that these guys are eating up, and eating up waaaay beyond their actual value.
Wait, I'm sorry, coach- you have something to say? (RE Bernard Berrian)- "We need to get him up to speed. He's a talented guy. He can run with the best in the league and he did put up some big numbers for us a couple of years ago. So we've got to get him back in the fold and get him to where he's a major contributor to our offense and we're going to need him this next season in a big way. We had some talks right at the end of the season when they were doing the exit interviews and sat in my office. I talked to him just about that. How important it's going to be for him to step up and be a featured player in our offense in order for us to get to where we want to go as an organization. So he understands what's ahead and what he has to do and I'm looking forward to when he gets back. Just seeing a renewed attitude and coming back with some vigor and really trying to have a great season." Wait, there's more? (RE Madieau Williams)- "If you ask me today, you only base it on what he's done the last, what, three years he's been with us? Provides great leadership for us in the secondary. We'd like for him to get his hands on a few more balls, but his leadership is probably the thing that really sticks out -- just being able to control our secondary, get guys lined up correctly, understanding the system. That's probably the biggest asset to what we do, and until we have another guy who we think can supplant him in that role, that's the way it'll probably be."
Well, THAT'S interesting. Sounds like neither are going anywhere next season. Now, granted, it sounds like he had a necessary heart-to-heart with Berrian, perhaps something along the lines of "you're pushing JaMarcus Russel numbers when it comes to the proportion between your paycheck and what you actually do on the field." (OK, probably not that exactly.) Could be that Frazier liked what he saw in Berrian's response to that. After all, Berrian did have the legitimate excuse of a pulled hamstring in '09 (hey, we don't blast Antoine Winfield for his drop off that year thanks to his ankle), and maybe the '10 campaign was just a down year for everyone on the offense not named ‘Peterson' or ‘Harvin'- and even they didn't play a full 16 game schedule. And Berrian did, again, have some great value for us once upon a time. Maybe Frazier just felt he needed a fire under his arse and we'll be seeing that stuff again real soon.
What's particularly interesting, however, is the quote on M. Williams. While Frazier sounded as if he wasn't intending on releasing or trading Berrian, he also sounded as if he was just as disappointed as the rest of us in him last season. With Williams, he sounded practically glowing. The only negative thing he said was "We'd like for him to get his hands on a few more balls". (Hey, you in the corner- stop snickering. Ah, who am I kidding- I had to wait a full five minutes after writing that before I could even continue.) Well, that's... putting it lightly? How about adding in, "we'd like to see him tackle more people", "we'd like to see him blow less coverages", "we'd like to see him blow less routes", "we'd like to see him know what a safety is supposed to do on the football field"? It almost sounded as if Frazier's only problem with Williams was a lack of interceptions- which is the least of my concerns with the guy. He could have 0 INTs for all I care, if he at least stopped people when they got near him... oh, and if he knew where to be so that they would be near him. We'll work on the picks later. Now, I'm not about to go mano-y-mano with a defensive genius like Frazier on these things, but I always thought a defensive back's job priorities went in order of: cover, tackle, interrupt passes, intercept. After all, Antoine Winfield's not exactly a ballhawk himself (except when he's smashing Michael Vick into the dirt and scooping up his fumbles), but he's still a darn fine DB. Which leads me to the "control the secondary, line guys up properly, know the system" part... does Williams do any of that himself half of the time? Brett Favre can make a great offensive leader, because he's a great QB, knows what he's doing, and (typically)... does it. Same with EJ Henderson or Jared Allen on defense. I don't see players like Asher Allen and Tavaris Jackson being named captains of defense/ offense- because a great leader, as Frazier is calling Williams, typically should lead by example. And I really can't imagine much worse examples for our defense, particularly in the secondary, than Williams.
I'm trying to turn that one around but I just can't. Again, I do trust Frazier. I think he's going to make a great head coach and I loved what we saw out of him in the interim. And hey, he was the defensive coordinator- he should know the defensive players even better than the offensive or special team guys. So, maybe, there's just something we don't know that's going on here. But Williams isn't Sydney Rice- he's not a young guy who can go to Cris Carter's camp and then become great. I really don't see Williams becoming anything more than we expect him to be.
I'm going to tie that last bit in here with the conclusion, which in turn ties into what I said before the jump- do we believe a word Frazier has said, regardless of all this? Maybe he intends to draft an O-lineman first round, and has a QB he likes in the second... meaning that the whole ‘we like our O-line!' bit's really just a smokescreen. Perhaps he's building Berrian up to possibly entice a trade once the CBA issue allows it. But with Williams... I believe him. I don't think Frazier would say these things and then cut him. That would ultimately be rather disingenuous to Williams, who either has or surely will read those words and feel very good and secure with his job. And say what you will about his playing skills, we all know Williams is a darn fine man- better than the majority of us here- and doesn't deserve that. And while I wouldn't have put something like that past Chilly, I don't think Frazier's that kind of person. I think he's speaking from the heart about Williams, and it sounds like he's going to be in our lineup- our starting lineup, mind you- for a good year or two more.
A few other notes about recent comments from Frazier:
- Retaining Sydney Rice, as well as giving Adrian Peterson his contract extension, are on high on his priorities once the CBA situation allows it.
- It seems that Percy Harvin's days as a kick returner are done. Sounds sad, considering how awesome he is at it, but we have a serviceable replacement in Lorenzo Booker, and Frazier wants to limit Harvin's potential injuries so as to involve him more in the offense. Not to mention, of course, with the new kickoff rules, kick returners will probably be scoring, and breaking off huge returns, far less next season. (Yes, yes, whenever that is.)
- Speaking of surprising comments on guys surnamed ‘Williams' (yes, there's more than one on our team), Frazier apparently had a chat (pre-lockout, one must assume) with Pat Williams, particularly concerning Pat's comment on feeling a lack of trust in the Vikings leadership. Frazier was fairly non-committal on the matter, but it also sounded as if there could even be a vague possibility in the Williams' Wall having one final run in Minnesota. While I am of the mindset that Phat Pat, while being an legendary run stopper and deserving of a spot in the Vikings' Ring of Honor (and Canton as well), has had his time with us, I'm also far friendlier to the idea of him getting one more season as a Vike than I am for Madieau Williams.
- In a less-than-surprising comment, Frazier confirmed that should Cedric Griffin return healthy, he will receive his old starting spot back.