You know, during the lead up to this season, I got the usual number of inquiries from various media outlets asking for a write-up of what I thought of the Minnesota Vikings' chances in 2013, or some time to come and do a radio interview or something where I'd discuss the team for a while. And in all of those instances, my response was the same. I confidently declared that the Minnesota Vikings would build on the frenzied finish to their 2012 regular season and be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
I said that. Out loud. To people. People that I assume were actually listening. . .or, at the very least, doing a hell of a job of feigning interest.
Seven weeks and six games into the 2013 NFL season, it appears that I could not possibly have been more wrong. There are so many places that I could go with this game, but I'll try to organize it a little bit.
I know that we've all said it before, but it's time for Bill Musgrave to go. It's been time for Bill Musgrave to go for a long time now, but tonight's "game plan". . .if we can refer to it as that. . .should erase any doubt. The New York Giants came into Monday night's game as one of the bottom rush defenses in the National Football League, allowing about 123 yards/game on average. Against such a defense, when your "game plan" calls for the best running back in football and the reigning Most Valuable Player to carry the football thirteen times. . .then your "game plan" stinks. Hell, the only thing worse than that would be taking a quarterback that hasn't even been with the team two weeks and dialing up fifty-three passing plays.
Oh, wait. . .Minnesota did that on Monday night, too.
Yes, Josh Freeman. . .who I'll have plenty more on here in a bit. . .put the ball in the air 53 times in his first start in purple. To attempt to put that into perspective, Fran Tarkenton had one game as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings where he attempted 53 passes. . .and it came in his 168th (out of 170) career starts as quarterback of the Vikings. In Vikings' history, they have only had 14 regular season games (counting this one) where a quarterback has put the ball in the air at least 53 times. The team is now 3-11 in those contests.
This amounted to a performance so bad that I'm not sure you could write it up as part of a work of fiction. Coming into Monday night's contest, the Giants were allowing 34.8 points/game. Now, you can talk about how they were offensive touchdowns, defensive touchdowns, special teams touchdowns, whatever. Prior to Monday night's contest, the Giants were allowing nearly five touchdowns per game in some way, shape, or form.
And had it not been for Marcus Sherels' 86-yard punt return at the end of the first quarter, the Minnesota Vikings would have put up a great big zero against them. Think about that for a minute. The Giants had practically been giving points away all season long, and they even attempted to do so against the Vikings, but the Vikings' offense simply would not take them.
Oh, the Vikings had their opportunities. There was the fumble forced by Larry Dean on a punt return that was recovered by Cullen Loeffler that set the Vikings up deep in Giants' territory in the third quarter. There was the 69-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson that put the Vikings at the Giants' 40 later in the second half. There were even a few drives late in the game that saw the Vikings make a push into New York territory. But, in all of those cases, they were prevented from scoring.
And, by an large, what prevented them from scoring was the large man lining up behind center wearing #12.
Now, let me preface this by saying that Josh Freeman was put in a tough situation. This team, quite clearly, put him out there before he was truly ready to do the job, the playbook was limited as a result, and I'm certain that he was giving it his best effort out there. And there's still a chance that the experiment with Freeman can work out before this season is over. . .it's not as though the guy doesn't have talent, after all.
Having said that. . .woof.
The biggest problem with Josh Freeman tonight had nothing to do with chemistry or familiarity with the playbook or anything else. Here's a number that the folks from ESPN put on the Twitter after the game concluded.
Josh Freeman: 16 overthrown incompletions; most by any QB in a game in the 8 years for which we have data on overthrows— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 22, 2013
Forget the Vikings' receiving corps. . .I don't think Kevin Love would have come down with a lot of the passes that Josh Freeman threw on Monday night, and that guy's 6'10" in bare feet. Constantly throwing the ball over the head of your receiver the way that Freeman was has nothing to do with "chemistry" or anything else except simply throwing uncatchable passes. As Ted pointed out in the Stock Market Report, Freeman did a pretty decent job of moving around in the pocket when he felt pressure, which was a plus. Of course, more often than not he followed it up by launching a pass that looked like it should have had a stewardess on board.
Let's be honest with ourselves here, folks. . .if the Vikings were serious about winning this football game this evening, Josh Freeman would not have been the starter at quarterback. The team would have started either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel, given Freeman another week with the playbook, and put him out there in front of the home crowd on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. But it doesn't appear the Vikings are in the "we want to win football games" phase of this season any more. It appears that they've moved full-boar into the "talent evaluation for 2014" phase of the season. And quite frankly, if this gets too much worse, everybody that's currently involved in said "talent evaluation". . .all the way from Rick Spielman to Leslie Frazier and on down the chain. . .could be evaluating talent they're not going to be working with at a job that they're not going to have for a team that isn't going to be employing them after the Metrodome finale against the Detroit Lions on December 29.
Think about it. . .Zygi Wilf and company have their big, shining jewel of a stadium on the horizon. They have Personal Seat Licenses to sell, tickets to hawk, sponsorships to push, all of those sorts of things. Do you really, really think they're going to tolerate this sort of crap for any longer than they have to? Because I sure as heck don't. We know that Leslie Frazier is one of the nicest guys ever and that many of us (myself included) think that Rick Spielman has done pretty decent work with the draft. But when you go 4-12. . .or worse. . .things get blown up and changes get made. It's not the National Congeniality League, after all. . .it's the National Football League.
That's the point we're at in the 2013 season, folks. Barring injury, the Josh Freeman era will continue through the end of the season, for better or for worse. The Vikings have made it quite clear that they're done with Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel was outright deactivated on Monday night, so it's Freeman or bust for the rest of the year. About the best we can hope for is that some of the youth on this team gets an extended look going forward and that maybe this team can spring an upset or two on an unwary opponent.
That's how I'm going to approach the rest of this season, anyway. For the last couple of weeks, I could almost delude myself into some sort of optimism. Not only has that ship sailed, it's already hit the iceberg and is slowly taking on water. All we can do at this point is listen to the band and rearrange the deck chairs.
At this point, it beats the heck out of having Leslie Frazier tell us that he's "going to have to look at the tape" and that this team "missed some opportunities."