Emptying my 'notebook'...and please note these are all my opinions, not facts (unless otherwise noted)...
- on Leslie Frazier. Sometimes being a classy professional isn't enough if you can't do the job. How many people have you worked with, or for, or had work under you, who were great human beings that you respected a lot, but just couldn't do the job as effectively as someone else? The NFL is many things, and a meritocracy is one of the strongest themes of the league. Spielman signed players, but Frazier showed a damning proclivity towards being stubborn about players in the face of clear evidence (see: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes, Erin Henderson, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, etc). I don't know what he was thinking, but it was...Childress-like in its stubbornness. Sorry, Leslie, the NFL is not going to wait for you to be proved right that Josh Robinson is a slot CB when Josh Robinson essentially turns every QB into Peyton Manning.
- on Rick Speilman. Lots of blame to go around, right? I find myself in the Speilman camp in the Frazier/Speilman debate. I don't hold the Ponder pick against Speilman. And I don't really hold it against Frazier either. Frazier dug his own grave here, IMO, by showing a sustained inability to adjust his defensive scheme and player rotations - which supposedly should be his strength - and for not holding a greater fire to Musgrave's feet in terms of the offense. In my opinion, that is reason enough for Frazier to be replaced. Everything else is superfluous in my mind (re: his termination).
Back to Speilman and Ponder. Drafting QBs is hard. Remember Jake Locker? Blaine Gabbert? More to the point, numerous statistical analyses have all pointed towards the same trend for picking successful QBs: higher is better, and even then your chances of succeeding are only 50%. So on the one hand you have Ponder, and on the other you have Kalil, Smith, Patterson, and Rhodes (and perhaps Floyd - we'll see). For anyone who remembers the years of drafting guys like Demetrius Underwood or Stalin Colinet or Troy Williamson, I am very happy with Speilman's first round draft record.
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water - that's what I'm getting at. Speilman has his chance now to be fully accountable for everything, and good for him. It's make or break time, baby! But I find the notion that the Ponder selection or Freeman signing undermines Speilman's ability to evaluate talent to be pretty silly. GM's never hit on everything. Perhaps a better argument exists for Speilman's late round selections, and the team's general lack of depth in certain areas, such as the criminal lack of DBs in a passing league. I'm willing to give Speilman another couple years to show me something.
- on Kluwe and Priefer. Have to admit, it'll be very interesting to see what happens with this. Part of me kinda hopes it goes to court so we can find out what really happened. More broadly, tho, it's interesting to see the sea change in tolerance (or intolerance) of certain aspects of NFL culture lately. Kluwe is a very smart guy, and this strikes me as a very calculated move. Sour grapes? Most definitely. Is the timing suspicious? Obviously. But does any of that diminish the importance of the accusation? Not one bit. I've seen some opinion pieces in the TC papers suggesting that somehow Kluwe is wrong or a sore loser or something for not coming out earlier, and that is just a silly opinion that redirects the argument off the main point, which is you can't say certain things at your workplace. You just can't, and if you do, your employer and other employees deserve a workplace free from such sentiments.
Now I firmly believe that Kluwe was released because he was older, more expensive, and no better than a cheaper, younger, replacement. What's interesting to me are his assertions that by doing what the team asked with directional punting, his stats suffered. You tell me which player was better:
Kluwe's 2012 season he averaged 45 yards on 72 punts, and Locke averaged 44.2 yards on 75 punts last season.
Kluwe's net was 39.7, and Locke's was 39.2.
Kluwe had 18 downed within the 20, and Locke had 23.
Kluwe had 341 return yards and no TD, and Locke had 318 return yards and 1 TD.
Kluwe had 4 out of bounds and 2 touchbacks, and Locke had 2 out of bounds and 3 touchbacks.
Kluwe had 13 downed punts, and Locke had 14.
Kluwe was 31 and made $1.3 million in 2012, and Locke is 24 and made $405,000 last year.
Which thing is not like the other? Again, I think Kluwe was released because he was 1) expensive and older; and 2) his production could be replaced by a younger and cheaper player with a much more favorable salary cap impact over the coming seasons. I really don't think his political views enter into it. If Jared Allen is replaced by Everson Griffen, is anyone going to claim it's because Jared likes rodeos? No. If in doubt, follow the money, and JA is too expensive for what he does, and his age suggests that the ROI is only going to go down, not up, in future seasons.
The guy who most likely loses in all this is Priefer. All of this is alleged, but it's a serious accusation none the less. To be honest Kluwe has nothing to lose at this point, and if anything 'wins' because his post NFL profile is even higher as a result of calling out this type of culture in the NFL. Priefer, on the other hand, is in a very uncomfortable spot. That he denies it and Blair Walsh denies it doesn't mean much to me yet, in my opinion, because what else would you expect people to do who are still employed together? I will end with this, tho: I would not want to be on the receiving end of a questioning session from two very successful and seasoned lawyers such as those hired by the Vikings if there is any iota of truth to the accusation, especially if Zygi Wilf is even remotely sympathetic to Kluwe's position. Your head coach just got fired, a former player just accused you of saying some terrible things in your capacity as a professional, your owner is sympathetic to gay rights (allegedly), and you work for a team in a state that just approved gay marriage, your work performance (as shown on the field) suffered last year before all of this happened, and an argument could be made that Patterson is talented enough to do what he does regardless of who is coaching, which leaves Blair Walsh as the only notable thing to take credit for. From my armchair my guess is that Preifer gets the chance to talk to the lawyers and ends up somewhere else next year regardless. The Vikings may be trying covering their bases in terminating him with cause by investigating this whole situation as much as they are trying to head off a public relations disaster. That's my opinion, anyways.
- drafting a QB. Higher is better. If I'm the Vikings, I do what I can to put myself in the best position to draft the highest ranked QB I can (and by highest rank I mean I'd rather pick the second QB off the board than the 4th). Seems like the league is trending towards mojo QBs, and if Manziel is there I wonder if the Vikes will be hard pressed not to take him, if for no other reason than he's going to sell tickets at the Bank like no other QB prospect would. He'd be a bit like Rubio for the Wolves in that regard - a player who people love but actually isn't (overall) better than average for his position, but a player who does possess certain skills that are off the charts.
Unless a transcendent talent falls, a sure fire Pro Bowl talent, I think the Vikes have to take a QB first. You just have to. What's the point if you don't have a QB in this league? I may be wrong, but no Russell Wilsons are out there this year.
- selecting a coach. I have to admit, I'm finding myself kinda psyched by all these defensive coaches being considered for our HC position. I don't know why. Perhaps I feel like more work needs to be done on the defense than the offense, and the Vikings need a massive scheme upgrade on that side of the ball. The broader point remains that the Vikings need to find a bleeding edge guy in terms of understanding where the NFL is at and where it's going, not a retread guy. We have a good collection of talent, and filling in the backend depth is very easily done when your scheme is up to date, IMO. The Vikings defense sucked, in part, because it was inherently flawed before the team even stepped on the field. Remove that obstacle and the contributions of replacement level players becomes more average. Hmm...what am I trying to say. With the Tampa 2, replacement players looked worse than average because the scheme put them at a disadvantage. Simply updating the scheme will make, by comparison, mediocre players look better.