As promised, I've done my exchange of questions with Ben from The Curly R. While I'm still awaiting Ben's answers to the questions I sent him (and I only sent them about an hour ago, so they'll probably get posted here either tonight or tomorrow), I'll go ahead and post my responses to the questions that he sent me. Ben's questions are in italics, while my answers are in bold.
1. What's your take on Brad Childress and the new coaching staff? Was he the top candidate? Who else was the team looking at? What's your take on the dismissal of Mike Tice?
I like the attitude the new coaching staff has displayed to this point, by and large. The only thing that I didn't like thus far is the way Brad Childress handled the Daunte Culpepper situation. I thought he could have worked things out with Daunte had he wanted to, but to be honest, it didn't seem like he really wanted to. But he seems to be serious about bringing the pride back to the Vikings' franchise, and outside of the Culpepper situation, I think he's done a pretty good job. Looking at the rest of the coaching staff, the defensive guys really seem to like new DC Mike Tomlin, the former DB coach in Tampa. From what I've seen of the Vikings' defensive schemes in the pre-season, I like him too. Don't know quite as much about Darrell Bevell, who was the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay before coming here to be the OC. Being the QB coach in Green Bay for him must have been a lot like being the principal in The Breakfast Club. . .sure, he's an authority figure, but I doubt anyone was listening to what he was saying. I don't think he'll have that problem in Minnesota.
As far as other candidates. . .I don't think there really were any other serious candidates. They may have brought some other folks in for "token" interviews (and man, I hate using that term), but Childress was the first guy they interviewed, and he wound up with the job. To be honest with you, I can't really remember the other names that were even mentioned, other than Childress.
Concerning Tice, I definitely think that he's a better coach now than he was when he took over the Vikings in 2002. The former owner, Red McCombs, refused to do anything that resembled serious spending, and outside of Culpepper, Moss, and a few other players, the team was largely comprised of sub-par talent. Despite that, after a bad 2002 season, Tice had the Vikes at .500 or better the last 3 years he was a head coach. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get another head job in the near future and be much more successful.
2. First it was the sexual assault at a fundraiser, then the coaching DUI , then the Original Whizzinator, then the Boat Ride. Now it's Koren Robinson and Dwight Smith. Where is this going? Is there a light at the end of the stairwell?
I've long said that no team gives their fans more value for their entertainment dollar than the Minnesota Vikings. Pre-season, post-season, off-season, on the field, off the field. . .hell, even draft day is an annual adventure for Vikings' fans. This off-season, they haven't proven me wrong.
However, I honestly think that if Tank Williams were still healthy, Dwight Smith would have gotten cut. Zygi Wilf is serious about turning this franchise around. He shipped Koren Robinson out of town, got rid of Onterrio Smith, and wants this team back on the straight-and-narrow. But I think he also realizes that a lot of the guys that play in the NFL aren't exactly Boy Scouts. I think he'll weigh the risk vs. the reward of signing certain players, and will make the decisions that are best for the Minnesota Vikings.
3. What's the deal with the new Vikings stadium? The Vikings' lease ends in 2011, enough time to barter a new field and have it ready on time. I've heard there's one plan to put the stadium in the 'burbs and one to put a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis. What's your take and where does it look like it's heading?
The folks in Anoka County, about an hour north of the Twin Cities, have already approved a sales tax to build a new stadium in the city of Blaine. And what Zygi has envisioned isn't just a stadium, but an entire sports and retail complex in that area, too. What the Vikings are looking for now is for the state to allocate money for road construction in that area that the state is going to have to do eventually anyway. I think the stadium IS going to end up in Anoka County eventually. As far as when. . .well, I think they'll get something worked out before the end of the Metrodome's lease in 2011.
4. Brad Johnson, the once and future Viking. He spent two seasons in Washington, taking them to the playoffs in 1999 for the first time since 1992 (see bonus question below). All he did was get run out of town for having a spaghetti arm after the 2000 season, then go to the Bucs and win the Super Bowl the next season. What's your confidence level in the 38yr old? I heard there was maybe some controversy around Brad getting promoted to the starter position, but not getting his contract upgraded to starter money. Dude's getting old (he was drafted in a round that no longer exists in the draft - 9th) and needs the money. Did that ever get resolved? Will it be an issue this season? And how about the backups? Looks like Tarvaris and Bollinger are going into the season not really knowing their status. Kind of like the Redskins backups. Who's the quarterback of the future there?
Brad remaining upright and mobile is a key to this season, sure. . .but I do feel much better about the Vikings' QB situation now than I did a week or so ago. Bollinger is a huge upgrade over Mike McSuck and J.T. O'MyGodYou'reTerrible, IMO. As far as the QB of the future, Tarvaris Jackson is the long-term answer, but I think that Bollinger will actually serve as the backup this season. I envision the Vikings handling Jackson the same way they handled Culpepper. . .give him a full year on the sidelines to watch and learn and prepare, and then let him see if he's ready in '07. And if he's not, and Johnson is determined to not be a serviceable option, then Bollinger can step in for a year.
As far as Brad "needing the money," he doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to be spending his paychecks on hookers and gin or anything. I think he's set financially. (-:
5. What's your safe prediction of the Vikings' record this year? Your honest prediction?
I see no reason why this can't be at least a .500 team. Honestly, I'm picking them to go 10-6 and win the NFC North. The first 3 games are brutal (@ Washington, Carolina, Chicago) and the entire first-half schedule is a bit rough. . .but the second half of the schedule looks to be pretty easy, and if the Vikes can get to the half-way mark at 4-4 or better, they SHOULD be able to put together a pretty strong second-half run.
6. In 1992, Dennis Green was a rookie coach and brought over Jack Burns from the Redskins to be the Vikings offensive coordinator, where they installed the 'Joe Gibbs' offense. If you watched the CBS pregame coverage from the Vikings-Redskins regular season game that year, they did a whole piece on Minnesota implementing that offense, and who would get to be 'whom.' Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Anthony Carter got to argue about who would be Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. Terry Allen, who went to the Redskins two seasons later and set a season record there, was pleased to be in the Earnest Byner role, where he racked up a franchise record of 1201 yards rushing that season. On their way to an 11-5 record, the Vikings lost 15-13 at home to the Redskins in week 7. The Redskins won on 5 Chip Lohmiller field goals, no touchdowns. Beating the 49ers and Redskins that season would have given the Vikings a bye going into the playoffs. Instead, they played the Redskins in Minnesota, again, and lost 24-7.
Does this memory make you bitter, or truly bitter?
There are so many other things to be bitter over as a Viking fan. . .this doesn't really rate all that high. Besides, the Vikings started Sean Salisbury at QB that game. That pretty much killed any shot we had at winning right there. Also, that was in the era when the NFC was basically 12 teams playing for the right to get their heads stomped in by Dallas and San Francisco on the way to another Cowboys/Niners NFC Title Game. So yeah, I'm not nearly as bitter about it as I probably should be.