One of our posters, jianfu, pointed out this quote in the FanShots a couple of days ago, but I wanted to highlight it to make sure everyone saw it. When Leslie Frazier was introducing new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, he said the following:
"Sometimes you can get so tied up in a system that you don't see the forest through the trees. It was important to me that he understood the importance of utilizing the strengths of our players on offense. (Musgrave) was able to exemplify that in our conversation."
Man, I've never smoked before in my entire life. . .but after reading that, I'd be lying if I said I couldn't use a cigarette right now.
Now, I know that we're all excited to see the new Vikings' offense. . .regardless of who they line up behind center in Week One of 2011 (or whenever we see football again). We all got to the point with Brad Childress' offense where we just couldn't handle any more, myself included. Here's the thing, though.
Brad Childress is obviously a pretty decent offensive mind. . .you don't get to be a head coach in the National Football League without a pretty decent amount of knowledge. He obviously has a pretty decent eye for talent. Hell, he may have even had a "kick ass offense," as he claimed. But the ultimate downfall of Brad Childress, in my opinion, wasn't his playcalling or his football acumen or anything like that. It was his complete and utter lack of flexibility, almost to a degree of being totally stubborn.
Coming from the Andy Reid system in Philadelphia, Brad Childress was married to the West Coast offense from the start of his tenure in Minnesota. The key to that offense is to have a quarterback that's able to drop back, make quick decisions, and make solid, accurate throws. Lots of timing and rhythm involved. For the majority of his tenure in Minnesota, he didn't have that. . .Brad Johnson was done by the time Childress got here, Tarvaris Jackson was never that kind of quarterback, Gus Frerotte was a band-aid at best, and the whole Jackson/Brooks Bollinger/Kelly Holcomb disaster from 2007 was just that. . .a disaster. The only season that the offense functioned correctly was the year that Childress had a quarterback that, depending on who you listened to, was able to either run the offense the way Childress wanted it run or completely ignored Childress and ran the offense the way he wanted to.
But despite all of that, Childress never strayed from his offensive philosophy. He took a bunch of monsters that should have been man-to-man blocking and tried to cram them into a zone blocking scheme, because that's what his system called for. He tried to turn Tarvaris Jackson into a West Coast offense quarterback, because that's what his system called for. He continued to line Adrian Peterson up behind a largely ineffective fullback, despite Peterson being more successful in a single-back set, because that's what his system called for. He was an offensive genius, by God, and he was going to prove it by doing things his way.
Now, Musgrave gets to put together an offense that's "his baby." He wasn't the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, so it's debatable how much the Vikings new offense will resemble that of the Falcons. He's been in a lot of different places and a lot of different offenses, and is apparently going to make an amalgamation of all of those systems to create a (hopefully) unique and highly effective offensive system for the 2011 Minnesota Vikings.
And it's not as though the Vikings' offense is completely and utterly devoid of talent. . .there are a lot of teams that would love to have the ability to build around a trio of skill position players like Adrian Peterson (who will reach the ripe old age of 26 in March), Sidney Rice (turns 25 in September) and Percy Harvin (turns 23 this May). There are still two players with Pro Bowl potential on the offensive line in Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson. Visanthe Shiancoe is still a very capable tight end, if he doesn't have to spend all his time blocking. . .and, speaking of blocking tight ends, Jim Kleinsasser is still destroying people and is still a pretty important piece of this offense.
The more and more I think about the new configuration of the Vikings' coaching staff and their experiences, it sounds to me like the Vikings are going to take a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft and. . .get this, as crazy as it sounds. . .tailor the offense to that quarterback's strengths. Whether it's Blaine Gabbert and his mobility or Ryan Mallett and his huge arm or a Cam Newton with his unique abilities. . .or even a second-round prospect like Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder.
Imagine that. . .tailoring the system to fit the players rather than trying to simply wedge players into a system. Novel concept, no? That seems to be what the best coaches do, and I think that's what our new coaching staff is going to do as well.
At the risk of coming off sounding like a homer. . .I don't think that the road back for the Minnesota Vikings is going to be quite as long as some of us have been envisioning thus far. Why? Because I have a great deal of faith in the coaching staff that Leslie Frazier has put together.