When surveying the landscape of this 2011 season, there are a lot of things we can point to and say 'terrible'. This team has been racked by injuries, poor discipline, and a stunning abundance of 'what the hell' from the defense.
Yeah, the defense. What has long been considered a rock solid group of mayhem inducing playmakers has been reduced to, outside of one or two players, a largely impotent group that has been pushed around and manhandled at times this season. I'm not a guy that believes that they should toss a shutout every time out, but far too many times this year, the defense has failed at critical times, where a stop might have saved preserved a victory.
Our esteemed leader wrote about a statistic that he can't get over, and it's one that gobsmacked me. Yes, injuries to the secondary have turned the defensive backs into an endangered species in Minnesota, but still, these guys are in the NFL, and they should be able to play. With as much havoc as the defensive line generally wreaks, no interceptions in over 8 games is stunning.
So at some point, I wonder if it's not time for a new defensive coordinator.
May I suggest Steve Spagnuolo, the probably soon to be fired coach of the St. Louis Rams?
Current DC Fred Pagac is an immensely likeable guy. He's fiery, funny, and in the few minutes I got to chat with him at Mankato, he's a solid football mind. And when you add his OSU background, well, it's safe to say I'll never dislike him.
But the Vikings defense has been a train wreck this year. Yes, I know the loss of Pat Williams hurt. Yes, I know E.J. Henderson, while still a warrior, has lost a step, and Chad Greenway's play has been inconsistent. And we've already talked about the seocndary. Oh, the secondary...
But all that said, we are 13 games in this season, and I see the Vikings defenders doing the same thing they were...or actually weren't...doing in week one. Generally poor tackling form, linebackers leaving the middle of the field wide open, allowing swing passes out of the backfield to go for big yardage. Safeties nowhere near the ball...ever, really.
Yes, I know coaches can only do so much, and players have to execute the gameplan, but is Pagac getting through to his players? Is he developing a solid game plan to put the players in position to succeed? I don't know, but it doesn't seem like it.
While they are league average or a little better in most statistical categories (yards, first downs, first down percentage) they are 30th of 32 teams in scoring defense, and dead last in interceptions. And this is a 180 degree flip from years past--the Vikings would be near the bottom in most statistical categories, but were near the top in scoring defense, which at the end of the day, is the only statistic that really matters, isn't it?
Spagnuolo, although a bust as a head coach here in the Gateway To The West (or as I like to call it, the third most dangerous city in the world), he was a top notch defensive mind before getting his shot. He had defenses that were known for their aggression, and his defensive gameplan in the Super Bowl against the then-unbeaten Patriots will be studied for years in film rooms across America, much as military leaders replay the Battle of 73 Easting or Operation Overlord.
In 2008, he has one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL, finishing 5th in total yards and scoring. Before he was a defensive coordinator, he learned his craft under legendary Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who took mayhem and aggression to new levels in NFL defenses.
And that's the one thing that really bugs me the most about this defense, the passivity. Maybe they're limited in what they can do because they don't have the talent to do everything they want. And that's understandable to an extent. It's difficult to call a blitz when you know you're exposing your already bad DB's to one on one coverage, for example.
It just seems like the VIkings sit back and react, as opposed to trying to make the offense adjust to what they're doing.
And maybe a new DC might be the right call here.