Not living in Minnesota, I can't say I know a ton about Paul Allen. I've heard him a few times when driving and listening to iHeart radio, I do follow him on Twitter, and every great once in a while I'll hear him on a game broadcast (typically during the preseason). I do know three things about him, however: one, he's not a particularly astute analyst; and two, he's an eternal optimist with a team that typically inspires just the opposite. The third thing I do know about him is that, as the "Voice of the Vikings", he works very, very closely with the team's office.
During both the preseason as well as the past three games, he's largely taken a stance of defending our much-maligned left tackle, Matt Kalil. (The exception was during the New England game, where even he admitted that Kalil had a bad game.) Allen recently wrote an entire article practically dedicated to outlining how Kalil actually had a good game against the Saints*... which is, by any estimation, insane.
There's simply no defending Kalil at this point. Whether the team wants to pay attention to PFF grades (where, I believe, Kalil is currently ranked dead last amongst offensive tackles currently) or not, he's having a bad year. A very bad year. It really came to a head during the last game when it was suggested- with considerable merit- that he be credited with a sack (not credited with giving one up; outright credited with it like a defensive end) when he was completely knocked backwards and caused Teddy Bridgewater to trip over him.
And yet, Paul Allen continues to defend him. His article admits a few bad plays but constantly attempts to reassure that overall, he had a good performance. He contends he is not in the top-5 problems for the team right now- admittedly, Kalil may not be the top problem (depending), but he is most definitely in the top five right now. You've got to do some impressive mental gymnastics to figure it any other way. And this is not a first for Allen, and he's also been echoed by the Vikings official blogger Mike Wobschall in his defense of the tackle. So what gives?
It's of course entirely possible that those first two facts I presented about Allen have simply come to a head- his rather amateur analysis and eternal #faith seeking have collided to create a legit belief that Kalil is better than he's being presented. (He's not better, by the way.) But I don't think it's that, as Allen is still willing to admit when Vikings players make mistakes or are having bad games/ years. I think the cause behind this revolves around the very reason- in my own admittedly amateur analytical opinion- of why Kalil is stinking so much: a lack of confidence. Head coach Mike Zimmer basically said as much:
"He allows one play to affect the second play sometimes. He needs to be like a corner -- have a little short memory, forget it and let's go."
It makes sense, of course. Kalil had a Pro Bowl rookie season. This guy wasn't- by what we saw that year- someone who was overdrafted. His initial season with the Vikings more than justified him being the #4 overall pick, and really, the #3 overall pick had the Browns not gone full Browns. While many players go through sophomore slumps, it's pretty rare for a player (quarterbacks excepting) to have a Pro Bowl rookie season and yet morph into full-on busts by their third year. Kalil isn't injured, and while he's gone through some minor adjustments in weight and body type, they don't seem like they should be significant enough to cause this level of decline. (If they are, of course, dude needs to get his body right back to where it was in 2012.)
It does add up that the only feasible reason Kalil is struggling so mightily is that he simply has no ‘heart' (or whatever cliché you'd like) right now. He's getting beaten and beaten badly, and in a variety of ways; it appears that's gotten to his head. So it then follows by logic that guys like Allen and Wobschall are doing exactly what the Vikings front office is instructing them to do- talk up Kalil, make him sound better than he is, in an attempt to overcome these issues.
Which, if my little conspiracy theory is true, is very dumb on several levels. First off, if the Vikings think that these two are going to somehow convince the rest of the football watching world that Kalil isn't outright sucking right now, then they are massively overestimating the impact they have. Then again, this is also the team that thought that reactivating Adrian Peterson for the Saints* game was going to go swimmingly, so maybe that makes a lot of sense. Secondly, if the Vikings think that the cure to Kalil's woes are for the pundits/ fans/ etc. to start saying he's doing OMG SO GREAT... man, I'm not sure I have words for that idiotic concept. Tell Kalil to stop watching ESPN or ever reading anything on the internet aside from cute cat pictures (wait, never mind, I bet there's a cat meme making fun of Kalil isn't there), and get a sports psychologist in there ASAP. And third, if Kalil's ego is so fragile that PFF grades are going to cause him to simply crumble... man, we do have a real problem here. Most players will both accept and then chafe at things like that, and then work harder to prove them wrong.
It sounds like one of the Vikings top priorities right now (and granted, they have a lot of those currently) is to get Kalil's head right. I'd like to trust Zimmer to be just the guy to lead that charge, but it bothers me a lot that the Vikings are also attempted to shove the concept that he's actually been pretty good down our throats. Look, either the Vikings are bungling dealing with a player who's got a confidence issue, or Kalil is simply too fragile emotionally/ mentally to really cut it in the NFL. Every player, regardless of their talent level, is going to have bad games. (See- in the last Super Bowl, Peyton Manning.) The great ones shrug it off, learn lessons from it, and move on with their bad selves.
Regardless of the situation, and regardless of the Vikings' goals, trying to have guys outline why PFF is so wrong and that we just really don't see why this guy is actually good is just never going to work. Not when anyone with any concept of what an offensive tackle is supposed to do can see Kalil just isn't doing it.