It's easy to overreact, especially in the first few games of a season. Hopes and potential mix with ugly surprises and reality and, sometimes, deceptive facts.
For instance, me. After the Monday night game I posted that I'd made the life decision to become an alcoholic. I have since backed away from that plan. Hey, a guy can change his mind.
Big picture: I thought we'd be 0-2 at this point in the season (but 11-6 by year's end) and we are 1-1. It's a +1 on wins and only two games in. Yay.
However, the way we lost on Monday is truly disconcerting. All losses count the same in the won-loss column but not all losses are equal. Some truly are worse than others. We are early in the season and getting to know the 2022 Vikings so we read each game, each quarter, each series, each play, each player or coach quote like soothsayers reading tea leaves, trying to foretell the future.
Yes, as you say, I could pony up 50 bucks and pay a fortune teller. But I like the mental exercise of trying to do it with logic instead of psychic powers. (Respect to the fortune tellers! I do not mean to offend!)
Flashback: I remember a thread on this site where we talked about how the Vikings most years have a totally atypical game that makes them look like total fools not worthy to take the field. I argued that was how professional football is. Someone else argued that the one wacky game a year proved that Zimmer was a poor coach who did not prepare his players. I can't remember who claimed such a thing but I can now say with confidence that they were wrong and I was right.
I've read about other players on other teams talking about that "one game a year" where they are flat, where everything goes wrong, and where they are not a true reflection of themselves. Packers. Patriots. Buccaneers. Chiefs.
It truly is an NFL thing, true of most teams most years and not indicative, that one game a year, of the head coach or staff or GM.
But only if it is one game. Or, in a bad year, two. We can't have a game like this once a month and claim we have good coaching.
We need to put this game behind us while on the alert for another like it. If we have two or more like this during 2022 then I'll go ahead and call it early and predict the O'Connell era will end badly and sooner than expected.
I don't want to recap the Monday game in detail. It is too painful to me and I'm sure it is too painful to you as well (except for you Packer trolls). There are some observations I want to bring up. And I will say that the score, 24 to 7, is not an accurate reflection of that game. It was a blow out. That game felt and easily could have been 41 to 7. It was baaaaaad.
So this is the most attacking offense Adam Thielen has ever been on? Give me a break. Even against the Packers, it was not very attacking and against the Eagles it was... well... it was an abomination. It made Cousins look like a rookie 7th rounder from a Division II school. Actually, maybe worse than that. High school QB?
The offense was never the problem the past few years. The offense under Zimmer the last two years gained more yards per game than the vaunted Packers offense. That, Adam Thielen, was the most attacking offense you've ever been on. If they try hard and improve greatly, then the 2022 Vikings offense may be as good.
I like O'Connell, I think I like Kwesi (more on that later), and I do believe moving on from Zimmer was the right move. However, again big picture, just common sense here:
Our offense was not the problem. Our defense was the problem.
So, what did we do?
We hired an offensive coach. To fix the unbroken offense and to go hire whatever unemployed DC he could find.
It's not quite sensible, is it?
Sometimes putting things so simply is unfair in the big picture. But it is food for thought.
Now, let me say this with my "Kwesi Advocate" hat on. Kwesi understood where we needed help. What did he do in free agency? He signed Za'Darius Smith, Harrison Phillips, Chandon Sullivan, and Jordan Hicks. The Mundt and Schlottman signings were little under the radar ones that hardly count. Worth doing but it does not show concern with the offensive side.
So Kwesi was well aware and took action. I commend that. I still disagree with letting go of Michael Pierce but, by performance or money, swapping Pierce out for Phillips is a push. It did not set us back. It did not improve us. It was almost just a move for the sake of making a move. Busy work. Looking busy for the bosses.
The most attacking offense Adam Thielen has ever been a part of had, what, four three and outs in the first half? And Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions? And gained under 5 yards per pass attempted. I don't recall, has Kirk ever thrown three INTs before as a Viking? Maybe once in the 63 games he played as a Viking before this year. And now in one of the two games under O'Connell.
No, do not say "new offense!" Don't you do it! He's had a new offenses every year here. And worse pass pro to boot.
Consider how the pundits kept saying goofy crud like whether or not O'Connell would get more out of Kirk and help him finally achieve his potential. Well, Kirk had 33 TDs and 7 INTs last year. It is hard to improve much on that.
Pundits act like Zimmer held Cousins back and like O'Connell will unlock him. Yet we see the exact opposite.
So, consider. What if Zimmer, in fact, maximized Cousins already? Kirk's top three years by QB rating were the last three years under Zimmer. It's a fact. Did they have a strained relationship and did Zimmer challenge him? Yes, but that may be a feature, not a flaw. Some players, many actually, do best when challenged. They focus, they want to prove the naysayer wrong, and they are not complacent.
I submit that Zimmer was, in fact, getting the most out of Cousins and that a palsy approach may not succeed as well. It sure isn't so far.
If Cousins has a couple more games like this I advise O'Connell to get in a shoving match with him in the sideline and then see how great Kirk can be.
Wow, that was ugly. I saw a stat that only 3 percent of Hurt's passes were "contested" by the Vikings. One out of 31 passes! It was the least pass D Hurts has faced in his young career. The average distance of a defender from a catch was, incredibly, 4.2 yards!
Hurts averaged more than ten yards per pass. He completed almost 84 percent of his passes!
Hurts is good but that is only part of the story here.
The defense was whacked. The DBs were standing -- standing like statues! -- ten yards from the line of scrimmage and often still standing as Eagles players ran past them. It was weird. I've never ever seen so little effort, so little movement, from any defense anywhere at any time. It was bizarre.
The strategy appeared to be to make throwing so easy and effective that it would shut down Hurts from running effectively. Well, they partly accomplished that goal, the defense sure was easy to throw against (my 10-year-old twin daughters would have covered better, just the two of them versus the entire Vikings secondary), but we sure didn't stop Hurts from running.
This was not bad players. This was bad coaching.
A coach, a DC in this case, should be judged one half on strategy and player development, and one half on play calls, player substitutions, and in-game adjustments. A DC can be perfect in the first but, if he utterly fails at the second, he is 50 percent successful. What is that on a test? An F.
The strategy looked poor and the player development is still a question mark. But even if we assumed perfection in those, Donatell still gets an F. He basically didn't call plays other than the one -- "guys go out there and stand way back from the line of scrimmage because I have a feeling their receivers will run right into you and fall down." That was it. That was all he had.
There was no in-game adjustments at all. Even when the Eagles were looking to make short gains and burn time he pulled the DBs way back and had them not contest any catches unless they were for at least 10 yards.
As far as player substitution, in the second quarter he had a D-line consisting of Patrick Jones, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch, and Ross Blacklock. Not one starter! In the second quarter with the game still quite winnable!
I could not believe it. I wondered how Hunter, Smith, Tomlinson, and Phillips had all gotten injured on the drive before. All of them on the last play of that drive!
But they were not hurt. They were just sitting on the bench.
On a critical 3rd and 2 on that drive I was sure, with lots of time, not a hurry up (I think there was a commercial break) that he would put in Tomlinson and Phillips. Or at least Bullard! It was obvious they, a running team, would love to run up the middle. So, try to stop it, right?
Wrong. Tomlinson and Phillips (and Bullard!) relaxed on the bench as the Eagles predictably ran up the middle and easily gained the first down, blowing Lynch and Blacklock out of the water.
Donatell ran the defense, in that game, in a completely incompetent manner. Again, either one of my twin 10-year-old daughters would have coached better than him. You think I'm joking? Sad to say, I am not. (They are quite clever girls. Yes, they would have played the best players, especially in the most critical times. Donatell did not.)
That drive Donaell pretty much handed the Eagles the TD.
If a DC was bribed to lose a game he would have coached EXACTLY how Donatell coached. I'm not saying he was bribed, I do not know. I am saying you cannot tell the difference.
One thing to watch for or, more like, watch out for. Tie these details together:
Armon Watts played well for us last year and we cut him. In his first game with the Bears he was their highest rated interior DL (as per the highly suspect PFF). In other words, his skills have not declined.
But: He was a Spielman draft pick, a late rounder, and not a critical starter. He could be comfortably replaced, could be, without too much damage to the team.
Kwesi trade a late pick to Houston for a guy who was a fail there who they were going to cut, a guy pretty well-paid as a former second rounder, a guy with less success and less potential than Watts. A cast off. A downgrade paid for with draft capital. Watt's replacement, Ross Blacklock.
Did it make sense? No.
What is the difference? Watts was a Spielman man and Blacklock is a Kwesi addition. This, I submit, was a vanity roster move by Kwesi.
Same thing Bullard versus McGill. Even before the McGill injury, Bullard was held out of the final preseason game, he already made the roster, and McGill had to play and got hurt but was destined to be cut anyway no matter what.
There are two differences in those two players.
One, McGill outplayed Bullard by far and away.
Two, McGill was a Spielman acquisition as a total free agent and Bullard was a Kwesi addition.
It was another vanity roster move. (I like Bullard and he belongs on the team, just not as much as McGill.)
But wait, there is more.
Goodbye ISM, you late round rookie contract pretty successful just going into his second year WR. Get out of here you damn Spielman potential late round draft gem!
Hello Reagor. You failed in Philly? Have a fat contract and only a couple years left on it? Yum yum! Gimme some of that! Here Philly, take some draft picks and, in return, I will take out your draft trash!
Here is a Speilman / Kwesi differential:
Spielman drafts Justin Jefferson.
Kwesi trades picks for Jaelen Reagor.
Class, who is the better GM?
Yes, there is more to it than that. But this it is a flashing red light and not the positive kind you see in Amsterdam.
Last warning sign (for now):
We played Lewis Cine for one single defensive snap versus the Eagles. No, I am not saying anything about him as a player or a pick. I liked the pick and still do. Why did he play ONE play? As a stat to say he played in the game. As a statistical reflection to make Kwesi's draft class look better. He can point to games played at the end of the year.
Why was Dantlzer, the only DB other than Harrison Smith showing any effort, benched in the third quarter (for a time) in favor or Akayleb Evans? There was no injury.
Dantzler is a Spielman pick. Evans is a Kwesi pick.
I do not know but I do worry that Kwesi is influencing who plays how much. He is not a true football guy or talent evaluator or a former coach. He is a bean counter. He should not influence player playing time or who makes the roster. But I start to suspect he does.
I hope I am wrong. If I'm not, this new regime is screwed and so are we as fans.