Saturday, January 14, 2006

Picking the Playoffs

I've been a lot busier this week then I thought I was going to be, hence the absence of posts. I'm just pushing the timetable back a little bit, but first I thought I'd put up my picks for the games this weekend. After going 2-2 last weekend, I can't say I'm some kind of idiot savant, but here goes anyway:

Seahawks over the Racists:
The Racists won last week because that's what happens when you play a team with Chris Simms at quarterback. Hasselbeck isn't going to implode like that. This game shouldn't be close. And I have to say I am going to enjoy watching the Seahawks destroy the Racists, since I'm stuck in the middle of Racist territory.

Patriots over Broncos:
Once again, streaks just don't end to random teams. If the Pats lose, it is going to be to the Colts or in the Super Bowl. When it happens, I'm going to be happy, but Colts-Patriots just seems to be what destiny wants.

Colts over Steelers:
Bill Cohwer is not going to outcoach Tony Dungy. And the Steelers are not going to be able to follow the strategy that has been successful for them all year, which is get a lead and then start pounding the ball on offense and shutting down the pass on defense. This is going to be a high scoring game on the turf, and the Steelers are not going to outscore Indy.

Bears over Panthers:
This Bears team is better then the 2001 team. It's defense is better, they haven't relied on fluke plays as much, and Grossman is much better then the crap that team had under center. Plus too many people seem to think the Panthers are going to win this one. Plus, Brian Urlacher by himself would have done a better job then the Giants linebackers last week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You Say Goodbye, I say Hello

On Sunday, Zygi and Childress cleaned house. And today, it appears, they're starting to rebuild. Say goodbye to Ted Cottrell as Defensive Coordinator. And say hello to the new Defensive Coordinator Mike Tomlin, formerly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Backs Coach.

And while Ted managed to finally get the defense to, you know, show up, it's for the best that he and the seventy five million other coaches that were also fired on Sunday are no longer on the Vikings' coaching staff. Before you start saying how Ol' Ted got a raw deal, remember that one of the main reasons he was with the Vikings was because he was willing to work cheap. Also remember that the Vikings, statistically, were in the bottom half of the league on defense. Finally, if you were Childress, would you want a guy on your staff who you didn't hire and who wanted your job?

So let's allow Zygi and Childress to build the staff they want and, if we're lucky, Tomlin is the first member of a supporting cast that will rival the 1990s Vikings' staff in terms of coaching talent.

Bienvenido Mike!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Evaluations and Prescriptions: Quarterbacks

Now that the Vikings have hired their head coach, it's time to evaluate the team's performance, decide who to keep and who to let go, and who to target in free agency and in the draft. As your friendly neighborhood Vikings' blogger, I've taken it upon myself to do that over the next two weeks. I'll be evaluating every area of the team, from the quarterbacks to the secondary and deciding on what needs to be done next year.

And so, without any further ado, I give you my evaluation of the Vikings' Quarterbacks and my prescription for next year.

Quarterback Evaluations
This was not a good year for the Vikings at quarterback. After dominating in the preseason, Daunte began the year by throwing 3 interceptions against Tampa Bay, including one that killed a 68 yard drive in the final three minutes when the Vikings were only down 17-13. In the following three losses, Daunte threw 9 interceptions and 1 touchdown. Against the two sub .500 teams he faced, however, he was his old self, completing more then 72% of his passes in the two games for 580 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Those two games bring up some questions. Which is the real Daunte? Was the fact his line couldn't block the defensive lines of the four good teams the reason for his poor performance? Was the lack of a real coach the cause? Or was it the fact that Daunte couldn't handle the better defenses?
Most likely, the reason behind Daunte's poor performances was a combination of all of those. Having Cory Withrow thrown back into him every play hindered his effectiveness. Having Steve Loney whispering sweet nothings into his ear instead of having a competent coach preparing him had to have had a negative impact as well. Daunte is not blameless, but a lot of his poor performance can be attributed to having a bad line protecting him and Steve Loney coaching him.

Daunte, however, only got to play two of the eight games against sub .500 teams due to his horrific knee injury against the Panthers. Instead, Brad Johnson got to face them. And he did what every good backup should do: make a few plays, and don't turn the ball over. He finished with 12 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in his 10 games. He wasn't a dominant quarterback. He wasn't even a good quarterback. He was, however, a competent quarterback, and one who wasn't going to lose the game for the team. Against quality opponents, however, he wasn't going to win the game either. He threw for under 150 yards in the games against the Giants and the Steelers, with two interceptions in the crucial game against Pittsburgh, leaving it to the defense and special teams to win the game, which they managed to do against the Giants, but couldn't pull off against the Steelers.

Daunte Culpepper: C
He performed well against bad opponents, but poor decision making, bad coaching and a horrible offensive line led to some truly offensive performances against quality opponents.
Brad Johnson: B-
He was good enough to capitalize on the turnovers the Vikings' defense created against bad teams. Once he had to score points on his own against good defenses, however, he couldn't do it, including two interceptions in the Pittsburgh game and a crucial fumble late in the fourth quarter against the Ravens.

Brad Childress has experience insuring that a talented quarterback plays up to his potential. And he understands what he has in Daunte. For the quarterback position to improve, the Vikings need to do a couple of things this offseason. The first is make sure that Brad Johnson understands his role as a backup. There are too many questions about Daunte's knee to honor Brad Johnson's request to be traded to a team that will start him. The second thing the Vikings have to do is restore Daunte's confidence by establishing the kind of rapport with the new staff that he had with Scott Linehan. Daunte has shown that he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, if he has a good coach. If Childress is the coach everyone thinks he is, that shouldn't be a problem. Finally, the Vikings have to solve their offensive line issues. Neither of the Vikings' quarterbacks will be very mobile next year, whether or not Daunte is back. It didn't matter who was under center against the teams with good pass rushes this year--the Vikings could not block them, and thus, couldn't move the ball through the air. If the Vikings can bolster their line, their quarterback play should improve, whether or not Daunte is back from his knee injury.

Finally, Daunte should be the starter if he is ready. If his knee is not, then Brad Johnson will get his wish to be a starter. His signing last year insures that either way, the Vikings should not have to worry about the position.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Busy Week

It's been a busy week for Vikings' fans, what with the coaching search, panicking about the coaching search being too slow, the hiring of Brad Childress and ranting about Childress being hiring too quickly. So here's some thoughts on the Vikings' stories that might have slipped by you will you were trying to decide if the Vikings were moving too slow or too fast.

  • Brad Johnson wants to start, or he wants to be traded. Somehow, the fact that he did an adaquete job against six bad teams and a crappy job against two good teams and one bad team has convinced him that he would be a good starter. I blame the fans and the media for putting these ideas in his head. Thanks to them, Childress is going to have to sit BJ down and get him to remember he's a backup. And he better succeed, because with the questions about Daunte's knee, a competent backup is vital to the Vikings.
  • Steve Loney is gone. He's rejoining Dennis in Arizona as his offensive line coach. I say good for him, and good for us. The line was bad this year and so was the offense. He was in charge of both. If Dennis wants to give him a second chance, that's fine, but Childress should bring in his own guy.
  • The Love Boat Four all pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Daunte, Bryant "Giver" McKinnie and Fred "Toast" Smoot did so in the past weeks, while Moe "Retiring" Williams did so yesterday. And while I don't actually care about this case, I mentioned this solely so I could call McKinnie a giver. Because that's what he is. He is a giver.
  • Ed McDaniels was at the press conference today. The only reason I care is that Eddie Mac is a philosopher. He helped coach my high school football team for one season. We had a stud linebacker that was getting D1 looks (he ended up playing hockey instead) and Eddie Mac came in to coach him up a little bit. His coaching mainly consisted of telling the kid to "Get ya stats, Get Paid, Don't. Get. Hurt." I'll let those words speak for themselves.
  • Playoffs start tomorrow. I see the Racists triumphing over Tampa, because Simms will self destruct in his first playoff start against a very good defense. The Giants will beat the Panthers on the back of Tiki Barber. The Patriots will win because Tom Brady is 9-0 in the playoffs and streaks like that don't end to a random Wild Card team in the first round. Finally, the fully rested Bengals will light up the Steelers, who are banged up and on the road.
[Edit: If you want to listen to Brad Childress' Press Conference, it's right here.]

[If needed, logins for the Star Tribune can be found in the links section]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Welcome Brad Childress!

Well, our long wait is over. And by our long wait, I mean our four day wait. Brad Childress is the Vikings new head coach. I'll be honest; this seems like it was rushed. The Vikings only interviewed four candidates.

The other candidates, however, obviously didn't say anything to knock Childress from what I presume was the number one spot on Zygi's list. Childress comes from a winning franchise and he impressed Zygi in what Ted Cottrell, a veteran of the interview process, said was an "interview was right near the top. They were very thorough, and the process was well thought-out. They know what direction they want to take the team."

So, Childress might not have been my first choice, but he was Zygi's. And so far, I think Zygi has earned the benefit of the doubt. Add that to Childress' beautiful mustache, and I'm happy. So welcome to the Vikings, Coach Childress!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cool Out!

As the great Neil Diamond once said, "Cool out! Everyone just cool out!". Today is only day 3 of The Great Coaching Search. It's a little early to panic, say Zygi and Crew are out of their league or do anything except sit back, look into possible candidates and wait and see who the Vikings interview. (So naturally Souhan is already panicking.) So far, they've interviewed a legitimate candidate in Brad Childress (whom KFAN is reporting as the favorite), as well as Ted Cottrell yesterday and they're interviewing Al Saunders, another legitimate candidate, today. They are well on their way in their search. And other candidates, such as Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak can't be interviewed yet.

And the last thing the Vikings want to do is rush this decision. They need to interview all of their legitimate candidates and then make a careful decision. If they don't, they risk making the same mistake the Vikings did when they hired Tice instead of Tony Dungy (who became available after Tice was hired), Lovie Smith (couldn't be intervied until after the Super Bowl) and Marvin Lewis (the Ravens were still in the playoffs). The Head Coach is the most important person in the NFL. Making a quick choice instead of a smart one is a serious mistake.

[Note: Souhan's column can be accessed via's Startribune login page]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Right Man For the Job

Zygi's search for a head coach is under way. He's said that he wants to hire a GM first, but with seven other teams also in the market for new coaches, he might not have that luxury. And now with Gregg Williams no longer being available, the list just got shortened. Here's a look at the other guys who've been mentioned as candidates to lead the Vikings' into the Zygi Era.

Offensive Coordinators
  • Jim Fassel: Fassel is one of the few possible candidates that has head coaching experience. I'm sure that Vikings' fans remember him from the 2000 NFC Championship game. He hasn't had as much success since then, however. He joined the Ravens in 2004 as an offensive consultant, a job which also could have been described as "Kyle Boller's Tutor" (just so everyone is clear, Boller is in no way the stud he appeared to be against the Vikings). He took over the offense this year, with little success. The Ravens were 24th in the NFL in yards per game this year and in points per game. To put it succinctly, his time with the Ravens has not gone well. Add that in to the speculation that John Fox had as much to do with the Giants' Super Bowl run, and you get a coach that would be better left to other teams, like the Packers or Lions.
  • Brad Childress: Childress has been the Offensive Coordinator of the Eagles since 2002 and is scheduled to interview with the Vikings. He brings a pretty impressive resume with him. He was a major factor in Donovan McNabb's development into a top quarterback and one who was a star in Childress' West Coast style offense. Just as important to consider is that the Eagles' offense does not turn over the ball. Based on those facts, Childress would be able to help Daunte and the offense return to 2004 form. There are a few question marks though. The Eagles have never been good at running the ball, nor have they made it a priority. Somehow, they ran the ball even less then the Vikings' did this year, finishing 30th in the NFL in rushing attempts and 28th in rushing yards per game.
  • Al Saunders: Since Saunders became the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2001, they have had one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. His resume is ridiculous, as can be seen in his bio, "Dating back to 2001 when Saunders took over as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs rank first in the NFL with 24,278 net yards of total offense (379.3 ypg). The Chiefs oppulent numbers during that 64-game span from 2001-04 are also the league’s best in the following seven categories: offensive TDs (200), rushing TDs (105), total first downs (1,413), Red Zone TD percentage (64.3%), runs of 10+ yards (255), passing yards per attempt (7.79) and passing yards per completion (12.58)." He is also likely to bring discipline with him, since he has been the assistant head coach under two noted disiplinarians, Dick Vermeil and Marty Schottenheimer. Zygi could do a lot worse then hiring this guy, that's for sure.
  • Gary Kubiak: Kubiak has been working under Mike Shanahan for the last eleven years. He hasn't been mentioned in the press in connection with the Vikings, but he is scheduled to interview with the Texans. If the Vikings don't give him a look, it will be a mistake. The Broncos have won two Super Bowls in his time there, mainly due to the implementation of Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, which has made the Broncos consistently one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. If he's hired, the Vikings will be able to run the ball. Also, he's put in some great work with quarterbacks, as can be seen by Elway's great last few seasons. Even more heartening has been his work with Jake Plummer, who had become a horrible, turnover prone quarterback with Cardinals and who this year had an 18:7 TD to INT ratio. If I had to choose an offensive coordinator to be the head coach, Kubiak would be the guy, due to his ability and commitment to the rushing game and his work with Plummer and Elway.
Defensive Coordinators
  • Ted Cottrell: I'll be honest; if Cottrell is hired as the Vikings' Head Coach, Zygi failed. The Vikings' defense was impressive once it started to jell, but a lot of that was the mediocrity of the opponents' quarterbacks. And the defense also got shredded by Kyle Boller in a must win game. He has accomplished enough in his career to get an interview, but if Zygi is truly competed to getting the best possible Head Coach, then he won't give Cottrell serious consideration
  • Ron Rivera: Rivera hasn't been coaching for very long, but he's done an impressive job in his six years in the profession. He was the linebackers' coach for the Eagles during their NFC Championship and Out run, and then joined Lovie Smith in Chicago when Da Bears hired him. In the last two years under Rivera, Da Bears' defense has been one of the best, if not the best, in the league. This year, they challenged for the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season and finished second in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Both of these stats take into account Da Bears' game against the Vikings, where they didn't play their starters. Rivera is definately an intriguing candidate. His inexperience, however, hurts his candidacy. If the Vikings were in rebuilding, he would be a top candidate. The Vikings aren't rebuilding, however, and they need a coach who can step in and take a talented team to the next level, not one that is learning on the job.
  • Jim Schwartz: One of the goofier looking candidates for the job, Schwartz has been in charge of the Titans' defense for the past five years. Under his leadership, they've been very good against the run, finishing in the top ten in rushing yards allowed his first four years, leading the NFL in 2003. This year's performance wasn't as indicitive of his abilities, as the Titans defense was ravaged by injuries. Also, he is a graduate of Georgetown University, which, while not important to most Vikings' fans, is important to me for two reasons. The first reason is that it would be great to see a fellow Hoya make it to the big time, the second is that it might help me get a job with the Vikings.
College Coaches
  • Pete Carroll: Not happening. Carroll is staying at USC, which is likely for the best, since he seems to me to be a Spurrier/Holtz type of coach.
  • Charlie Wies: He would be a great hire. Why NFL teams let him get away is beyond me. That being said, he isn't going anywhere. He just signed a huge extension to coach his alma mater. He's going to be a Golden Domer for a long time.
  • Kirk Ferentz: Ferentz is the most likely college coach to graduate to the NFL this year. He's been successful with the Hawkeyes, going 31-7 with a Big Ten title over the last three years and 42-32 overall. He's also spent time under Bill Belichick as hisOffensive Line Coach in Cleveland, and added the title of assistant head coach and of the Ravens after they moved to Baltimore. He would likely be a good hire as his teams in Iowa have been disciplined and full of NFL talent, but it would be risky, since it seems that few coaches successfully make the transition from the college ranks to the NFL.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Era

Sunday was the end of an era. An era where winning wasn't the number one priority, where cutting corners and expenses was acceptable. An era where the Vikings disappointed year after year because the franchise wasn't one hundred percent focused on winning the Super Bowl.

Today was the beginning of a new era. At his press conference, Zygi Wilf announced "my goal is to get a championship here. I will do whatever it takes within the guidelines. Money will not be an object to get myself a championship." Those words ushered in a new era, an era where the entire organization follows it's owner single minded pursuit of a Super Bowl ring.

Whether or not Zygi will be successful in turning a mediocre franchise into a perennial Super Bowl contender will depend on the decisions he makes in the next few weeks. The importance of the Head Coach and the General Manager to a football team cannot be overemphasized. Bad coaches cannot be overcome in football like they can in baseball. And it doesn't matter how good a coach is if he doesn't have the talent. The right combination of Coach and GM can lead to great things. One need only look at the duo of Belicheck and Pioli to see that. The opposite is also true, as I'm sure all the fans who wore orange at Ford Field two weeks ago could tell you. If Zygi makes the right choice, this new era might finally be the era Vikings' fans have been waiting for: the era where they win the Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The End of an Era

"After significant evaluation, we feel that now is the time to make a coaching change"
~Zygi Wilf

Our long national nightmare has finally come to an end. The Mike Tice era is over.

In other words: na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goooooodbye!

The Loki

The Loki this week goes to Lovie Smith. Wait...what? You mean I can't give the award to the opposing team's coach? Even though his decision to rest Da Bears' starters was the reason the Vikings won? No? Well fine. I'll pick a Viking.

Since Lovie has been disqualified, the award goes to (drumroll please)...Mewelde Moore! He rushed for 57 yards on 6 carries, including a beautiful 33 yard run that set up the Vikings' first touchdown. He also caught 6 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The man looked like a feature back tonight, breaking tackles, outrunning defenders, hitting the hole hard and making his quarterback look good by turning swing routes into first downs.

So congratulations Mewelde Moore, you are the last Loki winner of the Mike Tice era!