Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Solving Our Problems-Tarvaris' Backup

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I've started by looking at the quarterback options, starting with Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and now possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson.]

Sorry about the sporadic posting over the lasrt few weeks. I've been fighting my usual "end of the vikings season" funk, getting into the start of Big East basketball (that's right, that's the Hoyas you see with a two game lead in the conference) and traveling for work (who books someone in a hotel without free internet nowadays?)

And, to be honest, every time I sit down to finish my series on the Vikings options at quarterback, the lack of reasonable options always stops me before I even start. The Purple aren't going to be able to get Donovan McNabb or Derek Anderson without giving up a large number of draft picks, which means that we're headed for year three of the Tarvaris Revolution. And, as others have pointed out, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Going into next season with Tarvaris under center, however, does not mean that the Purple are set at quarterback (and it means they really need to bring in some wide receivers, which I'll cover later). Rather, it means that the Purple must find a competent backup (ie, not Brooks Bollinger), something that is just as hard to find as a starting quarterback this year.

By my count, there are four possible options for the Purple, and none of them are ideal, let alone likely. The best option is for them to trade for Chad Pennington. He's good enough that he can be counted on to give the Vikings a chance to win if he's playing, but not so good that he expects to start (86.1 QB Rating, 68.8 completion percentage, 10 TDs, 9 INTs) . He has had some injury issues the last few years (including a rotator cuff injury that required surgery and an ankle injury), but nothing that is so troublesome that it causes you to worry about having to play your third quarterback. And, he understands making the transition from a non BCS school to the NFL, which, along with his 8 years of experience, should make him a great mentor to a young quarterback. The problem, of course, is that the Jets need a veteran backup QB to help mentor their young starter as much as the Vikings do, which is why Pennington is unavailable.

Unlike Pennington, Steve McNair is probably available, for the right price. Of course, that means he has other drawbacks. If his job were solely to mentor Tarvaris, then he'd be perfect, considering that in his prime, he was what we want Tarvaris to become-a mobile, accurate QB that played 1-AA football and shared the MVP award in 2003. The problem is that, not only did McNair show he is no longer good enough to be a starter in the NFL (73.9 QB Rating, 2 TDs, 4 INTS), he spent most of last year injured. Considering that Tarvaris missed 4 games last year due to injuries (and parts of others), the last quarterback you want backing him up is a fragile one.

The other two options for the Vikings are Josh McCown and Quinn Gray. Unlike Pennington and McNair, neither McCown nor Gray have ever been the starter on a winning team. While McCown's been in the NFL for six years, three of which he was starting during, he has yet to post a positive DVOA, and his play last year was actually worse than Tarvaris', according to DPAR and DVOA.

Unlike McCown, Gray made his team better last year, posting a 20.4 DPAR (22nd overall) and 19.5% DVOA (12th overall), which was backed up by his 85.6 QB rating, 10 TDs and only 5 INTs. Avoiding the fact that some team may be willing to sign him to start (or at least compete for a starting job), there are still some major question marks about Gray. The first of which is his career completion percentage of 56.1%, which was actually higher than his 55.1 completion percentage last year. The second problem is that he doesn't have the experience to act as a mentor for Tarvaris--his first start of his career was in Week 8 this year.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the Vikings end up going after McCown, after they find out that the better options aren't available. It's not ideal, but it's probably (hopefully) better than going into the season with Bollinger and Holcombe.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This Weekend

It is Vikings' fans last chance to avoid the worst Super Bowl matchup I can think of. Even in years that the Purple choked away a Super Bowl berth, there usually wasn't a reason to hate the AFC Champion. This year, well, if things go wrong on Sunday, all of us will have no choice but to root for a meteor, brushfire, or some other horrific event to prevent either the Packers or Patriots from winning it all.

Honestly, I don't care how obnoxious Eli Manning looks. I'm willing to to ignore the lingering bitterness I still harbor from 2001. If it means the Giants take out Brett Farve and the Packers, well, then I have no choice. I mean, really, do people like this really deserve to cheer for a team that wins it all (and you know they'll only get worse if the Packers ruin the Patriots perfect season)? Is there anything worse than hearing announcers talk about Farve? Isn't it for the best if no one has to go through two weeks of that? Please?

And the Patriots. If you aren't sick of them and their fans, read this. And then, I suggest you go offer to add to the bounty. And aren't the Boston area fans gotten enough out of former Minnesota players? Do they really need a Super Bowl after a perfect season? (Though, I will admit that I'm still a big Randy Moss fan, as you'll see when I start begging the Vikings to sign him.) Wouldn't it be better if our spiritual brethren in San Diego got their second shot at winning it all?

I know how unlikely a Giants-Chargers Super Bowl is. I know that there's no reason to expect either of the Patriots or Packers to get upset on Sunday. But it'd sure be nice to have someone to cheer for, rather than having to cheer for a disaster to strike Glendale.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Green Bay--Making Forced Sterilization Seem Like a Good Idea

There are many things in this world that scare me--Iran with nukes, global warming, zombies, Jason Garrett, but I've never, ever, ever, seen anything as bone chilling as this:

And you were wondering why Zubaz were making a comeback...

[The video is from Kissing Suzy Kolber]

Monday, January 07, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Donovan McNabb

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I've started by looking at the quarterback options, starting with Derek Anderson and now Donovan McNabb.]

Now this, this, is the big name guy the Vikings have been missing at quarterback since Daunte Culpepper blew his knee out in 2005. He's not a third year quarterback that's had one good year, like Derek Anderson. He's not a second year quarterback that's gone back and forth between "good" and "oh my God awful". He has nine years of experience in the Vikings offense, knows Brad Childress well, has gone to multiple Pro Bowls, led the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX and was on the cover of Madden. Donovan McNabb seems to be everything the Vikings could ever want. There are just a few small, minor details that might prevent McNabb and Kluwe from having to fight over #5 and usual, those details will most likely be the difference.

The first detail is the question of whether he's actually available. The Eagles are on record saying that they will not be trading McNabb. Which, honestly, could mean anything. The Eagles did pick their next franchise quarterback, Kevin Kolb, in last year's draft, but he hasn't even in thrown a pass in a game yet. Considering the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs prior to the end of the season, one would think that they would have gotten Kolb some playing time if they actually were considering trading McNabb and going with their younger "franchise quarterback", but they didn't.

Secondly, there's the question of what it would cost to get McNabb. If the asking price for Derek Anderson is a first and a third round pick, what does that do to the asking price for McNabb, especially if the Eagles aren't hellbent on trading him? The Vikings won't be the only team pursuing McNabb either--da Bears want him just as badly as the Vikings. That's not exactly going to drive down the Eagle's asking price.

So, say the Vikings are able to get McNabb for a first and a third round pick (roughly what the Browns are asking for Anderson). Is he worth it? He'll be turning 32 next season and has 9 years of experience. He has a career Quarterback Rating of 85.8 and just finished up a season where he posted a QB rating of 89.9 (9th overall) by completing 61.5% of his passes (20th) for 3324 yards (13th), 19 TDs (14th) and only 7 interceptions. He had four games with a QB rating over 100, including a perfect 158.3 against the Lions. He was sacked 44 times, which, oddly enough, wasn't his career high (he was sacked 45 times in 2000), but he also rushed for 236 yards on 50 carries. Looking at the more advanced stats shows us that McNabb also had an impressive season. He averaged almost 6 yards per attempt, with a 52.5 DPAR (14th) and 9.9% DVOA (19th). There are injury concerns. He missed two games this year with thumb and ankle injuries and is only a season removed from knee surgery, which he was still feeling the effects of this year. By all accounts, his mobility didn't come back until the last few games of the year, something that his stats back up, as he gained 166 of his 236 rushing yards (70%) in his last five games.

So would he be worth a 1st and a 3rd round pick (remember, the Vikings have two 3rd round picks this year)? I'd say yes, despite the injury concerns. McNabb would give the Purple a passing game by himself, something he's done almost every year he's been with the Eagles. And acquiring him wouldn't mean the end of the Tarvaris Revolution, as he could serve as McNabb's backup, fill in for him when McNabb gets hurt and learn from him for two years. Honestly, it'd be an ideal situation for the Purple. The only problem is that there's no way that they'll be able to get McNabb for that. I'd be surprised if he's available at all, seeing as how the Eagles are one of the most conservative franchises in the NFL and seem to be convinced that the main reason they missed the playoffs was because McNabb was still recovering from his knee injury at the beginning of the season, when they started 1-3. They didn't even give Kolb a test run after they were eliminated, a decision that doesn't jibe with a willingness to trade McNabb. So even if he is available, I just don't see him being available for a reasonable price. And while I'd love to have McNabb in Purple, he isn't worth a Herschel Walker "mortgage the future" style trade, which is probably the only way to get him. It was a nice thought though.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday's Offseason Links

I'll be continuing my look at possible solutions to the Vikings' problems on Monday with an in depth look at Donovan McNabb, the man many believe to be the Vikings' best option at quarterback, ahead of Derek Anderson, who I examined yesterday. I'll also being taking a look at the status of the Tarvaris Revolution and what that would entail for the Purple. I haven't ruled him out yet, and Gonzo at the Daily Norseman made an interesting comparison that helps to show why. Today, however, I figured I'd point yall toward some of the happenings around the internet.

  • The Draft is coming. And the Bowls are almost over, which means that underclassmen have started to declare, a few of which may end up in Purple next year. So far, DeSean Jackson, a WR/KR from Cal, has declared, as have defensive ends Calais Campbell of Miami, Johnny Dingle of West Virginia and Derrick Harvey of Florida. E.J.'s little brother Erin, a linebacker who followed his brother to Maryland, has also declared.

  • If you're looking for mock drafts, Chris Steuber has one at scout.com, and my personal favorite NFL draft site (because it's free!), nfldraftcountdown.com has one up as well. They have the Vikings taking DeSean Jackson and Derrick Harvey, respectively. The latter, however, hasn't been updated since December 20th, so it has the Vikings picking 19th, rather than 17th.

  • The Vikings, according to Brad Childress, won't be building solely through the draft, however. Zygi Wilf has given him the greenlight to pursue free agents. He still considers the draft the primary way to build the team, a stance, I think, that is the correct one. Free Agency is too expensive, and there are too few quality free agents, for a team to rely on it to build their team. The primary talent should come through the draft, and free agency should be used to plug holes. Luckily for the Vikings, there are quite a few interesting free agents wide receivers and defensive ends this year, both of which I'll be looking at later on. (Quick Disclaimer on those last two links--they are not updated, which means that Randy Moss is not, I repeat, not, available via free agency).

  • If you're something of a history buff, like myself, you'll really enjoy Mr. Cheer Or Die's look at a tremendous catch by the first Vikings' wide receiver to win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

  • Finally, Leslie Frazier is interviewing for head coaching jobs. While I wish him the best, it'd be good if he stayed, and the Vikings defense had some continuity in its leadership. And, while this might sound wrong, I wonder how much his race, and the Rooney rule, has to do with teams interest? I would guess it played a major factor, mainly because the Vikings' defense really didn't improve from last year (in fact, the pass defense got worse). Of course, the whole point of the Rooney rule is to ensure that people like Frazier get a fair shake, so if that's the reason he gets to sit down and sell himself to Bill Parcells, that's fine by me.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Derek Anderson

"If anybody is interested in him, we'll just have to see how it goes," coach Romeo Crennel said. "Sometimes people can make you an offer and you can say, 'No, I think I'm going to stay with what I got.' Sometimes they make you an offer and you say, 'Oooohhh.' "
The Vikings have four major areas that quite obviously need to be improved this offseason if the Purple want to make the playoffs: quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and defensive end. In the first of what will be a recurring series, I'm going to take a look at the Vikings various options at their positions of need, starting with quarterback. There are three obvious answers to the Vikings' quarterback needs, Tarvaris Jackson, Donovan McNabb and Derek Anderson and all have their merits. Today, we're going to start by examining a possible trade with the Cleveland Browns for Derek Anderson (you may have been able to guess this by reading the title of the post).

After replacing the ineffective (to put it politely) Charlie Frye during the Browns' first game, Anderson completed 13 of 28 passes (46%) for 184 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. It was an inauspicious beginning, but it was enough to win him a start against the Bengals in Week 2, and he lead the Browns to a victory by throwing for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns, while completing 20 of 33 passes and only throwing one interception. It was not the start of a run of dominance (he followed it with 57.0 QB rating in Week 3 and a 59.0 QB Rating in Week 5), it was the start of a very good season, where he would complete 56.5% of his passes (28th overall) for 3,787 yards (9th overall), 29 touchdowns (5th overall) and finish with a quarterback rating of 82.5 (17th overall). Looking at the advanced stats, he finished with 65.3 DPAR (11th overall) and a 15.5% DVOA (15th overall), while gaining 6.80 yards per passing attempt (while I don't have individual ranking, Houston was 5th overall in team YPA with 6.81 YPA).

It was an impressive season from a quarterback in his third year, but there are still quite a few question marks about Derek Anderson's ability to be a franchise quarterback, something he would need to be if the Vikings traded for him, as the Browns would likely demand a 1st and a 3rd round pick (see the "Oooohhh" in the quote above), a very steep price. Then again, the last three players the Vikings picked in the third round were Marcus McCauley (2007), Dustin Fox (2005) and Darrion Scott (2004). They also have the Broncos third round pick from a trade last year and it's not like a franchise quarterback isn't worth the 17th overall pick.

But is Anderson a franchise quarterback? His youth, yards per attempt, DPAR, DVOA, touchdown passes and ability to avoid sacks (he was only sacked 14 times) say yes, but his inaccuracy says no. His completion percentage was lower than Tarvaris Jackson's and he threw 19 interceptions, which was only topped by Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Jon Kitna, who all threw 20 picks. He also imploded against an awful Cincinnati defense (89.2 QB Rating against) in the Browns second to last game of the season, throwing four picks and costing them a playoff spot (so he'd fit in here). All of his good games (better than 85.0 QB Rating) came against teams that finished outside the top 20 in QB Rating against, and he only had a QB Rating of 80 or better against two teams in the top half of the league in QB Rating against (83.4 against 9th ranked Pittsburgh and 83.3 against the 16th ranked New York Jets).

Should the Vikings give the Browns a phone call about Derek Anderson? Definitely. Should they be willing to throw a 1st and a 3rd round draft pick at them to get him? Well, that depends a lot on their two other options, which I'll examine soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Drumroll Please...

Ladies and Gentlemen...Your 2007 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year...


All Day received 46.5 out of a possible 50 votes, with Cleveland's Joe Thomas pulling in 3.5 votes. Gotta love those reporters that feel the need to be unique.