Thursday, July 31, 2008

Killing Time: Hall of Fame, Favre Fiasco, Training Camp and More

Lots of great stuff out there on the World Wide Web to look at, if you know where to look. And if you don't, well, that's what this post is for.

  • Football Outsiders took a look at the Vikings' Hall of Fame candidates and Gonzo at Daily Norseman has a post discussing the various candidates. Aside from the obvious players (Randall McDaniel and Chris Carter) who have yet to be inducted, the oversight of Jim Marshall and Mick Tinglehoff is inexcusable. The fact those two aren't in is much worse than Art Monk not being elected until this year. Heck, Chris Doleman not being in is probably worse than Art Monk not being elected until this year. Or at least comparable.
  • The Favre fiasco is gaining steam, with the Packers offering him $20 million to stay home and some semi reputable people starting to believe that he'll end up in Purple. While I would enjoy the reaction this guy would have to Favre running onto Lambeau Field in Purple on September 8th.
  • Joe Posnanski has a great piece on Favre and his legacy. I think he's probably right about Favre not ruining how people will remember him, but what he is doing is making it hard for the media to worship him in the way that they have, which is perfectly fine with me.
  • While the Vikings' schedule looks harder than normal (due almost entirely to having to face the AFC South, which had all of its teams finish with records of at least .500 last year), Jason Winter looked at the only other time that happened and found there was a drop off the next year, which is good. Also good? The fact that Payton Manning isn't scheduled to put on the pads until the final preseason game.
  • Grant's Tomb answers the question--What if the Vikings had traded for Jason Taylor?
  • If all you really care about is how the Vikings have looked at training camp, Vikings Valhalla has a ton of pictures for your enjoyment, and Skol Vikes has a wrap up of the first week of camp.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Killing Time: 5 Tidbits from the Prospectus

One of my favorite moments of the year happened last night--my Football Prospectus arrived. If you don't know, it's written by the folks at Football Outsiders (with an assist from the folks at Baseball Prospectus). I had a chance to flip through it last night, and though I'm saving it for later (as much as I can) because I have a massive trip coming up next week (though I should still be able to post), I did notice some interesting tidbits while flipping through it. I also plan on stealing a bit called "Ask the Prospectus" from Joe Posnanski and using it to preview the upcoming season.

But first, some interesting stuff I saw last night while watching the Twins demolish the White Sox (which I really enjoyed).

  • One of the ways that the Prospectus evaluates defensive lineman is by the percentage of a team's plays they make while playing. Guess who was #1 last year? That's right--Jared Allen, with 10.7%. He's joined in the top 5 by Pat Williams, who was 3rd overall with 8.7%, and he also gets to work with Kevin Williams, who was 30th with 5.2% and Ray Edwards, who was 53rd with 5.3%. No other defense that I saw had a front four that made that many plays. That line is going to be ridiculous next year.

  • Payton Manning is on pace to break Brett Favre's touchdown and yards record in 2013, when he's 37 (assuming that Favre ends up back in Mississippi this year). It'll take Manning a little longer to take the title of "Interception King" from Favre, however -- it'll take Manning until 2021, when he's 45, to break Favre's interception mark. And yes, I will be pulling for Manning to maintain his pace until 2014 or 2015 and then retire, leaving Favre with only one record--most interceptions thrown.

  • I'm still not sure about the Maurice Hicks signing, since I think he'll end up returning kicks instead of the younger, better Aundrae Allison, but the Prospectus notes that he's both a very good blocker and a great receiver out of the backfield. They predict that he'll end up catching 72% of the passes thrown his way (down from the 88% last year), and average 8.8 yards per catch. If he turns into a nice third down option for the Purple and a decent backup, I'll be happy. If he's used a lot on special teams instead of younger, better players, I won't be. Simple as that. And yes, I do plan on beating this horse until it's way past dead.

  • Randy Moss racked up the second most DYAR by a wide receiver in the history of Football Outsiders last year (their stats go back to 1995), behind only Michael Irvin in 1995. He was one of only two receivers to show up in the top ten (Marvin Harrison did as well) as his 2003 season was the 8th best. Yes, I still miss him--why do you ask?

  • The Vikings' tight end situation can be summed up thusly: Jim Kleinsasser is described with the statement "This is not a tight end, this is not a fullback, this is a slightly undersized tackle who occasionally, perhaps accidently, finds the ball in his hands". Visanthe Shiancoe is projected to have a career year where he catches 56 passes for 396 yards and 3 touchdowns and dark horse candidate for the job, Garrett Mills, doesn't even get a projection.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Allison v. Ferguson v. Johnson

As I noted on Friday, the folks at FanHouse had a post about the battle between Aundrae Allison and Robert Ferguson for the fourth wide receiver spot. I don't think the post goes far enough, however, as it should include Jaymar Johnson, who'll be competing with both players for the fifth reciever spot. The decision that Brad Childress makes about those final two spots will tell us a lot about him and his ability to maximize his roster. If he keeps Ferguson, it means that he cares more about run blocking and experience than receiving talent and it means that Allison will be relegated to the fifth spot, bumping Jaymar Johnson to the practice squad (if he clears waivers) and forcing the Vikings to use someone with no experience (college or pro) as their punt returner.

And that right there is reason enough to hope for the Vikings to cut Ferguson. While he's a very good run blocker, he showed last year that he just doesn't have what it takes to contribute as a receiver. His speed is gone, his hands remain suspect (he's only had one season with a catch percentage over 50% since 2003) and at 28 years old, he's not going to improve all that much.

Unlike Ferguson, both Allison and Johnson have potential to be quality contributors for the Vikings. As I've said before (and I'll say again in the next paragraph), Allison should be returning kickoffs. I've also said that Jaymar Johnson should be given every opportunity to return punts next year. If he doesn't make the team, it will mean that the Vikings will have to choose between using Bobby Wade (their best receiver statistically last year) or someone without any experience as their punt returner. I'd much rather have a talented rookie returning punts than someone without any experience at it whatsoever, which adds one more reason to cut Ferguson in replace of Johnson (assuming he has a decent training camp).

No matter what happens in the battle for final two receiver spots, I think Aundrae Allison should be returning kickoffs for the Vikings next year. Honestly, he's the obvious choice--he's returned 20 kickoffs for 574 yards, an average of 28.7 yards per return. He also returned 11 kickoffs for more than 20 yards, three for more than 40 yards and one for 104 yards and a touchdown. He did have one fumble, but the rewards more than outweigh the risks, especially when you consider that Maurice Hicks, who is an average returner at best, would be his replacement. Hicks' had a career high last year, with four kick returns over 40 yards, but it took him 63 returns to do so. His career high is 25.1 yards per return in 2006, and while he's never had issues with fumbling (he's only fumbled four times in 185 returns), he's never returned a kickoff further than 64 yards. The Vikings are team that needs offensive playmakers and they can't afford to use a solid returner when they have a returner that's a threat to score.

Childress has repeatedly said that he places an emphasis on special teams. We won't know whether that overrides his (and every coaches') desire for veterans until the end of training camp when he decides between Allison, Ferguson and Johnson for the final two receiver spots. I'd take Allison and Johnson and their upside and special teams skills over Ferguson's blocking and veteran saavy. I hope Childress will too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Killing Time: Training Camp

Lots of good stuff out there at the start of training camp (during which I will spend most of my time praying that no one gets hurt and that Ray Edwards heals quickly). One of the reasons that I've been having trouble coming up with posts (aside from a lack of creativity, a busy season at work and other reasons) is the fact that Vikings' don't really have a whole lot of questions on their depth chart that need to be answered in training camp. The Star Tribune listed the five biggest questions, and most of them won't be answered until the regular season (except, of course, for the McKinnie Question, which has been hanging over the Purple for so long without any action that I tend to forget about it).

The big question remains whether Tarvaris can become a league average quarterback, something that can't be answered until the season starts. There have been some good articles recently that suggest to me that we may be a little more worried than we needed to be. Football Outsiders' change over from DPAR to DYAR has boosted Tarvaris' ranking slightly. He's still replacement level, but he's young, and he's finally got a solid receiving corp around him (though, according to Football Outsiders, Berrian isn't that great of an acquisition, as he finished well behind Bobby Wade AND Sidney Rice in DYAR, DVOA and catch percentage last year). Can he make the leap to league average? I think so, but we won't know until the preseason games at the earliest.

Even if Tarvaris doesn't improve all that much, a reader of Cold, Hard Football Facts recently submitted an article that makes me more optimistic for the upcoming season. In it, he shows that, while success in the passing game (as defined by an advantage in Yards Per Attempt) is important, it is not as important as a successful running game (as defined by an advantage in rushing attempts and rushing yards).

Finally, FanHouse was able to come up with another training camp question: Aundrae Allison v. Robert Ferguson. The answer to me seems simple--keep Allison. He's younger, he's faster, he has a ton of potential and he's the most dangerous kick returner on the team. I wouldn't be surprised to see Childress fall into the "veteran trap" and give Ferguson the nod, especially now that he can turn to Maurice Hicks, another (inferior) veteran, to return kicks, but I hope that his goatee prevents him from making that mistake. One can only hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I knew it would come to this. I knew it. This season is the most anticipated season since 1999 for the Purple, and Brett Favre has to go and drag the Vikings into his Green and Gold mess. This is not ok.

I do not want Brett Favre in Purple, plain and simple. I literally cannot think of a worse thing for a sports team to do to its fan base (except for the Red Sox somehow acquiring Derek Jeter prior to 2004, though I think this is worse, because of how much more important the quarterback position is to a football team). His acquisition would ruin my enjoyment of the season (I prefer my celebrations to be more spontaneous and less nostalgic) and would almost certainly prevent the Vikings from winning a Super Bowl in the foreseeable future.

That's right-the Vikings cannot win the Super Bowl with Brett Favre as their quarterback. Favre was at his best when he had a coach that can rein him in. That's why he was good under Holmgren, and that's why he was pretty good under Mike McCarthy. Under McCarthy, however, you could see Favre start to revert back to "gunslinger" mode. Old habits die hard, and they're especially hard to break when you are skipping offseason workouts and training camps because you're too busy being a prima donna and debating whether or not to retire. That second point is particularly important now (and why the Packers smartly gave him a March deadline this year), considering that he'd have to come in and learn a new offense with the Purple. And the first point? Does anyone actually think Childress (or anyone, really-this point isn't meant to be a knock on Childress) could rein in the Interception King's ego and get him to buy into the system after all of this crap so far, and all of the "Savior of the Vikings" crap that the media would spew out if he joined the Purple?

Despite all of that, acquiring Favre might not have been the worst idea in the history of the franchise (which is still probably the Herschel Walker trade) if it wasn't guaranteed to wreck this Vikings' team chances of ever winning the Super Bowl. When you consider the age of some of the key players, the Purple probably have a 2-3 year window to win the Super Bowl before they take a step back (I'm not saying they'll spiral out of control like the Dennis Green era did, because this team is too well managed, but they'll likely go from a Super Bowl contender to a playoff contender). If the Vikings bring in Favre, he'll self destruct the same way he has in every playoffs since 1996 and then, just like he's done the last three years, he'll pull the same "I might retire, maybe, but I won't tell you in a reasonable amount of time and I certainly won't practice because I'm THE GUNSLINGER" schtick and the Vikings will be stuck, just like the Packers have been, unable to move forward with Tarvaris Jackson (who won't get any better sitting behind a quarterback that refuses to mentor young quarterbacks) and figure out if Tarvaris is the answer in time to get another quarterback before the team takes a step back.

And none of that factors in the nausea that seeing Favre in Purple would cause, which is just another reason that the Vikings should stay far, far away from him. Of course that means he's somehow going to end up on the Vikings. I don't know how, but I know, because that's the kind of thing this team does.

[I'm back...sorry about the long break between posts. There'll be a new post tomorrow, and pretty much every weekday from here through the end of the season.]