From the Catbird seat – The smoke has clearedThe smoke has cleared. The boat has reached bottom after sinking on home turf. It’s now time to evaluate – honestly – the season of the Minnesota Vikings and ask the question every fan asks when a season ends.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The smoke has cleared. The boat has reached bottom after sinking on home turf. It’s now time to evaluate – honestly – the season of the Minnesota Vikings and ask the question every fan asks when a season ends.
What can be done better, to ensure a successful season in 2009??
First, let’s give praise where it’s due. This space has continually criticized Minnesota sports teams for being spendthrifts – though we’ll be taking a break from that process in one case while the Twins grieve the passing of owner Carl Pohlad.
You can’t say that, fairly, or otherwise, about the Vikings. Judging by the money he has spent, Zygi Wilf is committed to putting a winning team on the field. He has paid top dollar for talent such as Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen and Bernard Berrian – and all three players have worked out handsomely for his team.
He’s asking for a ton of money in return, for his stadium project, in difficult economic times. But that’s a column for another week.
Wilf has done his part, and the Vikings have already estimated that they will be about twenty million dollars under the NFL’s soon-to-expand salary cap for 2009. So there is room for more and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Wilf spend it.
So, good for him. He is doing what needs to be done to put a winner on the field. However, it’s important that this money be spent in the right places.
The Vikings have two immediate needs: a second deep threat at wide receiver and, you guessed it, a starting quarterback. The rationale is simple.
First, the receiver. Bernard Berrian turned into a revelation and was a real impact player once his injured toe got sorted out. The Vikings need another player just like him. Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice are nice receivers but neither one stretches the field like Berrian does. A second deep threat, coupled with the threat of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, would make the Vikings’ offense a real threat.
Provided, that is, that the quarterback is of NFL caliber. The Vikings are reportedly ready to part ways with Gus Frerotte this off-season and that’s probably a good idea. I don’t know if he’d want to come back after losing his job through injury – something that no player in any sport cares to experience.
Tarvaris Jackson, to be kind, showed in the playoffs that he’s not ready. According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, ESPN research showed that ten of the fifteen passes Jackson completed in the playoff loss to Philadelphia traveled ten yards or less in the air.
That’s one-dimensional. In the playoffs, that’s not acceptable. You have to be flexible and to beat the elite teams, you have to show a different look. Part of that, in fairness to Jackson, is play-calling.
Yet when Jackson tried to throw downfield he frankly looked horrible. He did not look like the kind of quarterback, facing determined and real opposition, that could get the job done. A move needs to be made.
That means a trade or a free agent signing, though the free agent pool for quarterbacks is thin, as always. Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins and Jeff Garcia are available, as is a second-tier of players. The draft this year has some good prospects but another rookie quarterback is a risk the Vikings should not take when the goal is a championship.
That means going out and getting a veteran quarterback – and paying him. This is not a position for a beginner.
And since we are stuck with him for another season, let’s examine Wilf’s choice to coach this team. It’s like spending a billion dollars to build and airport and spending $100 on the control tower. Brad Childress’ inflexibility, his complete inability to manage a clock, and above all his predictability are the main problems this team faces in its quest to play deep into the playoffs.
It should say something that a member of Childress’ “coaching tree” – Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin – is already closer to a Super Bowl than Childress himself.
To overcome the negative consequences of its coach, it’s more important than ever that the guy who runs the controls be a veteran who can make his own decisions. And believe it or not, I’d be okay with Childress himself not making the final call on who comes in. His decision-making over the last three years has left the most important position on the field a virtual wasteland for his team.
This is about ownership and it’s about leadership. If Wilf wants a stadium, he needs to put a winner on the field first. This is how you do it.