May 2006 Archives
May 24, 2006
"The End is Nigh" by Mr. Cheer Or Die


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Updated Note, 8-27-2006: Vikes Geek can now be found here. The Viking Underground truly appreciates the time that Vikes Geek spent writing for us and wishes him well in his solo effort!!!!

The Four Horsemen have come for me. My time is done. I will soon be joining an emerging new trend in blogging: retirement.

I’ve talked with quite a few people over the last few months that are quitting blogging. Most just say they are getting tired. I would say it is an inevitable conclusion to any blogger. Whether it is ending an addiction or whether it's relieving a burden. The end result is the same.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself meeting all sorts of new people. Great, wonderful people. But, blogging also introduces many pressures, especially when you have an extremely large audience listening.

Suddenly you feel you have to write a post everyday, like a newspaper you feel that the content must be new and fresh each day. Stats are addictive. A person can end up obsessing and crafting each post to keep that readership growing. So, I began to ask myself, “Will my world end if I stop blogging?? My response always came back resoundingly, "no".

I think blogging makes people tired. It certainly has with me. Not to mention doing it for diddly-squat. And all the pressures and intensity of conversations in the blogosphere just wears you out. Look at most of the older bloggers (e.g. guys and gals blogging for 2 - 3 years) and they are all slowing down or dropping off. Only a small few are still as active as when they started.

So I’ve chosen to march down a different path. I’ve chosen to get 20-hours a week back into my life. And to tell the truth, I feel the burden lifting just thinking about it!

The truth is that I haven't been blogging much recently. Apart from the wonderful stuff that Vikes Geek writes, most of the stuff here has been regurgitated. Either it's been tasters from my upcoming 'events' for that week, or it's been stuff I posted in the distant past. Or, it's actually been dealing with some of the hassle caused by blogging in the first place.

And that last one holds the key to all of this. I'm just not enjoying it any more. The truth is the only valuable stuff here is the links and articles that others have written. This site is meant to be a useful resource for Vikings fans. The blog is supposed to supplement that by commenting on things "purple" from a fans point-of-view. In reality, the blog has drawn a little too much attention to itself and I've ended up incessantly fretting over how to top the last entry!

I’m just plain done. I’m burned out. I’m tired of the writing. And I’m tired of doing all of the little things that are behind the scenes of blogging, and most likely poorly and with no conviction.

The bottom line is that while the zeal for the team is as strong as ever, my zest for the blog just isn’t there any more. It’s become more duty than recreation. And the reality is that I couldn’t be more content about leaving it all behind. I’ll be able to spend more time with my loved ones, have more time for reading, more time for travel, more time for studying art and visiting museums. And also watch a Vikes game with no thought of capturing a photograph or jotting down a note for a future blog entry or sending out something instantaneously to the moblog.

My parting gift was the mini-camp coverage which I hope you enjoyed. But one week from today this blog will go dark. As of June 1, it will be no more. We'll keep everything up for history and research sake. But no new entries will be added and the 'comments' feature will be switched off.

As soon as we know Vikes Geek new home, we'll pass that along.

Thanks, everyone! It really has been a wild ride. See you at the games!

All my best,


Brian

Posted by maasx003 at 1:47 AM
May 23, 2006
"Blast From the Past"

Note: We once again take a trip down memory lane and reprint a VU blog entry from a loooooong time ago....

The Switch

Returning home from a short fall walk with my dogs I had just turned onto our street. I had been chuckling to myself over a recent e-mail sent to me from a Packer fan telling me that Green Bay would come off their bye week stronger than ever. I had been thinking of writing a paper to the New England Journal of Medicine showing that an indirect proportion exists between the intelligence of residents of Green Bay and proper use of sentence structure, grammar and spelling when I shivered, like one who on a country walk suddenly perceives a snake in his path. Even the dogs would proceed no further. For the house across the street from my own humble abode was displaying a Green Bay Packer table lamp in its window!

I decided right then and there that territorial dominance, of Viking over Packer, must be regained. And the plan that I immediately came upon was indeed for the venture. I must move my Viking table lamp to my master bedroom window, where this blatant attempt upon my fanhood would be avenged. One problem, though, my wife had banished all things purple and gold to the den where I could have my prized possessions and smoke a good cigar. Meanwhile she could hold tea parties in the living room without having photos of Fran Tarkenton and Chuck Foreman looking down upon her friends, scones and marmalade. I knew my wife was downstairs somewhere, and for the next hour at least she would be occupied. I would have ample opportunity for the switch.

I did not delay. Thirty seconds later I was inside mounting the stairs with Viking lamp in hand, my face set, my eyes gleaming grimly. A minute later, I reached my destination, the master bedroom. No green devil, no Martha Stewart wife aware of my intentions, stood in my path to bar entry. With lamp in hand I went in.

Most master bedrooms, like most places of married importance, contain things so magnificent to the females that they are never used. With our four poster bed and my wife's superb but rather oppressive bed canopy, the room had remained unchanged since our first year of marriage. As I snuck cautiously in, it was looking its best in the gentle evening light. But I was not in a reflective mood. I ignored the hand sewn pillow cushions, the cozy arm chairs, the pictures, the decorations, and the flowers. The starkness of the winter sky through the large bedroom window drew but a brief glance from me. Without delay I made for my wife's dressing table which stood against the window near the bed. It seemed the perfect spot upon which my mighty beacon of purple and gold light would out shine that eye-sore across the street.

The primary requisite of the dressing table being a good supply of light, they are usually placed in a position to get as much of it as possible. This one is no exception; it stood so near to the window that in the summer time the breeze from the open window will ruffle the tassels on its lampshade. Making the switch of tasseled lamp to Viking lamp my heart suddenly slipped. Now standing in the doorway to the bedroom, dogs peering around her legs, was my wife.

For an instant I remained frozen. Even the greatest men congeal beneath the chill breath of the totally unexpected. I had assumed as a matter of course that my wife was down in the laundry room, and it took me several seconds to adjust my mind to the unpleasing fact that she was up in our bedroom. When I recovered my presence of mind sufficiently to draw noiselessly away from the line of vision, my first emotion was one of irritation. This continual changing of their minds, this alteration of plans, these sudden decisions to be upstairs when they ought to be downstairs, are what make women as a sex so unsatisfactory.

To irritation succeeded a sense of defeat. There was nothing for it, I realized, but to give up my quest and go. I started to carry the Viking lamp silently to the door, conscious now of the holes being drilled into my head by my wife's eyes, and had just reached it, when across the street, there came to my ears a sound of clashing and clattering. Upon looking out the window I noticed instantly my neighbor's Packer lamp was gone! I perceived immediately that his wife had taken the upper hand in his domain and had not only removed the ghastly thing but had deposited it, in pieces, onto the driveway,.

And so, going outside, I met my now-crying neighbor who had dropped on all fours and was picking up the remains of his treasured lamp. Defeated once again by the most sinister villain of all-time, the football-widow, we shared a cigar and waited for them to let us back in.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:28 AM
May 22, 2006
"The Entry that Started It All" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

Note: The following entry was the first blog entry to be published on the Viking Underground on October 6, 2004.

"Boom-Boom"

This past Sunday (September 26, 2004) Bill Brown was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor. It brought back a memory from an earlier meeting with Brown. On February 12th, 1995 I was invited to sit in on the Minnesota Viking Marketing and Sales task force. The meeting was held in the board room at Winter Park. As we sat down in purple chairs around a football-shaped table, a gentleman sporting a crew cut entered the room and immediately started joking with each individual as if he had known them all his life.

Bill Brown was a starting running back for the Minnesota Vikings from 1962-74. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1964, 1965, 1967 (started), and 1968. Among the all-time Viking leaders he ranks second in rushing yards (5,757), ninth in receiving yards (3,177), second in rushing-receiving yards (8,934), third in scoring (76 touchdowns and 456 points), and second in combined yardage (9,237). He led the Vikings in rushing in 1964-1966 and 1968, and in receiving in 1964.

Among individual Viking records Bill is third in career points (456), first in most seasons leading team in touchdowns (5), first in career touchdowns (76), and third in most touchdowns in one season (16). Playing the Rams on November 19, 1972, Bill hauled in a pass from future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton and scampered 76 yards for the score. But the best record of all for "Boom-Boom" Brown are his stories from those exciting Viking years. And he told a few good ones at the meeting.

During the early years training camp was held in Bemidji, Minnesota. The coach at that time was Norm Van Brocklin and it seems Norm had a nasty way of cutting players during camp. According to "Boom-Boom" Norm had one system for this. He would cut players anywhere, anytime. Van Brocklins' favorite spot seemed to be the team bus as the team would return to Bemidji after a pre-season game. "That was especially hard on not only the player but the other players as well sitting next to him.", said Brown, "And it was a very long way from Minneapolis back to Bemidji anyway, not to mention if you happened to get cut as we boarded the bus."

Van Brocklin was also famous for his "two-beer" rule during training camp. Each player was only allowed two beers a day while at camp, unless, as Brown stated, you happened to be drinking Van Brocklins' favorite...whiskey.

As "Boom-Boom" was finishing his whiskey story, Bud Grant knocked on the open door and Bill excused himself from the meeting. The two went next door to Bud's office and the meeting became very serious once again. But at least we all had big grins on our faces courtesy of a player from a time when football was still a game, and meetings about marketing were not needed.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:23 AM
May 16, 2006
"Tough Talk? Or Tough Politics?" by Mr. Cheer or Die


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I gave pause to something Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said recently. At first, I passed it off as just political grandstanding. But the more I thought about the quote, the more it scared me to death. When asked about how things would fare should the Vikings not get a stadium funding bill passed this legislative session, he replied:

"I would be disappointed," Wilf said. "But I would hope that if we don't get the issue resolved now, we at least not forget the need for a new Vikings' home and that we just don't get put in the political backburner. We've always stated that we won't leave, but unfortunately that's something that politicians might feel is something that warrants their immediate attention."

In essence, what Wilf has done is crack the door open to start using the veiled threat of moving the team in order to accomplish his goal of building a state-of-the art facility for the Vikings in Anoka county. It is something that I had hoped the team could avoid. I'm sure that Wilf felt the same.

But now our esteemed legislatures currently in session in St. Paul have put the gun to Wilf's head since it has become abundantly clear the Vikings are third in line in the pecking order for the race to build new stadiums. They currently stand behind the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Gophers football team.

But I also see some panic from Wilf and Co. in that they are rolling out a new proposal in which it has been stated that the plan for a retractable roof will be removed from the table and we'll be looking at an open-air stadium at worst or a roof-ready stadium at best.

That smacks of desperation to me and I'm not sure that Wilf needs to go there. I'd much rather wait until 2007 to begin anew, hopefully with the Twins and Gophers out of the way. The focus can then be solely on the Vikings stadium pitch and the stadium can be approved with all the bells and whistles originally envisioned by the Vikings architects.

On the flip side, Wilf may see this year as his best opportunity to get state funding. My close, personal friend Sid Hartman wrote on Monday of the current state of affairs at the legislature. He quoted House Speaker Steve Sviggum as saying:

"We passed the Gopher bill in the House bipartisan [103 votes]. The Twins bill bipartisan [39 Republicans, 37 Democrats]. That is 76 votes. I think if you put them together in one bill it tears down from that high point. We probably are at our high water mark as far as number of votes. The Vikings are even changing the proposal this last weekend. Guys, we're in the bottom of the ninth inning. We're not in the top of the fourth. We're in the bottom of the ninth."

What Sviggum is saying is the votes are lining up as well as they will ever be. From the current high water mark, the votes in favor will most likely recede. So I can see Wilf saying, "If not now, when?" and I can't blame him one bit.

I just wish we didn't have that "build it or we move" gun pressed against our collective heads.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:45 AM
May 14, 2006
"Rub a Dub Dub" by Vikes Geek


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Note: For those looking for Mr. Cheer Or Die's minicamp "sensory" report, scroll down one entry or click here.

Today, I begin a series of reviews of the Vikings’ May mini-camp with observations on the two positions critical to the Vikings’ 2006 prospects—quarterback and linebacker. And while mini-camp differs dramatically from the regular season, and even from the team’s regular pre-season camp, it does offer a glimpse of some of the things that we can expect out of the 2006 Vikings.

Quarterback

As the Vikings prepare for the 2006 NFL regular season, they can hold fast in the knowledge that their quarterback situation is in solid hands—as long as Brad Johnson does not get injured. The presumed depth chart for Vikings’ quarterbacks has Mike McMahon following Johnson, with J.T. O’Sullivan and Jackson following McMahon, respectively. What that means for the Vikings is that the team either needs to have Johnson stay healthy for 2006 or have either McMahon or O’Sullivan perform well beyond their collective eleven-year league totals.

With no-contact drills the order of the day, the Vikings made a few other discoveries about their current corps of quarterbacks—some good, some not as good, but also not unexpected. For his part, Johnson looked every bit the part of a quarterback capable of leading a West Coast offense. Johnson had very limited mobility in the pocket and limited zip on his passes during mini-camp drills, but he consistently placed the ball in the best possible location under the circumstances. That’s what the Vikings, like most West Coast offense teams, need from their starting quarterback and—barring an injury to Johnson—that’s what it appears they will have this season.

Less certain is what the Vikings have on their depth chart after Johnson. McMahon made some nice throws and showed some ability to move out of the pocket in drills against a phantom defense, but with McMahon everything appears to be about urgency. While Johnson looked calm under center, McMahon looked to be pressing. Likewise with O’Sullivan, who added a few awkward passes as if attempting to solidify his number three role. While it is far too early to know what McMahon and O’Sullivan can offer the Vikings in 2006, the brief, mini-camp preview suggests that Vikings’ fans can expect some stomach churning if either is called upon to lead a West Coast offense clearly designed to emphasize short, precision-passing over vertical slings.

As for arm strength, the clear leader in the Vikings’ quarterbacking corps at his point is Jackson. And one need not have the aid of radar to reach this conclusion. While Johnson touched passes to his receivers, Jackson rocketed them through the air with blazing speed. But where Jackson bested Johnson in velocity, Johnson clearly outshone the rookie in poise—a premium in the Vikings’ West Coast offense.

More so perhaps than his ability to read defenses or to learn an NFL offense, Jackson will need to develop the poise and composure necessary to understand that it’s not always about how quickly the ball gets to the receiver but where and how the ball get to the receiver. Johnson has that figured out. Jackson appears to be some time away from having that down—though, from the looks of things, probably not all that far off.

On several occasions, Jackson zipped passes to receivers twenty yards out with a nice tight spiral. On other occasions, however, Jackson misjudged the speed of his receivers, misread the player that was receiving double-coverage on a play, or tried so hard to show his arm strength that his overly tight grip resulted in duck-like passes. The positive note is that Jackson’s troubles appear to be related to pressing and lack of familiarity with the speed of the NFL. Over time, those issues should resolve themselves. And with that will come greater pocket composure. That won’t help the Vikings’ this season, but it should help the team down the road in a manner that McMahon and O’Sullivan probably cannot.

Linebacking Corps

While the Vikings appear set with their number one quarterback, somewhat the converse appears true of their linebacking corps. With several players either vying for playing time at new positions or outright new to the team, the Vikings’ linebacking corps remains in flux not only on the depth charts but also on the field.

The Vikings used several different players at linebacker during Sunday’s morning drills. Several things stood out from these drills.

The two players who appeared to attract most of the coaches’ verbal attention were rookie first-round pick Chad Greenway and veteran Napoleon Harris. The coaches clearly are intent on ensuring that Greenway is ready to play at the beginning of 2006, often pulling him aside during drills to point out mistakes that they appeared to let slide for others less likely to make the team or to play big minutes. Despite some issues with one particularly awkward sled, Greenway neither particularly impressed nor disappointed on Sunday—a fair start for a rookie on whom the Vikings will be counting in 2006.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the veteran linebacker Harris, who either lacks the speed to keep pace with the tight end—a troubling matter in its own right—or simply is unable to take the proper angle to the ball. Or, more frightening, both. If Harris truly is the best option that the Vikings have at middle linebacker, the team is in for more of the same at that position that Vikings’ fans have seen the past two seasons.

There may be hope yet for Harris, however. For what is most striking about Harris is not his coverage failures, but the difference between him and the other linebackers from a physique perspective. At 255 pounds, Harris is easily the heaviest of the Vikings’ linebackers—ten pounds heavier than the next heaviest linebacker, E.J. Henderson, and twenty pounds heavier than the lightest Vikings’ linebacker, Heath Farwell. Added to that weight difference is the matter that most of Harris’ additional bulk appears to be in his upper body. That might make for some nice drives if and when Harris is able to wrap up a player, but, added to his overall heavier playing weight, it might also explain why Harris has so much difficulty with lateral movement and with staying with the tight end. Reducing the higher weight bench reps might alleviate this problem and offer an easy solution to Harris’ coverage problems. If not, Harris might be on the outside looking in very soon.

Up Next: The Short List—Unknowns With a Shot, Others With Not.

Posted by maasx003 at 10:38 PM
"Minicamp 2006 Report - Update V" by Mr. Cheer Or Die



The new helmet. (Click image for larger)


Please Note: As with the last VU Vikings minicamp report, we at the VU overloaded the University of Minnesota server. So,if the page is loading slowly or not at all.....please be PATIENT. Page loads may be slow during peak periods.

Coming Monday will be Vikes Geek take on the session we attended. So came back then! Do to heavy workload at my real job, I will not be providing a written summary this time around. But I was able to provide the photography, audio, and video that follow. Enjoy. And really people, this is the most balanced I've seen the team on both sides of the ball in some time. We'll be just fine.

What did you like or not like about the coverage of minicamp, both in terms of what we did at the VU as well as the local Big Boys....the STrib and Pioneer Press? Leave a comment at the end of this entry. Have a question about a player, etc? Also leave a comment at the end of this entry and Vikes Geek or I will try and answer for you.

Thanks all!

Instant Gratification: Fifth Update

Numerical Roster

Alphabetical Roster

Panoramic Photo of Indoor Practice Field

Audio (direct download link here) from special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Love the reporter that thought Ferraro was Bevell! Available also on the VU Podcast page for those wanting to download to their MP3 players or just need an embedded audio player.

Top Five Photos for the Day (Others are coming and will be loaded as links to keep the page load fast)



New practice uniform look. (Click image for larger)



Tarvaris Jackson. (Click image for larger)



Chad Greenway is a blur of motion. (Click image for larger)



Big Bad Brad Johnson was a calm eye in a hurricane of activity. (Click image for larger)



Rookie Cedric Griffin looks good in purple. (Click image for larger)

All photos now uploaded to the Flickr Photo Stream (and will be posted here as well). For those that can't wait for direct blog photos, just click on any photo from the Flickr stream seen at top and you'll be whisked away to the VU Flickr photo stream.

Video Update: We had to take the videos down for a bit to let the University of Minnestoa server catch its wind. They are now back up but if the server starts to strain, we'll again bring them down for a bit. Thanks for your patience.

Video

Please keepin mind I'm not ESPN. So bear with the quality as I am Iimited with my upload size and space. But then, the STrib and Pioneer Press aren't going this far for Vikes fans, are they? In fact, I think their respective minicamp coverage has been horrible.

Also with video, I have found it best to let it load completely. The first time through may be "jumpy" but then play it again and the second time it will be better for you.

Chad Greenway runs a drill.

Ben Leber runs a drill.

Tarvaris Jackson plays catch with J.T. O' Sullivan. Note the smooth delivery motion. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell stands nearby in black with purple cap.

Tarvaris Jackson and they man he may force out.....J.T. O' Sullivan...in passing drills.

Tarvaris Jackson throws right at you.

Chad Greenway shows good lateral movement.

Photo Roll: Complete

Chad Greenway during stretching drills

Another look at the new practice uniforms

Greenway finishes a drill.

Rookie Ryan Cook taking it all in.

Tarvaris Jackson takes off helmet

Jackson looks on.

Jackson during a drill.

Jackson drops to pass.

Ben Leber, good player or Foley folly?

Dontarrious Thomas & Greenway

Good set of guns on Greenway.

Rookie Cedric Griffin takes a breather.

Mike McMahon was sharp in this session.

Can't decide if like that white jersey stripe or not. You?

Another shot of Cook. Sorry, but the indoor practice sessions always limit our views.

Darren Sharper's DOB is 11/3/75. DC Mike Tomlin's DOB is 3/15/72.

Sharper takes a blow.

Sharper and safety Will Hunter

#32 Taurean Henderson, #33 Steven Jackson and Ciatrick Fason.

Special Teams Coordinator Paul Ferraro

Cedric Griffin grants an interview post practice.

Jackson sans helmet I

Jackson sans helmet II

Jackson sans helmet III

Erasmus James grants an interview post practice.

A happy offensive coordinator

Bevell holds court.

Tomlin fields a question.

The defensive coordinator is happy as well.

Yet To Come

Column by Vikes Geek (Monday)

Posted by maasx003 at 1:31 PM
"Minicamp Sunday"

Lousy, stinking weather. Still cold and raining in the Twin Cities this morning. I really, really wanted to bring you outdoor photos for this minicamp, but it is not to be. I just received word from the Vikes that Sunday practices will also be indoors (unless it really clears in the afternoon which is highly doubtful). So, I will trudge through all the rain puddles to Winter Park and observe this morning's 10:40 am practice session along with Vikes Geek.

Lousy, stinking weather. In any event, expect updates, photos, podcast and videos sometime within a day or so. It is Mother's Day, you know.

As with the previous minicamp, cameras can only be in use during the first thirty minutes of the practice. Practice is closed to the public. Mr. Cheer Or Die will be issuing live reports, and "crap-cam" photos from his cell phone while practice is going on. You can access these live updates via the VU Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:52 AM
May 13, 2006
"Minicamp Schedule Update"

Sorry everyone, we're rescheduling for Sunday. More on times as they become available.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:47 PM
"Minicamp Update"

MiniCamp Note

Yesterday the VU informed you that Vikes Geek and Mr. Cheer Or Die would be attending the Saturday morning practice session which kicks off this years team minicamp. We've been monitoring the weather, and it looks horrible for Saturday morning. It looks very much like rain the first part of the day which would move practice indoors. And we've already been down that road. So, it is most likely that VG and COD will instead attend the Saturday afternoon practice, scheduled to begin at 3:10 pm CST.

In any event, expect updates, photos, podcast and videos by the end of the weekend.

As with the previous minicamp, cameras can only be in use during the first thirty minutes of the practice. Practice is closed to the public. Mr. Cheer Or Die will be issuing live reports, and "crap-cam" photos from his cell phone while practice is going on. You can access these live updates via the VU Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:03 AM
May 10, 2006
"Meritorious Work or Unsubstantiated Hype?" by Vikes Geek


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When the Minnesota Vikings hired new head coach Brad Childress they characterized their hiree as a man of integrity and family values. Once the Vikings’ front office deigned to speak in more meaningful terms about Childress, they assigned to Childress the label of “quarterback guru.? For his part, Childress has neither run from this label nor done anything other than perpetuate the conception that it suited him. But does it?

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Childress’ designation as a quarterback guru derives from the work that he did with quarterbacks while serving as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Addressing whether Childress truly is a quarterback guru is a fairly straightforward proposition, then, requiring only an analysis of the benefits of Childress’ work with the Eagles’ quarterbacks.

In a previous column on college quarterbacks, I offered numerous statistics that suggested the potential value of certain quarterbacks beyond the college level. At first blush, all five quarterbacks about whom I wrote had impressive credentials. Upon further review, however, some concerns undoubtedly arose in the minds of some regarding where recent NFL draftees fall in the scheme of things. The same might be said of Childress’ work with his purported savants.

More Hype than Substance?

The following are some statistics for five well-known NFL quarterbacks:

Player..... Yards........ Comp. %.... TDs.... INTs.... Rating

1............ 2,654........ 55.8........ 16...... 13...... 86

2............ 2,385........ 62.7........ 17...... 9........ 98.6

3............ 4,110........ 63........... 26...... 14...... 92

4............ 4,456........ 59.1........ 28....... 16...... 85

5............ 2,059........ 45.4........ 9........ 14...... 55.2

A casual glance at the statistics suggests that quarterbacks three and four are far ahead of the other three quarterbacks on the list. It also suggests that quarterbacks one and five have a considerable amount of work to do to. It’s not surprising, then, that quarterback three is New England Patriot Tom Brady or that quarterback four is Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose 2005 numbers are prorated here over a sixteen-game season. Nor probably is it surprising that quarterback number two is Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

What might surprise even the astute NFL observer, however, are the identities of the two remaining quarterbacks. Quarterback number one is former Eagles’ backup quarterback A.J. Feely—whose 2002 numbers with the Eagles are prorated here. And Quarterback number five is former Eagles’ backup Mike McMahon—whose 2005 numbers are prorated here.

What’s surprising about Feely and McMahon is that, despite working with a purported quarterback guru in Brad Childress, both have, at best, very modest NFL numbers. In the case of McMahon—the quarterback that Childress now has tabbed as the backup to Brad Johnson in 2006—the numbers are far below modest spiraling to the depths of awful.

Is McMahon’s poor 2005 performance the result of poor quarterback tutelage under Childress in Philadelphia? Probably not, given that McMahon’s 2005 numbers look very much like his career numbers in Detroit. But neither can it be said that Childress did anything to make McMahon better—at least nothing that someone in Detroit had not already at least matched. And that makes one wonder.

Feely is an even more interesting case with respect to Childress’ purported quarterback-grooming prowess. The casual NFL fan will point to the Eagles’ ability to the fifth-round pick Feely into a second-round pick for Feely in a trade with Miami. What that same fan will ignore, however, is that the Feely trade was predicated on Miami’s desperation more than on Feely’s performance. For, even with prorated numbers in his most active season with the Eagles, Feely was a modest to below average quarterback. His performance since leaving the Eagles does nothing to alter that view. That, again, makes one wonder what it is that Childress has done that merits labeling him a quarterback guru.

But more disconcerting with respect to Childress’ purported ability to cultivate prior unknown quarterbacks is the fact that Feely was not an unknown when he entered the NFL. Instead, Feely entered the NFL with scouts having only one concern—whether he had recovered from an injury that he had suffered in his junior season. Feely was a star in the PAC-10 prior to his junior-year injury. Only after his injury did he lose some luster—yielding to future first-round selection Joey Harrington during his senior season. That made him an injury risk in the draft, but one that most expected to pay off if he had recovered from his injury. At best, Childress merely showed Feely for what he was when he entered the NFL—a quarterback with modest to below average ability. That’s not Childress’ fault. But neither is it a cause to celebrate Childress as a quarterback guru.

Nor would anyone say with a straight face that Donovan McNabb has exceeded expectations since being drafted. In fact, most Philly fans would probably voice their concern over virtually all of McNabb’s non-Terrell Owens years with the Eagles. And the fairly modest QB ratings suggest just why that might be the case.

In short, if Childress truly is a quarterback guru, it is not on the strength of the work that he has done with Feely, McMahon, and McNabb. In fact, one could make the argument that, on the basis of what Childress was able to accomplish with these three quarterbacks, he is no better than average in developing quarterbacks. And that should raise at least a concern about Childress’ self-professed ability to develop a quarterback in Tavaris Jackson who, by Childress’ own admission, is “a piece of unmolded clay.?

Up Next: SWAC, 2007, and Mini-Camp



Posted by maasx003 at 1:01 AM
May 8, 2006
"Food For Thought" by Vikes Geek

As with any football season, Fall brings with it the wisdom of coaches across the land ready, willing, and able to bestow upon virtually every starter on their team the moniker of “great player.? That coaches tend to repeat such praise at the end of the season when prompted to do so should then come as no surprise.

No matter the time, no matter the place, no matter the circumstances, one thing is certain—coaches love their own players. They love them because they have become indebted to them. They love them because they have time invested in them. And they love them because it behooves them to love the players that they helped mold.

For the casual fan and the astute observer, alike, what this means is that anything that comes from the mouth of a coach regarding a player who played under that coach must be taken with a grain of salt. And that makes assessing a player’s value on the basis of a conversation with that player’s coach, suspect, at best.

Yet, after every NFL draft, the first people that football analysts contact—after the players themselves—are the coaches of the players drafted. And while conversations with draftees’ coaches can provide some insight into how a draftee’s coach views his own football universe, it offers little real value to anyone listening. That is, unless those listening simply want to be told what they want to hear.

Despite this fact, after the April 2006 NFL entry draft had ended, national sports reporters contacted head coaches around the country in a stated effort to gather insight into the ability of the various players drafted. Below are partial, paraphrased responses to questions posed by members of the media to the coaches of five quarterbacks drafted this year:

1: “He’s got a strong arm, great instincts. He’s a leader on the field and in the lockerroom.?

2: “Strong arm. All the guys on the team respect him. Tremendous ball player.?

3: “Great feel for the game. Natural leader. He’s got a strong arm. Tremendous all-around athlete.?

4: “Great arm. Loves to learn. A great leader. Well-respected by his teammates. Loads of upside.?

5: “Sees the field well. Great leader. Strong arm. Great presence.?

So, who would you prefer? The player with a strong arm and great instincts or the player with a great arm who is a great leader? Or perhaps you prefer the player who is a leader on and off the field and who has a strong arm. So many choices—all so different.

Of course, without having a name to put by the player, it is a bit difficult to decide, isn’t it? Maybe some numbers will help:

Player ....Yards ....Percentage .....TDs ....Ints ....Rating

1: .........3,815 .........65.7 ..........28 .........8 ......157.7

2: .........3,036 .........65.2 ..........26 .........10 ......168.6

3: .........3,073 .........59.1 ..........21 .........9 ......126.1

4: .........2,941 .........60.9 ..........29 .........5 ......164.9

5: .........2,530 .........59.3 ..........19 .........9 ......145.87


Does that help? Hmmm. Perhaps a bit more information would be useful—like the strength of schedule for each player’s respective team:

1: 27

2: 15

3: 62

4: 215

5: 26

That should suffice to permit a general impression of the circumstances under which each of our five quarterbacks achieved their statistics in 2005. And that—along with what each player’s coach said about their respective player—should help you decide your preference of quarterbacks.

Still not sure who to go with? Maybe this will help. Of the thirty-two quarterbacks named starters at the beginning of the 2005 NFL season, twenty were first-round picks. Yes, there’s some self-fulfillment going on, but the numbers are fairly bold. Of the remaining twelve starters, three were selected in the second round, three in the sixth, and one each in the fourth, seventh, and eighth rounds—two starters were undrafted out of college.

The implication is that first-round picks have a head start on the rest of the draft class—both in terms of talent and in terms of the drafting team’s desire to see the pick succeed. The latter makes sense only in myopic terms. The former, however, is what it is all about. And, as the above statistics suggest, there is some reason to look upon so-called diamonds-in-the-rough with skepticism—not only because fewer diamonds-in-the-rough tend to become starters than do generally agreed upon diamonds, but also because diamonds-in-the-rough generally come from the rough themselves, in a manner of speaking.

All of which takes us back to the original question. Which of these quarterbacks would you prefer to lead your team? Before you answer, however, I confess that quarterback five is a bit of a ruse. Although his numbers are respectable and his coach has nothing but good things to say about him, he was not drafted this year. And when you read his name, you might be a bit surprised given how his numbers compare to those of the others on the board. For player number five is none other than Minnesota’s Bryan Cupito.

Since Cup’ wasn’t in the draft this year, let’s take him out of the decision making process for now. That leaves us with four quarterbacks from which to make a decision. And remember, you don’t have to take anyone if you don’t want to.

The remaining four quarterbacks were drafted by NFL teams in 2006 but not in the order in which I’ve listed them. Each has pretty decent numbers and the requisite glowing comments from their college coach. Where the players differ most, however, is in strength of schedule. And that suggests that where numbers are comparable, SOS might help differentiate these quarterbacks a bit.

The player whose team had the strongest SOS among our five quarterbacks was Texas QB Vince Young (quarterback number 2). Next, in order, were Matt Lienart (1), Cupito (5), Jay Cutler (3), and Tavaris Jackson (4). Jackson’s Alabama State squad finished 215th out of 239 Division I teams. That’s not to say that Jackson did not earn his states, but merely to suggest that Jackson, and to a much lesser degree, Cutler, cut his college teeth on far more suspect competition than did this year’s first-round picks and even than did 2005’s 2nd round starters—Jake Plummer, Drew Brees, and Brett Favre.

That doesn’t mean that Jackson won’t succeed in the NFL. But it does mean that he probably has a great deal to learn in the NFL—like how to play against real competition. Fortunately for the Vikings, Jackson’s a sponge and Childress is his water.

Up Next: Quarterback Guru or One-Hit No Wonder? Plus, SWAC and 2007.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:31 AM
May 4, 2006
"Strange Ways" by Vikes Geek

Technical Difficulties Update from COD: Hello everyone. As you might have already seen, the VU is experiencing a big slow down this week (and last!) due to increased traffic on the system. In other words, more people are hitting the blog than ever before, and the server is having difficulty processing the requests. We are in the process of moving the system to a bigger server. I will keep you updated on our progress.

On the Tuesday after yet another suspect NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings began negotiations to buy out one of the three individuals responsible for their 2006 draft—player personnel head Fran Foley. In addition to being a less than personable individual, Foley purportedly had comportment issues during the draft—issues that at least one Vikings’ official has suggested led to the confusion that ensued for the Vikings in round two.

In a previous column, I outlined the problems that the Vikings created for themselves in round two and how those problems led the team to give away at least one third-round draft pick. In addition to the gaffes that the Vikings made that led to that cession, the Vikings made two second-round selections that look highly questionable with respect to the team’s needs.

Mysteries

I broached the topic of selecting New Mexico center Ryan Cook earlier in the week, noting that taking Cook with the fifty-first pick—rather than taking either him or another, comparable center later in the draft—compelled the Vikings to trade away picks to select Jackson. But Cook’s selection is odd for a more significant reason, namely, the Vikings appear to have no room for Cook in the foreseeable future.

Prior to the 2004 season, former Vikings’ head coach Mike Tice discussed moving center Matt Birk to guard. The rationale was that Birk not only could play guard above the level of the guards then on the Vikings’ roster but also that the move would prolong Birk’s career. Those sentiments reverberated with force last season as the Vikings struggled to identify a viable guard on either side of center and Birk suffered yet another injury.

Selecting Ryan Cook—whether or not the selection was a reach—appeared to be a move that would fit the plan that Tice had long mulled over. And if that’s how the Vikings planned to use Cook in 2006, at least the move would make sense from a position standpoint.

But the Vikings contend that that’s not the plan. The plan, according to head coach Brad Childress, is to have Cook back up Birk—a player whom the Vikings contend will be ready to play when the season begins. That leaves Cook on the bench as a center barring a change of heart by Childress regarding a move of Birk to guard.

Moving Birk to guard seems even more implausible now with the free-agent addition of Steve Hutchinson and the draft-day trade with Philadelphia for veteran guard Artis Hicks. Hicks’ addition virtually ensures that Cook is little more than a high-round backup for several seasons. And, given the depth at center in this year’s NFL draft, the Vikings certainly could have found such a backup later in the draft and used their fifty-first pick to take Tarvaris Jackson—or somebody else.

The second odd selection that the Vikings made in the draft was Tarvaris Jackson. Whether Jackson will become a productive NFL quarterback is anyone’s guess. What’s peculiar about the Vikings’ decision to select Jackson, however, is that he doesn’t appear to fit the Vikings’ needs.

After selecting Jackson, Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress noted that he liked Jackson because he could mold Jackson. Childress spoke of Jackson’s raw talent and willingness to learn and concluded that Jackson could be ready to start in the NFL within five years. And therein lies the problem for the Vikings.

Whether you believe that Childress’ cultivation of Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feely merits tagging Childress as a quarterback guru is irrelevant to the discussion of the merits of the Vikings selecting Jackson. All that matters is that Childress views Jackson as a long-term project. Aside from the fact that second-round picks normally produce in the first two or three years in the league, or find employment outside the league, the Vikings face a very real issue with their decision to take a player whom their own head coach believes is much further away from being ready to play in the NFL than would be a traditional second-round pick.

The concern for the Vikings is that, at thirty-seven years of age, current quarterback Brad Johnson is both at the tail end of his career—probably much closer than is Jackson to the beginning of his career—and only one solid hit away from a long stay on the injury list. That makes selecting Jackson—essentially with two third-round picks that could have been used on players that would have been NFL-ready in far less time—a less optimal route for the Vikings to have gone in the draft than merely standing pat after selecting Cook.

If Johnson stays healthy until Jackson is ready, the Vikings’ selection of Jackson need only stand the test of whether Jackson can play. But that’s a big if. If the if does not materialize, the Vikings will be left to determine in which direction to turn. And, failing an unexpected showing by either Mike McMahon or J.T. O’Sullivan, that could be ugly.

Up Next: Remaining Needs. Plus, finding room for an injured backup quarterback with a nice resume?

From the Mail Bag: "Chicks Adore Us" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

There is nothing Vikes Geek & I enjoy more than receiving mail...especially from the chicks. Yes, we often have to fight them off as we are seen around town and such, but it's something we've come to accept as being part of the job.

First off, Vikes Chicks are smarter than the average female fan. Always have been, always will be. They know the game, they know the team, and they know that the Packers SUCK. Take Wendy for instance who e-mailed me this week thusly:

My friend Tim from East Boston sent me this choice photo highlighting why Green Bay fans aren't very bright. Just think, this guy had to walk by hundreds of other fans, none noticing that his displeasure with Javon Walker had nothing to do with Walker's skill at bartering for goods and services.

This photo was attached. Touché Wendy!

HPIM1856_1.jpg

Then there was Annie who has her own blog on the very same server the VU resides on. And I've been a very baaaddddd boy by dragging down the speed of the server due to increased traffic. But Annie was not angry! Hell, no! She's a fan! She writes:

Things are a little sticky here today in blogville. I've had trouble loading the blog myself, and so have others. Either you get a page not found error, or it takes so long to load a page it's like waiting for Bleeding Gums Murphy to finish the National Anthem. I am sorry for the inconvenience, and hope readers will not give up on the fledgling blog. I can assure you that my blogging service is in the very best hands. The guy who runs this thing is awesome. We've been getting spam attacks that gum up the works, but he will root these evil spammers out and show them no mercy. OK, I'm told the problem is actually the high volume of traffic on The Vikings Underground, but they're moving to a bigger server tomorrow, and then there'll be plenty of room for us bookworms AND the rowdy football fans. (Heck, I was checking Brian's site myself over the weekend, for updates on the NFL draft.

Classy, and smart. Like all our Vikes Chicks. Thanks!


Posted by maasx003 at 10:00 AM
May 3, 2006
"Where's the Beef? In Minnesota, That's Where!" by Mr. Cheer or Die


fatmen.jpg

The most essential unit on any football team, from Pop Warner to the pros, is the offensive line. Anyone that has followed football for any length of time realizes that fact. Look at all the great Vikings teams and you find a roster full of All Pro and/or Pro Bowl offensive linemen. The last great line, from 1998, sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl when Randall McDaniel, Todd Steussie, and Jeff Christy represented the Purple.

I bring up those three for another reason. The Vikings currently have three likely Pro Bowlers this coming season in Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, and Bryant McKinnie. In fact, I'd bet the farm on those three being in Hawaii next February.

Last season, the offensive line was suspect at best. The unit ranked 31st in the league in regards to the adjusted sack rate, which gives sacks per pass attempt adjusted for opponent, down, and distance. It was also one of the reasons the Poutin' QB suffered so much early on...eventually missing most of the season to injury. And then leaving altogether. Who wants to stand behind a porous offensive line afterall?

Enter a list of offensive linemen to compete for roster spots, sizable enough to elicit a response of ``Holy Toledo, I’m rich!'', from any restaurant the group decides to frequent this coming season. I mean, just look at this group!

The Offensive Line
(as of 5/3/2006; * signifies starter)
Name
Jersey #
Weight
Height
Center*
Matt Birk
78
308 lbs
6-4
Center
Ryan Cook
62
328 lbs
6-6
Guard
Anthony Herrera
64
315 lbs
6-2
Guard*
Artis Hicks
TBD
335 lbs
6-4
Guard*
Steve Hutchinson
76
313 lbs
6-5
Guard
Jason Whittle
TBD
305 lbs
6-4
Tackle*
Marcus Johnson
72
321 lbs
6-6
Tackle
Dean Bubin
71
305 lbs
6-6
Tackle
Adam Goldberg
73
330 lbs
6-7
Tackle*
Bryant McKinnie
74
343 lbs
6-8
Tackle
Mike Rosenthal
75
315 lbs
6-7
Tackle
Mark Wilson
63
318 lbs
6-6

But while it’s nice to have an offensive line that vaguely resembles a parking lot full of SUV’s, size isn’t the most important aspect of offensive line play. Consistency is. That’s consistency of play and consistency among players.

What is meant by consistency among players is this: a line that has been on the blocking sled and at the training table together for three or four years will almost always outplay an inexperienced one with more talent. Offenses are complicated and take a while to master, and even the bluest of the blue-chip recruits have a difficult time keeping track of all the various calls and shifts.

That’s why I’m both excited and a bit worried about the line heading into the season. The line is huge with an average weight of 324 lbs amongst the five slated starters. And with Birk back at center you just know the line calls will go much smoother this season. But with the addition of guards Artis Hicks and Hutchinson to go with tackles McKinnie and Marcus Johnson one has to worry about consistency among players. It may take this group a few games to really gel.

Consider also the Vikes open on the road at one of the loudest stadiums in the league in Washington. That will be followed by two very tough home games against Carolina and Chicago. I’m hoping the unit gels well before then. We already know the line will be good. “When?? is the question.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:59 AM
May 2, 2006
Breaking....


byebyefran.jpg


Word has just hit the VU that the Triangle of Authority is dead! This is because Zygi and Co. are navigating a contract coup d'état with V.P. of player personnel Fran Foley. That’s a very professional and business way of saying, “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.?

I first heard the rumor earlier this afternoon but could not get confirmation. The Enemy paper now has it.

We here at the VU have had a lot of fun with Fran, Fran the Lyin’ Man over the last couple of weeks ever since Foley’s work biography was found to contain numerous exaggerations.

So, Zygi has now terminated The Whizz and terminated Foley in very short order. Anyone still not believe that Zygi wants to restore class to the organization?

My guess is Scott Studwell, who deserved the post in the first place, now assumes the role.

Posted by maasx003 at 9:16 PM
"Mistakes Made, But At What Cost?" by Vikes Geek

As successful NFL personnel people will attest, NFL games are won as much in the front office as on the field, for it is the successful front office that tends to correlate with the successful team. In the NFL, a successful front office is measured by three criteria—contract management, free-agent signees, and draftees.

With few meaningful contract issues this season, the Minnesota Vikings’ personnel people are most aptly judged in 2006 on the basis of their free-agent signings and their draft acumen. After a respectable free-agency period, whether the Vikings would keep pace with their division rivals came down to a question of how the Vikings did in the draft. And upon further review, the returns are as much disappointing as they are promising.

In yesterday’s column, I noted that one could argue that the Vikings had a respectable draft. After selecting a consensus starter in Chad Greenway in the first round, the Vikings proceeded to add two more players in the second round—Cedric Griffin and Ryan Cook—who potentially fill extant holes. But it is with these picks that questions begin to arise about the draft skills of the Vikings’ draft coterie—head coach Brad Childress and personnel men Scott Studwell and Fran Foley. For beginning with the Griffin pick, the Vikings tranformed from a team intent on optimizing their selections to a team bent on proving that counter-intuitiveness trumps conventional wisdom. And that transformation could be the difference between the Vikings merely keeping pace with their division and conference rivals and gaining an edge on those same adversaries through a draft in which the Vikings purportedly had a numbers edge.

The problem with the Vikings’ draft picks from the second round on is not necessarily who they drafted—though there are some clear concerns in that area—but what the team paid to get those players and whether the team optimized its selections. And no matter how one dissects the draft, it is clear that the Vikings’ personnel people made several gaffes once they moved from selecting, in round one, a consensus player at a position that they desperately needed to fill, to drafting in the murkier waters of the post-round one realm.

The Picks and the Prices

Having addressed their primary need at linebacker with the selection of Chad Greenway the Vikings next moved to address their need at cornerback. With Brian Williams gone the Vikings needed a corner capable both of starting at nickel back and pushing the enigmatic Fred Smoot. There were several comparable cornerbacks of reasonable quality still on the board when the Vikings selected at forty-eight. But rather than selecting the more highly regarded Ashton Youboty, the Vikings opted for Cedric Griffin. That Youboty lasted until the seventieth pick suggests that taking Griffin at forty-eight was an unnecessary reach.

As I’ve said many times in the past, a reach is only a reach if it adversely affects your bottom line. And Griffin’s selection at forty-eight affected the Vikings’ bottom line. For, had the Vikings not drafted Griffin at forty-eight, they still could have taken him at fifty or drafted any number of other comparable cornerbacks in round three. The reach on Griffin would be virtually meaningless, however, were it not for the Vikings’ desperation to select a quarterback in round two and the team’s subsequent comedy of errors made in an attempt to ensure that they landed a player that they could have landed without having to trade away a valuable third-round pick.

Purportedly, the Vikings had Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens as their target in the second round. The Vikings erroneously assumed that Clemens would still be available when they next selected at fifty-one. When the N.Y. Jets swung a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to move into the number forty-nine position to take Clemens, the Vikings’ draft room imploded, with those who wanted to take Clemens at forty-eight at odds with those who did not.

The Vikings reacted to the Jets’ move by making two moves of their own. First, they inexplicably took center Ryan Cook with the fifty-first pick. Barring either a revelation that Matt Birk will not be ready to play at the beginning of the 2006 season or a determination to move Birk to right guard, a position that the Vikings purportedly filled with the trade for Artis Hicks, the move makes little sense as center is not a need for the Vikings. With several legitimate NFL players still on the board at positions of need for the Vikings, the selection of Cook—widely regarded as a round-five pick before the draft—therefore is mystifying.

Adding to the Vikings’ second-round intrigue was the Vikings’ trade of their two third-round picks, numbers eighty-three and ninety-five, to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Steelers’ number sixty-four pick. With the sixty-fourth pick, the Vikings selected a major quarterback project, Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

To summarize the Vikings’ round two blunders, it is easiest to work backwards at this point. If the Vikings had wanted Clemens there was no excuse for not taking him with the forty-eighth pick. If that meant that another team snuck in between forty-eight and fifty-one to nab Griffin, so be it. There were many other viable cornerbacks still available—Youboty among them.

If the Vikings were content with obtaining Jackson, however, Griffin was a credible selection at forty-eight and the Vikings still could have had Jackson at fifty-one. And that would have left the Vikings with picks eighty-three and ninety-five—where they could have selected Cook or, if Cook was gone, another center such as the much more highly rated Greg Eslinger, or another player that filled a need.

Who would have been available to the Vikings in the third round? To name just a few, Rashad Butler, Maurice Stoval, Greg Eslinger, Dominique Byrd, Will Blackmon, Elvis Dumervil, and Mark Setterstrom. Even if the Vikings believed that these players were redundant or stretches, they were free additions—the price was merely proper management of selections in round two. That the Vikings failed properly to manage their selections in round two meant, at a minimum, that the team forfeited the opportunity to add at least one more third-round caliber player. That’s a peculiar luxury to afford oneself in an era in which third-round picks more often than not make the squad and stay with a team for at least three years.

Ultimately, what might be a decent draft for the Vikings on the basis of a solid first-round pick might as well be regarded as a highly disappointing pick for the loss of at least one pick in the third round without benefit of any meaningful return. And if the purported return is a bust, the second-round maneuvers in this year’s draft will look even more amateurish and could lead to a recall of personnel people.

Up Next: More Questions. Plus, remaining needs.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:07 AM
May 1, 2006
"At Fork in the Road, Vikings Go Big, Then They Go Down Home" by Vikes Geek

As the Minnesota Vikings prepared for the 2006 NFL entry draft, the vast majority of Vikings’ fans predicted a nice haul in the draft. With five picks on day one, history supported such a sentiment. And with a draft replete with good talent deep into the first round—and numerous players that fit the Vikings’ draft needs likely to be available when the Vikings selected at seventeen—the Vikings appeared in position to make a draft move.

To some extent, the Vikings did what they needed to do in this draft. Entering the draft, the team’s greatest need was at middle linebacker. Three linebackers stood out as potentially filling this need—AJ Hawk, Ernie Sims, and Chad Greenway. Of the three, Hawk widely was regarded as the superior linebacker with Greenway and Sims close behind. But a case could be made that Greenway—with thirty-five more tackles than Hawk in 2005—was the best linebacker on the board, with Sims a distant third both as a player and as a person. That made landing Greenway at seventeen a nice, as well as a less expensive, catch.

The question for the Vikings is how soon it will take Greenway to move to the middle linebacker slot. Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress has indicated that Greenway will open camp as the starter at weak side linebacker with EJ Henderson manning the middle linebacker position and Ben Leber lining up at strong-side linebacker. If Greenway shows the aptitude for the game that he showed as a walk-on at Iowa, however, the linebacker alignment could change before the regular season begins and the Vikings could have one of the more solid linebacking corps in the NFL.

Another of the Vikings’ pressing needs was a role player in the secondary. The Vikings filled that need by selecting Texas cornerback Cedric Griffin. While Griffin probably will not draw comparisons to Deion Sanders any time soon, the Vikings drafted him to fill an immediate need that does not require star quality—the role of nickel cornerback. And with 86 tackles for the Longhorns last season, he should be more than suited to fill that role.

The Vikings’ selection of Griffin meant not only that the Vikings had filled their two remaining vacancies, but also that the team could turn its attention to upgrading positions for which they at least had a body penciled in as starter in 2006. That shift of attention led the Vikings back to their number one problem last season and gave Vikings’ fans their first real reason second-guess the Vikings’ draft triangle—a group that, through pick forty-eight, merely had followed virtually everybody’s big board.

Finding a Fork in It

Shortly after selecting Griffin, the Vikings reached a fork in the road. Holding the 51st pick, the Vikings still sought an offensive lineman, a backup quarterback, and another linebacker. With several talented offensive linemen still available the question for the Vikings was whether they preferred finesse or brute strength.

One option was Outland Trophy and Rimington Award winner Greg Eslinger from the University of Minnesota. The only player ever to be selected both the best interior lineman and the best center in college football, Eslinger appeared to be a good fit for the Vikings as his selection would allow the Vikings to move Birk to right guard and to interject some quickness into a line otherwise heavy of foot.

The Vikings took the road more traveled, however, foregoing drafting Eslinger in favor of drafting the much taller, weightier Ryan Cook out of New Mexico. While the knock on Eslinger is that he is too small, the knock on Cook is that he is too tall—ripping the tape at 6’7?.

The primary concern about the Vikings’ selection of Cook, however, is not that Cook is too tall to line up at center for Minnesota, but that the Vikings’ took the mammoth center far too early in the draft. With most experts having pegged Cook as a second-day selection, picking Cook in the middle of the 2nd round certainly looks like a reach. And if the Vikings truly could have had Cook in the fifth round—where he was projected to go—then the team blew the pick with respect to what they later had to pay to move up to take Tarvaris Jackson.

If Cook pans out, however, all probably will be forgotten about this gaffe—one that pales in comparison to previous draft-day gaffes—as Vikings’ fans predominantly will recall only that the Vikings obtained Cook somewhere in the 2006 draft. And if Cook pans out—as is also expected of Greenway and Griffin—the Vikings will be able to look back at the 2006 draft, in which the team had only one pick in the first forty-seven, as at least a satisfactory draft.

Up Next: Jackson and Change.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:08 AM