VU Author: Vikes Geek Archives

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
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!

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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
April 27, 2006
"The Unveiling" by Mr. Cheer Or Die & "Worse than the Unknown" by Vikes Geek
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The Unveiling

UPDATE: The Commish found photos posted and sent them to me. Here are the new uniforms that I believe would have been taken at Giants Stadium this past winter when the boys were in town to don the new designs.

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So, you can now vote on the new uniforms below. Thumbs up or thumbs down? You decide. The poll is just a little ways further down.

The horn appears to have a very subtle crease in it now, don't you think? But it is still hard to tell. All I did was pull the helmet out of the Wiggins photo and try to focus in a bit more without losing too much resolution.

One of my co-workers is planning to be at the Mall this evening and said he would send me photos yet tonight if he has time. I have to trudge to work otherwise I'd be there myself.

From this morning....

Early this evening, the Vikings will unveil a new look to their uniforms. According to a running Viking Underground poll, here is what you want to see in the new uniforms:

Home Uniforms
69% of you want a purple jersey on white pants
28% of you want a purple jersey on purple pants
3% of you can't find your way home

Road Uniforms
71% of you want a white jersey on purple pants
26% of you want a white jersey on white pants
3% of you can't find your way home

Once you have seen the uniforms, come back here to vote on this simple poll:





And, as promised....with a hint of what will come tonight....is my own unveiling.

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Yep, purple on purple and a bit of the old school. I had made this decision when I saw this old photo from a Gopher's game at old Memorial Stadium.


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Back then, men wore suits and hats to sporting events. "So, why can't we do that now", I asked myself? Thus, the new look. It's not intended to look "gangsta" or "pimpish" but a look that harkens back to the days of yore.

"Worse than the Unknown" by Vikes Geek

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On Wednesday, Vikings’ Player Personnel Director, Fran Foley, offered his thoughts on the upcoming draft and his resume problems. More mystifying than his recent insistence that the resume gaffes were the result of clerical errors—an astonishing claim to which I continue to resist any temptation to respond in this column—were Foley’s nearly incoherent statements regarding draft philosophy and where the Vikings’ stand with respect to Saturday’s draft.

Few listening to Foley’s responses to questions regarding Saturday’s draft could be left with anything but doubt over Foley’s ability to resurrect what has become Minnesota’s annual homage to poor drafting technique. The following exchanges took place:

Question: “Does the uncertainty at the top of the draft order make your decision-making more difficult??

Foley: “I guess I don’t understand your question.?

Question: “Does the fact that teams near the top of the draft have not made clear who they intend to draft make it more difficult for you to focus on the players that you think will be available at seventeen??

Foley: “No.?

Question: “Have you identified the players that you hope to have an opportunity to select from among??

Foley: “It’s too early for that.?

Question: “How will the availability of the players that you target as potential draftees affect whether you accept an offer to move down in the draft.?

Foley: “We’ve identified five players that we really like. If only two of those players look to be available when we select we probably wouldn’t trade down—not more than one spot anyway. Understand??

There was more to the interview, but you get the picture. Maybe it’s time that we looked into what pictures Foley has on Zygi Wilf—or at least time that we collectively prayed that when Foley claims not to have the final word on which players the Vikings select he not only means what he says but also that he doesn’t have any meaningful influence on any final determination.

Up Next: Pre-pick Picks.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:34 AM
April 26, 2006
"Digging In" by Vikes Geek


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Yes, Cheer Or Die is taking the day to journey to his beloved Irish pub to quaff a few ales and celebrate taking another step closer to extinction. And he'll probably end the day with a few spoonfuls of ice-cream. So, raise a toast to COD and wish him well so that he can return Thursday to bring you the unveiling........

....we now join our movie in progress.

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With the number seventeen pick in the 2006 NFL entry draft, the Minnesota Vikings stand at an organizational crossroads—play for today or build for tomorrow. Still needing at least a middle linebacker and probably an outside linebacker to be a legitimate contender for a championship, but also needing a backup quarterback with a high learning curve, the Vikings are in a position to draft for 2006 or to defer returns to 2007 or later.

Drafting a linebacker that is capable of playing in the middle in year one is a dicey proposition in most drafts. This year, however, there appear to be two such players—Ohio State’s AJ Hawk and Iowa’s Chad Greenway. Speculation continues to swirl regarding the Vikings’ prospects of obtaining either Hawk or Greenway. Given the linebacking needs of teams currently drafting ahead of Minnesota, the closest thing to a certainty is that neither player will be in Minnesota purple next year if Minnesota does not move up in the draft.

By standing pat, the Vikings probably would miss out on an opportunity not only to draft Hawk and Greenway, but also to draft Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and B.J. Cutler. And that would mean that the Vikings will have left the off-season without filling their most glaring weakness for four seasons running and without filling a suddenly urgent need at quarterback.

The Argument for Standing Pat

Despite the fact that, by not moving up in the draft, the Vikings might forfeit their opportunity to address their most glaring needs in this year’s draft, the Vikings might be better served retaining their number seventeen selection spot and their subsequent first-day selections. The argument favoring such a decision rests on both math and numbers.

The math portion of the equation is fairly simple. By moving up in the draft the Viking will be assured of signing a player that they covet. They also will be assured of spending large on that player’s signing bonus. To nab Hawk, the Vikings probably would need to move into the top four of the draft. Last year, the number four pick, Cedric Benson, received a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $18 million. Conversely, last year’s number seventeen pick, David Pollack, received a signing bonus of $5.45 million. While both represent sizeable bonuses, Pollack’s clearly is more cap friendly and significantly more manageable. The stark contrast in dollar figures between a high and middle first-round pick might, alone, warrant a Vikings’ decision to stand pat this year.

But the difference between the Vikings trading up and retaining their number seventeen pick must be considered not only in financial terms, but also in terms of what the Vikings would have to cede in exchange for the number four pick in the draft. The price tag for such largesse likely would include not only the Vikings’ number seventeen selection in the draft, but also their two second-round selections. And that’s a price that the Vikings ought to deem prohibitive.

While obtaining an immediate starter at a position of need is a nice haul in the NFL draft, there is reason to believe that the Vikings—should they break from recent tradition—can accomplish what the successful organizations around the NFL routinely accomplish. Namely, the Vikings should be able to identify at least one bona fide NFL player in the second round.

The 2003 draft offers a gauge for this contention. Of the thirty-two players selected in the second round of the 2003 draft, twenty-seven remain in the league and twenty-four are with the team that drafted them. The numbers are even better for third-round selections with thirty of thirty-two players drafted still in the league and twenty-four with the team that drafted them.

What the numbers suggest, albeit from a small sample, is that even average personnel departments enjoy success drafting in the second round. Given the Vikings’ recent track record, this conclusion would appear to argue for the Vikings trading up in the draft. In fact, based on the Vikings’ recent draft history, the team probably would be better served trading away all of its picks for a couple of proven NFL starters.

Rather than dwell on their past draft failures, however, the Vikings need to focus on getting this draft and those from here forward correct. And that starts with maximizing utility. With a deep draft at linebacker, the Vikings should be able to select one or two quality linebackers in the first two rounds of the draft. That won’t include the likes of AJ Hawk, but it might include a player with the potential to be even better than Hawk, Chad Greenway.

Even if Greenway is gone, however, the Vikings probably will have an opportunity to select Ohio State’s Bobby Carpenter in round one and Abdul Hodge in round two if they opt to add quantity to their linebacking corps. And the Vikings certainly will have a host of very good football players from which to select at seventeen should they opt to draft the best available player, with players such as Laurence Maroney, LenDale White, DeAngelo Williams, Nick Mangold likely still to be available.

The mandate for the Vikings’ front office in this year’s draft is not necessarily to move up or to take a particular player. Instead, the mandate is to make judicious decisions for a change. That means getting value whether through a trade or by standing pat. And when one considers the financial commitment that comes with taking a top-five player, having pick seventeen and two second-round picks in a reasonably deep draft might just make more sense for the Vikings in both the short and the long term.

Up Next: Pre-Pick Picks.

Other Stuff: from Mr. Cheer Or Die


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Posted by maasx003 at 1:28 AM
April 24, 2006
"Fran, Fran the Lyin' Man" by Mr. Cheer Or Die and "The Case for Moving Up" by Vikes Geek

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Long lost twins, Jon Lovitz and Fran Foley were reunited this past week when Foley revised the summary of his early work history to amend inaccuracies. "I did nothing to misrepresent what I've done,'' he said. Foley was then whisked away by Lovitz, the original Lyin' Man of Saturday Night Live fame, and taken to a meeting of Pathological Liars Anonymous.

I was able to catch up with Lovitz at Pathological Liars Anonymous headquarters for a few words on Foley.

Hello, my name is Jon Lovitz, and I'm a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous. In fact.. I'm the president of the organization! And being a huge Minnesota Vikings fan, I came to rescue my brother Fran Foley.

Fran didn't always lie. No, when he was a kid, he told the truth. But then one day, he got caught stealing money out of our mother's purse. He lied. He told her it was homework - that our teacher told him to do it. And she got fired! Yeah, that's what happened!

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After that, lying was easy for Fran and me. Fran lied about his age and joined the army. He was thirteen at the time. Yeah.. he went to Vietnam, and he was injured catching a mortar shell in his teeth. And they made him a three-star general! And then he got a job in journalism, writing for the National Enquire.. er, Geographic! Yeah.. He was making twenty thousand a ye.. month! In fact, he won the Pulitzer Prize that year! Yeah, that's the ticket.

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And then our cousin died - Joe Louis - and Fran took it hard. Maybe too hard - he tried to kill himself. Yeahh.. he did kill himself! Sure! He was medically dead for a week and a half! It was an old friend that brought him out of it - Mother Teresa! Yeah, right.. And she told Fran and I about Pathological Liars Anonymous.

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But we were broke, and in need of money you see....so we invented the computer and sold it to our, er, fri...neighbor Bill Gates. Yeah, that's the ticket. And Gates gave us three...thirty mill...billion dollars. Man, we were eating hambur...steak every night!

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Oh, you'd be surprised how many famous people belong to Pathological Liars Anonymous. In fact.. at one of the meetings Fran met his wife - Angelina Jolie! Yes, he's a changed man now, and all because of Pathological Liars Anonymous.

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Why, Fran - he even gave Einstein his start in science after meeting Al at Pathological Liars Anonymous. Yeah. Every day! Yeah.. that's the ticket! Yeah, you betcha!

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So, I say to Vikings fans everywhere! Forgive my brother's little white lies! He will bring you five....ten Super Bowls! In fact, Hulk Hogan is going to be the team's new weight coach. Yeah, that's the ticket. Top that Jack! See you later!

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VU Podcast Fifty-One

The most recent Viking Underground Podcast is now available. It is a very short pre-draft podcast summarizing the results of the first ever blogger mock draft.

"The Case for Moving Up" by Vikes Geek

With one week remaining before the 2006 NFL entry draft, the Minnesota Vikings face a quandary. The dilemma facing the Vikings is whether they should attempt to move up in the draft, stand pat, or do something else. And given that the dilemma is the Vikings’ most ponderous in recent draft history, it is no surprise that the solution is somewhat elusive.

Barring a complete collapse in the Vikings’ draft room, the Vikings should land a bona fide NFL-caliber starter should they elect to retain their seventeenth overall pick. But finding an NFL-caliber starter is not all that the Vikings need in this year’s draft. The team also needs to find an immediate starter at linebacker—and one who can play middle linebacker immediately—and/or a quarterback who will mature quickly in the NFL.

The Vikings purportedly are looking at several players as first-round options—presumably considering different players for different selection slot scenarios. The players most often cited as among the Vikings’ first-round targets, assuming that Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are off the board when the Vikings select, are linebackers A.J. Hawk, Chad Greenway, and Ernie Sims, and quarterbacks Vince Young and Jay Cutler.

Based on the needs of teams ahead of the Vikings, Hawk and Young likely will be gone when the Vikings draft at seventeen, and Cutler and Greenway probably also will be gone. Of the sixteen teams selecting before Minnesota, seven have enough of a need at quarterback now or in the very near future to select a quarterback with their first-round pick and six have enough of an immediate or near-term need at linebacker to select a linebacker in the first round of this year’s draft.

Interestingly, none of the seven teams ahead of Minnesota in the draft with a pressing need for a quarterback have a pressing need at linebacker and none of the six teams ahead of Minnesota in the draft with a pressing need for a linebacker have a pressing need at quarterback. Assuming that the teams ahead of Minnesota who need a quarterback or linebacker prioritize the available talent in the same order as do the Vikings, the players that the Vikings value most highly almost certainly will be gone when the Vikings select at seventeen. That would mean that the Vikings would be left to draft the best available player rather than for need should they stand pat. And that would mean another off-season during which the Vikings failed adequately to address their most long-standing, dire need.

To move up in the draft, however, the Vikings need to find a trading partner. Several such partners appear ready to dance with the Vikings, but to have a legitimate shot at drafting one of their prime targets the Vikings probably will need to move into the top six of the draft. The two most likely trading partners in that range appear to be San Francisco, which holds the number six pick, and New York, which holds the number four pick.

San Francisco needs quality and numbers more than it needs an expensive top-of-the-order pick. With the number six pick in the draft, the 49ers could choose from among several very good players, but none alone will suffice to turn around a team so in need of an infusion of talent. A later first-round pick and one or two later-round picks would be more valuable.

The Jets are closer to the playoffs than the 49ers and could make the case that one very good player will make the difference for them in 2006. But, assuming that Leinart and Williams are not available and that the Jets are not interested in either Young or Cutler, the Jets are in a position to trade down several spots—even to the seventeenth spot—to address what has become a priority for them, defensive end. With players such as Kamerion Wimbley, Manny Lawson, and Mathias Kiwanuka likely to be on the board at seventeen, the Jets could trade with Minnesota, get the player that they most need, and pick up yet another mid-major quarterback in the second or third round to break in over the next few years.

Assuming no other changes in the top three of the draft, swapping first-round picks with the Jets likely would provide the Vikings the opportunity to select from all of their main targets. Reggie Bush, Leinart, and Young once looked to be the top three picks in the draft, but recent interlopers Hawk, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Vernon Davis, and Mario Williams have muddied the waters. The recent shuffle atop the draft board, however, only strengthens the Vikings’ probability of selecting one of their targeted players should they hold the fourth or sixth pick in the draft. The only questions remaining for the Vikings are whether their potential trading partners have the same view of the big board as suggested here and whether trading up is worth the cost. The first question will remain unanswered until draft day. The second, however, will be addressed here well before the draft.

Up Next: The Price of Exchange—The Value of a Pick and Why Standing Pat Might Make More Sense for the Vikings than Landing the Player the Team Most Needs Now.


Posted by maasx003 at 1:10 AM
April 20, 2006
"Decisions to Make" by Vikes Geek

With most of their salary cap for 2006 spent, and with only a handful of modest starters likely to be available after the June salary cap cuts, the Minnesota Vikings are left to consider their options for obtaining through this year’s NFL entry draft the players that they yet need. The options appear to be three-fold. One option is to package picks for a modest gain in selection order. Another is to package many picks for a more substantial gain in selection order. The final option, of course, is to remain pat. And what the Vikings ultimately decide to do in the draft will—or should—come down to what returns the greatest value.

Vikings’ Current Needs

Entering free agency, the Vikings were in the market for a safety, middle linebacker, backup quarterback, running back, offensive guard, and offensive tackle. Despite the loss of wide receiver Nate Burleson, the Vikings believe that they are set at wide receiver with Koren Robinson moving to number one receiver, Travis Taylor to number two, and Marcus Robinson, Troy Williamson, and probably some discount salary cap casualty veteran, draftee, or free agent battling for the number three position.

The Vikings concluded the primary free agency period having addressed most of their off-season needs. The biggest signing, Steve Hutchinson, not only solidified the left side of the offensive line but also allowed the Vikings to spend less money for a second-tier free agent running back, Chester Taylor—a player who figures to out-perform anything which the Vikings have referred to as a running back in the past four seasons.

Strengthening the left side of the offensive line was critical not only because it allowed the Vikings to pursue a more modestly priced free-agent running back, but also because it allows the Vikings to run the West Coast offense—an offense that tends left to right—with some degree of efficiency. And it also means that the Vikings will be a little less concerned about having a 37-year-old starting quarterback in Brad Johnson backed up by a highly questionable backup in Mike McMahon, since Johnson will have his blind side covered by Bryant McKinnie, Hutchinson, and Matt Birk.

With the addition of Tank Williams at safety, the Vikings’ additions leave them in better position than they were in at the end of last season. But the Vikings have one glaring hole on their roster that they have not fully addressed in free agency. And that hole could come back to haunt the team if the team is unable to fill it through the draft.

Remaining Needs

At the outset of free agency, the Vikings signed former San Diego Charger linebacker Ben Leber. Leber arrived in Minnesota with two positives and two negatives. The positives for Leber are that he is young and has shown promise of significant upside. The negatives are that he is coming off of an injury in 2005 and has yet to reach his potential in a league notorious for making final calls on players early in their careers.

Then there is the added difficulty that Leber not only has not played middle linebacker in the NFL, but also that the Vikings reportedly will not ask Leber to play that role this year. All of which leaves the Vikings either better off at outside linebacker with no clear middle linebacker for 2006 or about where they were at the end of 2005—with no middle linebacker and some decent players on the edges. And as the Vikings can attest, that won’t get it done in the NFL.

Middle Linebacker

The Vikings’ coaches currently are suggesting that Dontarrious Thomas and E.J. Henderson are the prime candidates to fill the middle linebacker role in 2006. What remains unclear, however, is what evidence exists that either Henderson or Thomas is capable of playing middle linebacker. Henderson’s failure at middle linebacker in 2004 is outshone only by Thomas’ poor play just about anywhere he has played. And moving Henderson to middle linebacker not only augurs poorly for that position but also means transferring the Vikings’ best outside linebacker from 2005, thus portending the weakening of two positions with one change.

The Vikings’ front office is well aware of the Vikings’ linebacking deficiency—no matter the statements, as sparse as they are, out of Winter Park—as the Vikings are said to be making a pitch to move up in the draft to take Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. As are most NFL teams, the Vikings are convinced that Hawk can be one of the few players to make a seamless transition from college linebacker to standout NFL middle linebacker.

The rub, of course, is that to obtain Hawk, the Vikings must do three things. First, they must make peace with sending a passel of picks to another team to move up in the draft. Second, they must find a team that is high enough in the draft to take Hawk that also is willing to trade down in the draft. Finally, they must convince themselves that Hawk is the right selection so high in the draft. And given the Vikings’ triangle of authority, that might be a daunting consensus to reach.

Up Next: Getting There from Here. Expectations for the Vikings’ various draft-day options.

"Who Should I Draft?" by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I am taking part in an all-blogger draft. It is just a little NFL Mock Draft consisting of fans who blog for their respective teams. I am representing the Vikings blog-o-sphere. The first four picks have been selected as of 11 am CST. What about the Vikes? Should I try and trade up? Trade Down? Stay pat?

Stayed tuned.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:49 AM
April 3, 2006
"Does Brad Want to Be Like Mike?" by Vikes Geek

As the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their 2005 season, the general consensus around the league was that the Vikings had the talent to be a playoff contender—not just in 2006, but in 2005. When the Vikings failed to make the playoffs in 2005, former head coach Mike Tice lost any support that he might have had from the new Vikings’ ownership and found himself looking for a new coaching job.

Enter Brad Childress.

Childress came to Minnesota after serving several seasons as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. By his own admission, Childress had a somewhat circumscribed role as offensive coordinator under Reid, with Reid calling the plays in all but a handful of games. Despite the usual accolades from former players, Childress’ limited role in Philadelphia led some to wonder whether Childress was the right hire for a team arguably on the brink of a playoff run.

In defense of his new hiree, Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf noted that Childress was an upstanding citizen and a good family man. Despite such overwhelming evidence of coaching acumen, some still wondered whether Childress was ready for a head coaching gig with a playoff ready team.

Initially, Childress opted to stand above the fray. “Let them wonder,? seemed to be Childress’ motto. “I’ll prove my mettle with my on-field performance.?

Childress’ lack of public statements, blanketed by front office refusals to offer public statements on the team absent approval from the triangle of authority—which included Childress—suggested that Childress would follow through with a pledge to show us on the field. And while the Vikings’ new head coach received criticism for so closely guarding his words, some local pundits acknowledged that, at a minimum, Childress had offered one improvement over the previous coaching regime by playing things a bit closer to the vest—a move considered more professional in some circles.

Without much more than the occasional comment on things of little relevance to Vikings’ football, Vikings’ fans were left to what to make of Childress. Would he be at least the slightest improvement over Tice? Or was he too much of a rookie—or too much of something else—to provide the Vikings the improvement at coaching that they so desperately needed after last season?

Two weeks ago, Childress began to show his true colors to Vikings’ fans. And if you resided in the camp that said let’s see what the man can do before we question his methods, you suddenly had reason to reconsider your position. In public statements the likes of which the new Vikings’ head coach previously had not offered, Childress made clear where he felt he stood in the pantheon of football coaching history.

“When I met the players, I could see some of them had concerns.? Childress commented to a gathering of reporters. “They were looking at each other like ‘who’s this guy?’ I looked them in the eye and said, ‘You didn’t choose me, I chose you. I chose you.?

Childress’ point was clear. Team was important, but nobody was more important than was he. For a coach so obsessed with “team? that he found it necessary to dump Daunte Culpepper for a bag of beans because Culpepper was “too much about ‘me,’? the comments were rather curious.

A Mere Blip on the Radar

Childress easily could have been forgiven his rather grandiose comments had he gone back to his vow of silence until the season started. For two weeks, it looked like that might happen. It appeared that the coach had found his way back to the higher ground, to a more sensible plane of professionalism.

But then someone asked Childress about Daunte Culpepper for the umpteenth time. And this time, Childress let fly. And, in so doing, the new coach revealed not only a strain of poor public decision-making, but also a touch of amateurism the likes of which we were assured by Vikings’ ownership did not run through the veins of this coach.

Responding to questions about Culpepper’s rehabilitation program, Childress noted that he had sent an assistant to Florida to check out Culpepper’s workout facility. Childress stated that the facility was inferior to what the Vikings had to offer in Minnesota and that he believed that Daunte would have been better served returning to Minnesota to rehabilitate. End the statement there and nobody blinks an eye.

What appeared to irk Childress, however, was not the fact that Culpepper opted to continue to workout in Florida. Nor did Childress even contend that Culpepper—despite the quarterback using what Childress deemed to be inferior rehabilitation facilities—was not making suitable progress in his rehabilitation. No, what Childress seemed obsessed with was the fact that the facility was located in a strip mall, next to a Wal-Mart and, though Childress does not know this for a fact, a Chinese restaurant. Yes—a Chinese restaurant. Need Childress say any more?

Well, only if he wants others to know what he was getting at. Precisely what picture was Childress attempting to draw for Vikings’ fans reading his comments? Was he insinuating something about locations that support Wal-Mart stores and Chinese restaurants? Was there any point to his rant?

We don’t currently know what Childress’ point was in delivering this rant, except that he was frustrated with Culpepper’s apparent refusal to rehabilitate in Minnesota. The concern for Vikings’ fans, however, is not over the disagreement, but over Childress’ ancillary concerns—concerns about the location of the facility in relation to a Wal-Mart and a Chinese restaurant. One has to wonder how rationale a person can be who shows more concern over the location of a rehabilitation center than over the progress that the person rehabilitating is making?

Ultimately, Childress’ recent public statements reflect the worst of both Denny Green and of Mike Tice in the arena of public statements. And if public statements offer insight into a coach’s ability to control his emotions and govern a team, Vikings’ fans might be in for a rude surprise in 2006.

Up Next: More Free Agency. Plus, stadium talk.

VU Podcast Forty-Nine

Join us in listening to Mr. Cheer Or Die, Shane of the Greet Machine, and Larry Spooner (Co-Chair of Minnesota Momentum) in bringing you up to date with the latest stadium developments with the Gophers, Twins, and Vikings. Listen in on the VU Podcast page.

New Wilf Approval Poll

The March edition of the Zygi Wilf Approval rating is closed and the April one is now up. Zygi finished with a 80% approval rating, his lowest of the year thus far. How will he fair in April? I'm sure the draft will play a role in that decision and you may consider holding your vote until then. You can find the approval poll along the left frame.

And a new poll is also up. Which position should the Vikes address first in the upcoming draft? QB? LB? RB? Vote to the left directly below the approval rating poll.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:35 AM
March 17, 2006
"Right Card, Wrong Hand" by Vikes Geek

This week, the Minnesota Vikings officially announced the trade of quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the Dolphins’ second-round pick in the 2006 NFL draft. The deal cements a dubious distinction for a Minnesota franchise either intent on cutting off its nose to spite its face or saving money while claiming otherwise.

For the second straight season, the Vikings have opted to receive less for a veteran player than they could have received over the long haul. And, for the second straight year, the Vikings front office and ownership are playing the naïve enabler.

Vikings’ Options

The Vikings had two meaningful options for dealing with Culpepper’s boorish behavior. The first option—the one that the team elected exclusively to pursue—was to find the highest bidder for Culpepper prior to the due date of Culpepper’s 2006 bonus. This option required the Vikings to reveal their interest in trading Culpepper at a time when Culpepper’s injury status generally was uncertain. That meant most teams were unwilling even to consider trading for Culpepper.

Several teams in desperate need of a quarterback, however, offered some form of value for Culpepper in spite of the lack of certainty regarding Culpepper’s return. Among the teams expressing interest were the Baltimore Ravens, the Oakland Raiders, the New Orleans Saints, and the Miami Dolphins. Ultimately, the Dolphins proved most willing to deal.

As far as returns on injured, disgruntled, quarterbacks are concerned, the Vikings did well to obtain a second-round pick in this year’s draft. That assumes, of course, that trading Culpepper prior to the due date of his 2006 bonus was the best option. Zygi not only contends that it was the best option, he claims it was the Vikings’ only option.

Yesterday, Zygi characterized the Culpepper trade as one done out of necessity rather than desire. “I talked to him several weeks ago," Wilf said. "Since that point in time, it didn't seem like he was willing to find a way to work things out. He didn't want to come up [from his Florida home] to rehabilitate, and he did not want to work with the coaching staff. It seemed like we had two alternatives. We could have paid him the [$6 million bonus he was due March 24] like I intended to, and tried to work with him. But he was making every effort to find a way to leave. We did our best.?

Contending that there was no alternative to trading Culpepper, no matter the spin that Zygi now is offering, is, at best, a canard. If the Vikings had held onto Culpepper into the 2006 season, they would have been on the hook for a $6 million bonus this Spring plus a modest 2006 salary.

One owner would look at those numbers and ask: “Can I get a better return by paying Culpepper now and trading him if and when he is in shape?? Another asks: “Can I move Culpepper and his bonus without taking a PR hit??

Zygi, of course, chose the latter approach. We know this to be the case because of the words that Zygi chose to defend the trade. In his statement, Zygi does not even suggest that there was a comparison of possible returns between trading Culpepper prior to the due date of the bonus and retaining Culpepper into the 2006 season. Instead, Zygi all but states that Culpepper was calling the shots and was not interested in remaining a Viking and claims that Culpepper’s position bound the Vikings to trade Culpepper.

Forgive me for not believing that Wilf is as soft as he suggests with his contractually obligated employees, that he caves whenever confronted by a stubborn employee. Surely Zygi has had occasion to clarify the terms of the working relationship with an employee. And surely the result has not been that Zygi has merely acquiesced to the demands of the employee—especially not when a binding contract has given Zygi the upper hand.

Yet, today, Zygi is beseeching Vikings’ fans to believe that Culpepper’s demands so overwhelmed him that he could no longer bear the strain. And so, according to Zygi, Culpepper was traded.

The owner who dares to compare the return on trading Culpepper today versus retaining Culpepper would note, however, that Culpepper was under contract through 2013. That left Culpepper with two options for leaving the Vikings without the Vikings’ acquiescence—he could re-ingratiate himself and make himself trade worthy, or he could retire. The deck was loaded in the Vikings’ favor just as it had been with Randy Moss in 2005.

Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the Vikings’ ownership blew the call. Moving Culpepper was not the issue, timing was. And only if the ultimate concern was salvaging bonus money for the owner’s pocket was this the right move.

Up Next: Henderson a gem. Plus, still looking. And, stadium issues.

Posted by maasx003 at 5:30 AM
March 14, 2006
Awaiting the Returns: by Vikes Geek

Note: For those of you who only ready the VU a few times a week I should bring you up to speed. I have a free agent signing of my own to announce. We've signed Vikes Geek to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract that will only count 30% towards this year's salary cap. And we're damn glad to have him aboard. I take you now to VG.

Entering the 2006 off-season, the Minnesota Vikings had a clear list of needs—needs that they could address entirely through free agency if they so desired. Less than one week into the NFL’s 2006 free-agency period, the Vikings find themselves in a bit of an uncomfortable position and potentially with too much money left over to fill needs for which the talent pool may no longer exist.

Modus Operandi Quickly Changes

Two weeks ago, the Vikings inked free agent, veteran offensive lineman Jason Whittle to a modest deal. The move suggested that the Vikings would be frugal—though not miserly—in their approach to signing free agents this season. The model appeared to be one of signing veteran talent at good—if not bargain-basement—rates and avoiding overspending on one position or for one player.

Last weekend, the Vikings suggested there intention to employ an alternative free-agent signing model this off-season when they inked transition player Steve Hutchinson of the Seattle Seahawks to a seven-year, $49 million deal that includes $16 million in guaranteed money and counts $13 million against the 2006 salary cap. In addition to the tender made on Hutchinson, the Vikings also signed running back Chester Taylor, outside linebacker Ben Leber, wide receiver Koren Robinson, and placekicker Ryan Longwell.

Not including Hutchinson’s salary cap hit, the Vikings have already spent approximately $19 million of their approximately $33 million in cap space for 2006. Should the Seahawks fail to match the Vikings’ tender to Hutchinson, the Vikings will have spent approximately $32 million of their $33 million in cap space with several holes left to be filled and rookies left to be signed.

Included among the remaining holes—assuming Hutchinson becomes a Viking in 2006—are left offensive tackle, strong safety, middle linebacker, and backup quarterback. And that assumes that the Vikings are set with what they have at wide receiver, outside linebacker, right guard, and defensive end—a sizeable assumption.

For Vikings’ fans who have suffered the past three seasons under the miserly yolk of former owner Red McCombs, it would appear to be a welcome change to have an owner who is willing to bid for the better players. But the offer to Hutchinson is perplexing not only for the difficult position in which it places the Vikings as they attempt to fill equally pressing needs, but also because the move doesn’t quite do what it is billed to have done.

Seattle Calling

As the media outlets began gushing over the large deal that the Vikings had offered Hutchinson—“largest ever for an offensive guard?—public perception followed suit. Immediately, Vikings’ fans began calling local sports’ talk stations gushing over the supposed genius of the offer. “Seattle will have to make a tough decision on this one,? was the common refrain. “Either way, they’re screwed.?

That was the prevailing sentiment. And that appears to remain the prevailing sentiment.

The reality, however, is that it could be the Vikings who are screwed in the end. And, while fans undoubtedly would prefer to believe otherwise, the Vikings’ might be screwed by their own design.

Option Forsaken

At the beginning of the free-agency period, the Vikings were in the market for two offensive linemen. LeCharles Bentley appeared to be a logical target since he has played both guard and center and the Vikings have, in Matt Birk, a player capable of playing both guard and center. Signing Bentley would have made sense for the Vikings not only from the perspective of signing another All-Pro caliber player to fill a hole on the offensive line but also from the perspective of signing a player who would allow the Vikings to move Birk to guard—a position that the Vikings have long-considered Birk’s future home.

In addition to the benefits that signing Bentley would have conferred upon the Vikings from a personnel perspective, the Vikings unquestionably could have signed Bentley to a much more cap-friendly contract than that offered to Hutchinson—one that would have allowed the team to fill other glaring holes in the off-season. With the Vikings electing not to pursue Bentley, the former Saint signed with the Browns for $36 million over six years with $12.5 million guaranteed.

But the Vikings’ pursuit of Hutchinson is odd even without the decision not to pursue Bentley, because it does not ensure the Vikings anything. For, despite the large offer that the Vikings made to Hutchinson, they might end up without Hutchinson and without a viable backup. And that’s something that the Vikings’ personnel people could not help but understand.

Math Problem

Seattle currently has $17 million of cap space, with approximately $6.5 million of Hutchinson’s current offer from Seattle already counting against their 2006 cap. The Vikings are applauding themselves for putting the Seahawks in a box. Clearly, however, that is not the situation.

If Seattle matches Minnesota’s offer, the Seahawks will be on the hook for another $6.5 million in 2006. That would leave Seattle with $10.5 million of cap space to sign the safety and wide receiver that they apparently need and to find a lesser replacement for Hutchinson. While Seattle undoubtedly would have preferred that the Vikings not force them to pony up an additional $6.5 million for Hutchinson in 2006, most of the hit on Hutchinson under the Vikings’ offer sheet is in 2006 and Seattle has the cap room to match the offer and still meet its other needs in 2006—in addition to having an owner more than willing to spend up to the cap ceiling.

That makes the Vikings’ move for Hutchinson somewhat suspect. Combined with the team’s decision not to pursue an outright free agent in Bentley in favor of making a matchable offer for a transition player, the move is even more suspect and somewhat disingenuous. And combined with the reality that if the Vikings do not obtain Hutchinson in 2006 they might be left with no viable free agents left to pursue—and, coincidentally, close enough to the salary floor to make a few contract moves to reach that floor without additional signings—and one has to wonder about the Vikings’ intentions.

Even if the Vikings’ intentions are pure in their offer to Hutchinson, the move still is odd, at best, given the commitment that the Vikings are making to an offensive guard. For, even with the offer front-loaded, the Vikings are asking for trouble by even making such an offer.

Should Hutchinson become a Viking, he is certain to ask for more money in year two of the deal. And, whether or not Hutchinson becomes a Vikings, the mere magnitude of the offer to Hutchinson will have the wheels churning in the minds of other Vikings’ players who undoubtedly will consider themselves underpaid in the current climate—particularly players such as Bryant McKinnie, Brad Johnson, and Matt Birk. And that could have more of an unraveling effect on the Vikings than would have another three years of Mike Tice at the helm.

Up Next: More free agency discussion. Plus, stadium issues.

The VU NCAA Fantasy Tourney: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

We did this last year and had a blast. I confess to know nothing about NCAA basketball but the NCAA tourney is as much America as the Super Bowl. You have to participate!

Therefore, the first fifty entrants are hereby cordially invited to join The VU's Private Group in the Yahoo! Sports Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em.

In order to join the group, just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create your team. After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join the VU's existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

Group ID#: 94801
Password: winter

Remember, the league is limited to the first fifty people who sign-up. Good luck everyone!

Posted by maasx003 at 1:18 AM
March 10, 2006
Vikes Geek Special: Daunte’s Diet

Though Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Daunte Culpper has been tight-lipped about his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury, one suspects that a major component of Culpepper’s rehab routine has been weight reduction. How else can one explain Culpepper’s derriere—once firmly entrenched in the Vikings’ backfield plans—now sliding so readily through the out door?

Patient Heal Not Thyself

In law, there is a long-held wisdom—an individual who represents himself has a fool for a client. As self-serving as this saying is to the guardians of the legal world, it nevertheless contains more than a kernel of truth. And if ever there was need for reinforcement of such wisdom, Daunte Culpepper offers Exhibit A.

Dissatisfied with what he deems to have been a below-market, long-term contract and failed efforts to renegotiate the terms of his current contract, Culpepper, earlier this year, fired his agent and announced that he was assuming more responsibility for his business affairs. That statement could have meant many things, of course. Most logically, it could have meant that Culpepper was going to ensure that his name was not going to be further sullied in the name of seeking a more lucrative contract coming off of a disappointing season ended early by a serious injury.

Unfortunately for Culpepper, that was not his vision of taking more responsibility for his business affairs. Instead, what Culpepper apparently had in mind was that he would assume all responsibility for his business affairs—no attorney, no agent, nobody but Daunte—and would make inane comments to the press when not prompted to do so.

Other athletes have elected to represent themselves, but most have chosen to do so when negotiating a free-agent contract. Culpepper cut ties with his agent—his mouthpiece—when he was under contract. That might have worked out well for Culpepper were he not completely lost as a negotiator.

Notwithstanding Culpepper’s ridiculous contract demands and insistence on being named a starter in 2006 despite his poor 2005 performance and the uncertainty over his rehabilitation, Culpepper appeared prepared to set aside his differences with the Vikings’ front office and to prepare for 2006, picking up a nifty $6 million bonus for his modest efforts.

Apparently unable to separate desire from reality, however, Culpepper is determined not only to jeopardize his $6 million March bonus, but his future in the NFL. On Wednesday, Culpepper sent yet another e-mail to the media stating that he had requested that the Vikings either trade or cut him. The e-mail betrayed both Culpepper’s fragile psyche and his clear inability to manage his business affairs to his own benefit and undoubtedly made potential suitors wonder about Culpepper’s cognitive abilities.

Vikings’ Turn

Where Culpepper once stood as one of the more sympathetic and inspiring athletes in pro sports—exhibiting loyalty, determination, and friendliness despite some difficult circumstances—his recent play and demeanor have erased much of the goodwill that this intangibles once generated. That makes the job of the Vikings’ front office much less complicated. Now, rather than dealing with an individual who could once use fan support as leverage in negotiations, the Vikings are dealing with an individual lacking popular support. And that means making a calculated business decision is all that is relevant in Culpepper’s case.

I’ve made the case in recent columns that the Vikings need to treat Culpepper as an asset even if they decide to part with him. That requires keeping Culpepper as a member of the team until the return for parting with him outweighs the return for keeping him. This likely means that the Vikings will need to pay Culpepper his March bonus. That’s not what Culpepper wants and it probably is not what an assuredly frustrated Vikings’ front office wants at this point. Barring a good trade offer, however, it is the most prudent move for the Vikings.

By giving Culpepper his roster bonus, the Vikings will be signaling that they are intent on keeping Culpepper. Outside of retiring, Culpepper has no option but to stay with the Vikings—at a fairly cap-friendly salary—until the Vikings elect to part with him. And if other teams want Culpepper, they will need to bid for him. As Culpepper returns to health, he will find suitors, even if he runs with a limp. That will make him more valuable to the Vikings than anything they can get in return for Culpepper today. And that makes keeping Culpepper around—even if he does not like that reality—a prudent business move for the Vikings.

Up Next: CBA, stadium issues, and free agency.

PQ the First is Done in Minnesota: by Mr. Cheer Or Die

I think even those that have opposed my sentiment over the last six months that the Poutin’ Quarterback the First was entering Looney Bin status have now changed their minds. Face it, PQ the First is going to make some psychologist very rich indeed as he is one screwed up individual right now. And I take no great pride in saying that.

The most recent thing that PQ the First did was send out an e-mail to the world on Wednesday. PQ the First expressly stated in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be traded because he wasn’t being loved. Yeah, he wants to be loved but continue to work out in Florida while the new coach is busily installing a new system. Yeah, he wants to be loved and then demands a restructuring of his contract, after firing his agent, when no one is even certain how he will respond after major knee surgery. Want love PQ? You had your chances and you blew them all just like you blew off your team during and after the season.

As Zygi and Brad Childress are saying, “Talk to the hand, Daunte.?

The Vikes responded to this latest bull shit by essentially saying if the team can't trade PQ the First before a $6 million roster bonus comes due later this month, the team plans are to ask him to defer the bonus so that efforts to strike a deal can continue. At least that was what I was hearing until jumped into the BMW to drive home after a 15-hour day at the office.

I then heard a report on the radio that quoted Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com as saying the Minnesota Vikings have had it with PQ the First and are ardently seeking trade partners. Glazer was quoted as saying:

"Culpepper has infuriated people inside the Vikings organization by making his gripes public and refusing to mesh with new coach Brad Childress."

And not only that, there were also reports that PQ the First would be traded within the next 24 to 48 hours. See that white smoke in the left frame under PQ the First Watch category? That could become black very, very soon. Truth be told, I am hearing that the Vikings have established at least one trade AND that the team has multiple options.

So here it is. What I have predicted ages ago is about to happen. PQ the First will be traded and a transaction will be occur within the next 24 hours, and the transaction will be carried out after 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, because trades can't be made until the next league year starts.

The leading suitors are said to be the Dolphins and the Raiders. The Dolphins makes sense as they’ve been in the PQ the First trade rumor boat for about a month now and Miami is looking for a QB. The Raiders make sense because Randy Moss has been talking to PQ the First as I’ve reported on before. And Al Davis is crazy enough to do it.

But remember the Dolphins rumor started when Scott Linehan was still with the team. PQ the First got along, and admired, Linehan quite a bit. Linehan is now the head coach of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. So don’t be one bit surprised if the trade takes place with the Rams and that current starter Marc Bulger will be part of the package that gets sent to the Vikings.

Poll of the Day

Who should have been traded last year knowing what we know now? Moss or Culpepper? Vote below.




Posted by maasx003 at 1:14 AM
March 9, 2006
Vikes Geek Special: Vikings Tipping Free-Agency Hand?

With free agency not yet underway due to the off-again, on-again labor discussions, the Minnesota Vikings nevertheless have suggested the route that they will pursue in free agency. And while that route might not receive the headlines, it could result in a more rationally attained personnel base that will allow the Vikings to compete for a far longer stretch than would a conventional free-agency plundering.

Alexander Model Eschewed

With $24-35 million available under the salary cap this season, the Vikings hold a sizeable advantage over most of their NFL brethren in their ability to finance a free-agent spending spree this off-season. If Vikings’ fans have anything for which they should be thankful to Red McCombs, it is that McCombs’ parsimony has left the Vikings with two options for success that seemed unlikely two years ago.

One option is to supplement a team on the verge of a playoff run with star power that might propel the team to a championship. That option would have the Vikings sign three or four Pro Bowl type players to fill their most pressing needs. With bona fide players manning the running back, middle linebacker, offensive guard, and wide receiver positions, the Vikings would have few glaring weaknesses and would have a legitimate shot at contending with any team in the most mediocre of NFL eras.

Signing known talents to fill holes is a long-observed model for propelling also-rans to contender status in each of the major sports in the United States. The downside to this approach in the NFL, however, is that it has the potential to cripple a team financially for many years after any benefit of the bargain has been obtained. Signing a player to a contract the likes of which Shaun Alexander commanded from the Seahawks would have solidified the backfield position for the Vikings for the near future but the move would have meant committing at least $8 million per year to one player for the next eight seasons.

Without knowing whether the Vikings had any interest in signing Alexander, it is difficult to assess the team’s position on filling the running back need with a high profile, high cost player. But the Vikings at least have signaled that they are not interested in spreading their salary cap so thin for the next several years.

With the signing of former Giants’ center/guard Jason Whittle to a modest one-year, $695,000 deal that includes a paltry $25,000 signing bonus, the Vikings have begun what many believed would be a bull-rush off-season with a move that barely made the headlines. The move signals that the Vikings might be more interested in building with capable veterans at most of their positions of need than in spending to the cap ceiling in 2006. This latter approach to supplementing the team could work well for the Vikings if they are able to sign the more modestly priced veterans that big cap teams generally eschew.

Even before the start of free agency, teams have begun making salary cap purges that could benefit the Vikings in 2006 and beyond—at a modest price. Among the early cap casualties that could play starting roles for the 2006 Vikings are former Broncos Jeb Putzier and Mike Anderson. Putzier was underwhelming in 2005, but has the size and ability to perform at a much higher level. With Jim Kleinsasser’s salary making him a cap target, the younger Putzier might fill the Vikings’ needs as a number-two tight end at a fraction of the cost of retaining the oft-injured, underproducing Kleinsasser.

Anderson also offers some appeal. Tatum Bell’s emergence as a back in 2005 made Anderson expendable to the Broncos and, with salary cap woes, the team was forced to move the well-respected veteran back. Anderson’s hard running and capable hands would play well in Minnesota’s new West Coast scheme and with an asking price likely to be around $1 million per year—including signing bonus—he offers a palatable alternative to the much higher priced Edgerrin James and the ridiculously overvalued Jamaal Lewis.

Other players whom already have received their pink slips in 2006 and should be available at a relative bargain of a price include former Seattle Seahawk linebacker Jamie Sharper, former Bronco defensive end Trevor Pryce, former Buffalo Bill safety Lawyer Milloy, and, possibly, Milloy’s former teammate, wide receiver Eric Moulds. Each of these early free agents is available at far less than last year’s market price and would fill a need of the Vikings in 2006.

The Vikings’ signing of Whittle to a modest contract by no means ensures that the Vikings will forgo making a splash in free agency this year. In fact, quite the contrary appears to be the case. But rather than making a splash in the short-term, the Vikings finally appear headed down the path of the more sophisticated pursuit of free agents. That path requires balancing star power with capable veterans. And with plenty of cash and a bevy of free agents likely to be on the market this year, the Vikings not only are in the driver’s seat, they appear on the proper course. The only issue left unresolved is whether they will veer from that course.

Up Next: Changing the System for the Better—What Ought to be done with the CBA.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:40 AM