So close. So much anguish. The loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship ranks with the harshest losses in Minnesota history. There was the "Hail Mary' loss to the Cowboys in 1975 at the Met. Then there was the 1998-99 Championship OT loss to the Falcons at home in the Dome, after the 15-1 season, due to a missed kick. The Super Bowl losses. They all hurt.
Worse yet, the New Orleans Saints went on to win the Super Bowl, validating just how good the 2009 Vikings really were. The 34-3 handling of the Cowboys in the previous playoff game was one of the most lopsided games in Minnesota playoff history. The way the Vikings dismantled the cocky Cowboys was breathtaking. While the Green Bay Packers were allowing over fifty points in their loss the week before, the Vikings surrendered three in an easy win.
So the question(s) is asked for this season: Will the Vikings be able to repeat their 12-4 season? Will this be the year that Minnesota finally wins a Super Bowl? In order to answer those questions we first have to ask ourselves ... do we feel lucky? Or at least be able to answer these questions....
1. Does Brett Favre return or will Tarvaris Jackson take leadership?
The most thought of question. If Favre does return things look very good. His 107.2 passer rating in 2009 was proof that he is far from over the hill. His ankle injury at the hands of a very violent Saints defense is the deciding factor according to reports. But Favre is a question mark until he actually puts on the uniform. Once he does, the answers will come. This offense will explode with Favre back at the helm.
If things are left to T-Jack, all is not lost. He actually had a higher passer rating than Favre, at 113.4. However, it was based on only 21 pass attempts. We Viking faithful are hopeful that Jackson learned from the best last year, and has grown into the skills and mind set needed to succeed in the NFL. If Jackson performs like he did vs. the Cardinals in 2008, then no problem. If he is the QB who faced the Eagles in the playoffs, then the answer will be no.
2. Can Adrian Peterson regain his 'old form' and fumble less?
Peterson averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2007. He averaged 4.8 ypc in 2008. And last year, he fell to 4.4 per carry. In those three years he has carried the ball 915 times. That is a lot. Each year he has regressed in average. Is this a slowing down of a running back, or the reality that defenses have focused more and more on this prolific back? Is it the offensive line that has slowed down? I cannot say which is the truest answer, but he is still the most impressive back in football, no apology to Chris Johnson needed.
As for the fumbles, things have been bad for two seasons. In his rookie season, AD (Peterson's acronym - for All Day) had 4 fumbles in 257 touches, or about every 64 times he touched the ball. In 2008, AD had 9 fumbles in 384 touches, or a fumble every 43 tries. Last year, AD had 7 fumbles in the 357 times he saw the ball, or one fumble every 51 attempts. An optimist would say "Hey, he is getting better!". But the reality is he is a very violent-type runner. The previous best back in Viking history, Chuck Foreman, also struggled with fumbles. The answer to this question lies within AD.
3. Will E.J.Henderson return to form or Jasper Brinkley step up?
When Henderson went down in the 12th game last year, Vikings faithful cringed. Not only because of the horrific fracture of the femur that E.J. suffered, but also because his replacement was Jasper Brinkley, a relative unknown. Henderson was averaging about seven tackles a game, on pace to lead the team and be considered for All-Pro honors. What would become of the defense?
Jasper Brinkley had 23 tackles in his four starts and change, and was probably more of a liability than an asset. But he was maybe better than expected. Now reports are that he had a terrific off-season, and is having an even better camp in Mankato. If Henderson returns to form all is well. But if not, many feel Brinkley is ready to come forward.
4. What will become of the Vikings secondary?
Cedric Griffin's ACL tear during the NFC Championship was as big a factor in the loss as any of the turnovers. Griffin had developed into the best defensive back, given Antoine Winfield's injury and slow recovery. Now Griffin appears to be unable to play until at least October. What will we do?
Luckily, the Vikings did address this issue in both off-season moves and the draft. 34th overall pick, Chris Cook of Virginia, is a 6'2, 212 lb, specimen that will help the future at cornerback. This is good considering Winfield is in his 12th year. Add to that the signing of Lito Sheppard, an Eagles runaway, who joins former coach Brad Childress. Benny Sapp and Asher Allen also return. At safety, Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams come back with another year of experience. Minnesota finished 19th in yards allowed versus the pass. 23rd in tds allowed. This area must be improved.
5. Is the offensive line getting better or worse?
In the loss to the Saints, it was apparent that the O-line could not handle the rush of the Saints. Although Bryant McKinnie was awarded All-Pro honors, most knowledgeable fans did not see it that way. There were frequent mistakes by McKinnie, Sullivan, Herrera, and Loadholt. Even Steve Hutchinson struggled once in a while. In that NFC Championship the line was overmatched. On top of all that, the Vikings lost their most experienced back-up, Artis Hicks, to free agency.
Minnesota did draft an offensive lineman (too late for my taste) in Chris DeGeare, a 6'4, 325 lb., from Wake Forest with the 161st pick. The starting five returns as well. In Mankato, reports are that 2nd year OT Patrick Brown from Central Florida, and 3rd year player Chris Clark from Southern Mississippi are looking good. But neither would address the biggest concern: Herrera. This line did lead the offense to an overall 5th ranking in yardage and 2nd in scoring, albeit most due to the uncanny play of Favre and the running of Peterson. To go farther in the playoffs this unit will have to get better.
The 2010 season awaits. The questions are there. We await answers. The first game, a Thursday Night affair to kickoff the season begins in New Orleans, the source of many of these unanswered thoughts.
We can sure get spoiled fast. For example, my family just purchased our first HD TV, with the HP 1080, and whatever else makes it sound groovy. We had held out, what with the economy and costs of growing children. But shopping in a local Target we found a deal to good to pass up, and even though it was last year's model, made the move to HD. Love it!
Minnesotans just experienced the best season/career by a starting quarterback in their forty-nine years. Brett Favre's 107.2 passer rating in the 2009 season easily bests the second highest Vikings career rating, that of Randall Cunningham's 94.2 (excluding Todd Bouman's 98.6 in his three 2001 starts). For comparison, Fran Tarkenton was a lifetime 80.1, Tommy Kramer 72.9, Warren Moon 82.8, Brad Johnson 82.5, and Daunte Culpepper 91.5. There is no doubt that Favre was the missing piece for a Super Bowl-type team. We now have one.
Favre's recent disclosure of the needed surgery to play in 2010 has cast some doubt on his return. Those that witnessed the brutalization of Favre at the hand of the dirty Saints pass-rushers have to wonder why he would want more of the same? Sure, he is a tough old hombre, but I wouldn't wish that kind of beating on Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler (OK, maybe Cutler). With his long list of NFL successes, Favre could retire an NFL Hall-of-Famer and still be able to walk to the podium. Why return?
Meanwhile, the NFL draft came and went, and Minnesota passed on a couple of quarterback prospects that has media and friends concerned about Minnesota's future. Notre Dame grad Jimmy Clausen, the first-round talent who was absent in the "Green Room", was available the first two days of the draft, yet we avoided him. Later, Tony Pike of Cincinnati, sat atop the 'best available' list of draft choices, and once again the Vikings went elsewhere. Critics cried "foul", citing Favre's ego as the reason Minnesota avoided addressing the future at quarterback. Never mind that both of these QBs dropped in value faster than the riders of Valley Fair's Power Tower, the Vikings had blown it due to the coddling of their superstar. Yea, right.
What they all fail to realize is that as good as Favre was, the reason for the Vikings' success is many, not singular. The addition of Percy Harvin; the improvement of Sidney Rice; the drafting of Phil Loadholt; Adrian Peterson; the emergence of Ray Edwards; the Williams' wall. Too many factors to decide that Favre was the only reason. The fact that Minnesota won the division in 2008 with Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte at the helm should at least suggest the overall talent of the Vikings is presently superior to the Packers, Bears, and obviously the Lions.
I am not afraid of life without Favre. True, like my HD-TV, it is certainly better. I would much prefer it. But these forty plus years have taught me to be patient (a skill all true Vikings' fans have had to own). For every Tarkenton, there will be a Tommy Kramer. For every Cunningham, a Jeff George. For every Culpepper ... you get the picture. The best playoff record of any Vikings' QB is only 6-5 (Tarkenton). Brett Favre's is presently 1-1, which is no better than Joe Kapp (2-2).
I love my new HD, it is better than before. But it is only TV after all, it cannot do the dishes. LAF will be tough, we will have to find a replacement or probably return to T-Jack. Or find someone at least as good as Todd Bouman. I hear the 2011 draft might have the answer.
What are they smoking down there near Lake Michigan? Trading away picks for quarterbacks who like to throw interceptions; drafting more quarterbacks; limiting growth to five overall picks. Times are tough in Illinois.
By the time they draft their first selection, most fans had tuned out of the NFL Draft. Pick 75 was a free safety, Major Wright, from Florida. The Bears best pick may have been at 141, where they added Joshua Moore, a cornerback from Kansas State. Then, with pick 181, they added another QB despite glaring needs all over the place. Dan LeFevour was one of the many QBs to drop off the charts, expected to go about three rounds earlier. The Central Michigan thrower is respected, but c'mon, he is a MAC quarterback.
Grade: Incomplete (I cannot fail students who try .. I think they tried).
I almost thought they would go a whole draft without taking a wide receiver, but with pick 255 they chose Tim Toone from Weber State. Watch him be better than all their first round picks of years' past.
The Lions had six picks, having traded up to get Jahvid Best with the 30th pick (with the Vikings). Of course, Ndamukong Suh, 2nd overall, is the focus of the draft, and he should be very good. But Best is small, and has a history of concussions already. The much needed corner was drafted at 66th, a slow one from Iowa, Amari Spievey. OT Jason Fox taken at 128th, fits a need. Detroit had two of the three first round picks for the North. They should improve the most, but, that is a misnomer.
Grade: B. Feels like an A compared to last 10-15 years with Matt Millen and friends.
Green Bay Packers.
After witnessing the Vikes batter Aaron Rodgers senseless for a couple of seasons, and Chad Clifton hobbling around like a one-legged sloth, we knew linemen would be chosen. But how many?
The Packers are close to the Vikings, and definitely a choice for wild-card early predictions, if not ready to usurp Minnesota. Green Bay had three selections at 23rd, 56th, and 71st. They added Bryan Bulaga, an OT from Iowa; Mike Neal, a DT from Purdue; and Morgan Bennett, a free safety from Georgia Tech. Of the three, Neal was the biggest stretch,as many 'experts' felt there were better DTs on the board. And back-to-back Big Ten athletes? Don't they watch the Bowl games? As expected, the Pack added a 2nd OL with the 169th pick in Marshall Newhouse, a OT or OG, from TCU. He could be a nice find. Late, Green Bay found James Starks, a 6'2, 220 RB from Buffalo, with the 193rd pick. He may make the squad as GB running backs are not that good.
Grade: B-. I expected more from a smart organization, I hold them to a higher standard than Detroit or Chicago, whom both are horrid at this draft thing.
It was the draft to protect Brett Favre's return. Minnesota got him some protection in Toby Gerhart and Chris DeGeare. And we addressed some of the defensive concerns, but not all. Lifers were wondering why no Jimmy Clausen or late Tony Pike selections?
I love the efforts Favre gave us last year, and think he will return. With Chester Taylor gone, Minnesota had to find a replacement, and Gerhart from Stanford comes with high hopes. Experts wondered if Ben Tate of Auburn would not have been a wiser choice, but Gerhart could be a great extra blocker in passing situations, at least as good as AP; hopefully as good as Taylor. CB Chris Cook of Virgina, 34th pick, helps a sore spot as the team wonders what Cedric Griffin can bring after the late injury of 2009-10. Lito Sheppard, a Childress reunion player, will help. Experts love the choice of Everson Griffen, DE of USC, with the 100th pick. A potential steal as he dropped from early round possibilities. Pick 167 was local phenomenon Nate Triplett who played as Delano. He is a beast who could rival Farwell on special teams. Pick 199 is Joe Webb, a running quarterback from Alabama-Birmingham, who may move to WR or that funky Wild-Cat spot.
Grade: B+. I wanted Vikes to address OG earlier, and QB later. But there is a reason I am not in the draft room. Assuming my home team knows more than I do, I give them the best grade. Because I can.
Christmas Eve always is met with great anticipation, children struggle with going to bed knowing that the next day would bring presents, joy, and fulfillment of the year long expectation started with the end of the previous holiday. In Dr. Suess' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Whos of Whoville awoke to find their trees, decorations, presents, and food gone .. stolen by the Grinch.
Last night's decision to pass on the 30th selection was an Xmas that wasn't. Vikings' fans in the know, and even those not, may have uttered a curse or two following the alteration of their celebration. Under the tree of 2010 could have been safety Taylor Mays, a USC grad, who is described as having all the tools of a Joey Browner. Many others felt Chris Cook, from Virginia, would fill the need at cornerback (even with the acquisition of Lito Sheppard). Further, fans lamented that passing of later chosen Patrick Robinson, a CB from Florida State.
Certainly there are plenty of presents sill remaining besides Mays and Cook. Among these possibilities at the 34th selections includes Jimmy Clausen, the Notre Dame quarterback defined as 'most ready' for the NFL. Of course, seeing that Clausen chose not to attend the Green Room, it is apparent that his draft status was never considered first round by the NFL teams that do the selecting. Others include: RB Toby Gerhart of Stanford,"the Great White Hope"; DT Linval Joseph of East Carolina; DT Terrence Cody of Alabama; OT Charles Brown; DE Everson Griffen of USC; and highly rated LB Sergio Kindle of Texas.
We are quick to forgive Vikings' management, much like the Whos would forgive the Grinch, as we have been rewarded by their draft diligence the last few years. Not since Troy Williamson, Demetrius Underwood, and others has there been a blatant poor selection. Most of us have been happy with Phil Loadholt, Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, and other selections of the present regime. So we wait...
At 5 PM today we will learn if that wait was worth it. We will sing our songs, hold hands, and celebrate as the Vikings select their first pick. We fans are split on needs, from defensive back to defensive tackle, quarterback to running back, or my personal preference, a guard, And the Grinch will return, hopefully bearing the gift of an earlier 4th round selection and the awaited 34th selection to take place minutes after the day begins.
The question is .. does anyone know the words to the Who's song? No, not Roger Daltry and his raspy version of his 70s hits, but rather the song that tells us Christmas does not come in a box (30th pick).
Fifty years of drafts. It began in 1961 with the selection of running back Tommy Mason from Tulane. That first year the Vikings also selected quarterback Fran Tarkenton of Georgia in the third round. As the new franchise struggled in the early years, their draft picks were causal to the futility. Only 1964 first round pick DE Carl Eller from Minnesota was considered significant. Then in 1967 the Vikings landed a slew of talent with the three first round selections of RB Clinton Jones, WR Gene Washington, and DT Alan Page. Then came the real change to whom the Vikings would become. In 1968 the Vikings selected OT Ron Yary from USC; and in 1969 chose OG Ed White of California with their first pick in the second round. The Vikings then had the foundation for their four Super Bowl visits.
In the first forty-nine years the Vikings have used their first first-round pick a total of three times to select an offensive lineman. Those three players were Yary, Randall McDaniel (1988), and Bryant McKinnie (2002). Considering that OL make up over 20% of all every down starters on a football team, Minnesota's percentage of 6.1% is paltry. In the year 2010, at this the 50th NFL draft for Minnesota, most are hoping for the gift of an offensive lineman. Of course, with the success of 2009, the Vikings have been relegated to the 30th selection, followed by the 62nd, 93rd, 128th, and two 5th round picks at 161st and 167th. There are more picks, but rare is a 6th or 7th rounder of value.
A look at the last ten years of drafting suggests good picks often, but also great picks lost. A quick review, with Vikings picks bold and missed picks to follow....
2009 WR Percy Harvin 22nd, OT Michael Oher 23rd, DB Vontae Davis 25th.
2008 S Tyrell Johnson 43rd, RB Matt Forte 44th,WR DeSean Jackson 49th.
2007 RB Adrian Peterson 7th, DB Darrell Revis 14th, WR Sidney Rice 44th.
2006 LB Chad Greenway 17th, DB Antonio Cromartie 19th.
2005 WR Troy Williamson 7th, DB Antrel Rolle 8th, DE DeMarcus Ware 11th, Shawne Merriman 12th, OT Jammal Brown 13th, DE Erasmus James 18th, OT Alex Barron 19th, DE Marcus Spears 20th, DB Fabian Washington 23rd, QB Aaron Rodgers 25th, WR Roddy White 27th.
2004 DE Keneche Udeze 20th, RB Steven Jackson 24th, DB Ahmad Carroll 25th.
2003 (the year of the blunder) DT Kevin Williams 9th, QB Byron Leftwich 7th, OT Jordan Gross 8th, LB Terrell Suggs 10th, DB Marcus Trufant 11th, DB Troy Polamalu 16th, RB Willis McGahee 23rd, TE Dallas Clark 24th, RB Larry Johnson 27th.
2002 OT Bryant McKinnie 7th, DB Roy Williams 8th, TE Jeremy Shockey 14th, DT Albert Haynesworth 15th.
2001 RB Michael Bennett 27th, WR Reggie Wayne 30th, QB Drew Brees 32nd, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch 34th.
2000 DT Chris Hovan 24th, LB Keith Bulluck 30th, LB Rob Morris 28th, WR Dennis Northcutt 32nd, DE John Engleberger 35th, OT Chad Clifton 44th, DT Fred Robbins 55th, DE Michael Boireau 56th, DB Deon Grant 57th.LB Marcus Washington 59th, OL Brad Meester 60th.
In my humble opinion, the 2010 Draft needs to address offensive line and defensive back. Throughout our history we have neglected these two position despite the fact that they are nine of the twenty-two regular positions.
Further, the Vikings have a track record that includes some great picks. I hope that we can include 2010 with years like 1961, 1967, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, and maybe 2009. Included in those years is Mason, Tarkenton, Washington, Page, Randy Moss, Matt Birk, Williams, EJ Henderson, Nate Burleson, Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Phil Loadholt.
That would be a better present than years like: 2005 Troy Williamson, 2004 Keneche Udeze, 1995 Derrick Alexander, 1994 DeWayne Washington, 1989-1992 when we had no 1st rounders, and many more. The list of missed All-Pros and needed position players is too extensive to review in full.
The draft is only a few days away. The excitement has begun to grow. It has grown enough to bring me away from my passion for the Twins in this early Spring, and re-focused my sport love for football. 2009 was very close indeed. Dominating the Saints and Cowboys showed we are not far away form the prize. A solid draft in 2010 could be the difference.
|Vikings (153)||AFC (10)|
|Bears (54)||Ex-Vikings (7)|
|Football on TV (11)||Lions (62)|
|NFC (60)||NFL draft (26)|
|NFL post-season (28)||Packers (81)|
|Super Bowl (72)||Vikings coaches (12)|
|Vikings defense (13)||Vikings fans (45)|
|Vikings injury report (3)||Vikings management (6)|
|Vikings off the field (3)||Vikings offense (16)|
|Vikings quarterbacks (13)||Vikings road games (5)|
|Vikings rookies (7)||Vikings roster moves (17)|
|Vikings special teams (2)||Vikings training camp (2)|
|Off the field (6)||On the road (13)|
|Quarterbacks (27)||Rookies (6)|
|Vikings draft (19)||Twins fans (1)|
|Vikings players (15)||Adrian Peterson (92)|
|Anthony Herrera (4)||Antoine Winfield (25)|
|Ben Leber (2)||Bernard Berrian (9)|
|Bobby Wade (1)||Brad Childress (14)|
|Brett Favre (67)||Brian Robison (12)|
|Bryant McKinnie (9)||Cedric Griffin (14)|
|Chad Greenway (24)||Chester Taylor (4)|
|Chris Kluwe (1)||E.J. Henderson (5)|
|Heath Farwell (1)||Jared Allen (32)|
|John Sullivan (9)||Kevin Williams (20)|
|Leslie Frazier (27)||Madieu Williams (3)|
|Pat Williams (4)||Percy Harvin (43)|
|Phil Loadholt (20)||Ray Edwards (14)|
|Ryan Longwell (1)||Sage Rosenfels (3)|
|Sidney Rice (18)||Steve Hutchinson (7)|
|Tarvaris Jackson (15)||Tyrell Johnson (3)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe (9)||Brad Childress (14)|
|Leslie Frazier (27)|