The Vikings' inconsistency can be traced to the learning curve of their young quarterback, the longtime coach and broadcaster says. That was pretty clear on Sunday.
John Madden, the longtime coach who spent the first seven years of his life in Austin, Minn., covered Sunday night's 32-21 Vikings loss to the Redskins as an analyst for NBC.
If the Vikings have any hope of reaching the playoffs, he said, they have to find a way to throw the football effectively. That was clear Sunday, when Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw two crucial interceptions that put the team in a hole.
"Brad Childress told me that quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is a work in progress, and I'm sure he'll be a work in progress next year," said Madden who led the Raiders over the Vikings in Super Bowl XI. "You don't develop these quarterbacks overnight."
The Redskins won the battle of the quarterbacks on Sunday, Madden said. Even though Todd Collins hasn't had much opportunity to play this year, his experience in a high-pressure game was an advantage. "He's a veteran quarterback who's been around the league -- that gave him an advantage over Jackson," Madden said.
It's also clear, Madden added, that Redskins defensive coach Gregg Williams had a plan to exploit the absence of Antoine Winfield. Both Santana Moss (four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown) and Antwaan Randle El (five catches 66 yards, one touchdown) went after rookie Marcus McCauley.
"The Redskins came in with a plan challenging the Vikings to pass," Madden said, referring to the use of eight defensive players in the box to stop the run. And it worked -- Adrian Peterson was held to 27 yards on nine carries.
He played well on Sunday, despite often being double-teamed.
Montgomery, a 300-pound Cleveland John F. Kennedy High School quarterback, basketball star and lefthanded pitcher, had never been offered a scholarship until former Gophers head coach Glen Mason and co-offensive coordinator Mitch Browning watched him work out on the basketball court in December 2001. They went right to his house after the game and offered him a full football scholarship.
Mason and Browning didn't know where Montgomery would play, but they knew there would be a spot for him. It took Montgomery some time to get adjusted to playing defensive line, but by his junior year he had earned a starting position and played pretty well.
One person who liked what he saw of Montgomery in college was Redskins scout Shemy Schembechler, the son of former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. The Redskins took Montgomery in the fifth round (153rd overall) of the 2006 draft. And Tom Sims, a defensive line coach under Mason who later played for the Chiefs, Colts and Vikings, had also recommended Montgomery to Redskins defensive line coach Greg Blache. Sims had played for Blache in the NFL.
Montgomery, Williams added, doesn't realize how good he can be.
Montgomery's attitude changed after the 2006 season. He spent the entire offseason in the weight room and he credited Blache for pushing him to a point that he became a starter this year.
"I realized that I had a good chance to play for the Redskins if I got myself in better shape and stronger," said Montgomery, who is 6-6 and now weighs 320 pounds.
Montgomery said his experience with the Gophers changed his life.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Mitch Browning and Glen Mason,' Montgomery said. "They made me a man."
One of the most respected football administrators in the NFL, Cerrato's first football job was as a graduate assistant for Lou Holtz the first year Holtz coached the Gophers in 1984. The following year, Cerrato was named recruiting coordinator for the Gophers, and he has moved up the ladder since.
He became the Notre Dame recruiting coordinator in 1985 under Holtz. He was on the staff when the Irish won the national championship in 1988, then spent nine seasons with the 49ers and eight with the Redskins.
Like a lot of us, Cerrato is convinced that had Holtz stayed here rather than move to Notre Dame, he would have built a dynasty at Minnesota. "I'll tell you what, he had the community, had it going -- and the thing that we had going, too, the thing that he did a great job of, is getting the in-state kids to stay in. I mean, we were not going to lose a kid," Cerrato said.