Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb held his weekly press conference on Wednesday and his 39-yard passing total in the loss to San Diego in the season opener was the focus of conversation.
McNabb's passing statistics were even more alarming when you consider the league set a record for passing in Week 1 with 7,842 yards, including 517 from Tom Brady. The league average per team was 245 yards.
McNabb attempted to downplay the significance of his poor start statistically compared to his peers around the league.
"I’m not here competing with any other quarterbacks. I’m here to win ballgames," he said. "If you throw for 300, 400, 500 yards and you still lose a game, you’re still 0-1. We can look at QB ratings and everybody else’s numbers and stats, but it’s about being 1-0 at this particular point and we’re not. So now it’s just correcting it so we can possibly be 1-1."
His response was fairly predictable. But the manner in which the Vikings lost is what makes fans so uneasy. Not too many people predicted the Vikings would win Sunday. Probably fewer thought they would pass for 2 yards and have two first downs in the second half.
"You have to have short-term memory first of all," McNabb said. "You have to be patient and you have to understand it’s all about winning in this game. If I pass for 37 yards or whatever it may have been, or if I pass for 400, we lost the game."
The Vikings have so many new parts in their offense that it's probably unrealistic to think they would hit on all cylinders from the start. McNabb, however, isn't buying the "time to develop" angle.
"That’s something you say when you’re young," he said. "Do I have time to sit back and let it grow? No. I want it to happen now so that’s the way that I prepare. We prepare to win now. We have that type of team here and we expect to put it out on the field."
Our Timberwolves writer Jerry Zgoda has confirmed that the team has hired Rick Adelman as their new head coach.
To that I say: congratulations. Job well done.
For an organization that has too often made poor decisions and blunders, the Wolves got it right this time and should be commended for that. Adelman was the best candidate for the job and the Wolves step forward and made it happen.
Zgoda has reported along the way that Adelman was seeking a five-year, $25 million contract. It wasn't immediately known if that was the deal he got, but Wolves owner Glen Taylor obviously stepped up and made a hefty financial commitment to get the right guy.
Adelman brings instant credibility to an organization that sorely lacks it. They need direction and some life, on and off the court. Adelman is a veteran coach with a proven track record of making teams better. He's the real deal.
I know there was a lot of talk throughout the coaching search about the style of play the Wolves were looking for from the new coach. To me, that was secondary. I always felt they needed a strong coach first and foremost, someone who can teach their youthful roster how to play the game. I believe that's what they're getting in Adelman.
Their style of play and identity will come in time. But everything starts with competency on the bench.
Taylor and David Kahn have received their share of criticism in recent years and deservedly so. But today they desire something different. They should be praised for getting the right guy to try and lead their organization out of its current mess.
Not much gets fans and media whipped into a frenzy quite like a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy. I wouldn't call the situation in Dinkytown a quarterback controversy just yet, but something is brewing.
Yes, freshman Max Shortell looked calm and poised in relief of an injured MarQueis Gray in a season-opening loss at USC. Shortell rallied the Gophers with an impressive touchdown drive that gave them a chance to pull off an upset on the final drive.
That didn't happen because of a last-minute interception by USC, but Shortell's performance coupled with Gray's first-half struggles have resulted in questions about what the Gophers will and should do at that position going forward.
I'd be stunned if Gray doesn't start Saturday against New Mexico State, but I will also be surprised if Shortell doesn't at least get a series or two. That was a big question I had going into the season: How much playing time would Shortell get after having a solid fall camp in which he won the No. 2 job.
Gray struggled with his accuracy in the half-dozen practices and scrimmages I attended. That was somewhat to be expected because he is still learning to play the position at this level and is getting used to a new offense. It was unrealistic to think he would just flip a switch once the season started.
But he looked and played tight Saturday. I assume some of that can be attributed to first-game nerves. But he just didn't look comfortable throwing the ball.
Gray's ability to make things happen with his feet gives this offense a dimension that puts pressure on defenses. And he spent spring practice and fall camp as the starter. I don't think you change direction after one bad half.
But I can see the Gophers using some sort of rotation. Maybe not 50-50, but enough to give Shortell a chance to run the offense in different situations, such as early in the game.
I've never been a fan of teams using multiple quarterbacks. I wouldn't want my quarterback constantly worrying about making mistakes or looking over his shoulder to see if he's coming out.
But I'm intrigued by Shortell's performance and would like to see more of him.
I threw out a question on twitter Thursday night after Christian Ponder avoided a number of sacks by scrambling for positive yards in the first half against Houston in the final preseason game.
Is Ponder that fast or did the Texans have a hard time finishing plays? It probably was a combination of both, but Ponder has displayed good mobility throughout the preseason and looks a lot more comfortable on the move than in the pocket.
Ponder ran for three first downs on the first series Thursday and finished with 61 yards rushing on eight carries. The Vikings obviously prefer that Ponder doesn't have to scramble so much, but he showed he's capable of avoiding trouble by using his feet.
"There was a lot of running," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We tried to give him a hard time [joking] that he ran for 200 yards in the first half. It felt like it. He made everybody else out there look slow. That was good to see.
"I thought his decision-making was good. He got himself down when he needed to and got himself out of bounds when he could. As long as he makes good decisions, we’re glad for any yards that he can pick up for us when the play breaks down."
Musgrave said he didn't feel like Ponder was bailing out of the pocket too quickly and not staying with the play.
"It felt like just the right amount," he said.
"You can’t teach that sixth sense in the pocket," Musgrave added. "Just from the sideline it appeared a couple of plays we had some guys bearing down on him from the backside. You know he didn’t see them. But it looked like he felt them and flushed out."
Forgive me for being a little sentimental, but this is always my favorite time of the year.
College football (my first love) kicks off this week; high school football gets going in full on Thursday; and the NFL is one preseason game and a round of cuts from beginning its season.
My plan is to cover the Vikings game Thursday night, check out a high school game Friday and hunker down and watch college football on Saturday. Can't beat that.
I lived for Friday nights and Saturday afternoons during football season growing up in my small town in Tennessee. It's what everybody did. It just became part of your life.
The best day of the year was always the third Saturday in October. That's the day the Vols played Alabama every year. Everyone always joked that no wedding or important event should ever be scheduled for the third Saturday in October. That was a major no-no.
Anyway, I'm curious to see how the Vikings and Gophers perform under new coaches and new quarterbacks. I walked away from the Vikings preseason game Saturday against Dallas with a better feeling about Donovan McNabb. Granted, it was only one half of a preseason game, but McNabb looks pretty comfortable in Bill Musgrave's offense.
As for the Gophers' MarQueis Gray, there is no preseason to work out the kinks and get comfortable. Everything counts starting Saturday at USC. Gray struggled with his accuracy at times throughout camp, but that's to be expected as he learns a new offense and how to be a starting quarterback. Everyone knows he's a gifted athlete. It will be interesting to watch his progression as a quarterback.
Speaking of the Gophers, my friend Pat Forde of ESPN.com is predicting a Gophers upset over USC this week. The Trojans are 21-point favorites at home. I'll share my thoughts on USC coach Lane Kiffin and the state of the Gophers program in columns this week.
Let the games begin.