VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell and Patrick Donnelly of SportsData, and Ted Carlson of TST Media. They are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

Posts about Vikings

VikesCentric: The "other" All-Metrodome team

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: December 27, 2013 - 3:37 AM

(Setting: Your living room, Sunday morning. You’ve turned on the big-screen plasma and three men in yellow blazers with ABC patches appear. Their images flicker for a moment, then come to life on the screen. In the background, Vikings and Lions players warm up on the field.)

Holographic Image of Howard Cosell: THE DATE! Sunday, December the 29th, Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen. THE PLACE! Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the erstwhile Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, renamed in recent years for a local shopping destination in the most blatant and embarrassing cash grab since the great Muhammad Ali came out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes in Miami in 1980. THE EVENT! The final gridiron contest in the 32-year history of the venerable stadium that rose like a Colossus over the skyline of this great Midwestern metropolis in 1982.

This is the holographic image of Howard Cosell. I’m joined as always by my partners in pigskin pundrity, the holographic image of “Dandy” Don Meredith …

Holographic Image of Don Meredith: Howdy, y’all!

Cosell: … and the holographic image of the Giffer himself, Frank Gifford.

Holographic Image of Frank Gifford: Hey, I’m still alive!

Cosell: You’ll have to take that up with your agent, Giff.

Gifford: I’m just saying, I could have flown in for the game. Anything to get away from that loon of a woman I married. Did you know she drinks wine while she aerobicizes in the rec room? I’m starting to think she might have a problem …

Cosell: Nevertheless, Giffer, we come here not to discuss your marital histrionics because we only have a three-hour broadcast. Nay, we are here to memorialize the monumental moments in the history of this esteemed edifice that has been home to the Minnesota Vikings for lo these past 32 years. This National Football League franchise has already honored their greatest gladiators in the Metrodome era. Today, we gather to shine the spotlight on another group of august warriors who deserve a tip of our collective caps before they’re shuffled off to the dustbin of history. Men who made their mark in spectacular or ignominious fashion on these hallowed grounds but for a variety of reasons did not make the cut for the Vikings’ All-Metrodome team. Men who merit recognition for their own unique contributions to the history of this Teflon terrarium.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now present … The All-Metrodome Team of the Damned!

Gifford: We’ll start with Tony Dorsett. Gentlemen, we were here the night that he set an NFL record that will never be broken, when he ran 99 yards …

Meredith: … and a half!

Gifford: … yes, Don, 99 and a half yards for a touchdown against the Vikings. If you look closely you might still see Willie Teal trying to slap him out of bounds on the right sideline like an old woman hitting a pickpocket with her purse.

Cosell: Tony Dorsett – or Anthony, as I called him, because we were very close – once told me he asked to be listed as Tony in the program so his initials would be “TD.” He figured “AD” wouldn’t be a fitting nickname for a running back, reasoning with which I concurred although I understand Adrian Peterson would beg to differ.

Gifford: The Vikings’ quarterback that day was Tommy Kramer. There’s Two-Minute Tommy waving to the fans, who no doubt remember the numerous late-game drives he engineered, which of course is how he got his nickname.

Meredith: I called him “494 Tommy” because he loved the nightlife the way only a good-old boy from Texas could!

Cosell: That was something with which you and Kramer were both quite familiar, my good man. As I recall, he broke your Texas high school record for single-season quarterback rating and your NFL record for single-season blood-alcohol level.

Meredith: Well, you’re a fine one to talk, you whiskey-soaked, rug-wearing, big-mouthed son of a …

Gifford: Hey guys, let’s try to keep it civil here. Besides, you’re holograms so you wouldn’t hit any harder than Willie Teal. Moving on, there’s the old trapper himself, Bud Grant, who was the Vikings’ head coach for three of their first four seasons in the Metrodome.

Cosell: Harry Peter Grant. The man never cared for me. I couldn’t understand the animosity. I merely mentioned his string of four Super Bowl losses multiple times in every game we broadcast, regardless of whether the Vikings were playing at the time. It had the benefit of being true. I stand by my decision.

Gifford: Walking behind Grant is Les Steckel, his hand-picked successor who led the Vikings to a 3-13 record in 1984. Steckel’s team lost its last six games by an average of 27 points.

Meredith: I don’t wanna say his boys quit on him, but I’ve seen a treed coon put up a better fight against a yella hound dog on full moon Friday.

Gifford: I don’t even know what that means.

Cosell: Grant restored order to the franchise by gracing them with his immense talent for one more futile attempt at reaching the Super Bowl. Then he was replaced by that man – RIGHT THERE! Jerome Monahan Burns, affectionately known as “Burnsie” to the purple-clad faithful. We’d best turn off our closed-captioning services and advise lip readers to look away from their consoles as Burns greets the team ball boys and cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Gifford: There’s Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back out of Georgia who spent three years with the Vikings.

Cosell: Herschel Walker single-handedly turned around the fates of a once-proud franchise, resurrecting them from a decade of mediocrity and thrice sending them to the pinnacle of professional football. Unfortunately for the Vikings, that franchise was the Dallas Cowboys.

Meredith: Yee-haw! I remember the look on Mike Lynn’s face when he realized Jimmy Johnson was gonna take the players AND the draft picks. Ol’ Mike looked like had just chewed through a mouthful of roadkill possum on a hot August day.

Cosell: Mike Ditka is here today. He of course coined the term “RollerDome” as a derisive affront to the Metrodome’s troublesome acoustical idiosyncrasies. It’s a little-known fact that the seats in the Metrodome once were green, but they turned blue due to the wave of profanity that one Michael Keller Ditka spewed at quarterback Jim Harbaugh following an ill-fated audible in 1992.

Gifford: Next up is another Chicago great, Jim McMahon. The Punky QB had his share of big games in the Metrodome as a member of the Bears, but he also led the Vikings to the playoffs in 1993.

Meredith: And over on the other sideline, standing all alone at the 5-yard line waving like a maniac, is Eric Guliford.

Cosell: And speaking of malodorous memories for the Vikings’ neighbors to the east, Packers fans, we urge you to avert your eyes upon the arrival of Theron Joseph Rubley.

Gifford: T.J. Rubley, obviously overwhelmed by the standing ovation he’s receiving … and that’s former Vikings linebacker Jeff Brady cutting in front of him to wave to the fans!

Cosell: A hush has fallen over the crowd as Gary Anderson enters the stadium. One can even hear a smattering of catcalls from the peanut gallery. The man flirted with perfection and this is the thanks he gets? It appears he will only be forgiven if he takes a knee at the 28-yard-line and commits ritual seppuku to satisfy the rabid throng’s thirst for blood.

Meredith: Too soon, Howard. Too soon. You just can’t say “take a knee” around these parts.

Gifford: Well, there’s more of them lined up in the tunnel but we’re getting close to kickoff here. Mike Tice, Onterrio Smith, Fred Smoot, Wasswa Serwanga, Brad Childress, Greg Lewis, Naufahu Tahi, Visanthe Shiancoe, Dwayne Rudd … they all had their moment in the sun – so to speak – here at the Metrodome. It’s nice to see them get one more chance to hear the roar of the crowd and the blast of the Gjallarhorn.

Cosell: Thirty-two years worth of memories for this star-crossed franchise, my friends. There’s just one thing left to say. Dandy?

Meredith: Turn out the lights … the party’s over … They say that all … good things must end …

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Ponder paranoia reaches all-time high

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: November 20, 2013 - 8:51 PM

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If that’s true, then the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this season is that the Vikings’ brain trust are insane.

Leslie Frazier’s announcement on Wednesday that Christian Ponder will be the Vikings’ starting quarterback this Sunday in Green Bay set of a storm of outrage in talk radio and social media circles. And rightly so. After Ponder threw away last week’s game in Seattle – turning a 24-13 game into a 38-13 blowout in the span of four passes – many fans and media members chose to look at the bright side.

“At least we’ve finally seen the last of Ponder,” they said. “No way they can throw him back out there after that performance.”

But certain cynical observers suspected otherwise.

It’s not that we had any inside information. It’s just that we’ve been following the Vikings all our lives and have learned to expect the worst – or most bizarre – outcome in any situation. And Ponder continuing to start at quarterback certainly qualifies as a bad and bizarre outcome.

The Vikings’ season began with one critical goal: find out if Ponder is your franchise quarterback. The answer has been clear for a few weeks now – a resounding no. Ponder is what he is – a guy who can do a few things and look OK in stretches, but with too many shortcomings for an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t see the field well, can’t sense pressure in the pocket, doesn’t use his quickness to keep plays alive behind the line of scrimmage, and he throws way too many interceptions.

Oh, and he doesn’t have a very strong or accurate arm. Otherwise, he’s a gem.

The problem is, the Vikings are compounding their error by the way they’re handling this situation. Not that we expect Frazier to verbally decapitate Ponder on the podium. But you get the sense that he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.

After all, Christian gives them the best chance to win. And his errors are all easily correctible.

Right?

Frazier and Co. act like Vikings fans can’t see this, like the people buying tickets are blind, like the people they hope will line up to buy PSLs at the new downtown football palace are complete, blithering idiots.

But anybody with two eyes – heck, probably even just one – can see that Ponder is not an NFL quarterback. They’ve got two other guys on their roster who have been full-season starters on other NFL teams, and yet they keep running Ponder out there. No wonder the natives are getting restless.

The fact that the Vikings consider Ponder preferable to Josh Freeman or even Matt Cassel could say something terrifying about those two. Or perhaps they don’t value Ponder over those two, they just value a higher draft pick next year and think Ponder will help get them there with fourth quarters like the one he played Sunday.

The thing is, whichever way you slice it, Frazier is flat-out lying every time he opens his mouth to talk about his quarterbacks. If Ponder truly does give them the best chance to win, then it’s a bald-faced lie to say that Freeman has “exceeded expectations” in his time here. There’s no way they paid him $2 million to come here and sit on the bench into December. If that’s exceeding expectations, the Vikings need to set the bar a little higher.

As for Cassel, the fairest read is now that their playoff hopes are officially toast, there’s no reason to start Cassel, who at this point in his career is a backup with no hopes of being anybody’s quarterback of the future. A more cynical (and perhaps accurate) read is that they realize Cassel is the quarterback most likely to give them a professional effort and thus put their 2014 draft position in peril.

So for the time being, Ponder will continue to play the role of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger and other great horror movie villains. Just when Vikings fans thought he was gone for good …

They’d just better hope there’s no talk of another sequel.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: It's never as bad as it looks

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: November 8, 2013 - 12:52 AM

Of course, the converse of that headline also is true – it's never as good as it looks.

The 2012-13 Vikings are a case study of this theorem.

As I'm sure you all remember, last year the Vikings went 10-6 and reached the NFC playoffs as the No. 6 seed. It was an out-of-nowhere season after they went 3-13 in Leslie Frazier's first year as head coach.

But lost in the giddiness of the surprise postseason berth and Adrian Peterson's super-human comeback season was the fact that the 2012 Vikings massively overachieved. In 16 games, they scored just 31 more points than they allowed. They gave up 215 more yards than they gained. Based on statistics, they probably should have been – at best – a .500 team.

So how did they become a playoff team? Well, football is a game of emotions and momentum – within each game, and from game-to-game. If you win a few that maybe you shouldn’t, suddenly you’ve got confidence, whether you earned those wins or they were based on blind luck. If you win a few games early, you start to believe you’re good, and that confidence can carry over to the next time you’re up against it with the game on the line.

It’s also the nature of the hyper-intense schedule inherent in football. In baseball, if you blow one play that costs you a game, that’s 1/162 of the season. In basketball or hockey, it’s about 1/80 of the season. But if you blow one play that costs you a game in the NFL, that’s 1/16 of the season. Everything is magnified – for better or for worse.

Let’s travel back to 2012. The Vikings started the season by winning a game they probably had no business winning. Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert hit Cecil Shorts with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and the Purple trailed 23-20. But Christian Ponder hit Devin Aromashodu (remember him?) with a 26-yard bullet and flipped a 6-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph to set up Blair Walsh for a 55-yard game-tying field goal as time ran out. The Vikings won in overtime, and suddenly they had confidence they could win tight games – which they did with regularity the rest of the year. In fact, they went 5-1 in games decided by one score last year.

Push ahead 12 months. The Vikings opened the season in Detroit, entered the fourth quarter down by a field goal and lost by 10. They followed that with a loss at Chicago, giving up the winning touchdown on the Bears’ final drive. A week later they repeated that pattern against Cleveland, and before you knew it, they were 0-3 and the season was circling the bowl. Even with Thursday night’s win over Washington, the Vikings are 2-3 in games decided by one score. When the game hits crunch time, this year they haven’t gotten (or made their own) breaks.

That’s not to say there aren’t personnel problems on the 2013 Vikings. Or coaching problems. There certainly are. But the personnel and coaches aren’t much different from last year. I’d argue that if they’d found a way to win two or three of those first three games, it would have snowballed into a positive trend as the players gained confidence. Maybe that midseason lull doesn’t happen. Maybe they don’t feel the need to grab Josh Freeman and throw the whole quarterback situation into flux. Maybe Frazier still has a modicum of job security.

Yeah, that’s a lot of maybes. And yeah, it’s always annoying when a fan of a 2-7 team says, “We’re just four our five plays away from maybe being 7-2!”

But last year, the Vikings were four or five plays away from going 5-11. Instead, they finished 10-6. The ball bounced their way last year, masking their flaws. This year, their flaws have been exposed.

But next year? With a new coach, a new quarterback (sorry, even Thursday night’s mostly stellar performance doesn’t have me buying stock in Ponder) and a fresh slate, don’t be shocked if this roller coaster ride resumes in a positive direction.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: The Josh Freeman Era

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: October 7, 2013 - 2:36 PM

And thus began the Josh Freeman Era. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier cut open a vein on Monday, telling the assembled media that he's through making excuses for Christian Ponder, that Josh Freeman is the team's quarterback of the future, he's been given Ponder's locker and playbook and henceforth Ponder will be referred to as "He Who Must Not Be Named."

Oh, wait. None of that happened.

What Frazier actually said on Monday afternoon was that Ponder is "still our starter if he's healthy," that he "still has a bright future here with our football team" and that "it's hard to say" how Ponder's injured ribs are healing.

This non-committal song-and-dance routine was expected, because this is, after all, the National FOOTBALL League, and in the National FOOTBALL League you don't tip your hand or give away company secrets until you absolutely have to. Sure, most Vikings fans would love to turn on the 6 o'clock news tonight and see video of Frazier helping Ponder pack up his locker and Bill Musgrave waving good-bye as Ponder's SUV pulls out of the parking lot at Winter Park.

But that's not going to happen, because the Vikings (for good reason, usually) don't care what the fans want to see. The organization still considers Ponder an asset. You can question the validity of that assessment, but they're going to try to get whatever they can for Ponder, either now or later. Given that his current trade value might net them a bag of used kicking tees, don't look for a trade any time soon.

Frazier left himself some wiggle room when discussing Ponder's future with the team – that whole "if he's healthy" caveat creates a hole big enough to drive the Maddencruiser through, especially in the secretive world of the National FOOTBALL League. Don't be surprised to learn on Wednesday that Ponder's mysterious rib injury has been deemed life-threatening and ol' No. 7 will be spending the rest of the year on Injured Reserve.

In the meantime, look for Matt Cassel to start on Sunday against Carolina, and maybe even the next week at the Giants if he plays well against the Panthers. But the Josh Freeman Era is going to start sooner than later. They're not spending a couple million to look at Freeman in shorts and shells. He'll get a good, long look in the second half of the season to show what he can do with the best running back in the league, a solid offensive line (that is capable of playing much better than it has) and a head coach who isn't a raving, spittle-flecked lunatic.

So how's it going to play out? Let's take a look at a few potential outcomes:

Scenario A: Freeman plays well the rest of the season, leads the Vikings to the playoffs, signs a long-term contract to be the new franchise quarterback, Ponder is traded to Jacksonville for a seventh-round draft pick (a slight upgrade from the bag of kicking tees, but not much), the heavens rejoice, etc.

Scenario B: Freeman stinks it up, Vikings turn back to Cassel (or even Ponder, if he's not put on the IR) to run out the string, team uses its top-10 first-round pick on best quarterback available, Cassel stays on to start season until said rookie is ready to take over.

Scenario C: Freeman is so-so, leads Vikings to six or seven wins, bolts to the highest bidder next spring, Vikings stuck with best QB available around pick No. 16 and here we go again …

Personally, I could see any one of these scenarios playing out in the next three months. One thing you learn quickly as a Vikings fan is that nothing is surprising. What's your forecast? We'll take your predictions in the comments below.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Dumpster fire derails optimism

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: September 23, 2013 - 12:26 AM

If you do a quick Twitter search on #DUMPSTERFIRE, you'll find multiple Vikings-related outbursts. And only one of them was written by me!

Where else can you go after that debacle on Sunday against the previously winless Browns, a team that had traded its only NFL-caliber running back and was starting its third-string quarterback?

This has to be the worst kind of Monday for a die-hard Vikings fan. I'm not talking about the blind loyalist who slurps the purple Kool-Aid all year long, the type of self-proclaimed "Super Fan" who named his dog Francis and his goldfish Randy and his first-born Tingelhoff (boy or girl), the guy whose wardrobe ranges in color from violet to eggplant. You'll never shake that guy's faith, and God love him for it. That's how scams like PSLs and $12 Budweisers continue to thrive in the NFL.

No, I'm talking about the more realistic Vikings fans, ones who can take the long view and acknowledge the team's flaws and know a thing or two about league-wide trends that have left the Vikings choking in a trail of dust. Those fans are going to have a hard Monday, because against their better judgment, they probably bought into the optimistic view of the Vikings' 2013 season that was being spun last week.

Surely you heard it. The Vikings offense – and Christian Ponder in particular – had figured it out in the second half against the Bears. The schedule gets soft after two tough road games to start the season. Four straight wins – against the Browns, Steelers, Panthers and Giants – seemed likely, starting with a "loser-proof" game against Cleveland.

Well, that optimism has been buried in an avalanche of turnovers, blown assignments, overthrown receivers and brain-dead special teams play that turned a "loser-proof" game into one of the Vikings' most disappointing losses in recent memory. The chances of recovering from an 0-3 start to reach the playoffs are miniscule, rendering the next 14 weeks (don't forget the bye week!) essentially meaningless.

Seriously, what can Ponder do to show that he's a legitimate NFL quarterback after the track record he's compiled? What can Leslie Frazier do to save his job when most observers believed he was in a "playoffs-or-bust" season? How can Adrian Peterson approach his lofty goals with the offensive line playing the way it has?

Oh, we'll figure out a way to cover the season, to glean importance out of each and every game. The takeaway from Sunday's loss is too obvious to require much elaboration, but we'll leave you with this: We agree that Ponder should remain the starting quarterback, because if they put Matt Cassel behind that offensive line, they'll get Cassel killed. He seems like a nice guy and we don't want that on our conscience.

Other than benching Ponder, what quick fixes would you make? Or are the Vikings truly as doomed as they appeared on Sunday? We'll take your suggestions in the comments.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Vikings face long odds if they fall to 0-2

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: September 13, 2013 - 9:21 PM

There aren't many outside of Winter Park who seriously expect the Minnesota Vikings to win on Sunday. You know it's true.

In fact, given their history at Soldier Field, one has to wonder just how confident the Vikings themselves are of coming away with a win in Chicago this Sunday. Obviously, not a single person employed by the Vikings would ever admit such a thing on the record, but it is human nature to have such doubts. A look at the track record tells us why.

It's perfectly logical to question the Vikings' ability to win in Chicago – where the Bears have won the last five in a row and 11 of the last 12. That's an unmistakable trend, folks. Yes, the Vikings beat the Bears the last time these two teams squared off in Week 14 last season, but that was at Mall of America Field.

Vikings vs. Bears in Chicago
Year Bears Vikings
2012 28 10
2011 39 10
2010 27 13
2009 36 30
2008 48 41
2007 31 34
2006 23 13
2005 28 3
2004 24 14
2003 13 10
2002 27 23
2001 17 10

The Bears have defeated the Vikings by an average score of 28.4 to 17.6 over the last 12 games in the Chicago. My Richfield math tells me that's a double-digit difference on average. That's not promising for the Purple.

As the table shows, the Vikings' lone win in the Windy City in the last 12 years came in 2007. They needed overtime as well as 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns from a rookie named Adrian Peterson to win that day. They might need a similar Herculean effort from the MVP to do it again – which of course is never out of the question when it comes to Peterson.

Regardless of what Adrian does, Christian Ponder needs to play better and the defense needs to figure out a way to stop Matt Forte or he'll do the same thing Reggie Bush did to them in Week 1.

Moreover, if the Vikings are serious about their playoff chances – and I have every reason to believe that they are -- they'll have to buck the odds and figure out a way to win. If you've been paying attention to football at all this past week you have undoubtedly heard the daunting statistic about 0-2 teams and the postseason: since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 0-2 teams have gone on to make the playoffs only 11.6 percent of the time.

Of course, starting 0-2 on the road isn't the worst thing in the world. I think the Vikings will likely lose this Sunday, but I also expect them to win their next two games against the Cleveland Browns (at home) and Pittsburgh Steelers (in London). I'm guessing the percentage of teams that start 2-2 and make the playoffs is considerably higher than 11.6.

Should Vikings fans be concerned if they fall to 0-2 this Sunday? Of course. Should they throw in the towel on 2013 if they lose? Absolutely not.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT