VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData and Patrick Donnelly, who has written on a variety of Minnesota sports topics. Mitchell and Donnelly are Twin Cities-based Vikings and NFL experts who crunch numbers, watch video and tell you what's on their minds.

Posts about Vikings off the field

VikesCentric: What uniform changes do you want to see?

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: March 31, 2013 - 1:05 AM

The news rocketed through the Internets this week – the Vikings will introduce a redesigned uniform at their 2013 Draft Party at Mall of America Field on April 25. Ever since the team overhauled their look in 2006 (aka Year 1 of the Wilf Regime) traditionalists have been grumbling about their space-age clown suits that look like rejects from an Arena Football League catalog. 

And let's face it – for the first 45 years in the Vikings' history, not much changed in their uniform set. Purple pants were briefly an option in the early 60s, the tint of the home jerseys seemed to lighten a bit over the years, and the stripes on the sleeve of the purple jerseys disappeared for a time. But that's about it. So a bit of resistance to the 2006 change was to be expected. 

But rumors are swirling that the new look will bring the team closer to the throwback versions they've worn from time to time in the last seven years. You know, the uniforms that generally set Twitter ablaze with Vikings fans saying they should wear them every week. 

Even though Nike is behind the redesign, the hope here is that the Vikings return to more of a classic look. If you can't wait until April 25, go to VikingsUniformInsider.com and sign up for an account that will allow you to leverage various forms of social media to earn sneak previews of the new uniforms. 

Here's a quick list of changes one life-long Vikings fan would like to see: 

1.     Get rid of the swooshes. I know, it's Nike, but the contrasting panels on the sides of the jerseys and the horn-like stripes down the sides of the pants scream "branding opportunity." Solid purple, solid white, with traditional purple-and-gold stripes on the pants, please.

2.     A darker shade of purple. The home jerseys look positively washed out compared to the glory days of the 1970s. Maybe they decided to lighten the tint when the team moved indoors, where the old lighting and dingy dome roof made every game feel like a night game, but come on – they're not the Lavender People Eaters. Besides, the current roof at the dome allows much more light to filter through, and they'll be outdoors for two seasons, so let's get back to the darker purple jerseys and helmets.

3.     Gray facemasks. For 20 years, the team was fine with gray facemasks. They dabbled with white for five years, but they've been purple since the mid-80s. But the gray cages look so sweet with those throwback jerseys. Just bring them back full-time.

4.     Black shoes. Did you know that the Vikings switched to white shoes in 1983? What else happened in 1983? Oh yeah … Les Steckel happened in 1983. The football gods clearly were not happy with the flashy footwear. The Wilfs brought back the black kicks in 2006, probably the only true improvement in that set of uniforms. Let's keep 'em.

5.     No more purple pants, at least for home games. I realize this is more of a regulation on the usage of the uniform components, but if the choice is no purple pants or the possibility that the Vikings taking the field looking like a giant bruise, I'll go with the first option. If they promise to only wear purple pants with their white jerseys … OK, I'm down with it. But please, let's not repeat this ever again. 

What changes do you want to see when the new uniforms are revealed on April 25? What do you like best and hate most about the different looks the Vikings have sported over the years? Leave your observations in the comments.  

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Pondering options at QB

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: December 7, 2012 - 12:20 AM

I'll admit, I've been slow to hop on the anti-Christian Ponder bandwagon. Not that I've loved what I've seen from him on the field, but I just think it's unreasonable to expect the Vikings to already give up on their No. 1 draft pick from 2011. True, the timetable for young quarterbacks has accelerated and expectations are higher, thanks to the rookie-year success of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Heck, even the rare flashes of competence that Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill have shown this year are a step up from most of Ponder's performances. 

My main argument for supporting Ponder is that you'll never know what he's capable of until he's throwing to a full slate of NFL-caliber receivers. I even took to Twitter after the Bears debacle two weeks ago – when Jerome Simpson put on a pass-dropping clinic, and Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton were quick studies – and said dumping Ponder now would be akin to the Twins firing pitching coach Rick Anderson because he couldn't turn Esmerling Vasquez and Luis Perdomo into Cy Young winners. 

Then the Vikings went to Green Bay. Ponder absolutely gave away a winnable game with two horrendous decisions/throws, and did nothing on the plus side to overcome those errors. He was truly, spectacularly horrible, and the fact that the coaching staff didn't replace him with Joe Webb should tell you all you need to know about Webb's stock within the organization. Had the Vikings won that game, they'd be tied with the Packers at 7-5, one game behind the Bears in the NFC North, and their unlikely playoff bid wouldn't be on life support. 

When Leslie Frazier took over full-time in 2011, it looked like he had a major rebuilding project on his hands. Instead, Adrian Peterson has recovered from injury and remains in his prime as an elite tailback. The defense is still getting decent run out of veterans like Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield, and they went a long way toward shoring up weaknesses on the offensive line and in the secondary in last year's draft. 

But with Ponder flailing about in the backfield, giving away games that could be won by simply "managing" rather than putting the team on his back, the Vikings are wasting Peterson's prime. They're wasting the continued efforts of their defense and recent draftees. And they're wasting a golden opportunity to challenge the Bears and Packers, who aren't as invincible as the Vikings feared. 

Thus, presuming Ponder doesn't suddenly morph into the second coming of John Unitas the next four weeks, I've come around to the idea that the Vikings should at least consider their options at quarterback for 2013. The decision won't be made in a vacuum – it's not, "Should Ponder be the starting quarterback next year?" but rather, "Is Ponder the best of the Vikings' options at quarterback next year?" 

So let's take a look at their options. They way I see it, the Vikings could go one of three ways. They could maintain status quo and give Ponder no competition for the starting spot; they could go 180 degrees the other way and bring in a veteran to supplant Ponder from Day 1, or they could split the difference and bring in a second-tier veteran to push Ponder and at least give Frazier a backup he felt confident in calling on when Ponder puts up a stinker like he did last Sunday. (We're not going to bother considering drafting another rookie starter, because the attendant learning curve would likely keep the offense in wheel-spinning mode as Peterson, et al, get another year older.) 

So, let's take a spin around the NFL and see who the Vikings might be considering as they weigh their options for 2013 

Alex Smith – His $7.5 million salary is guaranteed on April 1, 2013, meaning he'll get the axe as long as Colin Kaepernick doesn't completely fall apart during the final few weeks of the season. Jim Harbaugh traded up to draft Kaepernick in the 2011 draft, and he'll give the former Nevada star every chance to prove his worth and make him (Harbaugh) look like a genius. 

Kevin Kolb – He's due $9 million in 2013, with a $2 million roster bonus. Even though rookie Ryan Lindley isn't tearing it up, it's possible that between Lindley and John Skelton, the Cardinals will be happy to let Kolb go and choose from the two much, much cheaper options. Also, Kolb has pretty much stunk when he's played, so … he's got that going for him. 

Matt Flynn – His contract was worth $10 million guaranteed, and $19.5 million over three years. The Seahawks might just hang onto him for that investment, although if they decide that Wilson is their present and future, it's possible Flynn will be on the market. How fun would that be? First Favre, then Flynn? Packers fans would be apoplectic. 

Chase Daniel – The Saints' backup will be a unrestricted free agent. It's hard to say what he's capable of doing in the NFL, because Drew Brees doesn't take a play off. But he might be worth a sniff as a quarterback to challenge Ponder. 

Michael Vick – There's no way the Eagles pay him the $15.5 million he's owed in 2013, and they'll probably have a new head coach anyway, somebody who will want to make his mark on the Eagles roster. Thus, Vick will be a free agent. But does he have anything left? Will he be a fit in Bill Musgrave's offense? Will Musgrave even be the Vikings' offensive coordinator? So many questions … 

Matt Leinart – He'll be an unrestricted free agent, and he's making just $700,000 with the Raiders in 2012. Oakland has hitched its wagon to Carson Palmer, so Leinart would likely jump at the chance to challenge for the job. But isn't he just a left-handed Christian Ponder? 

Matt Cassel – He's due $16.5 million over the next two years, and it's likely the Chiefs have seen enough from him. But isn't he just a right-handed Matt Leinart? 

Chad Henne – The Jaguars are in a similar position as the Vikings. Do they stick with their 2011 first-round draft choice, who's been underwhelming thus far? In this case, Blaine Gabbert might have more rope to work with because the Jags aren't close to contending. They're more likely to let Henne walk, thus dodging his $2.6 million salary for 2013, and rolling the dice on Gabbert. 

Matt Hasselbeck – He'll be 38 next September and he sure looked like he was done when the Vikings schooled him in October. But Jake Locker is the future in Tennessee, and with $5.5 million due Hasselbeck in 2013, it's possible the Titans will gamble on Locker with Rusty Smith as the backup, meaning the former Seahawks Pro Bowler could be available as a veteran mentor and possible challenger to Ponder. 

Ryan Mallet – He was in the same draft class as Ponder, but slipped to the third round due to rumors of drug use. He's apparently kept his nose clean thus far in New England, but he's signed to a team-friendly contact and there's no way Bill Belichick trades his insurance policy for Tom Brady for anything less than a price the Vikings should not be willing to pay. 

Matt Moore – The Dolphins are obviously smitten with Tannehill, meaning they could save $2.5 million by letting Moore walk after this season. He showed promise at the end of the 2009 season, when he went 4-1 down the stretch for Carolina, including a three-TD, no-interception performance against the Vikings. But he went 6-7 as a starter for Miami in 2011 and would be little more than competition for Ponder if the Vikings were to bring him aboard. 

There are a handful of potential free agents not even worth discussing – Derek Anderson, Jimmy Clausen, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Colt McCoy, Tarvaris Jackson, Tyler Thigpen – and at least one other – Joe Flacco – who won't be hitting the market. 

So, looking at our list, there's probably only one guy out there (Smith) who would become the starter the moment he sets foot in the locker room at Winter Park, a couple of guys (Flynn, Daniel) with intriguing potential, a couple players (Kolb, Cassel) who had their chance as starters and failed spectacularly, some possibly washed-up has-beens (Vick, Hasselbeck) and never-weres (Leinart, Henne, Moore). 

Are any of them better options than starting next year with Christian Ponder as the only quarterback option on the roster? That's up to Rick Spielman and – perhaps – Frazier and Musgrave to decide. 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData and a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook. He's covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: How much is too much homerism?

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: September 28, 2012 - 1:39 AM

A recent Wall Street Journal article examined all 30 MLB broadcast teams to see which TV crew is the cream of the homer crop. To the surprise of exactly zero baseball fans, Chicago White Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was the "winner," the guy who most frequently shunned the norms of objective journalism to nakedly root, root, root for the home team.

Which got me thinking about the differences between baseball and football announcers. Of course, all NFL games are aired on national networks and cable channels, so the better point of comparison would be the local NFL radio broadcasters.

Around these parts, that would be Paul Allen, the voice of the Minnesota Vikings for the past decade. Over the years, PA has earned a reputation as a different kind of cat, both on his KFAN morning radio show and his call of Vikings games. From the sound of it, he lives and dies with the fates of the Purple. His enthusiasm for a Vikings touchdown is rivaled only by the depths of his despair when, say, a Vikings quarterback throws an interception when the team is a field goal attempt away from the Super Bowl.

And yeah, PA takes his shots from those who believe his over-the-top antics are beyond the pale, even by NFL standards. One local wag even chronicled via Twitter the number of times Allen referred to the Vikings as "we" or "us" during last Sunday's broadcast. It was good theater, as PA inched near the randomly determined over/under line of 34 homer calls, and for the record, he finished at 32 so I hope you banged the under until they ran out of paper.

But isn't that what we've come to expect, not just from PA but from all home-team NFL announcers? I lived in Las Vegas for a few years and the local sports radio station aired the San Diego Chargers radio feed on game days. And let me tell you, their color man – former Chargers running back Hank Bauer – makes PA look like Vin Scully by comparison. I've heard similar approaches from the radio broadcasts of the Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos, so I'm guessing this is pretty much a national trend.

It's not surprising, especially when you consider that most local announcers in all sports are actually team employees. Yes, it's a dirty little secret that in most markets, the teams have final say on who sits behind the microphone on their local broadcasts, and that's true for NFL radio as well as MLB, NBA and NHL TV and radio. So if you're fed up with what you perceive to be a parade of bootlickers and cronies on the airwaves, your best bet is to take up your frustration with your favorite team, because they're likely calling the shots.

What do you think, Vikings fans? Do you want a local radio announcer who plays it straight down the middle, giving equal time to both teams and calling out the home team when, say, they go 3-13 or post back-to-back 90-loss seasons? Or do you enjoy the homer approach, where the man on the mic is riding the same roller coaster of emotion as you and your buddies in the rec room? As always, please post your comments below – we'll hang up and listen.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.

Reviewing a decade of drafts

Posted by: Patrick Donnelly Updated: April 26, 2012 - 12:33 PM

How will we look back on the Vikings' 2012 draft? The Purple could reap a harvest of multiple Pro Bowlers, consistent starters and quality reserves, as they did in 2007 and 2003. They could bring aboard a heap of busts that would make the 2005 draft look decent by comparison. Or they could land somewhere in the middle.

Let's take a look at their last 10 drafts to see how each group of rookies stack up. For the purposes of our discussion, we've sorted the picks into the following categories: 

Pro Bowlers: Actually selected to the Pro Bowl roster, not named as a replacement for an injured player or a Super Bowl participant

Starters: Have started at least eight games in a season, either for the Vikings or another team

Reserves: Made the Vikings' roster but did not start at least half of a season

Never made the roster: They might have played for somebody else, but they never made the Vikings' 53-man team.

And away we go …


2011

Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: Christian Ponder (1), Kyle Rudolph (2)
Reserves: Christian Ballard (4), Brandon Burton (5), DeMarcus Love (6), Mistral Raymond (6), Brandon Fusco (6), D'Aundre Reed (7), Stephen Burton (7)
Never made the roster: Ross Homan (6)

 

2010
Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: None
Reserves: Chris Cook (2), Toby Gerhart (2), Everson Griffen (4), Chris DeGeare (5), Joe Webb (6), Mickey Shuler (7), Ryan D'Imperio (7)
Never made the roster: Nate Triplett (5)

 

2009
Pro Bowlers: Percy Harvin (1)
Starters: Phil Loadholt (2), Asher Allen (3), Jamarca Sanford (7)
Reserves: Jasper Brinkley (5)
Never made the roster: None

 

2008
Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: Tyrell Johnson (2), John Sullivan (6)
Reserves: J.D. Booty (5), Letroy Guion (5), Jaymar Johnson (6)
Never made the roster: None

 

2007
Pro Bowlers: Adrian Peterson (1), Sidney Rice (2)
Starters: Marcus McCauley (3), Brian Robison (4)
Reserves: Aundrae Allison (5), Rufus Alexander (6)
Never made the roster: Tyler Thigpen (7), Chandler Williams (7)

 

2006
Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: Chad Greenway (1), Cedric Griffin (2), Ryan Cook (2), Tarvaris Jackson (2), Ray Edwards (4)
Reserves: Greg Blue (5)
Never made the roster: Tyrone Culver (6)

 

2005
Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: Troy Williamson (1), Erasmus James (1), Marcus Johnson (2)
Reserves: Ciatrick Fason (4), C.J. Mosley (6)
Never made the roster: Dustin Fox (3), Adrian Ward (7)

 

2004
Pro Bowlers: None
Starters: Kenechi Udeze (1), Darrion Scott (3), Mewelde Moore (4)
Reserves: Dontarrious Thomas (2), Nat Dorsey (4), Rod Davis (5), Jeff Dugan (7)
Never made the roster: Deandre' Eiland (6)

 

2003
Pro Bowlers: Kevin Williams (1), E.J. Henderson (2)
Starters: Nate Burleson (3), Eddie Johnson (6)
Reserves: Onterrio Smith (4), Mike Nattiel (6), Keenan Howry (7)
Never made the roster: None

 

2002
Pro Bowlers: Bryant McKinnie (1)
Starters: Brian Williams (4), Nick Rogers (6)
Reserves: Raonall Smith (2), Willie Offord (3)
Never made the roster: Edward Ta'amu (4), Chad Beasley (7)

      

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