Vikings coach Leslie Frazier watched the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 in the Super Bowl on Sunday and concluded that the Vikings' offseason personnel changes will determine if they can compete with the NFL's top teams.
"We have a long ways to go," Frazier said. "We have a lot of ground to make up and a lot of work to do this offseason, a lot of work to do.
"There's a lot of parity in the NFL, and who knows who's going to end up in the Super Bowl next year. Every year it seems like there's a different team or different teams. Every year is different."
Frazier pointed out that nine of the Vikings' 13 losses were by a touchdown or less, and that the team failed to finish strong in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, the Giants did the opposite.
"You have to think about the Giants this year, think about what they did," Frazier said. "[Quarterback Eli] Manning led them to victories six times in the fourth quarter this year, six times. Those could have been losses. Six times he led them to victory in the fourth quarter.
"[The offseason] is going to help us, but think about what I just said. Eli led the Giants to six fourth-quarter wins, six, instead of six losses. Remember how many times we played close games this year?"
Frazier concluded that Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady really were the difference in the game, proving once again that great quarterbacks are the key to winning in the NFL.
"Eli did a great job of taking them down in the game-winning drive, that was the difference in the game," said Frazier about Manning, who threw 16 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter this past season. "Manning did a great job. The way he came out and finished the game with the composure and the poise that he played with. I mean, great poise, great composure and leading his team to the game-winning touchdown."
Grant praises Doleman
Former Vikings coach Bud Grant recalls being involved in selecting Chris Doleman in the first round of the 1985 draft. Doleman was a linebacker at Pitt, but the Vikings coaching staff recognized he would be a great defensive end.
Grant said he was happy to see Doleman voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. "He was a great athlete and deserved that honor," Grant said.
About moving Doleman to defensive end, Grant said: "That was a great move -- a great pure athlete who could run and have strength and size, he could jump, he could knock passes down and intercept passes. He's a deserving entry into our Hall of Fame."
Grant said Doleman was a great pass rusher. "He was tall," he said. "As a linebacker he could play there, too, but as a defensive end he had the height to get in the quarterback's face and the quickness, like a lot of your great defensive ends. He was just a more efficient player as a defensive end than he was as a linebacker.
"He was in on every pass play. As a linebacker, a lot of times he was out of the play on the other side of the field or something. It was the same thing with [Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle] Alan Page. You want Page inside so Alan can get in on every play. You take your best players and try to get them involved as much as you can."
• Former Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon on Doleman's Hall of Fame selection: "He was such a handful for tackles, his ability to rush the passer. The best thing that Chris Doleman did was not just rush the passer and get the sack, but he got the ball on the ground. He was as good as any defensive end or outside linebacker in the game at getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand."
• Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who has been spearheading the drive to have the Vikings build a stadium in Arden Hills, promised to release a new financial plan this week detailing a raise in Ramsey County's contribution to the $1.1 billion needed to build the new stadium. Maybe the Legislature might like the new plan and join Ramsey County in providing the funds to build the stadium.
• Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler made USA Football's 2011 "All-Fundamentals" team.
• The word is the Timberwolves have had a scout watching Iowa State's Royce White in almost every game he has played. ... Ex-Gophers guard Devoe Joseph continues to excel for Oregon, getting 20 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Ducks' 79-68 victory over Utah on Thursday.
• The two recruits signed by Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith are doing well. Wally Ellenson of Rice Lake, Wis., is averaging 19.2 points per game, has become the school's career scoring leader with 1,164 points in three seasons and has led the team to a 15-1 record. The other recruit, 6-8 Charles Buggs of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., has sparked the team to a 27-0 record and is being ranked as one of the top prep players in the East.
• The Wisconsin Badgers football team did not sign a single Minnesotan in its 2012 recruiting class, the first time that has happened since 2005.
• Former Wild winger Eric Nystrom, who was traded to Dallas for future considerations in October, scored his 15th goal of the year Wednesday night. ... Former Wild winger Colton Gillies has one goal and one assist in eight games after being claimed off waivers by the Blue Jackets, who are 3-7-1 under former Wild head coach Todd Richards, who was named interim head coach Jan. 9.
• Former Gophers pitcher Seth Rosin has been invited to spring training with the San Francisco Giants as a non-roster invitee. This will be Rosin's first major league training camp. The righthander pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings of relief work.
• Eric Musselman, former NBA coach at Golden State and Sacramento and son of former Timberwolves coach Bill Musselman, has the Los Angeles D-Fenders in second place in the West Conference of the NBA Development League. ... Former Timberwolves forward Gerald Green is the team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game.
• Mychel Thompson, an undrafted rookie guard from Pepperdine and son of former Gophers basketball star Mychal Thompson, has started the past three games for the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he might not be with the team long after the return from injuries of Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker.
• Former St. Cloud Tech standout Nate Wolters is averaging 20.9 points -- which is tied for the 10th-highest average in Division I -- and five rebounds per game for South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (19-6) are in second place in the Summit League at 11-2 in conference play.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org