Souhan: Play-calling on both sides of ball tests players' patience

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 4, 2013 - 9:43 AM

– After the Vikings blew a lead in Chicago in September, their defensive starters dressed slowly after the game. They spoke quietly, using gallows humor as salve. They shook their heads, commiserated, and, in interviews, hinted at dissatisfaction with the defensive play calls that may have cost them an important victory.

Sunday, the defensive veterans reprised that scene. They again looked confused, if not dismayed, on a last-minute, game-losing drive. They lingered in the locker room after their teammates had left, slowly knotting ties and softly grumbling. This time, they spoke their minds.

“There’s some things that are going on internally that are not allowing us to close out games,” defensive end Brian Robison said.

“I think we could have been in better situations at the end of the game,” defensive tackle Kevin Williams said.

For most of the Vikings’ 27-23 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, the Vikings’ front four hassled Tony Romo into mistakes, helping protect a secondary winnowed by injuries.

With the Vikings leading 23-20, the Cowboys took the ball on their own 10 with 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. The Cowboys scored in nine plays. Romo threw the ball nine times, completed seven passes and was not sacked.

Williams and Robison noted that the Vikings coaches, presumably defensive coordinator Alan Williams, abandoned the plan to pressure Romo. The play calls required defensive linemen to drop into coverage. Romo, given time, shredded the Vikings secondary.

At the end of the Bears game, the Vikings secondary was left out of position, leading to the winning touchdown pass. On this Sunday, an angry group of defenders seemed unhappy with the work of both play-callers: Williams and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Musgrave’s play-calling is often curious. Sunday, he at least emphasized the running of reigning league MVP Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

So when the Vikings got the ball with 4:29 remaining, holding a 23-20 lead, you could almost hear the Vikings defenders calling from the sideline for Peterson to continue to batter a worn-down defense.

Instead, Musgrave called for a pass. Ponder threw incomplete, on a deep pattern to Greg Jennings, a low-percentage play. The clock stopped. Peterson rushed for 1 yard on second down, and then Ponder, facing third-and-9, scrambled for 4 yards.

The Vikings punted, the Cowboys drove, and the Vikings defenders complained.

“You think we would run, to run the time out,” Williams said. “But I don’t coach offense. I just have to play what they call on defense.”

Players, like most employees, probably complain all the time. Wide receivers complain constantly. This is different.

Robison and Williams are two accomplished and highly respected players. The Vikings just rewarded Robison with a contract extension. Williams will receive Hall of Fame consideration. They are leaders.

When players like that complain publicly after holding their tongues for weeks, they are sending verbal flares in the direction of the head coach and front office. They want changes to be made.

As badly as the season has gone, the Vikings have plenty of good people in place. Their general manager has drafted well at every position other than quarterback and cornerback. Their head coach has the respect of the locker room. They have the best running back in football, and a dozen other players any NFL team would want.

Musgrave and Williams have cost the Vikings at least three games. They may not be keeping the Vikings from contending for the playoffs, but they have prevented the Vikings from approaching respectability.

Sunday’s near-upset was proof that Vikings players haven’t quit on their head coach, but that some of them would like to stage a coup against his top assistants.

If Frazier wants to survive as head coach, he will effect change, whether that means dictating play calls to his coordinators, or replacing them.

Frazier has hired three coordinators since he took over in 2010. Fred Pagac failed and was demoted. Musgrave and Williams are failing this season.

Coaching without quality coordinators is like driving at night without headlights. It’s time for Frazier to open his eyes to what his players plainly see.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Access Vikings: Players critical of coaching

    Monday November 4, 2013

    The Vikings, 1-7 for the first time since 1961, tied a franchise record for the worst eight-game start, leaving...

  • Jim Souhan grades the Vikings

    Sunday November 3, 2013

    OFFENSESouhan’s grade: BPeterson spectacular, Ponder occasionally OK against a poor defense.DEFENSESouhan’s grade: CGot a strong pass rush on Romo, avoided...

  • Video: Frazier frustrated after loss to Cowboys

    Monday November 4, 2013

    "It's definitely frustrating," Coach Frazier said after the Vikings lost to Dallas 27-23. "We got to find a way...

  • Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder walked off the field at the end of the 27-23 loss to Dallas.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close