Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Tony Dungy, the former Gophers quarterback and Vikings defensive coordinator who went on to become the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl, took another step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame by making this year’s list of 15 modern-era finalists in his first year of eligibility, the Hall of Fame announced on Thursday night.
Joining Dungy as first-year eligible finalists are two players he coached – Buccaneers 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks and Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, who ranks third in NFL history in receptions (1,102) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (128) – as well as Seahawks nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. Another former player of Dungy's -- Buccaneers safety John Lynch -- also made the final 15.
"This would be something beyond belief," Dungy said on the NFL Network when asked what it feel like to enter the Hall of Fame alongside Brooks, Harrison and Lynch, who is in his second year of eligibility. "When we [got to Tampa Bay], we just talked about building a structure and getting a team that could win some games. I got to Indianapolis and saw Marvin Harrison operate. ... To see him practice and do what he does and be the focal point to the point where everybody was trying to stop him. We didn't put him in motion, we didn't move him around. We put him on the right side. You could triple cover him if you wanted to, and to catch 140 to 150 balls every year, it was just phenomenal. So I am looking forward to all three of these young men go into the Hall of Fame."
Also selected from the list of 25 modern-era semifinalists were: kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, receiver Tim Brown, owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley, receiver Andre Reed, guard Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan and safety Aeneas Williams.
The group of finalists will be joined by two senior nominees, Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, for consideration for the Class of 2014. The entire 46-member Selection Committee will meet on Feb. 1 in New York City to hold its annual selection meeting on the eve of the next day’s Super Bowl in New York. Between four and seven new Hall of Famers are chosen each year. No more than five modern era finalists can be chosen.
Dungy, 58, spent four years as a Gophers quarterback, but joined Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty as a safety from 1977 to 1978. He won a Super Bowl before moving on to the 49ers in 1979 and a brief stint with the Giants before being released before the 1980 season.
Dungy spent the 1980 season coaching defensive backs at the University of Minnesota before moving back to the NFL as Steelers defensive backs coach (1981 to ’83) and defensive coordinator (1984 to ’88). He went on to be Chiefs defensive backs coach from 1989 to ’91 and Vikings defensive coordinator from 1992 to ’95 before getting his first head coaching job.
In 13 seasons as an NFL head coach in Tampa Bay (1996 to 2001) and Indianapolis (2002 to ’08), Dungy’s only losing season was his first in Tampa Bay. He posted a 148-79 record (.652), including a 9-10 postseason mark that included a 29-17 win over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Anderson played 25 seasons, finishing his career with the Vikings in 2004.
Without running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the Vikings offense still racked up 48 points.
So you won't have to wait until Friday to figure out who will be the starting quarterback. Matt Cassel went 26 of 35 for 382 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the 48-30 victory over the Eagles.
"No, no questions," Frazier said on next week's starter. "I don't think there are any questions."
Cassel has taken over the starting position, which belonged to Christian Ponder for most of the season until he suffered a concussion two weeks ago. Since that point, Cassel led the Vikings in the second half to beat the Bears, lose in the final seconds against the Ravens, and now blow out an Eagles team jockeying for a playoff spot.
It took 15 weeks, but perhaps the Vikings have solidified the quarterback position for the final two games.
"I don't look in the past to be completely honest with you," Cassel said. "There are decisions that are made and you never know how they are going to work out. At the same time, I'm excited that I was able to go out there and perform today and I continue to look ahead. I never look behind myself and you continue to just look forward."
Wide receiver Greg Jennings has benefited from Cassel’s increased role in the offense. He had a career high 11 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown.
"You wonder it, but I remember mentioning something like that to Matt," said Jennings on if Cassel would’ve started the season at quarterback. "And he said, 'We've got three games left. Let's make the best of it.' And I love it because it’s his mindset. He’s not worried about what could’ve, should’ve or possibly been. He stays in the now.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said injured running backs Adrian Peterson (foot sprain) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) will not practice today and probably won't practice until Friday, if at all. He also said he's more hopeful that Gerhart will be able to practice on Friday than Peterson.
Frazier said Peterson already has assured him that he'll be ready to play, but added that the team will "err on the side of caution," keeping in mind Peterson's long-term value and the fact that the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture at 3-9-1. Frazier also said Peterson would have to practice on Friday before the team would play him in the game on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Frazier officially announced Matt Cassel as the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Eagles at Mall of America Field. It will be Cassel's fourth start of the season and second straight start. It will be the first time he's started after losing a start the previous week. But his turnover-free effort in the wild 29-26 loss at Baltimore on Sunday was enough to earn a second straight starting opportunity. Cassel is 1-2 as a starter, but did play the second half of the comeback win over the Bears two weeks ago.
Christian Ponder, who has been cleared from the concussion that sidelined him last week, will serve as the backup. Josh Freeman will be the No. 3 QB.
In other news, tight end John Carlson still has not passed the concussion protocol and cannot practice until he does.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and guard Brandon Fusco (knee) are day-to-day, Frazier said.
Here is the updated practice/injury report:
Vikings: TE John Carlson (concussion), RB Adrian Peterson (foot), RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring), G Brandon Fusco (knee), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and CB Josh Robinson (chest) did not practice. LB Larry Dean (knee) was limited. LB Chad Greenway (wrist) was a full participant.
Eagles: LB Najee Goode (hamstring) did not practice. S Earl Wolff (knee) was limited. CB Brandon Boykin (hip) was a full participant.
He has one NFL MVP award, five All-Pro honors and more than 10,000 yards rushing. But Vikings running back Adrian Peterson still considers himself a work in progress in some areas.
One of those areas is having the patience to play behind a fullback and linemen or tight ends who pull to block for him. The Vikings relied heavily on a number of those power calls with All-Pro fullback Jerome Felton and a variety of pulling linemen and tight ends last week. The result was a 23-20 overtime win over the Bears and 211 yards rushing on a career-high 35 carries for Peterson.
Peterson was asked a series of questions about Felton today. He said the two have a close relationship and a strong trust that's developed over the past two seasons. But when asked why he didn't like playing with a fullback earlier in his career, Peterson's answer was a bit of a surprise in its bluntness.
"I still kind of don't like it now, at times," Peterson said. "It all depends on the play call. ... It varies."
Peterson also said on some plays, such as the toss sweeps, he doesn't care whether there's a fullback in or not.
Peterson was asked how difficult it is to match up the timing with a fullback.
"Based off last week, I wouldn't say it's difficult," he said. "But I can say for myself, I'm just so quick to shoot the gun sometimes. When you have two pullers or three pullers in front of you, you have to be more patient. I haven't had a lot of time over my career being patient. That's why sometimes, I don't like the fullback in front of me.
"When I work on myself and try to be more patient, you see what happens last week. Allowing those guys to get in front of me, you see how effective it can be in the running game. It worked out well."
Every Tuesday morning, we take a look at where the Vikings would pick in the 2014 NFL Draft if the season ended today.
Note: The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule where the team with the worst strength of schedule percentage wins the tiebreaker and gets a better pick. Strength of schedule is based off the win percentage of a team’s opponents, so there’s two ways to calculate it during the season. One would be to factor in a team’s entire 16-game schedule, or the other method would be to tally the records of games already played (the method used in this blog). At the end of the year, both methods will result in the same SOS percentage.
A Tuesday after a win surely meant the Vikings would slide in the current draft projection order, but two teams in front of them also won.
The Vikings are just outside the top five at the moment with the 23-20 overtime win over the Bears. Here’s how the draft order looks right now (records and strength of schedule, if necessary, in parentheses):
They’re still not in a bad position for a possible top five pick, but again that tie against the Packers isn’t helping out their situation. If the Vikings’ would’ve lost, their strength of schedule would be adjusted from .514 to .521.
The Vikings and Redskins would have the same strength of schedule percentage. The next tiebreaker is division records, but they bypass that since they’re not in the same division. The third tiebreaker is conference records, which applies in this situation because they’re both in the NFC.
The Redskins sit at 1-8 against the NFC at the moment. The Vikings would go from 2-7-1 to 2-8 with the hypothetical Packers loss. So here’s how the draft order would look in that situation:
They’d jump three spots to third at the moment, with one of those conference wins against the Redskins. With four weeks left, it’ll be fun to see how this plays out.
The Rams-Redskins trade for quarterback Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft doesn’t look so bad now for St. Louis.
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