As the Vikings face the NFL’s latest overmatched Bill Belichick disciple — Matt Patricia the posture whisperer — they can take pride in the uprightness of two of their most important players.
Losing to the Saints last Sunday was costly. It could have been disastrous, had the Vikings’ receivers activated their embedded diva genes.
In the midst of his record-setting season, Adam Thielen fumbled on what may have been the pivotal play of that game, and Stefon Diggs stopped running a route, leading to an interception returned for a touchdown.
No one should be too hard on either of them.
If, like Thielen, you’re on pace for an NFL-record number of catches, you’re going to fumble a few times. It’s math.
If, like Diggs, you’re playing with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator in a read-and-react offense, you’re going to occasionally receive the wrong telepathic messages.
What would happen, though, when they were asked about their mistakes?
Thielen handled questions the way he has handled everything in his career — with patience and class. He blamed himself for hurting the team and took responsibility for the mistake, a gesture that wasn’t necessary but had to be appreciated by his teammates.
Thielen spoke at an area of the U.S. Bank Stadium locker room reserved for in-demand players after games. When he finished and headed to his locker, a local TV anchor asked him to do a one-on-one interview, and Thielen said, “Sure,’’ knowing he might be asked the same questions he had just answered. He went beyond his obligations.
Diggs replaced him in the interview area. He looked at the assembled cameras and microphones and muttered something under his breath that did not sound complimentary, and if you were standing nearby you wondered whether this would be the moment that the Vikings would experience their own diva receiver moment.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown have emitted clouds of problematic noise. Diva Receivers can elevate or destroy a franchise based on mood.
Diggs stepped to the pseudo stage and … blamed himself. He took responsibility for stopping his route.
If the Vikings make something of this season, that postgame scene should be remembered. Patricia, who last week chided a reporter for not sitting straight enough for his liking, would have been proud. Maybe the NFL should produce a NextGen stat for reporters and receivers: spine angle.
Because the Vikings have produced great receivers, they have dealt with divas.
Not all divas are created equal.
Anthony Carter could sulk when he didn’t get the ball, but the late Fred Zamberletti and other long-term Vikings employees raved about Carter’s competitiveness and will to win.
Cris Carter could anger teammates with his demanding nature but, like the previous Carter, cared more about winning than numbers.
Randy Moss prompted the Vikings to trade the most talented receiver ever in his prime because they felt they couldn’t run their team with him present — which reflects poorly on both parties.
Jeff Diamond worked for the Vikings from 1976 through 1998, when he was named NFL executive of the year. After working for the Titans and living in Nashville, Diamond has moved back to Minnesota and is working in the media and as a senior consultant for The Institute for Athletes, which represents Thielen.
“Not much that our receivers said ever gave me trouble,’’ he said. “Cris was a good politician and could speak his mind about issues, but he wasn’t going to throw teammates under the bus.
“Randy, I was only with him his rookie year, and he was pretty quiet then. He didn’t want to talk after the Cowboys game that year, and I went back and told him, ‘You might want to talk to the people who vote for rookie of the year …
“Jake Reed was a great guy, never a problem. I’m not surprised at how Adam handled it. He owned the mistake. For Diggs, that showed maturity, that he would protect his quarterback in that situation.’’
Spine angle. It matters.