The history of the Vikings is bookmarked with bad actors and bad acts. I’d list them here but I know you’ve only got a few hours.
In the past few weeks, the franchise of Adrian Peterson’s switch, Fred Smoot’s rented boat and Onterrio Smith’s Original Whizzinator have drafted a player accused of punching a woman and signed a player who last year was released by his team after falling asleep in his car and being charged with DUI.
At Florida State, Dalvin Cook was accused by a woman of punching her in the face outside of a bar. In Arizona, Michael Floyd’s second DUI found him with a blood-alcohol content of .217, which is almost as life-threatening as it is career-threatening.
There are grounds for grouping these moves with other dubious decisions made over the years by the powers that be at Winter Park. The key question for anyone concerned with the character of the Vikings roster and front office is whether the team has added bad actors, or merely players associated with bad actions. There is a difference and that difference can be crucial in football, where you can’t fill out a competitive 53-man roster without taking a few chances.
Despite spectacular exceptions, the Vikings have generally fared well when making these sorts of calculations.
Percy Harvin had a troubled past. He helped the Vikings reach an NFC title game that they should have won, then brought value in a trade.
Randy Moss was accused of stomping a high school classmate and got kicked out of Florida State, which is the football version of getting kicked out of Alcatraz. The Vikings took him with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft and he became perhaps the most talented receiver in NFL history.
Smith, he of the Original Whizzinator, was a fourth-round draft pick who was a productive running back for two seasons. There have been worse draft picks, and without Smith we would have never known the difference between the Original Whizzinator and all of those knock-offs you see in discount stores.
Keith Millard was known for yelling at police officers that his arms were more powerful than their guns, and he became an All-Pro.
There have been failures, as well. Koren Robinson’s problems were well-known. The Vikings gave him a chance and released him after he was accused of drunken driving and leading police on a high-speed chase.
The question is not whether the Vikings should ever take a chance on a troubled player. The question is whether they are taking the right chances this spring.
Cook was not guilty. There was little circumstantial evidence of the punch, and there was no video.
Violence against women is heinous and too rarely prosecuted. But it’s difficult to deny a player the right to pursue his career if he is found not guilty and if there is no available evidence contradicting that verdict.
If you are the Vikings and you have decided that Cook belongs on your draft board, landing him with the 41st pick is a tremendous value. Cook could become a star.
Floyd is a Cretin-Derham Hall alum. Perhaps returning home will provide him with a support group that will help him overcome his problem. Perhaps not.
He is a talented receiver whose specialty is deep patterns. The Vikings are lacking experience and raw speed at receiver. Floyd can help with both.
Floyd’s problems made him available and affordable. At one year for $1.5 million, Floyd is a worthwhile risk.
Cook and Floyd represent different kinds of problems. In each case, the Vikings were justified in taking a chance because of their talent and the circumstances.
Of course, neither is a former Super Bowl quarterback who threw 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a bad team last year, is in his prime, was voted by teammates to be their “most inspirational player” in 2016, and spent his offseason doing good works.
If Cook and Floyd were reasonable risks, why isn’t Colin Kaepernick the Vikings’ backup quarterback?
Or a starter somewhere in the NFL?
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On