Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, when sometimes you win even when you lose. Or something like that. Let’s get to it:
*The Vikings had all sorts of predictable weaknesses exposed in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to New England. Their offensive line didn’t hold up in key spots and influenced meek decisions in other spots. Dan Bailey missed another field goal. And oh, by the way: The vaunted defense, which has been up-and-down all year, allowed 471 yards to New England.
At the end of the day, though, the Vikings only had the third-worst day of the three teams who currently matter in the NFC North. The Bears had the second-worst, rallying improbably to force overtime before losing to the underwhelming Giants. That keeps the Vikings just 1.5 games back of Chicago and within range of grabbing the division title if they can gain a game in the next three weeks before the teams meet in Week 17. Keeping that margin the same this past week given the opponents they played was a net win for the Vikings.
But the worst day? That belongs to Green Bay. The Packers lost 20-17 at home to Arizona, which is quite possibly the worst team in the NFL. Not long after that, Green Bay fired head coach Mike McCarthy — whose tenure with the Packers started so long ago that it coincided with Brad Childress’ first season in Minnesota in 2006.
McCarthy accomplished plenty in Green Bay, directing some top offenses and helping the Packers win a Super Bowl after the 2010 season. But he also coached several teams that sputtered out in the playoffs, including three NFC title game losses (one with Brett Favre, two with Aaron Rodgers). There’s a sense that he could have done more even after achieving plenty. He’s Green Bay’s Dennis Green, plus a Super Bowl ring.
The Packers job will no doubt be attractive this offseason — mainly because they still have Aaron Rodgers, the all-world QB whose subpar play (by his standards) in McCarthy’s aging system this season likely got the coach fired. Rodgers turned 35 Sunday, but in QB years he still has at least a few very good ones left.
There are plenty of places rushing to make lists of potential head coaching candidates in Green Bay, and near the top of a lot of those lists you’ll see an interesting name: John DeFilippo.
DeFilippo is in his first season as Vikings offensive coordinator after coaching QBs in Philadelphia. If Green Bay wants an offensive-minded head coach, which is probably the best way to preserve offensive continuity these days, DeFilippo could be a good fit.
Then again, the Vikings offense has underwhelmed on several occasions this year, and DeFilippo’s playcalling continues to be at odds with what head coach Mike Zimmer wants. That reared its head again Sunday. So this wouldn’t quite be the same as 2006, when Vikings fans gnashed their teeth over losing Mike Tomlin after just one season as defensive coordinator when he went to Pittsburgh as the head coach.
If given more freedom, or Aaron Rodgers, or both … it would be interesting to see what DeFilippo could do. It’s setting up to be an eventful offseason in Green Bay, and the same could be true in Minnesota if the falling dominoes include DeFilippo.
*Here’s my interpretation of the Vikings’ touchdown celebration on Sunday (there was only one, so the memory is fresh):
Adam Thielen, who caught the TD pass from Kirk Cousins, initiated a game of hot box with Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook. Hot box is the name of the game I played a million times as a kid, usually with baseball gloves, whereby two players were stationed at bases and runners tried to advance between the bases without being tagged.
This is SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT than keepaway or, as some call it, pickle in the middle — in which the object is for the person in the middle to try to get the ball back from the players passing it back and forth.
Some people call a hot box just “pickle,” and the 1993 movie “The Sandlot” called it that. But where I come from, it’s hot box. It will forever be hot box. And what the Vikings did Sunday was definitely not pickle in the middle, monkey in the middle, or anything else in the middle.
Thielen makes no attempt to get the ball. He’s trying to evade the guys who have the ball.
The choreography could have been better, but overall I liked the idea more than most. If we can’t agree on any of that, can we at least agree on this: The Vikings’ celebration last year in Chicago is still called duck, duck, gray duck.
*As Devan Dubnyk’s struggles mount, I’m going to gently point out that the Wild has a 22-year-old goalie tearing things up in Iowa right now. Kaapo Kahkonen, the Wild’s fourth-round pick in 2014 (thanks, Chuck Fletcher), has a .950 save percentage and 1.45 goals against average in 10 games this year.
The Finnish goalie is in his first year as a pro in the U.S.; last season he had six shutouts playing in Finland’s top pro league. And in 2016, he was strong for Finland — particularly in the semifinals and finals — as that country won the World Junior gold medal.
Alex Stalock has performed well as Dubnyk’s backup this year. But it will be interesting to see what might happen if Kahkonen continues to rise and Dubnyk continues to struggle.