October 18, 2014

Percy Harvin traded … again

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was apparently unhappy in his new home of Seattle, so Seattle traded him to the New York Jets, along with his pricey contract. This isn’t the first time Harvin’s been unhappy enough to force his team to trade him: that’s the blueprint of how he left the Vikings. Harvin is a very talented receiver — when healthy — but he seems to be unable to get along with authority figures like head coaches. Even head coaches who are widely known to be easy to get along with, like Leslie Frazier and Pete Carroll. Harvin reportedly threw a weight at one of the assistant coaches early in his career with the Vikings, and gave Golden Tate a black eye during Superbowl week with Seattle. One wonders what he’ll manage to do to destroy the chemistry (such as it is) with his latest team.

At the Daily Norseman, Ted Glover reviews the [head]case:

To say this came as a surprise is an understatement, and it makes me wonder that if Harvin can’t play for two of the most player friendly coaches in the NFL in Leslie Frazier and Pete Carroll … how will he be able to fit in with Rex Ryan? And if Harvin wasn’t happy in Seattle, where he won a Super Bowl and has one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL throwing to him…how in the blue hell (as Fearless Leader would say) will he get along with Geno Smith and the talent wasteland that is the New York Jets offense? Yeah, Geno is an upgrade over Christian Ponder from his Minnesota days … but the Jets have literally nothing else in terms of offensive weapons, and a pretty bad offensive line.

And Geno’s not all that much better than Ponder, so yeah. I just see this as another train wreck already in the making, but who knows, stranger things have happened.

So with Harvin now on the Jets, let’s take on final look back on the trade that got this all started. In March of 2013, the Vikings sent the disgruntled but ridiculously talented Harvin to Seattle. In return the Vikings received Seattle’s first and seventh round pick in the 2013 draft, and their third round pick in the 2014 draft.

Arif Hasan at Vikings Territory:

The Seahawks evidently wanted to make this trade for a while. One interesting thing about the trade: Seattle will eat a significant amount of cap space from a trade, perhaps up to $9.6 million in accelerated cap (the combined cost of the future impact of the prorated salary bonus he received).

In all honesty, I can’t really say with confidence what the biggest reason for the Harvin trade was, though I have to imagine it’s more attitude than talent. Pete Carroll was enamored with Percy Harvin coming out of Virginia back when Carroll was at USC. The talent Percy had that made him a first-round draft pick and an early MVP candidate in 2012 is still all there.

But it’s not inconceivable that it’s for football-only reasons—he took up $13.4 million of cap space on a young team looking to sign new contracts, and was going to take up $12.9M and $12.3M in the following years. While he was taking all that cap space, he grabbed 133 receiving yards and 92 rushing yards for 45 yards from scrimmage a game. There are about 66 players with more, including Jerick McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson—both acquisitions made as a result of the trade the Minnesota Vikings made with Percy Harvin (McKinnon with a pick received directly from the trade and Patterson as a replacement).

October 17, 2014

NFL fanbase one-downsmanship

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

The Minnesota Vikings will be visiting Buffalo this weekend — unfortunately, I couldn’t arrange to get tickets, so I’ll be watching the game on TV this time. Buffalo fans and Minnesota fans do have some painful memories of their respective team’s sporting misfortunes … enough to prompt a bit of one-downsmanship, says Eric Thompson:

Everyone has the person in their life that’s the consummate one-upper. No matter what you achieve in life, this person is quick to tell you that they achieved something even better. Just got a promotion and raise at work? That’s cool, but this person was already making a little bit more before their better promotion. Did you hook up with that cute girl after the party last weekend? Good for you, because this guy already did a few weeks ago. Set a personal best running the half marathon? Great! But this person beat that time by five minutes and only trained for like a week. No big deal. These one-uppers are the real life version of the Kristen Wiig’s Penelope character from Saturday Night Live.

It’s completely maddening, especially when the one-upper is actually…you know, right. Just when you think you have achieved something worth being proud of, along comes the one-upper to let you know that you aren’t really that special.

When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills, the one-upping tends to go in the opposite direction. Everyone knows that these are two of the most tortured fan bases in the history of the NFL. (Yes Cleveland, we see you. You’re definitely in the mix as well.) It has gotten so bad over the years that Vikings and Bills fans alike almost wear their teams’ failures as a masochistic badge of honor.

For example, the Vikings lost 4 Super Bowls in a decade. But the Bills can easily one-up that: they lost 4 Super Bowls IN A ROW.

Minnesota has made the playoffs once in the past four (about to be five) seasons. The one time they did make the playoffs, they had to start Joe Webb at quarterback. Buffalo fans scoff at that, because they haven’t made the playoffs THIS MILLENNIUM. There are TEENAGERS walking this Earth that have never been alive for a Buffalo Bills playoff appearance.


Of course Bills fans aren’t going to get any sympathy on our end. Our team made their ineffective first-round Florida State QB (Christian Ponder) the third-stringer because he was so bad. Then they started a journeyman without cool facial hair (Matt Cassel). Then they put their other first-round QB (Teddy Bridgewater) in after the journeyman broke his foot into a million pieces. Then after the rookie got hurt, they were forced to put in the aforementioned Florida State guy to get embarrassed on national television. And now we’re back to our second first-round QB of the past four years … and we’re just praying that he isn’t as bad as he was last week. And remember, THIS ALL HAPPENED IN THE FIRST SIX WEEKS OF THE SEASON.

Even if our rookie quarterback is good — we think he is, but we all know how quarterbacks usually work out in Minnesota — he might get himself killed behind our atrocious offensive line! They’re ranked 28th in pass blocking and 18th in run blocking by Pro Football Focus. According to the PFF ratings, Minnesota is the proud owner of the worst tackle in the NFL (Matt Kalil) and have allowed 22 sacks, which is second-worst in the league.

October 13, 2014

Detroit’s second win at Minnesota in 17 years

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:44

For the second week in a row, Minnesota lost against a divisional rival in an ugly game. While the score didn’t get out of hand, thanks to a stouter defensive effort, Detroit’s front four were getting to Teddy Bridgewater far too quickly and it clearly affected his play. After the first drive for the Lions, the Vikings defence held up quite well, but the Vikings couldn’t get anything going when they had the ball. As a few sites mentioned, over the last two games, the Vikings have given up more sacks (14) than they’ve scored points (13). I don’t think it’s mathematically possible to win anything under those conditions.

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover isn’t handing out any gold stars to the team in this week’s summary:

Matt Kalil And The Matadors: If last week was kind of rock bottom for the Vikings franchise as a whole in 2014, the offensive line caught up with everyone else against Detroit. Kalil was a sieve, but the entire line was absolutely mauled by the Lions. Maul … Lions … please tell me you saw what I just did there. Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Vlad the Impalee Ducasse, and Phil Loadholt each got pantsed, repeatedly, by somebody on the Detroit defensive front. Ziggy Ansah was particularly terrifying today, and if Kalil and company don’t get it figured out, like right now, Teddy Bridgewater isn’t going to last three more games.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Teddy didn’t have a lot of time to set up and throw today, but he also held the ball and seemed a lot more tentative, at times, than he was against the Falcons. Granted, he was under pressure all day, and eight sacks is unacceptable, but I would argue two of them were on him for holding the ball. His first interception was a terrible, terrible decision and throw, but I’ll cut him some slack on the other two, as they were tipped or went through the hands of a receiver. And if there was something that kind of bothered me, other than the stuff I’ve already talked about, it seemed that Bridgewater seemed to go to his checkdown guy an inordinate amount of time today. Maybe it was because he was the only guy open or he didn’t have time to find a guy downfield (quite possible), but it was still somewhat troubling.

Cordarrelle Patterson And the Drop A Ball Trio: It’s pretty tough to climb and crawl back in to a ball game when your three primary targets — Patterson, Jarius Wright, and Greg Jennings — are 50/50 at best on whether or not they’ll catch a pass or drop it. When Bridgewater did get time and was able to make a throw, it was iffy on whether or not these three — or anyone not named Chase Ford or McKinnon, actually — would hold on to the football. As bad as the Vikings had played, they were only down 10 well through three full quarters of play. But yeah, poor blocking and an inability to catch the football killed any realistic chances the Vikings had to get back in the game.

Jeff Locke, P: Jeff Locke pretty much blows. When the Vikings need a good punt to flip field position, he can’t deliver. When you give the opponent an average starting position of the 30 or 35 yard line, you’re not doing your job. At all. Meh.

The announcers for the game were flat-out terrible, and I lost track of the number of times I’d be correcting them on players’ names and even which coaches worked for each team. I guess in some ways it matched the offensive ineptitude on display for Minnesota. 1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore reported from the stadium after the game:

October 4, 2014

Vikings struggles in perspective

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:45

The thrashing the Vikings absorbed from the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night had a lot of fans upset and angry, and rightly so: the team played a terrible game while Green Bay played very well. As I said in a post-game comment, “the news that Bridgewater would be inactive came as a knell of doom for any hopes we had for the eventual outcome.” Christian Ponder played badly, but so did almost everyone else in purple that night. You can make a (poor) case that Bridgewater being out would lower the morale of the offense, but it shouldn’t have made much of a difference to the defence or special teams players, yet almost everyone seemed to have “checked out” as Brian Robison put it in an interview.

Bo Mitchell wants to help put Thursday’s game into perspective:

Zimmer and Turner crafted their offseason game plan for the offense on basis of their best player (Peterson) being in the backfield. Turner said repeatedly that he planned to get him more involved in the passing game, get him in space, maybe line him up out wide on occasion, etc. Everything worked great in Week 1. Heck, the threat of Peterson was enough. Cordarrelle Patterson was the primary beneficiary. Vikings fans were riding high following the dismantling of the Rams.

Then the other shoe(s) dropped and scrambling to make adjustments ensued.

In Week 2, with a new game plan in place, new running backs in place and a controversy/distraction overshadowing the organization, the Vikings lost in lopsided fashion to the Patriots thanks in no small part to turnovers and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. You can never plan for such things as losing your star player in such an awful, embarrassing, scandalous (pick your adjective) way. The master plan was compromised significantly after one week. So they made adjustments and moved on like all coaches must.


Week 4 brought a brief return of giddiness to Vikings fans as they leveled the Falcons behind rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom they seemingly had to get ready in a hurry. The good thing was that Bridgewater had been splitting a lot of first team reps in practice with Cassel and played a lot in preseason so there was already a sense of chemistry in place when he had to take the reins. The coaching staff had prepared for this scenario and it showed.

What they hadn’t really prepared for was losing Bridgewater to an injury as well. Christian Ponder was pressed into emergency duty at the end of the Falcons game and then asked to get ready for the Packers four days later — after he really hadn’t spent any significant time at all working in Norv Turner’s offense. Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN and several others in the media pointed out that this would be a problem. Ponder barely played in the preseason outside of a few third and fourth quarters with second and third stringers.

So the Vikings were on their third quarterback in three games — their third quarterback in 12 days. If they wanted to use an excuse, I’d give them that one regardless of who that third quarterback was.

Ponder just wasn’t ready. Where have I heard that before? Seriously, few backup NFL quarterbacks would have been significantly better in this scenario with so little prep. This doesn’t excuse the horrible lack of accuracy, the indecisiveness and the rest of the Ponder-isms. It was a train wreck waiting to happen.

Looking back, you can only make so many adjustments so quickly. Zimmer, Turner and the rest of the coaching staff kept the team treading water for four weeks, but they drowned in the Green Bay rain on Thursday night after the adjustments fell short and time ran out.

The Vikings at 2-3 have been victims of really odd circumstances. This isn’t an excuse. It’s a fact, though I really hesitate to use the word “victim.” I don’t even want to call it bad luck. Maybe it’s just fair to say: no team could comfortably survive such a strange amalgam of issues in such a short amount of time. Every team deals with injuries and teams have to find a way to overcome the losses of players like Fusco, Greenway and Rudolph. “Next man up” is the mantra league-wide. But look around the NFL and let me know if you see another first-year head coach directing a team without its best player that has used three quarterbacks already. This is weird stuff. Then again, Vikings fans have grown used to weirdness. It comes with the territory.

October 3, 2014

Vikings visit to Green Bay goes Ponderously

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

To say last night’s game was ugly is to sugarcoat the truth: last night’s game was a shitshow. For those of us on #TeamTeddy, the news that Bridgewater would be inactive came as a knell of doom for any hopes we had for the eventual outcome. Before halftime, Twitter was starting to see calls for Christian Ponder to be benched in favour of Chandler Harnish, who’d just been elevated from the practice squad (and who’d only just joined the team this week).

All through the preseason, I expected the Vikings to trade Ponder for (at best) a mid- to late-round pick. When that didn’t happen, I thought they were just going to hold on until a team’s starting quarterback got injured and then they could get a better trade … I didn’t think the Vikings would be on their third starting quarterback of the season by game 5! Now that Ponder has shown he really is who we thought he was, I doubt that anyone in the league is likely to call the Vikings and make an offer for Ponder’s services. As Jim Souhan says in his Star Tribune column today, he’s still the same old Ponder:

They could have called.

They could have gone to Hallmark.

They could have Instagrammed or texted or Facebooked or Snapchatted or beamed telepathic messages west.

Instead, the Vikings franchise turned an entire game on “Thursday Night Football” into a get-well card for Teddy Bridgewater, who will ever more be known as Not The Ponder.

Bridgewater has played six full quarters in the NFL. He has proved himself a franchise quarterback with his presence. He proved his value even more with his absence.

His presence made the Saints game competitive, and brought the Vikings an upset victory over Atlanta.

His absence may have destroyed what was left of Christian Ponder’s career, and the horrid tradition of “Thursday Night Football,” otherwise known as “What Time Can We Flip to ‘Scandal’?”

Without Bridgewater to engage Vikings receivers and TV viewers, another edition of TNF turned into a reason to take night classes on fall Thursdays.

In a performance that conjured images of Josh Freeman and Spergon Wynn throwing knuckleballs and sabotaging their careers on Monday night games in 2001 and 2013, Ponder proved that you can believe some of the people some of the time but never football coaches when they’re trying to protect the feelings of a former first-round quarterback or the man who drafted him.

When the Vikings kept saying nice things about Ponder during training camp, you had to figure they were hoping to trade him. When they kept saying nice things about him while keeping him on the roster, you had to wonder whether offensive coordinator Norv Turner had rewired Ponder the way some made scientists can turn a toaster into a short-wave radio.

Thursday’s 42-10 loss was a reminder that in politics, parenting and sports, what people do always counts for much more than what they say.

September 29, 2014

Vikings beat Falcons 41-28 in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:12

The Minnesota Vikings have had a carousel at quarterback for the last few years: at the most important position on the field, the team has been unable to find consistency. This year has already seen three quarterbacks playing all or part of a game, but yesterday’s first career start for rookie Teddy Bridgewater gave Vikings fans a glimpse of something potentially great. On Twitter, Rick Gosselin noted that Bridgewater is only the fourth quarterback to record 300 passing yards and win his first NFL start since 1980.

Despite the margin of win, yesterday’s game was much closer than it needed to be because the Vikings defence was unable to get off the field on third down far too often, and communication breakdowns in the defensive secondary led to big plays for Atlanta. After a good series to start the game, the Vikings seemed to lose focus and Atlanta’s receivers were open too easily — fortunately for the Vikings, several passes were dropped or the score might well have been reversed.

Dan Zinski posted his immediate reaction to the game at The Viking Age:

Nothing good can come the Vikings’ way without some kind of negative note sneaking in there. The Vikings beat up the Falcons on the scoreboard 41-28 Sunday, but there were plenty of negative notes.

The biggest, ugliest negative was the injury to Teddy Bridgewater. The rookie QB was having a very strong day when he hurt his ankle on a run and was forced to leave the field on a cart.

The good news is that x-rays came back negative and Bridgewater is reported to only be suffering from a sprain. Still, the sight of Christian Ponder finishing out the game at QB did not exactly do a lot to inspire happiness in fans.

Thankfully the Vikings were well in control of the game by the time Ponder was forced to come in. Things didn’t look so rosy earlier when the Falcons were tearing up the Vikings’ defense and scoring seemingly at will.

Huge defensive breakdowns plagued the Vikings throughout the first half and third quarter. Captain Munnerlyn and Robert Blanton were primary offenders as the Falcons rolled up 28 points on Mike Zimmer’s D.

Bridgewater’s favourite target in the passing game was Jarius Wright (who had his first 100-yard receiving game), while running back Jerick McKinnon (first 100-yard rushing game) did most of the damage on the ground: the three are familiar with one another from the time they spent working together on the second team. In general, the Vikings got very good results from their reserves in this game: not that the injured starters weren’t missed, but the team showed it still has good depth.

At the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates heaves a sigh of relief:

As fans of the Minnesota Vikings, the last two or three weeks … well, it’s been pretty rough in the land of the purple and gold. Between having to keep up with the injury list and having to, seemingly, keep one eye on the police blotter, it has been a pretty big downer.

And I don’t know about you all, but starting at about 3:30 Central time on Sunday afternoon … I forgot all about all of that. Every damn bit of it. I forgot about Adrian Peterson’s ongoing situation. I forgot all about Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco and Matt Cassel being injured. I forgot about the fact that, in their previous seven quarters of football, this team had scored all of nine points.

The reason I forgot all about those things is because, early on in Minnesota’s game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon, I had the calming realization that this team is going to be just fine.

This team put together one of the most impressive offensive performances that we’ve seen around these parts in a while, and it was put together, largely, by guys who are barely old enough to have a drink after the game. We finally got to see some repetitions for running back Jerick McKinnon, and he responded by racking up 153 total yards on 18 touches, including a 55-yard run that was incredible to watch.

September 25, 2014

Vikings place two starters on injured reserve list

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

This season is starting to feel cursed, as news came out on Wednesday that Matt Cassel and Brandon Fusco are both being placed on season-ending injured reserve. Cassel isn’t a surprise, given the initial reports on his foot injury, but Fusco also being lost for the year is a very unpleasant surprise. Fusco has been one of the pillars of strength on the offensive line, and his replacement on Sunday was beaten badly on the first two plays he was in on. And it’s not just Viking fans who think he was becoming a great offensive guard:

Christian Ponder moves up the depth chart to be the backup quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater. Vlad Ducasse may or may not replace Fusco, but the other choices are not great either: backup center Joe Berger can do the job at least in spot duty, rookie left guard David Yankey is still learning and may not be ready yet. Austin Wentworth has been activated from the practice squad, but I’m assuming he’s just there for depth at this point.

With Kyle Rudolph undergoing surgery this week, the depth at tight end was down to Rhett Ellison and recent free agent signing MarQueis Gray, so Chase Ford was signed from the practice squad. Ford is a good player and only ended up on the PS due to needs in other areas.

As far as I can tell, the team has placed seven players on the IR list (one of whom took an injury settlement and left the team), plus Kyle Rudolph who may need to go on IR for his recovery period. And that’s on top of losing the best running back in the NFL for some undetermined period that might well be permanent. And it’s only week four of the NFL season.

September 22, 2014

Vikings lose to Saints 20-9 in injury-filled game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I posted yesterday that I thought the leash on quarterback Matt Cassel might be getting shorter, after the horrible outing last weekend at home against the Patriots. Sunday’s game in New Orleans was starting to look like we had another instance of “Bad Matt” on our hands, but head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t have the chance to decide whether to make a quarterback change, as Cassel left the game midway through the first half with what was originally termed “turf toe”, but was later re-defined as “fractures in his foot”. Teddy Bridgewater came in to play the rest of the game — the Vikings only had Cassel and Bridgewater active, so rather than Christian Ponder, the emergency quarterback would have been next man up … and we haven’t had a definite word on who the emergency quarterback would have been. Cassel is definitely out for a prolonged period (possibly the entire season, if the MRI verdict is bad), and Bridgewater has been designated the starting quarterback for next week.

Aside from Cassel, other players who left the field due to injury included tight end Kyle Rudolph, right guard Brandon Fusco, linebacker Chad Greenway, and cornerback Josh Robinson. So if you’re keeping count, the Vikings are missing their starting QB (injury), starting RB (Adrian Peterson is on the Exempt list and away from the team indefinitely), starting RG (injury), starting TE (injury), backup WR (Jerome Simpson, who was cut this week for his continued legal issues), starting LB (injury), and backup CB (injury). That’s a full season’s worth of personnel changes in only three games.

While the game was hardly a thing of beauty, the team rallied around Bridgewater and the defence put in a much better performance in the second half and might have kept the Saints out of the endzone but for a badly timed penalty on Captain Munnerlyn which kept a scoring drive alive. When you don’t get a win, you look for positives, no matter how meaningless they might seem:

Of course, there were positives that were not meaningless, like the return of the intermediate-to-deep passing game:

Bridgewater’s debut wasn’t statistically eye-popping — 12 of 20 for 150 yards and a passer rating of 83.3, plus 27 yards rushing, but he made few mistakes and generally did everything you want your backup quarterback to do when inserted into a game part-way through. Cassel had not completed a pass longer than 15 yards in the first two games of the season (unless you count interceptions). It’s also interesting to note that Bridgewater didn’t play at Louisville until he replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie season, now he’s replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie professional season.

Despite the road loss, Ted Glover sees signs of life in the Vikings, particularly with Teddy at the helm:

When Matt Cassel was hurt early in the game, my Twitter timeline BLEW UP. Not because everyone was happy that Cassel got hurt (and seriously, if you did, you’re a terrible human being — get well soon Matt) but because it was Teddy Time, the moment we’d all been waiting for. And it was in about the most inopportune time one could ask a rookie quarterback to come in at — on the road in a very hostile environment, against a good team, down 10 points. His numbers weren’t sparkling (12/20 150 yards, 0/0…6 carries for 27 yards) but for a guy getting thrown into the fire, he looked good, and played well. He looked in command, and made some very good throws, including one to Greg Jennings on a frozen rope. It was a hell of an effort for a guy pretty much thrown to the wolves, and yeah, he missed some throws, especially a couple of easy swing passes to Jerick McKinnon that looked promising. And no, he didn’t engineer a touchdown, which was the first time since the Vikings didn’t score a TD in a game since 2010. But there was so much to like in the debut, that you can’t help but be encouraged that the Vikings maybe, finally, have stability at the quarterback position.

Update: A Final Dispatch From The Teddy Bridgewater Underground. ¡Viva la Revolución!

September 21, 2014

Getting closer to Teddy Time?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:46

Today’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints may be the point at which quarterback Matt Cassel has to defend his starting job against rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel did well in the season opener against the St. Louis Rams, but was flat out terrible last week playing the New England Patriots at the Vikings’ home for the next two years, TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. If Cassel can get back to his preseason-and-first-regular-season form, he’ll definitely keep the starting job. If he turns in another performance like last Sunday, the Teddy Bridgewater Underground may start active operations to install their preferred quarterback for next week.

A.J. Mansour explains just how Cassel fell short of expectations last week:

Could Cassel have had a solitary bad game? Sure. Could he have crumbled under the pressure of facing his former coach and old tutor? Of course. But it wasn’t just the statistics that raised a red flag when I watched the game last weekend. It was the body language, the fundamentals and the physical strength that Matt Cassel exhibited, or didn’t exhibit, that have me concerned and have me once again calling for Teddy Bridgewater to start under center.

While it was the four interceptions that stole the headlines after the game last weekend, it was what led to those four turnovers that should be a worry. Cassel, a ten-year veteran, was making rookie mistakes. You could see him throwing off his back foot, throwing across the field and throwing into double, even triple coverage situations.

All of those observations left me concerned, but the thing that left me most ready to call on the rookie was the lack of arm strength Cassel exhibited last Sunday. Really, it’s been a struggle all year for him.

To date, Cassel doesn’t have a single completed pass of more than 19 yards down the field. Despite seven attempts last week, the deep game has yet to click for Matt and his receivers, and the reason is staring us straight in the face: his arm is simply not strong enough to deliver a deep ball with enough velocity to get it past the defenders without the receiver having to pull up and slow down.

Throw into the mix the fact that the Vikings most dangerous deep threat from a year ago, Jerome Simpson, and their most dangerous backfield threat, Adrian Peterson, have either been cut or are indefinitely barred from the team and the Vikings offense has been left completely one dimensional and reliant on the short-to-intermediate passing game to score points.

In my mind, the solution is simple, and already on roster with the Vikings.

September 17, 2014

Adrian Peterson won’t play this week (or perhaps for the rest of the NFL season)

Filed under: Business, Football, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 15:44

I haven’t been posting much about the Adrian Peterson situation, partly because I was still waiting for the picture to clarify and partly because it just depressed the hell out of me to think about it. I agreed with the Vikings’ decision to deactivate Peterson for Sunday’s game against New England, even though it clearly distracted the team and disrupted the game planning: it was the right thing to do. I was shocked and dismayed when the team announced that Peterson would be returning to the team on Monday and would play this weekend in New Orleans.

I wasn’t alone in my reaction: the fans, the media, and even the team’s sponsors reacted very negatively to the announcement. The governor of Minnesota weighed in on the issue and his intervention had to be awkward, as he’d been a major supporter of the team’s campaign to get public funding for their new stadium now under construction. Some Viking players were happy to have Peterson back, but even there the support was not as widespread as it might have been … players from the south were much more vocal in their support than those from elsewhere in the nation.

As Monday wore on, a few more pebbles came loose from the PR dam, as the team learned from one sponsor after another that they were suspending or contemplating ending their promotional relationship with the team. Companies and organizations with a direct relationship to Peterson himself were even more direct: Nike, for example, ordered their retailers in Minnesota to stop selling any items branded with Peterson’s name or number.

The team’s ownership and management met late last night to hammer out a new answer to the PR disaster that had landed on them on Friday and had been made far worse by their Monday decision. Shortly before 1 a.m., the team announced that they’d made a mistake and that Peterson would not be active for the coming game. Instead, he’s being put on the NFL’s little-known exempt list, meaning that he’ll be paid his salary but will not be with the team until his legal issues are resolved. Although he’s being paid, he will not count against the team’s 53-man roster.

ESPN1500‘s Andrew Krammer has more:

Instead of Mike Zimmer and Matt Cassel commanding the podium on a typical Wednesday at Winter Park, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf issued a statement and Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and team attorney Kevin Warren took questions about getting “it right,” a mantra uttered nearly 30 times in the 17-minute press conference.

Running back Adrian Peterson has been placed on an exempt list, an order directed by the Vikings, agreed to by Peterson and made possible by NFL commissioner Roger Godell’s oversight. The Vikings’ decision comes two days after the team held a similar press conference at the same location announcing Peterson’s reinstatement.

Public outcry from fans, media, sponsors and even Governor Mark Dayton prompted the change, as Mark Wilf said: “We value our partners, sponsors and community, and especially our fans. In the end, it’s really about getting it right.”

Peterson will be paid his full salary while sorting out his legal matters, which assistant DA Phil Grant has reportedly said could take “nine to 12 months” to go to trial, though a judge can lengthen or shorten at his/her discretion.

The $12 million question for the Vikings is: Will Peterson play another game in 2014? If not, will he ever don the Vikings purple again?

“Until these legal matters are resolved, he will remain on this exemption list,” Spielman said.

September 15, 2014

Matt Cassel throws four interceptions in 30-7 loss to Patriots

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:43

It was no surprise to see the Vikings come out for Sunday’s game a bit distracted, after the bombshell of the Adrian Peterson situation. What was unexpected was for quarterback Matt Cassel to have one of his worst career games, matching his record of four interceptions in one game. When he wasn’t throwing to guys in the wrong coloured jerseys, or underthrowing passes to the guys in the purple jerseys, he was holding on to the ball far too long and inviting sacks … it was a bad game all around for Cassel. It’s probably too much to say that he lost the game single-handedly, but his performance was the key to everything else going wrong. A blocked field goal attempt made the score 24-7 instead of 17-10 at the half, and the Vikings never got closer in the second half.

Midway through the third quarter, after Cassel’s third pick of the day, the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium started to chant “Teddy”, hoping that Mike Zimmer would bench Cassel and send in Teddy Bridgewater. This inspired @Hiigashi to post this on Twitter:

The Teddy Sign

Like many Vikings fans, I’m looking forward to the debut of our new quarterback, but Zimmer is right not to send him in if he’s not ready yet. And no matter how badly Cassel played, it was still better than we saw in the dying moments of Donovan McNabb’s career (that forced Christian Ponder into the starting role before he was ready).

Offensive woes aside (and there were enough of them), the defence did not do well and the special teams performance was cover-your-eyes bad. The blocked field goal run back for a Patriots TD was the lowlight, but at one point, the Vikings only had nine players on the field for a punt return. The first task of returning special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer will be to fix the issues that hamstrung the team yesterday (Priefer’s three-game suspension was reduced to two, so he’ll be back in the team facility this week).

Update: Jim Souhan explains the two phases of Matt Cassel.

It took Matt Cassel just two games to deftly summarize his career.

In Game 1, DiploMatt, the nice-guy professional who makes everyone comfortable, eased the Vikings to a 34-6 victory over St. Louis while playing flawlessly.

In Game 2, facing a superior defensive coach and lacking a star running back, HazMatt, the toxic quarterback, threw four interceptions, dooming the Vikings in their 30-7 loss to the Patriots at TCF Bank Stadium.

DiploMatt can make the best of a good situation. DiploMatt won 11 games with an excellent Patriots team in 2008, and won 10 with a previously inept Kansas City team in 2010.

HazMatt has gone 13-27 in his other five seasons, dooming his stay with the Chiefs in 2012 by throwing 12 interceptions and fumbling eight times in nine games.

DiploMatt runs the offense with discipline.

HazMatt stares down receivers so long defensive backs have time to Xerox blocking schemes for their interception returns.

If the Vikings are using kid gloves with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, they need to wear yellow jumpsuits when they approach Cassel.

September 13, 2014

The latest NFL scandal

Filed under: Football, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

News broke yesterday that Minnesota Vikings star running back (and former NFL MVP) Adrian Peterson has been accused of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The team announced that Peterson would not play in this weekend’s home opener against the New England Patriots and that any inquiries should be directed to Peterson’s attorney rather than to the team.

Peterson has been the focus of charges before, and the team and the fans rallied around him and the charges were eventually dropped. This is different. This is not a confrontation with a rent-a-cop with delusions of authority. This is much more serious and, if true, shows Peterson in a very bad light indeed.

Jim Souhan expresses much the same feelings I have over the situation:

I hoped it wasn’t true. I hoped that if it turned out to be true, the child was uninjured.

Then I saw the alleged pictures.

I’ll use the words “alleged” and “if” a lot here, just in case Peterson is somehow being wrongly accused.

The pictures detail the wounds that Peterson allegedly inflicted on his 4-year-old son with a switch. The pictures are, allegedly, taken a week after the injuries. The pictures should turn the stomach of any human, and especially anyone who has worried over their child’s skinned knee with a Band-Aid and Neosporin.

If Peterson is guilty, this act would change everything.

I’ve always liked Peterson. I’ve never had reason not to.

For a star, Peterson is friendly and accessible. In terms of work ethic and on-field effort, he has never been anything less than admirable. His teammates like him. Vikings staffers like him.

None of that matters now. If Peterson took a piece of wood and whipped a 4-year-old until the child bled from large welts, he should never play for the Vikings again.

If the charges are true, Peterson will likely face a lengthy suspension. He is 29. By February, the Vikings were already due to begin asking themselves whether they could afford to pay an aging running back like a superstar.

If Peterson viciously beat a 4-year-old, the Vikings may have to consider cutting ties with a player who had a chance to be not only great but forever beloved.

If Peterson is guilty of child abuse, someone, somewhere in the NFL has to stop thinking about wins and losses and begin asking this question: “What kind of league do we want to be?’’

1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer and Phil Mackey have more, including quotations from the police report:

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, his attorney Rusty Hardin confirmed in a statement to 1500ESPN.com.

Per the statement, Hardin confirmed the charges involve Peterson using a “switch” (a flexible tree branch) to spank his son, adding that Peterson “has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.”

KARE 11 TV has reported an arrest warrant is out, and Peterson plans to travel to Houston to turn himself into authorities.


Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

Peterson, when contacted by police, admitted that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment, and then, in fact, produced a switch similar to the one with which he hit the child. Peterson also admitted that he administered two different “whoopings” to his son during the visit to Texas, the other being a punishment for the 4-year-old scratching the face of a 5-year-old.

Update: USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero explains the situation both for the NFL and for the Vikings.

September 11, 2014

Roger Goodell’s dilemma

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero updates the state of play in the Ray-Rice-is-a-terrible-human-being case:

The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the league’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case after a report Wednesday that a league executive received videotape evidence five months before it became public.

New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney will oversee the investigation, and the final report will be made public, according to league’s statement, which noted Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all league records.

The announcement came hours after the Associated Press published a report citing an unnamed law enforcement official who said he sent a tape of Rice punching his then-fiancée to an NFL executive long before the video surfaced on TMZ.com on Monday, leading to Rice’s release from the Baltimore Ravens and his indefinite suspension by the league.

The law enforcement official — speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation — also played the AP a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

The NFL commissioner may have thought he’d put the Ray Rice issue behind him after the elevator video was released to the public, but now it’s being alleged that the league actually did get a copy of the video before Goodell suspended Rice for a token two-game stretch. Ace thinks this might have been Goodell’s reasoning for doing as he did:

Could that be Goodell’s spin? “I knew about it, but I had to protect a source”?

Although this spin won’t save Goodell, part of his thinking might have been this:

1. This punch is atrocious, a potentially lethal full-on boxer’s knockout punch.

2. However, the evidence of this is currently being withheld from the public by law.

3. Even though I know about this tape, I cannot use it as the basis for my decision, as it is in my hands illegally.

4. Further, I could not explain to the public, nor to the NFL Player’s union, the reasons for a severe punishment, because they would cry foul and cry “PC over-punishment!” unless they see this horror in real time, which I have seen, but they have not, and maybe never will.

I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking (assuming Goodell saw it, and frankly, I don’t know how he could not have seen it — This is his job; punishing a player for an infraction is not something you delegate to the branch office in Cincinnati like Lois Lerner did (wink, wink)), and I doubt this would cut much ice even it it were.

Even if Goodell didn’t think he could suspend Rice indefinitely absent the public unveiling of the tape — Two Game Suspension? When another guy just got a four game suspension for some minor substance abuse rap?

September 10, 2014

Katie Nolan – Why boycotting the NFL because of Ray Rice is not the answer

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

I haven’t watched the latest video of Ray Rice being an embarrassment to humankind, nor do I intend to. I think the NFL has made major errors in how they’ve handled the whole situation, and I don’t think it’s over yet, even with Rice out of football (because Rice is certainly not the only offender … he’s just the one we know the most about right now). Katie Nolan offers her insight into why the NFL still doesn’t understand how seriously they’ve fumbled this issue:

Update: USA Today‘s Christine Brennan reports on why the NFL did not act more strongly to the first video.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he never saw the elevator video of Ray Rice striking his then-fiancee until Monday morning, but when he did, he found it “sickening,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

He also said that Rice and his representatives told him a different story about what happened in the Atlantic City elevator than what he saw on the video. While he would not reveal those details, he called them “ambiguous.”

“There was no ambiguity when you saw that tape (Monday),” he said. “It was sickening. It was appalling. It was clear that it was not consistent with what they presented to us in the hearing and we needed to take the right step which is to indefinitely suspend him.”

Goodell said he and his staff saw the first video in February, the one in which Rice is seen dragging Janay Palmer’s listless body out of the elevator. They “suspected” there was another, and tried to obtain it.

“We asked for it on multiple occasions,” Goodell said. “We asked law enforcement and they were not willing to provide it. I think they were under some legal requirements not to provide it, as I understand it.”

A spokesman for the New Jersey state attorney general addressed on Tuesday the issue of why the video was not released to the NFL.

“It’s grand jury material. It would have been improper — in fact, illegal — for the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to provide it to an outside/private/non law-enforcement entity,” Paul Loriquet said, according to ABC News.

September 8, 2014

Vikings open season with big win over St. Louis

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:10

Flying into St. Louis, the Minnesota Vikings were three point underdogs — and that was after the Rams’ starting quarterback was lost for the season to an ACL tear in the preseason. With all the coaching changes, a weak draft, and the loss of key players like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Chris Cook, all the mainstream media have been predicting that the Vikings will end up with a worse record than the 5-10-1 of 2013. The defence that leaked touchdowns last year was predicted to be even worse this time around. The middle-of-the-pack offence (even with former league MVP Adrian Peterson) was going to be worse than last year as well, because … well, because.

Perhaps the Rams were taken in by the media reports, because they certainly didn’t seem to take the Vikings seriously. The Vikings long-standing woes on the road probably played into the Rams’ attitude: the Vikings have a terrible road record even in otherwise average years (they’d lost nine straight road games coming into Sunday’s game). Unfortunately for me, the game was not broadcast in the Toronto area, so I watched the Bills beat the Bears while obsessively checking my Twitter feed for game updates from St. Louis.

Daniel House sums up the game at Vikings Corner:

The Minnesota Vikings opened the season with a convincing 34-6 win on the road against the St. Louis Rams. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 102 yards on three carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run off of a pitch out of the backfield. The Vikings defense shut down the Rams offensive attack, helping Mike Zimmer pick up his first win as an NFL head coach. The Rams were able to handle running back Adrian Peterson, allowing him to rush for just 75 yards on 21 carries. They couldn’t handle Cordarrelle Patterson out of the backfield and it proved deadly on multiple occasions in today’s game. The Vikings defense surrendered just 72 rushing yards and prevented the St. Louis offense from reaching the end zone. Safety Harrison Smith added a 83-yard interception return touchdown later in the 4th quarter, capping the Vikings 34-6 win. Most importantly, the team won their first game on the road since the end of the 2012 season.


Matt Cassel didn’t play at an elite level by any stretch of the imagination, but he managed the game and didn’t make any critical mistakes. That is all he needs to do for this team to be successful and today was the perfect example. There were several communication issues between the coaches and Cassel early in the game, but these problems were slowly resolved as the game progressed. Cassel finished the day 17-for-25 with 170 yards passing and two touchdowns. He connected with Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph for scores and continually spread the ball around the entire game. Cassel connected with seven different receivers and most importantly, didn’t make mistakes that have plagued this team in the past. If Matt Cassel can manage the game, make the throws when necessary, and continue to play mistake free, the Vikings can be a formidable offense in this league.

At Vikings Journal, Arif Hasan points out the good and not-so-good on the Vikings defence:

Linval Joseph ended the day with five tackles, ranked third on the team, and all of them were “good” tackles that resulted in an offensive loss. To that, he added a sack and a literal tackle for loss and more than one quarterback pressure (and a hit). His first live action after a shooting injury that saw a bullet hit his calf, Joseph dominated the Rams offensive line, who felt appropriate to sub out Rodger Saffold after his terrible day to put in Greg Robinson.

It was Greg Robinson who gave up the pressure late that led to the final interception.

On the other side was Sharrif Floyd, who wasn’t as good as Joseph, but still a powerful defensive tackle that influenced much of the game through hurries and a tackle for loss in the run game. For someone who had struggled so much as a rookie the year before, Floyd is on track to change things, and he may have put together the best game of his career so far.


The biggest worry was at safety, with most of the tight end receptions given up (with an exception of one to Lance Kendricks) a result of safety play, almost entirely because of Blanton. There were times that Blanton showed well — he bracketed Jared Cook on the corner route that Josh Robinson jumped for the interception, and he also broke down his tackle against Tavon Austin excellently — but he also gave up several easy yards to tight ends despite the bodybags the Rams were trotting out at quarterback.

Harrison Smith, on the other hand, has been as advertised. He was all over the field, recording a pass deflection, a sack, a hit, a hurry, a tackle for loss, a standard tackle and the game-ending interception that he ran in for a score. Smith couldn’t be stopped and was lights out throughout the game, and did all of this without being targeted very often at all.

The fact that the Vikings have multiple defensive players — one at every level of the defense — worthy of the game ball (Joseph, Barr and Smith) as well as an offensive player that stole the show (Patterson) feels nearly unprecedented in recent Vikings history. With all of the work that Barr did off camera and away from the Ball I would award it to him, but it could just as easily have been awarded to any of the other four.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »
« « QotD: The Economist‘s whitewash of the “Great Leap Forward”| QotD: The Iron Law of Redistributionism » »

Powered by WordPress