April 12, 2015

Arif Hasan breaks down the Vikings’ offseason moves

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Many fans have been feeling frustrated with the Minnesota Vikings for their apparent lack of interest through the free agency period of the NFL’s year. The team indicated interest — but not sufficiently strong interest — in a few big name free agents, but didn’t end up signing any of them. For fans hoping for interesting story lines (and headlines), there was much disappointment. Adding to that, of course, is the morale-draining saga of Adrian Peterson’s ongoing disciplinary issues with the league’s head office and his clearly communicated desire to leave Minnesota as soon as possible.

With all that in the background, Arif Hasan does his best to pull out the non-headline-getting but important roster moves the team has made since the start of the new league year and how that may affect their approach to the draft at the end of the month:

The Vikings re-signed a number of players, none of whom are expected to start, but some of whom can be critical depth going forward.

The most important of those re-signings was a former Arena Football League player entering age 31: Tom Johnson. A shockingly effective defensive tackle in rotation, it would have been easy to expect Johnson not only to be cut in training camp, but not to be picked up by another team.

Instead, he had the fifth-most sacks per snap of any defensive tackle with at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, per Pro Football Focus. That’s more than Gerald McCoy and Aaron Donald.


In addition, the Vikings re-signed potential starting guard Joe Berger and last year’s starting running back, Matt Asiata. Cullen Loeffler, the long snapper, was also signed to a contract for one year.

Those re-signings don’t reveal much about the Vikings’ plan for next year, but letting linebacker Jasper Brinkley walk does. The Vikings did not contact Brinkley much throughout the free agency process, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, until the last minute to offer a one-year deal. He instead took a two-year deal in Dallas.

The Vikings are clearly willing to move on from him at inside linebacker, and such movement could mean there’s already a plan in mind for one of the two linebacker positions that seem to be unsettled. The Vikings’ willingness to go after Brinkley for a small amount may mean that plan could use depth, but it does not require the player who played there last year.

The Berger re-signing, along with re-signing restricted free agent Mike Harris (who played both guard and tackle for the Vikings last year as injuries piled up) may provide clues into the guard battle, which we’ll discuss a bit more below.

Arif goes on to discuss the (few) free-agent signings, including the Polish man-mountain Babatunde Aiyegbusi, trades (Matt Cassel to Buffalo, Mike Wallace from Miami), and cuts (headlined by Greg Jennings). After all that, he tries to gaze into the cloudy crystal ball to determine what the Vikings are likely to do in the draft:

There is no real “known” need, but the assumption that the Vikings are interested in defensive backs and linebackers seems fairly widely held by national media. It’s in part motivated by the extensive contact the Vikings have had with both sets of position groups in a list compiled by the Star Tribune.

So far, it seems like the Vikings’ plan is to draft positions they think are in the worst shape but let players fight it out for those positions of need and prove that they are talent, not potential. Which is to say, let the young roster develop and then weed out the ones who don’t develop quickly enough by next year.

With the Vikings’ broad pattern of selecting late-round linemen, don’t expect a guard early in the draft. One could imagine with Greenway being restructured instead of cut that outside linebacker may not be a selection early on. But that could just be the cost of mentorship—or a sign of a lack of confidence in their outside options behind Greenway (which seems unlikely).

Minnesota has a bad left tackle in Matt Kalil, but there’s real reason to think he’s not as bad as he has been in the last two years. His rookie year was good, and he could tap into the talent there, and the last five games of this last season were better than the previous 27.

In that case, the popular picks for offensive linemen like Brandon Scherff, La’el Collins or Andrus Peat may not play out. Besides, cutting a guard on the off chance the lineman you like is there seems more reckless than general manager Rick Spielman has shown to be.

The best option may be trading down in the draft to grab an inside linebacker and cornerback with the early picks or potentially a safety. Otherwise, expect a year with lots of young players struggling, while a few shine.

March 25, 2015

Reason.tv – Sports Stadiums Are Bad Public Investments. So Why Are Cities Still Paying for Them?

Published on 17 Mar 2015

“Anybody that drives around Southern California can tell you the infrastructure is falling apart,” says Joel Kotkin, a fellow of urban studies at Chapman University and author of the book The New Class Conflict. “And then we’re going to give money so a bunch of corporate executives can watch a football game eight times a year? It’s absurd.”

When the Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to approve a $1.8 billion stadium plan on February 24th, hundreds of football fans in attendance cheered for the prospect of a team finally returning to the Los Angeles area.

On it’s face, the deal for the city of Inglewood is unprecedented — Rams owner Stan Kroenke has agreed to finance construction of the stadium entirely with private funds. The deal makes the stadium one of the most expensive facilities ever built and is an oddity in the sports world, where most stadiums require millions in public dollars to be constructed.

And while the city still waits to hear if it will indeed inherit an NFL team, the progress on the new privately-funded Inglewood stadium has set off a bidding war between other cities that are offering up millions in public subsidies to keep (or attract) pro-sports franchises to their area.

St. Louis has proposed a billion dollar waterfront stadium financed with $400 million in tax money to keep the Rams in Missouri. And the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have unveiled a plan to turn a former landfill in Carson, California, into a $1.7 billion stadium to keep the Rams from encroaching on their turf. While full details of the plan have yet to be released, it’s been reported that the financing would be similar to the San Francisco 49er’s deal in Santa Clara, which saw the team receive $621 million in construction loans paid for with public money.

Even the fiscally conservative Scott Walker is not immune to the stadium spending craze. The Wisconsin governor wants to allocate $220 million in public bonds to keep the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise in the area. Walker has dubbed the financing scheme as the “Pay Their Way” plan, but professional sports teams rarely pay their fair share when it comes to stadiums and instead use public money to generate private revenue.

Pacific Standard magazine has reported that in the last 20 years, the U.S. has opened 101 new sports facilities and stadium finance experts say that almost all of them have received public funding totaling billions of dollars. Politicians generally rationalize this expense by stating that stadiums will generate economic revenue and job opportunities for the city, but Kotkin says those promises are rarely realized.

“I think this is sort of a fanciful approach towards economic development instead of building really good jobs. And except for the construction, the jobs created by stadia are generally low wage occasional work.”

“The important thing that we’ve forgotten is ‘What is the purpose of a government?'” asks Kotkin. “Cities instead of fixing their schools, fixing their roads or fixing their sewers or fixing their water are putting money into ephemera like stadia. And in the end, what’s more important?”

March 18, 2015

The Vikings once wore two different uniforms in the same game

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

H/T to @VikeFans for the link.

March 10, 2015

Vikings draft/free agency priorities

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The NFL’s free agency period begins later today, after the three-day warmup of what many call the “legal tampering period”, where teams can contact and negotiate with pending free agents, but only contracts for players returning to their current teams can be finalized. Minnesota, for example, re-signed long snapper Cullen Loeffler and backup defensive tackle Tom Johnson over the last few days.

The Vikings currently hold the #11 pick in the first round of the NFL draft later this spring, but Vikings general manager “Trader Rick” Spielman has been a very active participant in swapping draft picks in each of the last three drafts, so I think it’s highly likely that unless the team has identified an overriding requirement for a particular player they’ll be looking to trade back at least a few spots in the first round to gain additional later round picks. Spielman has said on more than one occasion that he likes to have 9-10 picks every draft, and has managed to obtain multiple first round picks in each of the last three drafts (Kalil and Smith in 2012, Floyd, Rhodes, and Patterson in 2013, and Barr and Bridgewater in 2014). You can only get extra picks through shrewd deal-making, and Spielman has proven that he’s quite shrewd.

Between free agency and the draft, the Vikings need to address certain positional weaknesses and/or add depth to cope with injuries or other events preventing players from taking the field (*cough* Adrian Peterson *cough*). Here are the areas I think the team will concentrate on once the madness of full free agency begins.


March 7, 2015

An update on the Adrian Peterson saga

Filed under: Football,Law,Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

If you haven’t been following along at home (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson only played in one game last season, due to media and fan outcry after he was charged over a beating he performed on one of his children. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a tempest in a teapot … that the mother of one of Peterson’s several children was trying to get her 15 minutes of media fame. Once I saw the photographs of the child’s injuries (taken a few days after the beating), I completely changed my mind. The child’s mother was totally right to raise this issue and Peterson did need to go to court over the incident.

Peterson is without a doubt the best running back of his generation — one of the greatest talents of all time — yet he still has his own issues that prevent him from achieving what his athletic talents would otherwise allow. And he’s his own worst enemy, because he doesn’t seem to get it that he himself is the one at fault for last year’s disappointments and frustrations (it wasn’t Roger Goodell holding the switch, and it wasn’t the team encouraging him to do it … this is all on Adrian). 1500ESPN‘s Judd Zulgad tries to put it in understandable terms:

Let me be clear about one thing: Peterson’ distrust, or anger, at the Vikings is misguided, juvenile and irrational. It’s also not surprising. Having covered Peterson on a daily basis for four seasons, I can tell you that for a superstar player he never seemed to have a huge ego.

But what also became clear about Peterson, and this took time to realize, was that his “get it” factor was incredibly low. That has shown itself in various ways.

In November 2009, Peterson was clocked driving 109 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. In March 2011, minutes before NFL owners locked out players, Peterson gave an interview to Yahoo! Sports in which he compared the players’ place in the game to “modern-day slavery.” In October, Peterson admitted to smoking “a little weed” while out on a $15,000 bond after being indicted on a felony child abuse charge.

Take these incidents on a case-by-case basis and maybe they can be rationalized. But put them together and you’re dealing with a guy who doesn’t get it.

The child abuse charge was why Peterson ended up playing in only one game this past season and why he ended up being transferred from the commissioner’s exempt list to the suspended list and is now back on the exempt list after a court found in his favor last week and gave the case back to the NFL.

Peterson ended up pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless injury on Nov. 4 in Texas. The Vikings’ only misstep when it comes to how they handled the Peterson situation was the fact that after having him sit out in Week 2, they briefly decided that he could continue playing before outrage from fans and sponsors forced the team and the league to come up with a way to make him go away.

In recent interviews, Peterson has brought up his concerns about returning to the Vikings, as if they are at fault for his lost season. Perhaps Peterson’s feeling is that if the charges against him hadn’t occurred in the days after footage of Ray Rice striking his fiancée in an elevator surfaced that commissioner Roger Goodell’s punishment would have been different.

He’s probably right.

But let’s not forget that Peterson is the one who struck his 4-year-old son with a “switch”. If Peterson is angry at anyone for having to sit out, his frustration should be directed at himself. Second on that list should be Goodell.

The Vikings did nothing wrong when it came to Peterson not playing and, if anything, they should be angry at him. Spielman, Zimmer and everyone else knows this.

They also know that if they want to get anything in return for Peterson they have to act like they want him back. Thus, the trip to Houston became a necessity, even if it was a charade.

I was horrified at the punishment Peterson inflicted on his child. I thought the decision to de-activate him while his court case was in process was sensible and right. Then, of course, I was mortified when the Vikings tried to re-activate him so quickly, and I lost some confidence that the Vikings’ management could so mis-read the situation. As things progressed, I was unhappy with the NFL in turn for their hypocritical and inconsistent treatment of Peterson, as the league tried to reverse the flow of time itself in order to use Peterson to expiate their own disciplinary sins and omissions.

I can’t blame the NFL Players Association for pushing this, as the NFL should not have the power to retroactively define the terms and conditions under which NFL players work. Punishing Peterson for transgressions (however repulsive) that occurred before those particular rules were put in place is far from justice. Even more, the way the league has handled the situation makes little sense, as the punishment seems to be inflicted on the team Peterson plays for even more than on the player himself (after all, Peterson still collected a multi-million dollar salary while he was in NFL limbo). In what sense should the other 52 players on the Vikings’ roster have to put up with additional uncertainty (beyond the fact that their top player is kept out of the game).

Initially, I hoped that Peterson would recognize that he’d transgressed the boundaries that most North Americans accept on what is reasonable discipline for a four-year-old, admit that he was wrong, and work to regain the trust of society (in general) and the Minnesota fans (in specific). Instead, it appears that Peterson still can’t accept that what he did was wrong and he clearly resents the team management for not backing him 110% during his time away from the team. This is an amazing level of delusion and inability to empathize with others … the Vikings may not have been there for every twist and turn of his legal tribulations, but if that was what he expected, it only emphasizes that he’s not really aware of how badly he disappointed his employers, his fans, and the general public by his actions.

In light of this, perhaps it’s better for all concerned if Adrian Peterson continues his career somewhere other than in Minnesota. I hear Indianapolis, Dallas, and Arizona are lovely places to play football. Maybe one or the other will be his next employer/fanbase. That might be best for everyone.

Update, 9 March: This article might make some heads explode…

February 17, 2015

The illusionary arrival of racial equality in the NFL

Filed under: Football,History,Liberty,USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Minnesota Vikings were a racially integrated team from their very first game … yet not quite fully integrated, as this post on the team’s official web site explains:

Six African Americans out of 42 total players appear in the first team photo in franchise history: Jim Marshall, Jamie Caleb, Mel Triplett, A.D. Williams, Raymond Hayes and John Turpin.

A color barrier that lasted 13 years in professional football had been broken in 1946 by Bill Willis and Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns (as a member of the All-America Football Conference) and Kenny Washington and Woody Strode (both teammates at UCLA with Jackie Robinson) of the NFL’s L.A. Rams.

The expansion Vikings were able to acquire veterans from other teams. Marshall, Caleb and Williams came from the Browns (which joined the NFL in 1950), Triplett came from the New York Giants, and Hayes was the first African American player drafted out of Central Oklahoma by Minnesota in the 13th round with the 169th overall pick.

Players of that era were taking the field as one team, but weren’t allowed to have roommates of a different race. On road games, particularly to the “Jim Crow” South but also places like Miami and Los Angeles, reservations were booked at separate hotels, and black teammates often were refused service at restaurants.

“There was a definite separation there, and it was a separation that was enforced by the teams,” said Marshall before recalling a trip while with Cleveland to a posh Miami Beach hotel.

“We pulled up to the Fontainebleau and white players were let out at the Fontainebleau and black players were sent to an inner-city hotel owned by a black gentleman that of course was a very good host for us,” Marshall said. “We could play on the field together, but we couldn’t room together, and now we couldn’t stay in a hotel together.”

February 5, 2015

How not to do media relations, NFL style

Filed under: Business,Football,Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Unusually, in one of his last Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns of the season, Gregg Easterbrook actually talked more about football than usual:

In the run up to the Super Bowl, Marshawn Lynch received a huge amount of attention for insisting he just wanted to be left alone. If he’d actually just wanted to be left alone, he would have gone to the podium, offered a few sports platitudes — “the Patriots are a fine, fine football team” — and everyone would have left him alone. By making a great show of appearing in very dark glasses and ignoring questions, Lynch drew attention to himself. Which, one presumes, was what he wanted all along.

Many pro athletes don’t like having to face the media; Bill Belichick* doesn’t like to, Roger Goodell doesn’t like to. Their contracts require them to, because professional sports fundamentally are a form of entertainment, and fans find the media conferences entertaining. (Lord knows why.) Many players came from high school and college environments where the local sports media consisted mainly of homers: scandals were downplayed, the toughest question was, “How do you explain your brilliant success?” At the NFL level, players can be surprised to encounter sharp questions and hostile tones.

Not, certainly, because NFL games are more important than prep or college contests — NFL games are strictly entertainment, the outcomes are irrelevant to society. It’s just that at the NFL level, the sports reporters are at the top of their profession, too. They ask tough questions. Most players and coaches learn it’s the path of least resistance to play along, even when the questions veer into the absurd. Smart players and coaches discover that beginning a media conference by bantering with reporters about their careers rapidly turns them from attack dogs to lap dogs.

Then there are the players who would radiate hostility toward the sports media, such as Lynch. In 2009, he was suspended by the league for three games. Lynch seemed to expect sports reporters would act like team publicists and change the subject; instead he got abrasive questions. Since then, including last week at Super Bowl media events, he has accused the sports media of printing lies about him: “You all can go make up whatever you’re going to make up.” I’d venture a guess Lynch actually does not know what the sports media is saying about him because he doesn’t read the newspaper. He may prefer to believe himself the victim of some vast sports-media conspiracy.

The odd thing is that Lynch has a sense of humor, as he displayed in his Skittles parody. If he’d only show that humor at a media conference, the ice would melt. Instead he says things like this from last week, when he was supposed to take questions: “I come to you all’s event, you shove cameras and microphones down my throat. I ain’t got nothing for you all.” Reporters and spectators don’t get angry at Lynch when he expects them to attend games: for him to get angry when he’s expected to fulfill a contractual obligation involving cameras and microphones shows bad manners. At media conferences Lynch acts like a spoiled brat, which reflects poorly on him and his team.

When Thurman Thomas couldn’t find his helmet at a Super Bowl, then the Bills lost, for a while he was angry at the media because reporters kept bringing this up. One day he walked into a media conference with a basket of miniature helmets that he handed out to reporters, and told a couple jokes about himself. For the rest of his career, Thomas had the sports media eating out of his hand: When it was time to cast Hall of Fame votes, Thomas got a landslide of votes. Somebody in the Seahawks’ organization should tell this story to Lynch.

February 2, 2015

Super Bowl commercials Canadians didn’t get to see

Filed under: Football,Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I may have missed a few, as I didn’t get to start watching the game until near the end of the first quarter, but of the ones that Forbes included in their round-up, I recognize only the Doritos, Coca-Cola (ugh!) and #LikeAGirl ads. We certainly got more than our fair share of Ford F-150, Nissan, and The Keg ads, however. I’d show more, but a surprising number of the ads now show warnings similar to this

Superbowl ads we can't watch

I’m sure they’ll eventually clear the border, but part of the point of the advertisers paying the big bucks for the Super Bowl timeslot is the immediacy.

February 1, 2015

Former Viking Mick Tingelhoff elected to the Hall of Fame

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 14:09

Mick Tingelhoff was a major contributor to the Minnesota Vikings during his long career, and was this year’s senior inductee:

Former Vikings C Mick Tingelhoff has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the Hall’s Board of Electors, becoming the 13th player in Vikings history to earn this prestigious distinction. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2015 along with Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Will Shields and Ron Wolf.

Tingelhoff was this year’s Senior Committee nominee to go in front of the Board of Electors, having been removed from the game for more than 25 years while still having Hall of Fame credentials.

Tingelhoff joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 1962 and started all 240 regular season games and 19 playoff games during his 17-year NFL career, having never missed a start with the club. From 1962-1978, Tingelhoff played a crucial role in helping the Vikings to 10 divisional titles and four Super Bowl appearances.

Serving as a key cog on the Vikings offensive line for nearly two decades, Tingelhoff earned All-Pro honors seven consecutive seasons (1964-1970) and was a Pro Bowl selection six consecutive years (1964-1969). In addition to his duties on offense, Tingelhoff served as the team’s long snapper on special teams.

Tingelhoff snapped to Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton and blocked for four runnings backs that earned Pro Bowl honors – Tommy Mason (1962, ’63, ’64), Bill Brown (1964, ’65, ’67, ’68), Dave Osborn (1970) and Chuck Foreman (1973, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’77).

He becomes the third Viking in the past four years (Cris Carter, 2013; Chris Doleman, 2012) to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and seventh in the past 10 years (Carter, 2013; Doleman, 2012; John Randle, 2010; Randall McDaniel, 2009; Gary Zimmerman 2008; Carl Eller, 2004; Ron Yary, 2001).

January 31, 2015

Teddy Bridgewater wins the Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:58

In somewhat of an upset victory, the Vikings’ rookie quarterback has won the (popularity contest) rookie of the year award. While I voted for him, I expected that the all-highlight-reel catches of Odell Beckham Jr. would be the big factor in voting. It’s true that the last five games of the season were very good outings for Bridgewater, putting up a lot of team records (many of them pretty trivial, honestly), I didn’t expect him to gain that much fan support outside the Vikings fanbase. The Star Tribune‘s Mark Craig reports:

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said a trip to this year’s Super Bowl has him excited about the possibilities of a future that he believes will include the Vikings’ first Super Bowl since Jan. 9, 1977, 15 years before Bridgewater was born.

“I can envision it,” Bridgewater said as he was making stops along Radio Row at the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. “That’s the plan. This right here is what you play for. Not 7-9. No one is satisfied with a 7-9 season. The ultimate goal is to be on this stage and be here.”

Bridgewater was in town mainly because he was one of five finalists for the Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award. The fans who did the voting made him a winner, Pepsi announced Friday night, over Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill and Bills receiver Sammy Watkins.

Bridgewater is also a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, which is handed out Saturday night here at the league’s awards show.

Bridgewater said being invited to the Super Bowl for a rookie of the year award was a “huge honor” when he considers how he fell from the projected No. 1 overall draft pick to No. 32 a year ago.

“When you look back to last year at this time there was all the scrutiny that I was under,” he said. “It also speaks volumes about the support I have from the fans because they make all of this happen.”

Update: Teddy didn’t win the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, which went to Odell Beckham Jr. instead.

January 23, 2015

“NFL 2015″ — A Bad Lip Reading of The NFL

Filed under: Football,Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 06:57

Published on 22 Jan 2015

“…and then you invented dirt lumps.” More of what COULD have been said in the NFL.

January 22, 2015

Rickspeak, end of season edition

Filed under: Football,Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover goes into another deep trance to help explain to the masses (that’s us) just what the heck Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was really saying in his end-of-season talk with the local Minneapolis/St. Paul sports media:

Spielman met with the local Vikings beat writers on Wednesday, and covered a wide range of topics, from Adrian Peterson, to everything else. So, what did he say?

Well, you know it’s not what he said … it’s what he meant. And how do we know what he really meant?*

It’s simple.** You just need to know how to read between the lines and interpret accordingly.***

*We have no idea what he really meant

**It’s not simple, because I’m making everything up. And making this up is hard, man. So freaking hard.

***Again, there’s no reading between the lines. If I could read minds, dude, I’d use that power for evil and rule the world. Let’s all be thankful I’m just an idiot with a keyboard instead.

So, thanks to the local beat guys, we bring you Rickspeak, the post season edition. What Rick was actually quoted as saying will be first, and then our ridiculously satiric and completely made up interpretation* will follow.

*Or is it completely made up? (Yes. Yes it is.)

January 15, 2015

Reasons to hate every surviving team in the playoffs

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:31

At Football Savages, “Draw Play” Dave Rappoccio explains why it’s okay to hate all of the NFL teams left in the hunt for this year’s Lombardi trophy:

So only 4 teams are left in this year’s quest for the Lombardi trophy. The Seahawks of Seattle, the Colts of Indianapolis, the Packers of Green Bay, and the Patriots of Boston New England. I hate all of them. I wish for fire and brimstone and chaos in this final 4. I want the winners to limp into the final confrontation in Arizona and die on the field halfway through the first quarter. I hate them. Here’s why I think you should hate them too:

Colts – 2 Super Bowl Championships
Packers – 4 Super Bowl Championships
Patriots- 3 Super Bow Championships
Seahawks- 1 Super Bowl Championship, but it was won just last year

All 4 teams have been to the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. Outside the Packers, all have been there multiple times, and the Packers still won their appearance. The Patriots have the longest Super Bowl win drought, at a measly 10 years, and they’ve been twice since ’04. There is no underdog this season. There is no plucky team that could. There are only spoiled rich kids. The kids in your school who would get the new video games as they came out. The kids who would get dropped off in BMWs. The kids who had pools and pool parties and never invited you. The kids who would get A’s for participation because social interactions are easy when you are the kid everyone adores. Meanwhile the Detroit Lions sit in the back corner of the classroom and have a reputation as the smelly kid.

But championships aren’t the only reason to hate a team. Lots of teams have won championships, many of them multiple championships. But those teams aren’t here. The Steelers are sad and old. The 49ers are literally on fire. The Broncos have been taken behind the shed and Old Yeller’d. The Giants are sitting in the basement eating glue. The Cowboys are running around the lawn with no clothes on covered in filthy mud screaming obscenities. No, we need more to hate these 4 rich kids. We need to add real depth to our hate. So lets go over this, team by team.

December 29, 2014

Vikings beat Chicago in lacklustre end-of-season game

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

Unlike the later game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, the early game between the Vikings and the Bears was only important for figuring out who’d end up in the NFC North basement (but also who’d get the better draft picks in 2015). It may have been for the best that the Winnipeg CTV affiliate chose not to show the Minnesota home game and instead opted for a game with some kind of playoff relevance. I can’t really blame them.

At 1500ESPN, Andrew Krammer gives us an overview of the game:

The Minnesota Vikings were just getting started, with a rookie quarterback and a first-time head coach.

Jay Cutler and the rest of the Chicago Bears played again like they were ready for the season to be over.
Teddy Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the third quarter, guiding the Vikings to a 13-9 victory on Sunday to put one more blemish on a forgettable year for the Bears.

Blair Walsh kicked two field goals, Audie Cole had 11 tackles in his first start of the season and the Vikings (7-9) ended coach Mike Zimmer’s first year on a winning note.

Jay Cutler returned from a one-game benching with 172 yards on 23-for-36 passing without a fumble or an interception, but he rarely threw long and the offense was off all afternoon with a series of unforced errors.
The Bears (5-11) finished with their worst record in 10 years, perhaps the last game for coach Marc Trestman.

After the Vikings drove 61 yards to the 3, Matt Asiata was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 to give Cutler and the Bears one last opportunity with 2:53 left and a four-point deficit.

They bungled it, metaphorically for this mess of a season. Three penalties, including two false starts, plus an incompletion doomed the drive.

With the regular season out of the way, and no post-season games in sight, some of the Vikings fanbase are already talking free agency and the rookie draft next year. While the Vikings appear to finally have their answers at head coach and quarterback, there are other roster positions that could (and should) be upgraded before training camp opens in 2015. There were players on the roster this year that more than earned their salaries (Bridgewater, Barr, McKinnon, Floyd, Rhodes, Smith, and Asiata, to name a few), and there were others who may not be with the team next year due to either salary concerns (Jennings, Peterson, Greenway, Robison) or performance issues (Munnerlyn, Patterson, Charlie Johnson, Robinson). Every team faces roster turn-over every off-season — it’s a cliché that it’s just business, but it’s a cliché for a good reason.

Earlier this week, Dan Zinski made the case that the team wasn’t sold on Munnerlyn as the answer to their backfield woes:

You could maybe forgive some of Munnerlyn’s struggles early in the season when he was still getting used to the scheme, but as the year has worn on, the cornerback has continued to blow assignments and hurt the team. Week after week, when confusion reigns in the Vikings’ secondary, it always seems Munnerlyn is the one being barked at by his teammates and coaches.

The veteran player you brought in specifically to bring stability to a young secondary is not supposed to be the one still getting lost in week 16.

When he’s not losing track of where he’s supposed to be, Munnerlyn is often flat out getting physically dominated. Captain is a smaller corner but, like Antoine Winfield, he came to the Vikings with a reputation for playing bigger than his size. We haven’t seen much evidence of that thus far in Minnesota, and the comparisons to Winfield now seem ridiculous.


If it’s Mike Zimmer’s intention to create a good secondary filled with players who play smart and play hard, I don’t see how Munnerlyn can be part of the plan. When Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the rest of the brain trust sit down to grade personnel and make decisions about the future, they should absolutely consider moving on from Captain Munnerlyn.

Contract-wise, cutting loose from Munnerlyn would not be difficult at all. The three-year deal Munnerlyn signed before the season was structured so that very little dead money would be left after the first season. Per Over the Cap, dumping Munnerlyn would save the Vikings $3.1 million in 2015 and $4.25 million in 2015.

The Vikings clearly had their doubts about Munnerlyn and constructed a contract that would give them the option to move on after one year with only a small penalty.

Update: PFF grades the best Viking performers in yesterday’s game.

Audie Cole, LB: +7.8

Breakdown: Chad Greenway has been a fantastic servant to the Minnesota Vikings, but Audie Cole’s performance in this game suggested that maybe it is time to move on. Cole was all over the field, making tackles in the run game, pass game, breaking up passes and even intercepting one that was nullified because of a defensive offside flag.

Signature Stat: Cole’s grade in this game is a better figure than Greenway has ever achieved. The last game Greenway has even had in that ballpark was in Week 11 of the 2008 season.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB: +4.0

Breakdown: The numbers might not be as pretty as a week ago, but this was another extremely accomplished performance from the Vikings’ rookie. His accuracy was on point most of the game and deserved better production but for a couple of passes bouncing the wrong way once they reached their intended targets. For the second week in a row he ended up with an interception that hit his receiver in the hands.

Signature Stat: With five dropped passes, one batted at the line and one thrown away, Bridgewater only actually missed on one ‘aimed’ pass all game. An Accuracy Percentage of 95.7%, best of the week.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: -1.2

Breakdown: How far has Patterson’s star fallen this season? From a player tipped to have a huge year, he ends the season playing just six snaps on offense, and causing an interception by dropping the ball the only time he was targeted. With teams routinely kicking away from him on kickoffs too, his potential impact there has been almost entirely negated.

Signature Stat: Over the last five games Patterson has played just 28 snaps, 20 fewer than he played in the season opener.

December 22, 2014

Miami Dolphins beat Vikings 37-35 on a blocked punt for a safety

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:25

This wasn’t a game for the ages, although it did have some twists and turns in the storyline leading up to the final minute of play (when the Dolphins legitimately got do do the Safety Dance). Teddy Bridgewater was unable to secure the victory in front of about 100 family and friends in the stadium, although it was a close game from start to finish. Bridgewater ended up with 19 of 25 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (but should have been credited with a third touchdown). Although the penalties didn’t make the difference in the game, it was disturbing to see two Vikings defenders lose their cool (and cost the team 15 yards each) after the play was over. Sharif Floyd and Gerald Hodges were both flagged for unsportsmanlike behaviour (and will undoubtedly hear from coach Mike Zimmer about their lack of discipline).

1500ESPN‘s Andrew Kramer sums up the post-game comments:

“I thought he played well,” coach Mike Zimmer said postgame, via Vikings.com. “One interception was bad luck. Rest of the time, thought he did a good job scrambling the pocket. He made some great throws, played with composure and continued to do all those things.”

Bridgewater helped validate the 550-word opening statement from offensive coordinator Norv Turner on Thursday, when the grizzled veteran coach defended his rookie’s progress by calling him ‘incredible.’

While Bridgewater had grown comfortable hitting receivers in the middle of the field, he showed off his arm on Sunday with touch passes, including a 21-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings and a 22-yard completion to Chase Ford that was millimeters away from being another touchdown. He also converted a 3rd-and-13 attempt with a deep throw to Jennings for 24 yards.

In a season where injuries and legal troubles caused a flood of attrition, the Vikings’ second overall pick in May’s NFL Draft has been their floatation device.

“Played pretty good, for the most part,” Bridgewater said. “We have to play a full game. On offense, we did a great job. High intensity.”

After dropping back Bridgewater nearly 50 times in Detroit, Turner came into Miami with a focus on creating a ground game. Matt Asiata took seven carries on the opening drive, picking up gains of 7, 8 and 10 yards in the first quarter as the Vikings cruised to a 14-0 lead.

Akin to the loss in Detroit, that early lead evaporated; but this time it wasn’t on Bridgewater, who threw two costly picks to the Lions. The Vikings’ defense allowed four touchdowns on four Miami drives in the second half, squashing the 10-point lead at intermission.

And the Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover on the third touchdown that should have been awarded to Teddy Bridgewater and Chase Ford:

Sell: Referees calling a penalty on every play in this game. I mean, holy crap was that one of the most horribly officiated games I’ve ever witnessed. Mystery defensive holding on Chad Greenway that extended a drive, mystery defensive holding on Xavier Rhodes that extended a drive, the BS PI call on Rhodes at the end of the game when he was looking at the ball and making a play on said ball, the list goes on. Did they cost the Vikings the game? 99% of the time, I think the calls even themselves out over the course of a game, but there’s a nagging burning in my gut over this game. Not necessarily on the penalties, which were bad, but on the Chase Ford touchdown that wasn’t right before halftime.

I mean, he had possession, his foot was in bounds, he dragged his toe in bounds, and he was inside the pylon before he went out. If that isn’t a touchdown, then honestly, I don’t know what a TD is in the NFL anymore. And if that was bad enough, when officials reviewed the Mike Wallace TD that occurred in a similar fashion later in the game, Wallace’s foot was no more out of bounds than Ford’s was, yet his TD call stood. It was one of the more horridly officiated games the Vikings have been involved in that I can remember. Since last week. Or the week before.

Update: Jim Souhan points the finger of blame for yesterday’s defensive collapse.

If you were playing Lifelong Vikings Fan Bingo on Sunday, you were able to cross off “punt blocked out of end zone to lose game” and “onside kick from 20-yard line,” winning you an autographed copy of Gary Anderson’s just-in-time-for-the-holidays coffee-table book titled I Only Missed Once.

Say this for the Vikings: They have evolved. A few weeks ago they were hoping their defense could give their rookie quarterback a chance to win. Sunday, they asked Bridgewater to overcome the team’s most disappointing defensive performance of the season.

A week after frustrating the Lions, the Vikings defense made the Dolphins look like they were still employing players named Griese and Csonka.


The Vikings made so many mistakes, missed so many tackles, it was enough to make you wonder whether some of their young defenders found their way to South Beach on Saturday night — and whether some of them should have stayed there on Sunday.

“Poor performance by us,” Zimmer said. “I saw us do things we haven’t done in a long time.”

Zimmer gets gloriously furious when his team, and in particular his defense, fails to display a grasp of fundamentals.

Some days, he seems to change colors right in front of you, from pale white to crimson. Sunday, Zimmer looked so angry you wondered if he was going to change states, from solid to liquid to steam.

“We were undisciplined,” he said, apparently auditioning for an endorsement deal with Maalox. “We didn’t even line up half — or some — of the time.”

Zimmer has earned praise often this season. Sunday, he was the only logical person to blame.


After a terse-but-polite news conference, someone asked Zimmer if he had offered a similar message to his players. “It was stronger,” he said.

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