September 18, 2016

What Sam Bradford and the Vikings offer each other

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:43

In Saturday’s Star Tribune, Jim Souhan looks at the Vikings’ newly annointed starting quarterback and says it can go one of two ways — “Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.”

Sunday night, millions of Vikings fans and dozens of Vikings players will ask what Sam Bradford can do for them.

Just as important is the reverse.

What can the Vikings do for Bradford?

The answer will shape this season, and the next, and so will Bradford’s career, and perhaps his last chance to improve his reputation.

Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 draft. Which means he was selected by a terrible team.

Bradford did not singlehandedly elevate the Rams. Neither has anyone else. They haven’t had a winning record since 2003.

Bradford muddled through, putting up numbers not all that different from Teddy Bridgewater’s, for four seasons before being traded to Philadelphia.

Last year with the Eagles, while adapting to a new and complex offense, Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an 86.4 passer rating.

Last year, in his second season with the Vikings, Bridgewater completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 88.7.

Bradford is on his third team and was asked to be a savior, so his numbers are considered disappointing. Bridgewater is younger and thought to be improving, so his very similar numbers are considered promising.

The question facing Bradford is whether, at 28, he is still a growth stock. While there is no sure way to predict his future, this is a good time to point out that even great quarterbacks need help, and that Bradford never has played for a winning team, or with a running back like Adrian Peterson.

Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.

November 9, 2015

Vikings beat Rams 21-18, but Bridgewater knocked out on cheap-shot

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

The Vikings moved into a tie for first place in the NFC North by (barely) beating the St. Louis Rams at the same time as the Packers lost to the Carolina Panthers. Both the Vikings and Packers now have 6-2 records, but Minnesota has more wins within the division so they’re technically ahead (for playoff standing, divisional wins are more significant than conference wins, which are in turn more important than out-of-conference wins).

The game itself was a slugfest, with both teams depending heavily on their defences to mask the weaknesses on the other side of the ball. Neither team was at full strength, with the Vikings lacking new rookie sensation Eric Kendricks at middle linebacker and the Rams without defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Injuries piled up during the game even before the personal foul that took Teddy Bridgewater out of the game. Cornerback Terence Newman (suspected concussion) and backup middle linebacker Audie Cole both left the field, with Cole being carted to the locker room with a broken ankle and is probably done for the season. After the game, reporters noticed that linebacker Anthony Barr had his left arm in a cast, although he didn’t appear to miss any snaps during the game. Both Bridgewater and Newman have to go through the concussion protocol, so it won’t be known for at least a few days whether either player will be able to play next week. Rookie Trae Waynes stepped in for Newman and veteran backup quarterback Shaun Hill played the remainder of the game for Bridgewater.

It didn’t take long for suspicions to form about infamous (former New Orleans Saints) defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams repeating his “bountygate” past:


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.

May 13, 2014

The NFL’s first openly gay player

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:03

Michael Sam was drafted this weekend by the St. Louis Rams. He’s the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. Back in February, I wrote:

In addition to the questions about whether Sam’s collegiate talents will be enough to allow him to flourish in the NFL, and whether a given team would welcome an openly gay team-mate in the locker room, there’s also the “Tim Tebow” problem … the team that drafts Sam will be in the unrelenting focus of the media’s publicity floodlights. Just drafting Sam would only be the start of the media’s attention. Everything to do with Sam will draw TV cameras, paparazzi, and the team’s beat writers for local media outlets.

Perhaps I misjudged the degree of ongoing interest by media outlets, as after the initial flurry of coverage, I heard very little about Michael Sam until he was actually drafted, as a photo of him kissing his boyfriend hit Twitter (and the knuckle-dragging idiots came out in droves). In February, I didn’t think Sam would be drafted, but I was wrong. However, as David Boaz points out, he was drafted far later than he would likely have been if he wasn’t “out”:

… this past weekend has reminded us that we haven’t quite achieved “opportunity to the talented.” Michael Sam was the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the country’s strongest football conference, yet many people wondered if any NFL team would draft the league’s first openly gay player. Turns out they were right to wonder. Here’s a revealing chart published in yesterday’s Washington Post (based on data from pro-football-reference.com and published alongside this article in the print edition but apparently not online).

2014 NFL draft and Michael Sam

Every other SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the past decade, including the athlete who shared the award this year with Michael Sam, was among the top 33 picks in the draft, and only one was below number 17. Does that mean that being gay cost Michael Sam 232 places in the draft, compared to his Co-Defensive Player of the Year? Maybe not. There are doubts about Sam’s abilities at the professional level. But there are doubts about many of the players who were drafted ahead of him, in the first 248 picks this year. Looking at this chart, I think it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Sam paid a price for being openly gay. That’s why classical liberals – which in this broad sense should encompass most American libertarians, liberals, and conservatives – should continue to press for a society in which the careers are truly open to the talents. That doesn’t mean we need laws, regulations, or mandates. It means that we want to live in a society that is open to talent wherever it appears. As Scott Shackford writes at Reason, Sam’s drafting is “a significant cultural development toward a country that actually doesn’t care about individual sexual orientation. The apathetic should celebrate this development, as it is a harbinger of a future where such revelations become less and less of a big deal.” Let’s continue to look forward to a society in which it’s not news that a Jewish, Catholic, African-American, Mormon, redneck, or gay person achieves a personal goal.

Update: Draw Play Dave gets it exactly right.

December 17, 2012

Vikings beat Rams with another stellar Adrian Peterson performance

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

This was a do-or-die game for both teams: only the winner would still have playoff aspirations. At 7-6, the Vikings were contending for a wildcard in the NFC North, while St. Louis was in contention in the NFC West with a 6-6-1 record.

The Rams hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in several games and featured strong defensive line performances to clog running lanes and limit opportunities. It worked well: after eight runs, Adrian Peterson had only tallied eight yards. It was the ninth run that broke it open: 82 yards to the end zone for the touchdown (the Vikings never gave up the lead). By the time the Vikings stopped sending Peterson in, he’d gained over 200 yards and was that much closer to breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record (2,105 yards, set in 1984). It’s already his best season at 1,812 yards with two games left to play.

The “Blair Walsh Project” continues to prove the wisdom of drafting a kicker: he now owns the Vikings rookie scoring record and made five-of-five of his field goal attempts (53, 50, 42, 38, and 51 yards). It’s the first time a Vikings kicker has hit three field goals from 50 yards or more (and he also tied the NFL record with eight in a season).

November 18, 2012

The Two Scotts psycho-analyze the New York Jets

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:54

Scott Reid and Scott Feschuk try to explain the New York Jets:

New York Jets (plus 3) at St. Louis

Scott Feschuk: The New York Jets have done the impossible: they’ve made me feel sorry for Tim Tebow. Here we have a team that’s 3-6 — a team that over the past two weeks has been blown out by Seattle and Miami… a team that stops the run about as well as Kevin James stops at eating just a couple of your fries… a team that insists on starting a quarterback who plays like a kid dressed up for Halloween as an NFL quarterback — and all week this team devoted its energy to debating whether its backup QB, who hardly ever plays, is or is not “terrible?” Here’s the hard truth: the Jets have tuned out Rex Ryan. They need to make a change. You know who should coach this team? That Jill Kelley lady from the David Petraeus sex scandal.

She seems to be able to make grown men do anything. Within minutes of meeting her, FBI agents are ripping off their shirts and army generals are sending off lewd email messages about their four-star boners. Surely, if anyone could get Mark Sanchez to throw the ball in the general direction of someone — anyone — in green, it’d be her. Pick: St. Louis.

Scott Reid: Pro-tip for you buddy — it’s not all that difficult to get army generals talking about their boners. In fact, military men can be included in a rather exclusive list of male-dominated professions that can be easily coaxed into talking online about their wood. This group includes, but is not necessarily limited to: doctors, lawyers, door-to-door salesmen, pastry chefs, magazine editors, cabinet ministers, air conditioner repairmen, director Kevin Smith, certified management accountants, video game designers (especially video game designers!), piano instructors, hot air balloonists, dairy farmers, astronauts, union leaders, clergymen, tutorial assistants, pipe fitters (no surprise there), air traffic controllers, official team mascots, building inspectors, glass blowers, financial regulators and whatever the hell it is that you call what we two do for a living. The real trick, in fact, is to get us men NOT to talk about our boners. How? Actually that was a ruse. There is no way to get us not to talk about our boners. But the wise among us do know better than to do it via email with chicks who suffer from “f-ing crazy big-eyes syndrome.”

Of course, none of these human failings afflict Tim “Mr. Vanilla” Tebow. You know, maybe a little dirty-talk over the interweb would help Tim straighten out his skinny post (and yes, I’m speaking metaphorically). Pick: St. Louis.

March 21, 2012

NFL hands down punishments in Saints’ bounty hunting scandal

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:56

The NFL has finally announced what penalties it will assess against the New Orleans Saints and individual coaches for the bounty scheme the team ran (individual penalties against players who took part have not yet been disclosed):

  • Saints’ head coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay from NFL activities for one year.
  • Former Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended without pay indefinitely. The NFL will review his case after the 2012 season. This will also hurt the St. Louis Rams who hired Williams this season.
  • General manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for eight games.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for six games.
  • Loss of the Saints’ second-round draft pick in both 2012 and 2013.
  • A $500,000 fine on the club.

The penalties for the 22 or more individual players are apparently being held until the NFL Players Association can complete its own investigation into the scheme.

Earlier posts on this issue here and here.

Update: As several people have pointed out, this has a commonality with a lot of political scandals, in that the original sin is compounded by the cover-up attempts. It’s pretty much a certainty that this wasn’t the only bounty program in the league, and the penalty would likely have been much less if the Saints hadn’t worked so hard — as an organization — to cover it up after the initial accusation was made.

March 10, 2012

St. Louis Rams rob Washington Redskins, haul away bagload of draft picks

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

The headline expresses what appears to be the consensus view of yesterday’s blockbuster trade between the Redskins and the Rams. The Rams had the second pick in the 2012 NFL draft and Washington paid through the nose to obtain it. To move up in the draft and — we assume — pick their quarterback of the future, Washington gave up their first round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014, plus a second round pick this year. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay, although the future value of draft picks are usually discounted by one round, so on that reckoning, Washington only gave up the equivalent of two seconds and a third to swap places in the first round, which makes it seem a bit less eye-popping.

Of course, the Minnesota fan base blames the Vikings’ win over Washington at the end of the 2011 season for allowing the Rams to benefit from this trade (if Washington had won that game, the Vikings would have the second overall pick and likely have been the beneficiaries of the trade).

Christopher Gates would like to disillusion everyone about that meme:

Yes, the Minnesota Vikings’ victory over the Redskins on Christmas Eve “cost” the Vikings the opportunity to hold the #2 overall pick and get that potential haul from Washington or some other team. While I was bopping around the internet this morning, I found that there are a decent number of folks that are still not entirely happy that the Vikings didn’t try harder to lose that game in order to make that happen. If you should happen to be one of those people, I have something I’d like to say to you. . .

Stop it. Just. . .freaking. . .stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself.

We’ve been over this a couple of times, but it bears repeating in this case. . .you are not going to get a team full of professional athletes to “tank” in order to gain draft position. Why? Because the guys that are currently on the team don’t give a damn whether the Vikings are drafting at #2 or #3 or #10 or #29 or wherever else in the first round of the NFL Draft. Or, at the very least, they shouldn’t.

The Minnesota Vikings have 18. . .that’s eighteen. . .players that could potentially hit the free agent market when things open up in about 48 hours. Do you suppose those guys give a damn about draft position? No, they don’t. . .I’m guessing they’re much more interested in being employed when Training Camp starts in late July, and they’re not going to get employment from teams watching game film of them and seeing that they quit when things got rough late in the year.

Update: John Merkle at The Viking Age points out that the player Washington (probably) traded up for wasn’t even being consistently mentioned as a top-five draft pick as recently as December:

Robert Griffin III wasn’t even deemed the 2nd overall pick on that Christmas Eve. If anyone cares to google mock drafts from late 2011 you’ll notice that Robert Griffin III was slated to go anywhere from 5 to 15. There were mostly two major campaigns going on for two top shelf prospects — Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s “Suck For Luck” and USC tackle Matt Kalil’s “Fall Flat For Matt”. There was not one mention of “Whiffin For Griffin”. Yes, RG3 had already won the Heisman Trophy, but he hadn’t lead his Baylor Bears to 67 points in a video game style Alamo Bowl nor had he blown members of the NFL away at the combine (including running a 4.41 40-yard dash and interviewing like someone who should be running for political office). His draft stock was indeed solid in December, but hadn’t soared until the past couple of months.

So go ahead you guys. Whine all you want about winning a football game that costs us plethora of draft picks and be glass half empty sort of folks. Go invent a crystal ball that can see into the future. You’ll be rich. Maybe with a little hope in the next several days we’ll see a few more glass is half full personas amongst our fanbase. If anything we should be grateful for the ascension of RG3 allowing us to be in perfect position to take Kalil. A franchise left tackle is tremendous building block for any team, let alone one that has young quarterback who has to account for Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers four Sundays a year. 13 losses turned out to be enough falling flat for Matt.

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