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Feeling Superstitious About MN Vikings’ Loss in San Diego

Normally, I’m not a superstitious person. I have a black cat in residence who is constantly crossing my path, I don’t shy away from picking up coins that are tails side up, on occasion I have opened umbrellas indoors, and 13 never seemed like a particularly ominous number to me. But my normally levelheaded attitude is pretty much gone when it comes to football. Games like Minnesota Vikings‘ season opener against the San Diego Chargers, don’t do much to dispel that tendency.

While there are plenty of reasons for why the Vikings wrote A Tale of Two Halves at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, it seems that bad ju-ju is as likely a reason as everything else I have heard.

I trace the change in the game’s momentum to the seemingly reasonable idea of putting my 20-month-old niece down for a quick nap. My sister and my niece were flying back home to Michigan Sunday evening and we thought it was worth a try to get Rookie (a.k.a. baby niece) to take a nap because it was going to be a late evening for her. Until this point, Rookie had been suited up in her new Adrian Peterson jersey and she was grooving to “Skol Vikings.” It was crazy cute to walk into the room and see her get excited that the rest of us were wearing purple jerseys just like her jersey.

All suited up and armed with a wiggly toddler, we watched the Vikings start off their season with Percy Harvin returning the ball 103 yards for a touchdown. That opening play was fantastic, but things got even better because the Vikings’ offensive line did a respectable job of helping Donovan McNabb stay upright and giving Adrian Peterson holes to run through. Free-agent acquisition Michael Jenkins gave us hope for the receiving corps. Fred Pagac’s aggressive defense kept San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers from getting comfortable with pressure from the Vikings’ revamped defensive line. Mike Singletary’s linebackers tackled like men on a mission. The Vikings looked a lot more like a team making a statement than a team in a dreaded rebuilding year.

Then Rookie, much to her very vocal dismay, was put down for a nap and things went all pear-shaped for the Vikings. Now, I suppose that it might be silly to credit the Vikings’ second-half collapse with the absence of a toddler whose understanding of the game is comprised solely of her affection for the color purple but, when faced with the possibility that Bill Musgrave’s offense is no better at adapting and executing than Brad Childress’s offense, I lean toward the missing toddler theory because it’s a much easier fix.

That offensive breakdown was the loose thread that unraveled what could have been an upset victory for the Vikings on the road in San Diego. Instead, the Vikings are starting the season in the NFC North’s basement because all the other teams in the division won their opening games. While being one game behind the rest of the division is hardly hole the Vikings can’t climb out of if they correct the problems they had on Sunday, it isn’t the way Leslie Frazier wanted to start his first full season as head coach, and it isn’t a great way to build positive momentum for a team that is seeking a new stadium.

For me, the most mind-boggling moment in Sunday’s game came when the Vikings sent Joe Webb in to take snaps in the Wildcat formation. As much as I love watching Joe Webb play, I’m biased against the Wildcat formation-not because it isn’t a good idea, but because I’ve never really seen it work. It’s supposed to confuse and confound an opposing defense so the offense can break lose an explosive play. While the Wildcat did confuse the Chargers on Sunday, it also seemed to confuse the Vikings because after two plays they were in a third-and-ten situation. But the worst part of it was that the Vikings squandered the momentum Adrian Peterson had created with two strong runs.

Adrian Peterson wasn’t awarded a $100 million seven-year contract just because he’s a swell guy, he got it because he’s a strong, punishing running back. The offense is built around him and he’s going to be the face of the franchise for many years, so why, why would you take the ball away from him when he’s hot? Seems to me that Bill Musgrave would do well to heed the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

When you’ve got a talent like Adrian Peterson, why would you want to do anything else?

The Vikings’ running game is the center of the Vikings’ team identity. It’s meant to punish and demoralize defenders who try to stop it, the running game sets up the passing so the quarterback can take advantage of opposing defenses loading the box to stop the run, and it takes time off the clock helping the team win the time of possession battle. Taking time off the clock is especially handy in spelling the defense so they have the energy to stuff the opposing run and force them into third-and-long situations. Therefore, I cannot understand the decision to abandon an effective running game for a gimmicky play. The Vikings didn’t need to do it.

When faced with both the possibility that the Vikings new offensive system is falling prey to the same mistakes that their previous offensive system made, is it any wonder that I prefer to hope the offense can be fixed by making sure Rookie doesn’t miss a game? Making sure my niece has access to NFL Season Ticket is a lot easier than suffering through another season of Childressian offense.

*This post is also available at The Daily Norseman, a fantastic SB Nation blog. At The Daily Norseman I write under the name Skol Girl.

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Football, Sports Writing

 

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Let’s Here it for the Fans

It’s hard to come up with an new and creative spin on how, from the craptastic ashes of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 2010 season, a majestic phoenix could rise and wing our beloved Purple back to greatness, but I’m really going to make a stab at it. At this point options are kind of limited for Vikings fans. We can either whine and moan about how the Vikings always find a way to break our hearts, or we can find a way to put disappointment behind us and look forward with some kind of hope. Actually, there’s still the option of tossing back a couple of valium and buying that one-way ticket to Costa Rica and never thinking about the Vikings, the NFL, or football again, but I’ve mostly given up that idea. Mostly.

No, like the rest of you hardcore fans, I’m not going to abandon the Vikings. Instead, I’ve tried to think about 2010 in terms of that Jerry Springer recap, you know that “moral-of-the-story” thing he would do after he got people to unleash a whole mess of crazy on his show, to explore what we’ve learned besides the fact that even sweet grandmas can throw a mean left hook given the right inducement.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that if we had to vote for a Minnesota Vikings MVP in 2010, it should be the Vikings fans. In a season rife with drama and disappointment, the Vikings fans did an almost heroic job of hanging in there with our team.

With the exception of the 1970s which was a pretty boss decade for the Vikings, Minnesota has at least one lousy season every decade. This last decade was a bit worse than usual because there were four seasons when the Vikings won less than half of their games and  two seasons when they merely broke even between wins and losses. So, for six out of the last ten years the Vikings have had a mediocre to crappy record. It helps put 2010 into perspective because 2001, 2002 and 2006 were as bad or worse than 2010. What made 2010 seem so much worse was how great 2009 had been.

That painful jaunt through the Vikings sub-par records for the last decade was just an overly elaborate set-up to my attempt to find the good in this steaming pile of disappointment. There is nothing like a brilliant, winning season, say like 2009, to attract fans. However, I don’t think you have the right to call yourself a fan, a real fan, unless you cheer for a team during a losing season. Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re just a fan intern.

For example, a lot of people became Vikings fans during the 1970s which, as I said earlier, was a totally boss era for the Vikings. They were the defensively dominant Purple People Eaters who made three of their four trips to the Super Bowl in that decade. As Ted Glover said in his great piece about the wonder of outdoor football, the Vikings of that era were some of the toughest mamba jambas to play the game of football. Yep, the 1970s were a great time to become a Vikings fan, but for those who remained Vikings fans during 1984, the infamous Les Steckel year, you my friends, you get props and a shiny gold star. I was only in kindergarten at the time so my memories of the 1984 season are kind of fuzzy.

And, like those fine folks who managed to hold on through the 1984 season, the people who became Vikings fans in 2008 and 2009 when our Vikings were the NFC North division champions and made it through 2010 with their purple pride somehow intact, you are now full-fledged Vikings fans. Embrace the pain and the paradox of our team.

If I had to come up with just one thing to hate it would have to be something that makes me sounds deep and wise and altruistic, and, somehow, I don’t think black jelly beans will cut it. However, if we came up with a bigger, longer, itemized list of the things I hate, bandwagon fans would be somewhere in the top 50%.

Bandwagon fans make me want to growl and grind my teeth. I don’t like them. I don’t like them with green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am. So if there is anything to be gained from a craptastic season like 2010, it’s that the bandwagon fans who cheered for the Vikings the previous two seasons have drifted off to give their fickle support to the Packers and the people left are the real Vikings fans who cheer for the Vikings even when their home games are played on Detroit’s Ford Field or the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

As 2010 dragged on and it became painfully clear that it would not be a repeat of 2009, I expected a pretty big drop-off in Viking support from the local populace here in Minnesota. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were still showing their horns no matter how lousy things were going for our team. For example, I remember one day when I needed to get away from all things football for a couple hours and so I went to a sanctuary of all things dainty and girly–the teashop. I was going to eat scones, drink tea with my pinkie in the air, and enjoy not thinking about football for a little while. But that isn’t what happened. Instead, I sat there, eating my scone and drinking my tea while I eavesdropped on the grandmas sitting at the table behind me who were talking about what the Vikings needed to do to turn the season around. Now, for all you manly men out there who have never been to a teashop let me explain something, conversations about football are something of a rarity in places where there are more frilly doilies and dainty teacups than you can shake a stick at.

That those little, old ladies were so involved with the Vikings’ season that they simply had to discuss the Vikings’ season over floral teacups is both cute and kind of sassy. That those ladies weren’t atypical suggests that the Minnesota Vikings have better fans than they had any reason to expect this season. Yes, even in a season where our Vikings made under-performing and drama as commonplace as black nail polish on goths, people were still wearing their Vikings shirts in the middle of the week, were still putting up purple and gold mailboxes, and were still adorning their vehicles with Vikings decals and flags.

So, for all this Purple Pride in the face of adversity and general crappiness, I think the Vikings’ fans deserve some kind of acknowledgment. I would prefer my allotment of the aforementioned acknowledgment in the form of cash or tropical vacations, but I’ll take heartfelt thanks too. After a season like 2010, the Vikings faithful deserve at least that much.

*This piece is also posted at the Daily Norseman under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Football, Series, Uncategorized

 

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Optimism Going, Going, Gone

I keep looking for the silver lining in the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season, but that’s a tough sell. After nine games the Vikings have a 3-6 record meaning they’ve lost two thirds of the games they have played this season.

To say that my optimism is wearing thin would be an understatement.

If this were a rebuilding year that would be one thing, but this is a veteran team with so many Pro Bowl players you can’t swing a cat without hitting one. Experienced players, who are some of the best in the NFL at their respective positions, playing this poorly is hard to fathom. No matter how we break down Sunday’s loss to the Bears in Chicago it simply amounts to more of the same stuff that’s plagued the Vikings all season.

Despite a hopeful, if not electric, start, Sunday’s game quickly devolved. Considering the dramatic way the Vikings won against the Arizona Cardinals, suddenly playing the way they did last season, I held onto hope as long as I could on Sunday. Somewhere in the fourth quarter I quit taking notes on the game and started hopping around the room because if the Vikings were going to wage a comeback, they needed to do it right then. Well, on Sunday there was no comeback.

Regardless of Chicago’s record, they aren’t really that good*. However, they didn’t have to be that good, they just needed to be a little better than the Vikings and the Vikings have been making that far too easy for opposing teams. The secret to Chicago’s success on Sunday isn’t surprising or complicated, they converted on third downs, they had good returns from kick-offs and punts, they had receivers, and they scored in the red zone. Oh, and because it was their home field, they knew what cleats to wear to keep from slipping all over the field like Larry, Curly, or Moe at an ice rink.

I could look at the rest of the stuff that went wrong on Sunday, but I just don’t have the energy or the discipline for that kind of systematic misery. If the Vikings are going to make any kind of attempt to salvage this season, they have to win every remaining game, meaning the best they can do for the season is a 10-6 record. If they were playing every upcoming game in the Metrodome, that might be possible, but they won’t. They would have to win on the road to end the season at 10-6 and they haven’t managed to win on the road since November 2009.

The way this season is going, it seems a safe bet that Brad Childress won’t be the Vikings’ coach next season. A new coach generally means that at least a third of the current roster will be gone next season, but it could be more considering all the veterans the Vikings have. And, as if that wouldn’t bring enough uncertainty to next season, there is also the storm brewing between the NFL and the Players Association because of the collective bargaining agreement. Whatever happens next season, the Vikings will look very different.

But before any of that happens there are still seven more games this season. If this Vikings team is going to continue to try to turn things around, they don’t have much time. If they are just going to phone it in and wait for next season, it’s a mediocre eternity.

If the Vikings continue to play the way they are playing now and winning only at home, then they would win four more games and end the season 7-9. But, if they somehow manage to win all of the next seven games (not a strong possibility, I know), the Vikings might be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the play-offs. I don’t like seasons when the Vikings have to rely on getting a Wild Card, too many other things have to go their way for that to happen. Luck has been hard for the Vikings to come by and I wouldn’t expect luck to suddenly make a convenient appearance at this late hour. And, honestly, the Vikings need to start making their own luck. With all of their talent, you’d think they would have an advantage in that department.

No amount of uninspired play calling should excuse the lackluster play, the missed tackles, the failed third-down conversions, or the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Even if Vikings players have changed their mindset from trying to win games to clock watching until the end of the season, the way they finish 2010 will tell teams considering signing Vikings players a lot about what they can expect from these players. Even if they aren’t interested in helping this team win anymore, players can’t honestly think that sub-par play will help them in free-agency.

Between self-interest and pride, one would hope that the Vikings could find a way to pull together and play the way they are capable of playing. If they can’t, then the next seven games will be pointless.

*I still maintain that the Lions should have won when they played the Bears on Week 1 of the season. The officials in that game robbed Calvin Johnson of his game-winning touchdown and I refuse to acknowledge it as a Chicago victory.

This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Football, Lifestyle

 

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So Long Randy–It’s Not Us, It’s You

This season, what the Vikings lack in wins, they make up for with drama. Yes, just when it seems that the season can’t get any stranger, Vikings fans get the football equivalent of Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre, bearded appearance on Letterman. And this latest one is a doozy.

Four games after signing Randy Moss the Minnesota Vikings have waived him—adios amigo and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. For their troubles the Vikings have lost a draft pick, three additional games, and, if the comments are any indication, the love of the fan base.

Sad considering the Moss/Vikings reunion had such promise. Randy Moss, one of the most incredible football talents ever, returning to where it all started so he could catch passes from Brett Favre—the Vikings’ season would be saved and it would be glorious. This didn’t appear to be a stretch because a deep threat seemed to be the missing piece that would get things rolling.

But after four games with the Vikings, the best you can say about the Randy Moss experiment is that the results were mixed. In his brief tenure with the 2010 Minnesota Vikings, Randy Moss had 13 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Moss’ presence on the field also returned a kind of balance to the offense, enabling Percy Harvin to return to the middle of the field where he’s been so effective. However, despite being with the organization that he supposedly felt residual fondness for because they drafted him in 1998, and despite getting to work with a quarterback he said he had wanted to work with, fans witnessed Moss, once again, giving up on plays and being a temperamental diva. Most recently, after drawing a pass interference penalty during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game at New England, Moss pulled up short and stopped running the route. The pass, that looked like it would have been a touchdown if Moss had continued to run the route, landed just out of his reach.

Following the New England game Moss had a strange, rambling press conference that was seen by many as the catalyst for Coach Brad Childress deciding to waive him. However, from some of the stories leaking out about Moss’ behavior at Winter Park, and from seeing that his habit of giving up on plays was still alive and kicking, it may be that the press conference, and Moss’ informing the team that he wouldn’t fly back from Foxboro with them, may have simply been the final straws.

On a team that’s winning, Randy Moss’ deep threat is icing on the cake. And Moss probably thought that’s what he was getting when he signed with the Vikings in the beginning of October. At that time the Vikings were 1-2, a record that, though not ideal for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, was hardly insurmountable. Four games later, the Vikings have gone 1-3 with Moss. As good as Moss can be on a winning team, his history shows that he can quickly become a toxic anathema on a losing team—for as much as it makes me cringe and wish I could spin this any other way, at 2-5, the Vikings are a losing team and Moss did not look happy.

Randy Moss is a rare talent. He has the kind of legendary ability that most wide receivers would give their left testicle to have. But, either by choice, aptitude, or nature, he does not do well with a losing team. If you want someone who will rally the troops to play for pride even when the game is lost, or to hold it together when things look bad, Moss probably isn’t your guy.

And that is a real shame, because with Brett Favre battered and facing an NFL investigation, it would mean a lot to the team to have someone like Moss step up.

Considering that the Vikings are putting up with Brett Favre for another season, you’d think that dealing with Randy Moss would be a cinch. Favre, after all, has enjoyed a different set of rules from the rest of the rank and file players, so what should make his brand of diva so much more tolerable than Randy’s? Well, for all his diva-esque antics, and they are legion, try to think of a time when Favre gave up on a play or didn’t take the credit for poor play upon himself. How many examples are there of Favre not taking practice, film study, and games seriously? I’m trying but I can’t think of any.

A lot has been made of Coach Brad Childress deciding he’d had enough of Randy Moss, but here’s something that I think bears noting that I haven’t heard anyone else mention yet. Childress is not a guy to admit to mistakes (i.e. Tavaris Jackson situation), so it makes me wonder how bad, how very critical and toxic he appears to have thought things were with Moss that he would essentially say, “My bad” and cut Moss lose in the middle of the season. If Childress didn’t think things were critical he could have just waited until the end of the year and made sure that the Vikings didn’t offer Moss a new contract. That’s been Childress’ method with other players he didn’t want on the team. So for Childress to suggest that Moss is such a detriment that he has to be released immediately even though it means admitting to making a mistake…well, that should say something.

If fans want to criticize Brad Childress, and we know they do, then criticize him for bringing Randy Moss back to Minnesota in the first place and raising our hopes that this season wouldn’t end in tears. It isn’t like Moss is new to the league or that his long history of bad behavior was a well-kept secret. Randy Moss is the same as he was when he first showed up in the NFL in 1998. If you doubt that, just read his history of jail time (okay, that was before the NFL) and fines. Even the most basic due-diligence would suggest that Randy Moss, though an amazing talent, was being dumped by the Patriots for a reason and the Vikings would be wise to avoid getting tangled up with him.

But, they didn’t avoid Moss. Instead they jumped at the deal and now they’re attempting to jump out of it. I don’t know what is going to happen next, but, the way things are going, it’ll probably be snakes on the team plane.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Series

 

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The Long, Hard Wait for the Vikings Home Opener Against Miami

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’m really glad that the Minnesota Vikings season opener against the New Orleans Saints is done and over. The anticipation and hype leading up to that game had me so wired I was hopping around like a squirrel on meth. If it was over and the Vikings had won I would be happier and I probably wouldn’t have spent so much of Thursday night accusing the officials of doing immoral things with sheep, but it’s still a relief that a game with so much overwhelming hype is done.

The game shouldn’t be completely written off because it isn’t as if there weren’t bright spots in the Vikings performance against the Saints despite the loss, because there were. But when you want a win those bright spots aren’t quite bright enough.

But now it is a new week and the Vikings are preparing for a new game. It reminded me of the song “Walk and Don’t Look Back” by Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh because the Vikings need to learn what they can from Thursday’s disappointing loss without dwelling on it. I was even going to post the video to that song, but Mick Jagger acted so weird in it that it almost killed the song for me.

On Thursday night the Vikings offense looked out of sync and, well, kind of crappy but even then there was reason for hope. The Vikings offensive line did a fantastic job of keeping Brett Favre upright and giving him time to find a receiver. He didn’t, but that was hardly their fault. Even Bryant McKinnie put in a solid performance until he left the game with a dislocated finger. Adrian Peterson, despite getting mugged, did not fumble the ball. He was also on track to have what would have been a 100-yard game, but the Vikings, for reasons I don’t understand, abandoned the run in the second half. New acquisition Greg Camarillo’s hands were just as sure as advertised, but the Vikings didn’t put him in the game until the fourth quarter.

The Vikings defense, with the exception of the Saints first offensive series, held one of the league’s most dynamic offenses to a paltry 14 points. Drew Brees was able to exploit the Vikings’ corners during the first series, but after that the Vikings secondary put on the brakes and held firm. The Vikings linebackers were men on a mission, making flying tackles and showing that E.J. Henderson really is up to game speed. And Jayme Mitchell even got a sack on Drew Brees who didn’t look comfortable all night.

So yeah, it was a loss, but there were plenty of positives for the Vikings to build on and that has me impatient for the Vikings match-up on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins are sitting at the bottom of the AFC East, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put up a fight when they face the Vikings at the Dome on Sunday. On Sunday they won their first season opener in five years and they did it on the road in Buffalo. Quarterback Chad Henne and receiver Brandon Marshall flashed a growing chemistry that could prove challenging for opposing defenses to contain. And the Dolphins defense set a fast pace that Buffalo had a hard time answering. Will they be as much of a challenge as the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints? Probably not, but you never can tell what will happen.

Even with time off for his grandson’s christening [insert your own Brett Favre is old joke here], The FavreTM will have another week learning his receivers and how they run their routes. Favre didn’t unretire to lose, so I’m willing to bet that he’s logging his characteristic long hours in practice and looking at film. His favorite target from last season, Sidney Rice, may not be available, but something tells me that the 29-yard pass Favre lobbed at Greg Camarillo on Thursday night is just the beginning. Not only that, but it was reported that Percy Harvin’s migraines may have been triggered by sleep apnea. If that diagnosis is accurate, then now that Harvin is under treatment for sleep apnea, look for a surge in his production as he kicks off the rust.

And, for the love of Ragnar, give Adrian Peterson the damn ball! He’s running angry trying to show the team and everyone else that his fumbles are behind him and that Chris Johnson is full of hot air. Let him.

On defense, there is a good chance that possibly both Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin will be healthy enough to play in the next two games. If so, the secondary will get a nice upgrade and, just maybe, a few interceptions. He’s a nice, tall cornerback and I have a feeling that Cook will be able to win the jump-ball battle. Other than the secondary, the defense’s greatest problem on Thursday night seemed to be fatigue—the Vikings offense didn’t stay on the field long enough for the defense to catch their collective breath. By the fourth quarter the line that had done such a good job of stuffing the run suddenly seemed porous. I believe that as the offense improves the defense will too.

So, once again, I’m counting down until a Vikings game. But this time, I think there’s a much better chance that I’m counting down to a win. I’ll leave you with a song that no corny video can ruin for me. Which is good because the video really is pretty corny.

*This piece is also posted at both http://vikingsmix.com/ and http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

 

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My Futile Resistance

With as much as he’s done to improve the Minnesota Vikings over his tenure as head coach, you’d think I’d be a big fan of Coach Brad Childress. I try to be. The Vikings record has steadily improved each year he’s been head coach and they’ve been the NFC North champions for the last two years. And yet, I still can’t quite give myself over to becoming a Brad Childress super fan.

The problem, for me, is that I’m beginning to suspect he’s a member of the Borg.

Looks a little like Coach Childress, don't you think? Well, maybe he needs a mustache and a clipboard.

In Star Trek the Borg run around sporting mechanical implants and spouting, “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” This comparison comes to mind because that is how I feel when Childress talks about Tavaris Jackson.

Whenever asked about the quarterback situation and the depth chart at that position Childress firmly tells us that he’s seen “an evolution” in Tavaris Jackson during training camp. I keep waiting for this much touted evolution to make itself visible on the field during a game. So Jackson looks basically the way he’s always looked to me—good arm, good athleticism, sketchy leadership, nervous under pressure. I’m not quite sure where the evolution is.

But despite the fact that I have yet to see the promised evolution, Childress says it so much, that I am beginning to feel that resistance really is futile. No matter what I see in his performance, Tavaris Jackson is still going to be the apple of Childress’ eye—I will eventually be assimilated. Maybe I’m just one game away from saying, “We are 3 of 4. Tavaris Jackson has evolved as a starting quarterback. He’s taking steps within the system. You will be assimilated.”

I’m just not there yet.

So far this preseason, Sage Rosenfels performance at quarterback has yielded better results than Jackson’s. After some rough and disorganized play from the Vikings offense during the St. Louis game, Rosenfels rallied his troops and led them down the field for not one, not two, but three touchdowns. Three.

Granted, that comparison is slanted because, as the presumed starter for the 2010 season Tavaris Jackson played very little. He also played relatively little in the games against the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. While neither Jackson nor Rosenfels scored a touchdown in the game against San Francisco, Rosenfels did connect with Javon Walker for a touchdown in the Seattle game.

While the comparisons are slanted toward Rosenfels because Rosenfels took more snaps and thus had more opportunities to make plays, he still looked better at quarterback to me than Jackson. But, as Childress pointed out to me via the reporters for the Pioneer Press, I’m using the wrong criteria to evaluate the quarterbacks.

That’s right, I had things all ass-backwards. How a quarterback plays in an actual game (even a preseason one) isn’t how Childress and his staff are evaluating the quarterbacks for the depth chart. In the article “Odd Man Out?” by Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press Childress said,

“You can say, ‘Well, it’s about the games,’” Childress said. “We give them opportunities based on what we see in practice.”

While I can see awarding opportunities based on how a player performs in practice, what a player actually does with those opportunities during a game seems, to me, like it ought to be the clincher. But that’s just me thinking winning games is more important than being brilliant on the practice field.

However, no matter how freaking fantastic Tavaris Jackson might have been in training camp, it still wasn’t good enough to prevent Childress from sending Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, and Jared Allen off to Mississippi to lean on (and, I suspect trank) Brett Favre, load him into the private jet, and get him to return to the Vikings for another season. Apparently, even Borg assimilation has it’s limits.

Viva la resistance!
*This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ and http://vikingsmix.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Football, Lifestyle

 

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The Good, the Bad, and the Not So Good-looking:

It is always a challenge to get caught up after a vacation. When the vacation you’re catching up from isn’t yours, it’s also a surprise.

My sister swept into town, her husband and her baby in tow, and I wasn’t able to find the time to even skim the sports page until they left. Which was tough because plenty of interesting things happened in the wide world of Vikings football while I was distracted by the cuteness of my teething eight-month-old niece.

As far as I can tell, this is what I missed. Percy Harvin spent a night in the hospital for observation after collapsing on the practice field because of migraine complications—he was released the next day. The Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Sidney Rice went to Vail, Colorado for hip surgery. Javon Walker, who once elicited criticism from Brett Favre for contract antics back when they were teammates together in Green Bay, signed with the Vikings to help shore up the depleted receiving corps. The Vikings completed a rare player-for-player trade with the Miami Dolphins, exchanging corner back Benny Sapp for wide receiver Greg Camarillo. Former member of the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff, Pete Carroll came to town with the Seattle Seahawks to face the Vikings on Saturday night—the Vikings won, but their performance was a mixed bag.

Actually, I did manage to see both the 49ers game and the Seahawks game, but I’m kind of writing off the 49ers game because I was distracted. My niece was watching the game with me and Rookie was a cute, non-sleeping, handful in her Vikings onesie. So I’ll just speak to the game against the Seahawks which I watched without Rookie.

Saturday night reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Really, there was a little bit of everything.

I’m more of a bad news first kind of person, so that’s where I’ll start. The Vikings offensive line needs to gel, protect the quarterback, and give the running game a fighting chance. Certainly, they are affected by not having John Sullivan in at center and having a rookie on the line too, but in the meantime, the quarterbacks are suffering. There were some plays Saturday night where, I don’t know if there was a miscue or what, but Seahawks defenders barreled through the line untouched and flattened Brett Favre. To make matters worse, one of the times he was being flattened Favre fumbled the ball.

For his part, Favre was mostly what you would expect. He some showed signs of fatigue and rust, but it was liberally sprinkled with accurate missiles spread out to nine different targets. Perhaps the most shocking reception was Farve’s first pass over the middle to Percy Harvin. I didn’t even realize that Harvin was going to play because he hasn’t been able to participate much in practice. While Favre did throw two picks, one of them wasn’t his fault—Bernard Berrian couldn’t quite hang on to it and the Seahawks defense snagged it on the bobble.

But now, onto better things.

I’m just going to highlight a few things, but there were lots of good things peppered into an up-and-down game.

Greg Camarillo pulled in passes with his sure hands showing Vikings fans why the team traded Benny Sapp to get him from Miami. Camarillo may not have breakaway speed, which was a liability when the Seahawks defender got two yards ahead of him and intercepted Brett Favre’s pass, but Camarillo’s fantastic sticky fingers could still make him a favorite target for Brett Favre. Some of the local journalists have sneered a bit that he isn’t particularly explosive or dynamic, but I think with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin (when available), and Bernard Berrian (when he’s on the same page as Favre) not every player on the offense needs to be exciting and dynamic—some of them can just get the job done.

Despite being treated a bit like a redheaded stepchild, Sage Rosenfels marched the Vikings downfield and distinguished himself as the only Vikings quarterback to pass for a touchdown during Saturday’s game. He connected with newcomer Javon Walker in the end zone. Walker was in thick coverage but fought to come up with the ball. With the latest talk being that Tavaris Jackson is going to be the second quarterback on the depth chart, I hope that other teams recognize Rosenfels abilities and give him a chance to do more than fondle a clipboard on the sidelines this season.

And on defense, young Chris Cook is making a strong bid to be a starter in the September 9 game at New Orleans. With his height and his speed Cook was a desirable pick, but the coaches have said how much they like his sheer drive to learn everything they have to teach. Buzz-worthy through training camp, Cook was in on several great stops Saturday night. He’s got confidence, ability, and drive—and Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen are going to have to work hard on Thursday night if they want to win the starting job away from him.

On special teams Darius Reynaud had a fantastic game. His kick return from around the Vikings 4-yardline up to the Seahawks’ 22-yardline was a thing of beauty. If he can keep making plays like that, you have to believe he has a future with the Vikings.

It is going to be interesting to see how many starters the coaches decide to play on Thursday. Will we get a repeat of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, or will we see a more cohesive team? Guess we won’t know until Thursday. Is anyone else getting twitching about September 9?

This piece is also posted at vikingsmix.com and http://www.dailynorseman.com under my alter ego Skol Girl. She’s all football, all the time.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Brett Favre, Family, Lifestyle

 

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