Middle Of Nowhere To Go But Up
The Minnesota Vikings are 2-7, and even though they made the playoffs last year (a 24-10 loss to the division-rival Green Bay Packers), they’ve got questions at quarterback and at head coach. The team surprised many with the twelfth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by selecting Christian Ponder out of Florida State. Not surprising to many, Christian Ponder’s inability to hold onto the starter’s job in Minnesota. Injuries and ineffective play have slowed his development, while challengers like Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman have been added to the roster. Both are players that have started in the National Football League, and have every intention of starting again.
Leslie Frazier has had a significant voice on this football team since he was hired as a defensive coordinator out of Indianapolis in 2007. As a branch from the Tony Dungy coaching tree, Frazier earned his opportunity to lead the Vikings as its head coach in 2011, after being appointed as the interim in 2010. The Vikings have played in one playoff game during these three seasons, and only after eeking out the sixth-seed on the final weekend of the 2012 campaign. With RB Adrian Peterson making a miraculous comeback from knee surgery, the Minnesota Vikings climbed on his back and rode him to a 10-6 season… as he rambled into the history books with an amazing 2,097 rushing yards!
The future looks bright, as the franchise will occupy a gorgeous new facility appropriately named Vikings Stadium. Unlike the new Target Field for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings Stadium will go with the fixed-roof approach, keeping the Vikings an indoor football team for years to come. Jared Allen has led the defense since 2008, after spending his first four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen has 80 (and counting) of his 122 career sacks in purple and gold, and like Peterson, they’re not getting any younger. With legitimate targets at the skill positions on offense, and a special teams threat like Cordarrelle Patterson returning kicks, the Vikings can hold their own in all three phases. So why is this team struggling?
The offense hasn’t been a well-oiled machine, but even with the horrid showings in consecutive games against the Carolina Panthers & on Monday Night Football to the New York Giants, the Vikings have put points on the board. The defense, Frazier’s specialty, has been a different animal all together. Only the Dallas Cowboys (who have given up a team record in number of yards TWICE this season) and the Philadelphia Eagles (who literally play a fast-break style offense similar to Oregon’s thanks to new HC Chip Kelly) have allowed more yards this season. GM Rick Spielman has given HC Frazier the “vote of confidence” and has said that Frazier is safe through the end of the year. With the new building opening in 2016, and players like Allen and Peterson getting closer to the end of their prime years, will team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf clean house entirely? New GM… new HC… new QB?
If the Wilf’s are looking to open their new building with a contender, I see changes across the board. Why couldn’t a GM like former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum work in Minnesota? He has a track record of making heady selections, and the Jets are thriving with his picks making a significant impact. To run the defense, I can see Romeo Crennel dropping his title as Defensive Advisor with the Patriots for a more front-and-center role as the Defensive Coordinator for the Vikings. Elevating Hall of Famer (and current LB Coach & Special Assistant to the HC) Mike Singletary to Head Coach would be a temporary move, but one that would maintain some continuity while the staff is in transition… as well as keeping a recognizable motivator in that locker room.
Thinking outside the box, and completely outside the NFL, I say the Wilf’s target Stanford’s David Shaw as their next Offensive Coordinator. I think Shaw could take over the offense, and with the pieces on the roster (Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Kyle Rudolph, Josh Freeman) he could implement his system effectively. With the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts as examples that the “Stanford” system works in the NFL, David Shaw will be sought by many. The role of Offensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach would suit him nicely. He could learn the ins-and-out of the NFL head-coaching game, while bringing his brand of football to the league. The Wilf’s yet have another chance to start all over again at the QB position after they swung and missed with Ponder; will they allow Peterson and Allen languish on mediocre teams… or give these Vikings a chance for postseason glory?!
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
Join the conversation on Twitter @JerseyHaas or send me an e-mail JosephHaasNFL@Gmail.com. You can also find me covering the New York Jets at HCoftheNYJ.com and Saturdays on the Green & White Show.