Archived Story

Viking enthusiasm is drained

Published 6:01am Monday, January 20, 2014

So the Vikings have a new coach. Whoop-de-doo.

Mike Zimmer is the ninth Vikings head coach, following a mixed bag over the years, from a Hall of Famer in Bud Grant to perhaps one of the worst head coaches in NFL history in Les Steckel.

He’s supposed to be a fiery guy who has been a great defensive coordinator for many teams over many years.

We’ll see if it matters.

I’m not saying hiring Zimmer to replace Leslie Frazier is a bad move. Frazier, who by all accounts was a decent guy, in my opinion took too long to change course and make adjustments.

I’m convinced that if quarterback Christian Ponder hadn’t been injured, Frazier may have stayed with him all season, no matter how badly he played.

I also have to question Frazier’s dogged persistence in using the “Tampa 2” defensive scheme.

I’m no football genius, but from what I could tell, the scheme meant that, if it was third down and 14, the scheme called for the cornerback to give the receiver 15 yards of cushion, allowing him to make the first down, and then hitting the guy really hard. Great plan.

Most importantly, Frazier’s teams had two losing seasons in his three years as head coach. In the NFL, that isn’t going to cut it, no matter how nice of a guy you are.

That said, Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman has as much to do with this mess as Frazier.

If you watch today’s playoff games, it will become obvious that the quarterback has as much influence on a team’s success as any coach.

And the thing is, of the four quarterbacks still playing, Spielman could have easily drafted two of them in the past three years.

Forget about Denver’s Peyton Manning and New England’s Tom Brady. Both guys are long-time veterans, Manning was the first overall pick in the draft, and Brady, while a sixth-round pick, came out of nowhere and made all 32 NFL general managers look like idiots.

The other two, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, however, are different stories.

In 2011, the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick. At the time, most said it was a reach. In fact, a pre-draft scouting report rated Ponder and Kaepernick about the same, with both projected to go in the late first or second round.

Three years later, Kaepernick is close to a franchise quarterback, playing today for a chance to participate in the Super Bowl.

Ponder, had he not been a high first-round draft choice, likely would be struggling to find a roster spot on any NFL team.

In 2012, following a so-so rookie season from Ponder, the Vikings had a high third-round pick, and selected cornerback Josh Robinson. Nine picks later, Seattle chose Wilson.

This past season, Robinson may have been the worst starting cornerback in the league (which clearly is another problem area for Spielman), and Wilson is playing today for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.

Some would say three-fourths of the league missed on Wilson and Kaepernick, and that drafting quarterbacks is a crapshoot.

True enough.

But the point is, Spielman’s job is to find players who will help the Vikings win, and quarterback is the most important position.

And while a rare few have the combination of size and talent to play in the NFL, there are literally millions of people with the smarts and knowledge to be an NFL general manager. Just comb through the fantasy football leagues if you don’t believe me.

Spielman had at least two opportunities to select a franchise quarterback, and he chose poorly one year, and was unwilling to hedge his bet in another.

By that measure, Spielman’s bags should have already been packed. If the Vikings, with the eighth overall pick in the April draft, swing and whiff on a quarterback again, it is Spielman’s turn to go.

 

Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at joel.myhre@fergusfallsjournal.com

 

 

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