Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Oct 2005

Vikings Hire Consultants: Foge Fazio, Jerry Rhome

When you're hiring consultants four weeks into the season, I don't think it's a vote of confidence for the incumbent coordinators who, along with Mike Tice, have the Vikings off to a rollicking 1-3 start.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 05 Oct 2005

38 comments, Last at 07 Oct 2005, 6:01pm by jds

Comments

1
by Ray (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 10:31am

Before reading the article I was thinking, "Great! The new owner is actually putting more money into his Front Office to improve his team!" Then I read it and the article suggests that they new 'consultants' may work basically for free. You'd think even McCombs could have come up with that plan!

2
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:14pm

"most recently was a special assistant in Washington's front office"

I wonder if he puts that on his resume.

"We'll see how it goes," Tice said. "At the very least, Jerry could be another set of eyes for us. I think it could be a good scenario."

Instead of another set of eyes, why didn't this franchise go out and buy a few offensive linemen in the offseason? Birk's gone. Dixon's gone. Linehan? Who needs him! Herrera's hurt? So what!

Massive changes in the line? No problem! We'll make the offensive coordinator the offensive line coach, too! That's how you solve that problem!

The nice thing about the coverage of the Strib and Pioneer-Press has been that they're knowledgeable enough about the game of professional football that they won't let them off the hook with cheap excuses (blame Peppy).

There's a reason this team is this bad, and it has nothing to do with "execution" or "decisions" by the QB, but because they decided to cheap it out over the summer by neglecting on the most important planks of a team, the offensive line.

The irony is that the Vikes play in the worst division in the worst conference in football and haven't lost, yet, to a division rival. They could still make the playoffs, as horrible as they are, because everyone else around them is nearly as bad.

I still think Detroit will win it because they are the least bad of the bad, but the NFC North is doing no favors for fans of football this year.

Good thing we have the salary cap!

3
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:16pm

Having an assistant take on the o-line duties and the coordinator role simulteaneously was a idiotic notion from the start, or, more likely, a business decison by a guy who thought a 400 million dollar profit in seven years just wasn't sweet enough, so no more capital would be invested in the business during his last twelve months of ownership.

I know it is the conventional wisdom that Tice is a lousy head coach, but I think a lot of people don't consider just how untenable a situation Red McCombs placed him in.

4
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:18pm

By the way, the Pioneer Press took a slightly different angle, noting that Wilf said he'd keep Tice for the entire season:

"He's with me this whole season," Wilf said of Tice. "We're concentrating on giving him the manpower and coaching advice to make the team better."

5
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:21pm

Will, I was thinking last week about the MN issue with their line and wideouts, the paucity of a real FB blocker, etc., and I thought about how teams in the past solved that problem.

Run and shoot! It will never happen again in the NFL, but if there was a team genetically built to try that on some pretty stinky NFC defenses this year, it was Minnesota's.

Jerry Glanville, where are you when we really need you? Well, Rhome might be close enough.

6
by Goldbach (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:27pm

"Good thing we have the salary cap!"

Yeah, it's a good thing that the lack of a salary cap in baseball saved us from awful divisions. Just ignore the NL West...

7
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:29pm

Besides, I doubt it's the salary cap that's causing Minnesota's cheapness. I think it might have something to do with a former cheapass owner who skimped on paying the head coach so much he scalped Super Bowl tickets.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:32pm

Carl, the salary cap has nothing to do with the Vikings travails; hell, they have been well under the cap for years. It is amazing that this franchise has had the success it has had, given the dysfunctional ownership it has had for almost 30 years now. McCombs wouldn't even pay to have the air conditioning work at Vikings' headquarters, for the love of Odin!

McCombs allowed defensive free agents to be signed this year because the Moss trade freed up money, and because the signing bonuses were deferred onto the new ownwer. He has run the coaching staff on a shoestring (hence Linehan's departure) because investing money in a coaching staff might have hurt the sale price of the franchise, if the new prospective owner didn't like the long term obligations made to coaches he wasn't comfortable with.

If any NFC North club can go 4-2 in divisional play, they'll likely win the division, with a good chance of an overall record no better than 7-9. Right now, it is still open for anybody. In a grotesque kind of way, it'll be interesting to watch.

9
by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:36pm

Was Pepper Rodgers unavailable?

They should just do what Washington does and have a "head coach-offense" and "head coach-defense" along with the requisite coordinators.

10
by Baseball Bob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:42pm

Football fans should stay out of baseball when it comes to understanding the salary cap.

The Cleveland Indians, who narrowly missed the playoffs, had the fifth lowest payroll in MLB.

The Padres won the NL West. They had the lowest payroll in the division ($63 million). San Francisco ($90 million) had the third highest wages in the NL, and the Dodgers had the fourth highest ($83 million).

They both spent more than $20 million more to lose to the Padres. Congratulations.

A salary cap would not have changed that.

Goldbach doesn't realize, but by mentioning the NL West, he proved a point he didn't want to prove.

True, the Yankees had the highest payroll and tied with the Red Sox for the AL East title.

But another NY team, the Mets ($101 million, the third highest in baseball) didn't measure up.

You can go on and on with Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago Cubs, etc. Why did Toronto finish ahead of the Orioles, despite spending $30 million less?

Houston's payroll of $77 million should make Philadelphia ($96 million) pause.

The reality is that except for a few teams in this year's playoffs (Yankees, Red Sox), most of the contenders and those that nearly got there were small or mid-market teams that spent money wisely. The other Sox, the ones in Chicago, are 1-0 in this year's series against a team that overspent them by $50 million.

Atlanta, once a big spender, hasn't been since AOL Time-Warner bean counters looked into Ted's books, but they still win because of superior scouting and coaching. The Braves spent $15 million less than the Mets on wages, and host a playoff game tonight.

11
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:46pm

carl, I said it in a previous thread, and I'll repeat it. If Tice can coach this team to an 8-8 finish, or even 7-9, he oughta be a candidate for Coach of the Year. I have thought since the end of last season that Tice would have a helluva problem with his potential lame duck status.

Getting people to engage in the sacrifice needed to win in the NFL is a truly difficult leadership task in the best of circumstances. Doing it when it appears as if you're a short-timer is a monumental task. Doing it as a likely short timer when your owner stops investing capital makes it titanically monumental. If Tice can still salavage some semblance of respectibility at this point, with anonymous players calling him a quitter in the newspaper, by The Hammer of Thor (channeling our favorite scold), the man can coach!

12
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:49pm

"Carl, the salary cap has nothing to do with the Vikings travails (...)"

That actually was my point, Will. I was taking on the myth that the salary cap builds parity and, in the words of the NFL spokesman, "creates a level playing field and makes every division chase a pursuit of excellence."

Now, if I'm a fan of any NFC North team and I am forced to watch the rosters built under the cap by the Bears, Vikes, Packers and Lions, I'd shoot the television.

In reality, these are four horrible teams. When I'm at the point where I believe Millen has put together the best team in a division, it's time to pack it in and go home.

To me it's not that Minnesota has been all that great at putting together teams over the years. I always thought they were pretty lucky to have both Culpepper and Moss (the latter because of legal problems) fall to them in the draft. But at least they had been smart enough to keep an offensive line in place.

Same with the Packers and their defensive lines. Injuries are one thing, and GB certainly has been hit with them this year, but they made some really stupid free agent decisions over the past two years, and that's the worst defensive seven probably in the NFC.

That's a shame because the money management of the Packers has been great during the salary cap era, and then they did that.

The Bears have always been special children since 1994, which is a shame because it's one of the truly storied franchises in football. But that's what Chicagoans have to deal with. Sorry.

Detroit has Millen. Enough said.

13
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 12:57pm

baseball bob, people do tend to vastly overrate the effect of the salary cap on maintaining competitive balance in football. However, the Moneyball people tend to vastly underrate the value of spending vast sums of money on salaries, and provide the example of teams that spend unwisely to prove their point. Of course, they neglect to examine those franchises which have essentially bought a World Series, like the first Marlins team, or the Diamondbacks, who have proceeded to then dismantle those clubs, when ownership decided it no longer wished to lose millions to get a nice trophy.

The point is that the Yankees, Red Sox, and other clubs do have a decided advantage, in that they can afford to make many mistakes and still be in the chase. Fans in many other cities must either depend on mistake-free personnel decisions, or an owner who is willing to lose money without care. That situation is not good for those fans.

14
by Joey (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 1:25pm

"Run and shoot! It will never happen again in the NFL...."

Oh, it will be back in some form. Called something different, modified a bit for the times, but it will return. There are only so many ways to run an offense.

15
by Aaron N. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 1:31pm

baseball bob-

Oh look, most of the teams in the playoffs are in large cable markets! What a shocker. I wonder if that possibly generates additional revenue that teams like Kansas City and Milwaukee could only dream about?

MLB blows. Baseball is a beautiful game, but MLB is an abomination.

16
by Goldbach (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 1:35pm

Bob,

You should get a new dictionary. I think there's a word missing from your "S" section. It's spelled "S-A-R-C-A-S-M". I'll let you look up the meaning when you get a better dictionary.

17
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 1:41pm

Actually, the Bears have the best overall collection of talent in the division. If they had a quarterback of any legitimacy this team would be set for 10 wins.

Detroit has an outstanding defensive line, a good running back, and a heckuva kicker. That's it. Roy Williams is ok with the potential to be awesome. Charles Roger isn't anything. Mike Williams looks a tad slow to me but again, pair him up correctly and maybe he has value as the number two guy.

But Detroit is undermined by Harrington. I wrote it when he came into the league and will re-state it now: he doesn't have the arm to play outside, particularly in adverse conditions (Green Bay, Chicago anyone?) and he routinely makes bad decisions. The guy has been in the league long enough that he should have compensated by now for the arm issue. A big arm can offset a dumb throw because it clanks off the guy's facemask as he tries to intercept. Joey's lollipops just get cradled into the crook of a linebacker's arms.

Minnesota and Green Bay took the same path to destruction. How ANY management team can go into an NFL season believing that "just a body will do" is a strategy for winning football defies explanation.

The Vikes KNEW Birk was dicey. The Packers LET Wahle AND Rivera go. Heck, Green Bay just about shoved them out the door. Apparently nobody explained to MN and GB that being really, really fat does not an offensive lineman make.

I am obviousl biased but Chicago should "win" (if you can write that) this division. They have the defense and most of the skills guys. If somebody can just manage the game sufficiently a string of 13-9 victories is possible.

18
by M (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 1:46pm

If Mike Tice gets canned after this year, does he get another shot somewhere? He seems so damned idiotic sometimes, but yet I wonder how his tenure would have been if he didn't have McCombs as an owner. Of course, then there's John York & Bill Bidwell -but let's leave them out for now.

19
by Baseball Bob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 2:26pm

@@@Oh look, most of the teams in the playoffs are in large cable markets!@@@

The problem, Aaron, is that it doesn't matter where the money comes from. It's how it is spent. They could get their money from cable, or ticket sales or parking revenues or sales in moon rock commodities, but the bottom line is the bottom line.

In this year's MLB playoffs, there are only really two major market spenders (Yankees and Red Sox, with the Angels a very, very distant fourth).

Which teams separated the Red Sox/Yankees from the Angels?

An array of teams that missed the playoffs, some of which had miserable records:

Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
New York Mets
Seattle Mariners

For Seattle, it cost the Mariners $1,271,801.94 for every win they got, third highest total in baseball.

The rest of the playoff contenders are small or mid-market teams on par with each other for spending.

You mention the Brewers, but they were able to wring a win out of every $493,022.63 they spent on payroll (third best in MLB, just behind Shapiro's Indians and a franchise that probably shouldn't even exist, Tampa Bay).

Increased revenues or not, KC got a bad return on a paltry investment. It cost the Royals $658,589.29 for every win -- $30,000 more than what Oakland spent, nearly $60,000 more per win than what the Nationals blew -- and both of those teams were competitive for much of the season.

I'm not sure a better cable package would have helped that front office do any better than it normally does, which is piss-poor.

If I had to rank front office accomplishments in MLB for the last season, my award would go to Shapiro at Cleveland, followed by the GMs at Milwaukee, Toronto, Washington, Oakland and the Chicago White Sox.

Good job, guys.

20
by jds (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 2:28pm

M, I think it is inevitable that Tice gets canned at the end of the season, or when the Vikes are mathematically eliminated from post-season play (which in this division, might be the last game of the year - Chicago vs Minnesota for the division championship). He won't go during the year, because there is no one on the coaching staff who you would put in to be the interim head coach.

All in all, I don't think he's a bad guy, but he is one of those guys who is a great position coach, but not a head coach. Different skill set. He has the skills for the first, but not the second. I don't think anyone will give him a another head coaching shot (and IIRC, he only got this job when Denny Green quit, and he got the interim head coach promotion off the existing staff).

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 3:51pm

Baseball Bob, when you name the top six front offices, in terms of accomplishment this season, and only one got their squad into the playoffs, that's a problem. The average fan doesn't give a damn about dollars per win. He cares whether his team has a shot at the World Series. Fans of five of the six teams you mention can feel all warm and tingly that the front office of their favorite team was highly accomplished this year, while they watch teams with less accomplished front offices play for the World Series.

This is not an ideal way to operate an sports entertainment business.

22
by Baseball Bob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 4:44pm

Would you rather I say every NHL GM who gets his team into the playoffs is a genius?

I believe in giving credit where it is due. My awards were simply given to the GMs who got the "most bang for their buck," the most wins per dollars spent.

The reality is that this season most of the playoff contenders came from the "middle third" of payrolls, the guys right in the center of things. The average. The Cs.

These franchises include the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox.

In fact, one could argue that if you want to make the MLB playoffs, it's best to spend no more or less than the mode of your peers. Be stuck dead in the center.

Teams that try too hard to change bad front office management by overspending for free agent talent lose more than they win. Orioles, Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Mets and Cubs.

For a fan, it's better to root for Oakland, Cleveland, Minnesota, Toronto or Washington. Even if you don't make the playoffs, you were in the thick of things until the end.

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 4:50pm

Bob, I wasn't disputing your choices. I was conceding your choices, and then remarking that the game of baseball is seriously mismanaged, in that five of the top six front offices can't make the playoffs. This is a poor way to manage a sports entertainment business.

24
by Ray (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 5:01pm

I love it how those opposed to the salary cap point to bad teams and say "Boy that salary cap sure is working, isn't it?" as if salary was the ONLY determination of how good a team is. And then they turn around and look at baseball and talk about how salary doesn't matter, it's all about the front office.

I mean isn't it pretty darn obvious that BOTH salary and front office contribute to a team's competitiveness? Please, if you honestly believe that salary has no influence on how competitive a team is, then provide me a logical argument for your position.

There are many factors which contribute to competitive balance in a sports league. If you could even one of those factors out so that all teams were on an equal footing with respect to that one factor, doesn't it just make plain sense that there will be a more level playing field for all teams involved?

25
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 5:03pm

I need to check in here more often.

"This is a poor way to manage a sports entertainment business."

To that, Will, I'd say that most franchises don't really care about winning or losing. It's all about making money and increasing franchise value.

If there was a correlation between wins and those two goals, you would see a greater push for winning. This is especially true with the NFL.

26
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 5:12pm

carl, I'll simply say that the Vikings just sold for over $600 million, while the Twins have been available for years, with no buyers, and playing in the same stadium, for somewhere in the $150-200 million range. Which league is managed better?

If baseball bob is correct, the average baseball fan knows that his favorite team can be one of the top six best-run run clubs, and still have less than a 20% chance to make the post-season. Might this have some impact on marketing the game to those fans, and thus franchise value?

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 5:19pm

ray, the moneyballers have adopted a religion, and the major Tenet of The Faith is that the amount of money spent on talent has no impact on competitive outcomes. Gosh, that Billy Beane could have his payroll slashed to the Federally mandated minimum wage, and the As would still be in the race!

28
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 5:35pm

I can only echo Will Allen. Fans don't care how many wins they got per dollar spent. They care about championships. If you're a fan of a small market team, and you see the Red Sox and the Yankess pouring champagne all over each other every autumn, you just tune out. There's zero drama. Again, baseball, the game, is beautiful. MLB is atrocius.

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:07pm

Aaron, it is amazing to me to read the moneyballers defend babeball's labor structure as superior. Forty years ago, baseball was still the unquestioned leader, in terms of profitability, franchise values, and popularity. They have since been left in the dust, and may even trail a sport, NASCAR, that was merely regional back then.

No, this isn't an argument to return to the days of Reserve Clause. One doesn't have to defend the Reserve Clause, however, to observe that total dominance of labor over management for the past thirty-plus years in baseball has coincided with a decline in baseball's competitive position, vis-a vis other entertainment options. Mind you, most of this is due to the utter idiocy of management, who would have been much better off conceding free agency at the beginning of the era, while refusing to get involved in binding salary arbitration, along with binding arbitration of other disputes with labor.

30
by Baseball Bob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:12pm

###If you’re a fan of a small market team, and you see the Red Sox and the Yankess pouring champagne all over each other every autumn, you just tune out.###

Every autumn?

2000 New York Yankees
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
2002 Anaheim Angels
2003 Florida Marlins
2004 Boston Red Sox

Most famously, the Red Sox had not won the World Series since 1915.

31
by RyanW (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:15pm

"Most famously, the Red Sox had not won the World Series since 1915."

I know people hate the Red Sox, but it was 1918.

32
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:21pm

I will say this about baseball. In the playoffs, the amount of tension generated and built, ptich by pitch, as a close game gets deeper into the contest, towers over anything that happens in the NFL playoffs. I can watch any close NFL playoff game and be greatly entertained in a casual way. Any close playoff baseball game tends to become nearly unbearably tension-filled, as hitter and pitcher lock in (metaphorically) mortal combat. To see a 14-pitch at-bat, with the tieing run in scoring position, in the bottom of the eighth or ninth inning, makes anything in football seem relaxing in comparison.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:24pm

Baseball bob, do you consider it a positive attribute that five of the six best managed franchises are no longer playing?

34
by Ray (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:25pm

RE:#30 Baseball Bob

I believe he was referring to the Yankees and Redsox making the playoffs every year (at which point they still do the champaign thing), not necessarily winning the World Series.

35
by Shane Warne (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 9:16pm

Rounders wha!!???

36
by pcs (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 10:05pm

But can Foge Fazio hit the cutoff man?

37
by andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 2:23pm

Update (click on my name):

Jerry Rhome (who players had confused with Jim Rome) is set to become the Vikings de facto Offensive coordinator.

38
by jds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:01pm

From Len P., the reason Tice's job is safe for the year:

"Compounding the issue for some teams, notably the Vikings, is that there is an absence of viable in-house candidates even for interim positions. The Minnesota staff includes no former head coaches at any level above high school. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who has interviewed for NFL head coach positions in the past, and came very close to landing the San Francisco 49ers job that instead went to Dennis Erickson in '03, arguably would be the most qualified man to take over for Tice. Cottrell enjoys respect in the locker room, but might be a hard sell with fans, given that the Vikings defense has not played well, even with five new starters this year."