Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Feb 2007

Four Downs: NFC North

by Ned Macey

Chicago Bears

Thanks Ron, and Don't Let the Door...

The Bears have gone 24-8 over the past two seasons and reached this year's Super Bowl largely on the back of their defense. Despite this, defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was not re-hired. He interviewed for nearly every head coaching vacancy, but he has yet to land a job. Inexperience a year ago and the structural disadvantage faced by Super Bowl coordinators this year can explain that phenomenon. Harder to explain is that the Bears did not even want him as their coordinator.

The Bears have posted a defensive DVOA of -20% or better two years in a row. In the DVOA era (1997-2006), that has been done only twice before: Baltimore in 1999-2000 and Tampa Bay from 2001-2003. Nonetheless, Rivera is now an employee of the San Diego Chargers, as their linebacker coach.

Lovie Smith has a defensive background, and the Cover-2 scheme often employed by Chicago is more a part of Smith's background than Rivera's. Rivera, while now considered a Tampa-2 guru, spent much more time in Philadelphia under Jim Johnson. While it is believed Smith and Rivera had mutual respect for each other, they also had a different philosophy about how to run a defense. So, Rivera was politely shown the door.

Rivera is plagued because both Bears' playoff defeats the past two seasons have featured widely criticized schemes. A year ago they occasionally left Steve Smith in single coverage and were burned by Carolina's only offensive weapon. This year, they played conservatively against Indianapolis and were bled to death by runs and underneath throws. Nobody beside the coaches themselves really knows which coach was responsible for which scheme (or which coach put together the plan that shut down New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game).

It has become clear that Smith and Rivera's visions were in tension. Smith's track record is sufficiently strong to allow him the benefit of the doubt. It is quite possible that both coaches are excellent defensive minds who will enjoy success on their own.

To replace Rivera, Smith has promoted linebacker coach Bob Babich to his first job as coordinator. An assistant under Smith in St. Louis, Babich was the first coach to join Smith in Chicago. Babich's entire professional coaching career has been under Smith, and they are much more likely to agree on strategy. Babich is an unknown quantity, having never run his own defense at either the college or professional level. Babich did have a successful run as head coach of North Dakota State before joining Smith in St. Louis.

The real question for the Bears going forward is whether his promotion is a front for Smith to micromanage the defense or if Babich's shared philosophy allows Smith to relax and oversee the team as a whole.

Who Could Leave?

The Bears are in excellent shape coming off a Super Bowl season with very few major contributors up for free agency and a boatload of salary cap space. The most important step was retaining Lance Briggs, and the franchise tag will keep him in Chicago and hopefully provide the time necessary to work out a long-term deal. The defense should also return Tommie Harris, whose injury this season made the Bears merely an above average defense. The return of Harris and continued freedom of Tank Johnson likely make Ian Scott expendable. Scott will command starter's money on the open market, and the Bears would be better served to re-sign Alfonso Boone if they want more support. The continued emergence of Mark Anderson could push Alex Brown inside on more plays anyway.

Also available is right guard Ruben Brown, a solid if unspectacular player. Keeping Brown would be a nice bonus, but the Bears may look to upgrade on the offensive line in free agency. Safety Todd Johnson is expendable if he receives a high offer. The return of Mike Brown and emergence of Danieal Manning leave Johnson as a back-up at best.

A trickier issue surrounds Thomas Jones, the starting running back who has had two consecutive impressive years. The emergence of Cedric Benson arguably makes Jones expendable. The Bears, however, have no gaping hole that they need to fill, no salary cap problems, and no real reason to unload Jones. They could likely get by with a backfield of Benson and potential third-down back Adrian Peterson. The return on trading Jones, however, will not likely match his contributions to the Bears as a complete and durable back. If Jones finds a platoon situation untenable and threatens a holdout, the Bears are at least in a position to survive his departure.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $26.9 million*)

A credit to the Bears front office, their roster is filled with quality players at nearly every position. The only downside is that it is hard to upgrade in the off-season. Rumors surround a possible run at offensive lineman Eric Steinbach, which would provide an improvement to the right side of the line. They could pursue a third wide receiver but more likely will rely on the continued development of Mark Bradley.

Of course, the one exception to the quality player rule is at the game's most important position. The struggles of Rex Grossman were well-documented. I fall in between the two camps that see him as an unmitigated disaster and a young player simply suffering through growing pains. He is a mediocre quarterback and likely will remain one for the next several years. Given the amazing defense and solid offensive skill players, the Bears would be well-served to add an above-average quarterback.

There's the rub. There are no freely available quarterbacks that are clearly above average. Jeff Garcia is the flavor of the month but is ill-equipped for the downfield passing attack favored by Chicago. Damon Huard has a more intriguing skill set, but are the Bears willing to commit starter's money to a player based on 244 passes? Brian Griese was nearly as successful in 2003, and the Bears already have him. A bolder move would be to call Jacksonville and inquire about Byron Leftwich. The strong-armed quarterback would be a good fit for Ron Turner's offense and, unlike Grossman, is exactly the type of quarterback you want with the ball trailing late in a game. Absent a player with the upside of Leftwich, the Bears should work on developing Grossman and give Griese a fair shot at the job in training camp.

Detroit Lions

All in the Family

The third head coach of the Matt Millen era demonstrated a third philosophy for how to win. Millen decided that his team was not tough enough. So, he hired Rod Marinelli, Tampa Bay defensive line coach and resident tough guy, to take over the team. Marinelli did not even have coordinator experience, so the Lions brought in experienced and successful coordinators Mike Martz and Donnie Henderson. A 3-13 season ensued with the Lions inept in all phases of football except for offensive passing.

Despite this, the Lions apparently have a great deal of faith in Marinelli. Millen kept his job in part because of a fear that a new GM would want to hire his own coaching staff. Marinelli, with three career wins, further proved that he had more leverage than Marty Schottenheimer (200 career wins) by firing Henderson and bringing in his son-in-law as defensive coordinator.

Joe Barry has worked in Tampa Bay for the last six seasons as linebackers coach. Marinelli is by all accounts a good guy, but choosing to work for your father-in-law as the Lions head coach is potential career suicide.

Nonetheless, Barry is actually a good fit. Nobody outside of Tony Dungy has the dogged faith in the Tampa-2 that Marinelli has. That belief clashed with Henderson's desire to play more aggressively. Barry is said to share the same belief in the system. He is in his first coordinator position and working for his father-in-law, so it seems clear that Marinelli now has full control over the defense.

The problem of course is the old square peg/round hole conundrum. The Lions struggle to get pressure with their front four, have no middle linebacker who can play in space, and feature a cornerback who excels in man-to-man coverage. Barry will likely see improved results over Henderson thanks to improved health, but a tense Thanksgiving dinner could be in the offing after another embarrassing performance by the Lions on national television.

Who Could Leave?

It should come as no surprise that the two players on a Matt Millen team who were pleasant surprises were unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. Mike Furrey has already been re-signed, and defensive tackle Cory Redding may be franchised. The good news is that the Lions have a fair amount of cap room and can retain pretty much whomever they want. The problem is that most of these guys are not worth retaining.

Safety Terrence Holt and linebackers Alex Lewis and Donte Curry are three guys who have never really developed. Guard Rick DeMulling is one of Millen's bigger mistakes in free agency. Jamar Fletcher and Keith Smith are two of a gaggle of mediocre cornerbacks lining up across from Dre' Bly. Sadly, this means the end of the Corey Schlesinger era. The long-time fullback will likely be sad at first to leave the team he has called home for his entire 12-year career. If he decides not to retire, however, he will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of just about any other organization in football.

Most of these free agents are reserve players, but the cutting may not end there. Damien Woody is constantly battling weight issues and is a possible cut. Mike Williams' contract now makes it possible to cut him. Bly has been granted permission to seek a trade. Cutting the first two is supposed to "send a message" about professionalism, but the problem is that the Lions do not have better players on their roster. They have the cap room to keep both, and a run at a respectable season requires at least some talent.

Bly is a different issue because, as a cover corner in a zone system, his value would be greater for another team. If the Lions could get a second-round pick, they should take it and let Bly go do what he does best. Keeping Bly is a luxury that a team with so many needs cannot afford.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $23.8 million)

Millen appears to have transitioned from signing "proven winners" (Bly, DeMulling, Woody, Kennoy Kennedy) to signing players who "fit the system." Just about every bit player who played for Martz in St. Louis appeared on the Detroit roster last year. This year, they will likely go after Kevin Curtis, which would allow Furrey to move into the slot where he could be even more effective. The Lions seriously need to upgrade their offensive line, but they will likely wait for the draft, where offensive tackle Joe Thomas can be theirs after the Raiders grab a quarterback. Running back Kevin Jones's injury is a concern, but they will also know more about that condition at the draft than the start of free agency.

Defensively, look for the Lions to chase Tampa-2 players left and right. If Tampa Bay starts cutting veterans, look for Detroit to pounce. Simeon Rice is one player they would obviously love to sign. If the Bucs keep Rice, the Lions could go after DeWayne White instead. A real need is at cornerback, particularly if Bly leaves. This is one place a Nick Harper signing would make sense.

The Lions will pursue London Fletcher-Baker, who has experience in the Cover-2, but they would have to overpay, and Fletcher-Baker is too old for a rebuilding team to overpay. Another middle linebacker option is Napoleon Harris, who could be productive playing behind a healthy Shaun Rogers.

Green Bay Packers

The Other Bob Sanders

Of all the offensive or defensive DVOA rankings from last season, none is potentially more surprising than seeing the Packers rank sixth in defense. The Packers ranked 25th in points and 12th in yards allowed. The reasons for this are myriad, including the second-most opposition possessions, opposing field goal kickers going 26-for-27 on the season, and a defense whose primary skill was turnovers.

What young, hotshot coordinator oversaw this improved defense in his first season calling plays? None other than Bob Sanders, the 53-year-old long-time defensive coach for Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators. He worked under Jim Bates in Miami and followed him to Green Bay. When the well-regarded Bates left after not receiving the head coaching job, Sanders assumed the coordinator position.

In a league that is increasingly valuing the young, hot coach, it is nice to see the success of a coaching lifer. Sadly, Sanders's improvement on Bates's defense is unlikely to be noticed due to the poor conventional statistics. Under Bates, the defense ranked 23rd in DVOA but seventh in yards allowed. Teams had their way with the Packers but usually built such large leads they would just run the game out on the ground. As a result, Sanders has been a frequent recipient of criticism and will likely be on a short leash.

The short leash is bad news for Sanders as the defense is likely to regress. It was the league's best defense on third down, but only an average unit on first and second. Such a discrepancy is likely to even out a little next season. The Packers are significantly stouter against the pass than the run -- which helps explain the aforementioned discrepancy and mitigates its importance -- thanks to athletic linebackers, two quality corners, and a dominant pass rush end in Aaron Kampman.

Sanders deserves credit for an aggressive move late in the season that helped improve the run game. Longtime defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was benched in favor of Cullen Jenkins. Even with KGB on the bench, the Packers can get to the quarterback, and the strong run defense of Jenkins spearheaded a late-season surge. The defense remains inconsistent, first in the league in variance, but their success is an underappreciated story in a surprising 8-8 season.

Who Could Leave?

The good news for Packers fans is that Brett Favre is returning. The quarterback is no longer one of the league's best, but he is above average and by far the best quarterback in this division. The Packers' only starter who is eligible for free agency is Ahman Green. The long-time veteran only just turned thirty, but his injury history makes any sort of major financial outlay questionable. Re-signing him seems like a mutually beneficial arrangement, as Green is not likely to command starter money on the free market.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $28.4 million)

The return of Favre puts the Packers in an interesting situation. They are only an 8-8 team, but they still have a sense of urgency to win now. The fact that Al Harris and Charles Woodson are both on the wrong side of 30 only increases the urgency. Like so many other teams, the Packers have cap room to burn. Unfortunately, the Packers look more likely to spend money on defense than offense, even though it is the much stronger unit.

Defensively, one place for a possible upgrade is at linebacker, where Brady Poppinga is serviceable but nothing special. Insert mandatory Adalius Thomas comment here. The Packers struggle against the run in general, and it would not be unthinkable to sign safety Michael Lewis or another run stuffer to compete with Marquand Manuel. Finally, the Packers cannot count on Woodson to stay healthy, so adding cornerback depth is a good idea. Of course, that market is exceedingly thin. Nate Clements is too costly, and after that, you move to the David Macklins of the world.

On offense, the Packers starters are all set if Green is re-signed. An upgrade at tight end is possible, since Bubba Franks became nearly unusable this season. Adding Daniel Graham would give a boost to the running game and provide a reliable receiver. Also, while the quality play of a bevy of offensive line rookies was impressive, the line play was still only average. The Packers constantly left backs and tight ends in to block. They would be wise to consider going after a stabilizing veteran like Ruben Brown or Roman Oben.

More pressing is a third wide receiver. The Packers should let Greg Jennings develop as a reliable deep threat and look at a quality third receiver rather than chasing a starter. Here at Football Outsiders, we are required in this type of instance to plug Bobby Engram, but he really makes sense here. Engram is familiar with the system, and if healthy he would be just the sort of outlet option Favre may need to be more protective of the ball. Shaun McDonald is a younger possibility.

Finally, support for Green would be wise. Adding someone like Correll Buckhalter or Chris Brown will provide an insurance policy if Green goes down. And yes, that is the first time those oft-injured players have been mentioned as possible insurance policies.

Minnesota Vikings

The Downside of Success

After Brad Childress was hired as head coach, he moved quickly to add Mike Tomlin as the defensive coordinator. The Vikings ownership clearly wanted Tomlin to shape their defense. One year later, the running joke is that the Vikings made the wrong man the head coach. Childress oversaw an anemic offense, while Tomlin's impressive work with the defense earned him a head-coaching job after one season as a coordinator.

The next negative thing you read about Tomlin will likely be the first. His departure brought much angst to Vikings fans everywhere. After all, the team improved from 19th to fourth in defensive DVOA. The Vikings are replacing him with Leslie Frazier, who only survived two seasons in Cincinnati before being exiled to Indianapolis as a co-defensive backs coach.

Tomlin's work was impressive, particularly making E.J. Henderson a competent player. But this defense is loaded with talent and played at a high level the season before once they realized Fred Smoot was not a shutdown corner. Further, Tomlin never was able to shore up a pass defense that never needed a safety in the box. In large part, this was because the defense could not get consistent pressure on the quarterback.

Frazier's tenure with Cincinnati does not look so bad in retrospect. The defense had a DVOA of 17.2% before he came, and he had them at an above average -2.9% his second season. That year marks the only above average defense in Cincinnati during the Marvin Lewis era. Frazier had some of the same issues with Lewis that Rivera had with Lovie, and as a result, he was shown the door. This prior improvement to mediocrity, of course, does not mean Frazier is a great coach, but his Cincinnati tenure is certainly not a negative.

Because Fraizer has spent the last two years in Indianapolis, the assumption is that the Vikings have added another Tampa-2 coach. First, this ignores the fact that Tomlin was never wedded to the defense the way someone like Marinelli is. More importantly, Frazier has spent much more time working under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia than Tony Dungy. Given the Vikings' primary defensive problem is pass rush, it will be interesting to see if Frazier can dial up some of his first mentor's magic blitzes.

Who Could Leave?

Two people leaving whether they want to or not are Brad Johnson and Smoot. Johnson combined poor decisions and poor arm strength for some disastrous results. Smoot has been a total disappointment over the past two seasons and was a completely different player than the guy who showed promise in Washington.

The Vikings also seem ready to let Napoleon Harris leave. Harris' departure is a gentle reminder of the much-hyped Randy Moss trade of two seasons ago. Call that one a lose-lose, as the Vikings offense has tanked, and Moss has deteriorated as a player. The Vikings will insert Chad Greenway into the starting line-up in Harris' place.

The Vikings are also likely to continue the elimination of their receiving corps. Marcus Robinson was let go right before the end of the season. Travis Taylor is unlikely to be retained. Billy McMullen is also a free agent, but Childress clearly has a higher opinion of him than any other NFL coach.

Finally, the Vikings already have re-signed Tank Williams, perhaps a hint that the Dwight Smith era is nearly over. If so, Williams will compete with Greg Blue for the starting safety spot opposite Darren Sharper.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $31.5 Million)

The Vikings have been very active in free agency in recent seasons with mixed results. Smoot, Taylor, and Smith have not worked out too well. The jury is still out on Chester Taylor, Steve Hutchinson, and Ben Leber. Meanwhile, the signings of Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield have certainly paid off.

This year, the primary areas of need are quarterback and wide receiver. With no additions, the quarterback position would come down to a battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger. The starting wide receivers would be Troy Williamson and whatever guy wandered in off the street that day.

Jackson is clearly not ready to play in the NFL, and Bollinger never will be. Maybe Childress has fond reminiscence of the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia, but it would be a shame to waste this defense with poor quarterback play.

The late-season scuttlebutt centered on Jeff Garcia, but whatever team signs Garcia will regret it. The man had two poor seasons when surrounded by mediocre talent. He played a half dozen good games with an excellent running back, solid receivers, and a very good offensive line. Garcia is 36 years old, and his inability to get the ball down the field is troubling when their only experienced receiver is a burner like Williamson. Garcia's successful 2006 season looks all too similar to Brad Johnson's 2005.

A better solution would be to pursue David Carr from the Texans. A mid-round pick is likely sufficient, and he would do well in Childress's West Coast offense. The Vikings have an offensive line that is at least serviceable, and a new start would be beneficial to the former first overall pick.

The Vikings should be pursuing every possible wide receiver. Drew Bennett would be a nice option to help stretch the field. Donte' Stallworth showed he could succeed in a similar offense in Philadelphia. Hopefully, their big additions are not Bobby Wade and Justin Gage, who would form a nice threesome with McMullen on an all-replacement level team.

Finally, the Vikings might want to upgrade the right side of their offensive line with a run at a player like Steinbach. If he could come for the right price, Leonard Davis would be a reasonable addition. A cheaper, and perhaps better solution for the value, would be to sign Damion McIntosh and try to move him to the right side.

Next week: AFC North and AFC South

*All projected cap numbers courtesy of www.askthecommish.com. These numbers are “ballpark� and are subject to change. The intention is to give an approximate idea of each team's available resources before free agency and the draft begin.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 22 Feb 2007

152 comments, Last at 01 Mar 2007, 3:27pm by Jin

Comments

1
by Mike W (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:19pm

Hey, Rivera has a job. Just a demotion sort of job. But he's happy about it. Really.

2
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:26pm

I think that Vikings cap number needs an update.

3
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:37pm

With Lovie's agent playing hardball, people in Chicago are starting to speculate that Lovie had Rivera exiled to avoid having possible competition for the HC job and force the team to pay up.

Given that he coached 3 years on less than what the average Super Bowl caliber coach makes in one year, I'd say the Bears owe him $6M+ annually and a bonus of $10M or so.

4
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:43pm

I think Lovie/Angelo are wedded to Grossman for one more season. Despite Evil Rex, they did go to the SUper Bowl, and with small retoolings on the defense, maybe they can return to a high level of defense.

OL will need some new bodies soon, maybe a midlevel FA and some draft picks.

5
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:47pm

Plus, don't forget you have the magical 3rd year of proven leader Kyle Orton.

6
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:49pm

Regarding round-peg-square-hole:

Nothing irks me more than a coach that comes in with a new system that completely doesn't fit the players that are there, and who insists that everyone play his way.

There are any number of schemes (offensive and defensive) that have been shown to work fine in the NFL. With the right personnell, the cover 2 is a good defense. With different right personnell, the aggressive defense of Jim Johnson (does it have a name?) is a good defense. With still different types of personnell, the Steeler's 3-4 is a good defense.

So what I would think a good coach would do would be to look at the people he has, and the people he can or does acquire in free agency and draft day, and choose a defensive system that's right for them. It's a lot easier for a couple of coaches to learn a new system than for 11+ players, especially when all the coaches get paid for is understanding a given system, but the players have a physical contribution as well.

People talk about Bill Belichick being such a great x's and o's guy, yet there is not trademark "Belichick" system the way Dungy has the Tampa-2 or Ryan had the "46". The reason why Belichick excels at X's and O's is that he understands all the different systems (as I expect most coaches do), but he is willing to use whatever one best suits the personnell he has at hand and whatever one best opposes the team he is facing each week. Why don't more coaches do this, instead of trying to force players to play in a system that enhances their weaknesses rather than their strengths?

7
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:49pm

Since when does Greg Jennings of GB have the pure speed necessary to "develop as a reliable deep threat"? Though he's quick and unusually crafty in the open field, I don't know anyone covering the Packers who would say he has the pure speed necessary to burn people on the long ball. He's not in, say, Donte Stallworth's class or any of the other speed merchants that the Packers might be advised to play for in free agency. Although a first round pick of Ted Ginn Jr. would make a three-receiver set of Driver, Jennings and Ginn very interesting...

8
by Marko (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 1:59pm

Good analysis of the Bears. Some comments:

"A year ago they occasionally left Steve Smith in single coverage and were burned by Carolina’s only offensive weapon."

Occasionally? More like almost the entire game. And when he wasn't in single coverage, it seemed like he wasn't even covered at all.

"This year, they played conservatively against Indianapolis and were bled to death by runs and underneath throws. Nobody beside the coaches themselves really knows which coach was responsible for which scheme (or which coach put together the plan that shut down New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game)."

Even worse than the schemes in the Super Bowl and last year's playoff game against Carolina was the absolute failure/refusal/inability to make any in-game adjustments when it was clear that the schemes were not working. This point was discussed at great length in the thread on the Bears not renewing Rivera's contract.

"The return of Harris and continued freedom of Tank Johnson likely make Ian Scott expendable. Scott will command starter’s money on the open market, and the Bears would be better served to re-sign Alfonso Boone if they want more support."

The Bears also have Dusty Dvoracek, a third-round draft pick last year who had a foot injury in the preseason and missed all of the year after being placed on IR but is expected to be fully recovered for 2007.

"Safety Todd Johnson is expendable if he receives a high offer. The return of Mike Brown and emergence of Danieal Manning leave Johnson as a back-up at best."

Mike Brown is a huge question mark due to his durability (or lack of same). He has missed significant time in each of the last 3 seasons due to injury, playing in only 20 of 48 regular season games and ending 2004 and 2006 on IR after playing in only 2 and 6 games, respectively. The Bears need all the quality depth they can get at safety, especially when you consider how much Chris Harris seemed to regress this year. His blown coverage in the Super Bowl, which allowed that 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne in the first quarter on 3rd and 10, was a key play when the Bears seemed to be in control of the game early. I fully expect the Bears to add depth at safety in the draft and/or free agency. I think that is their biggest need on defense.

"A bolder move would be to call Jacksonville and inquire about Byron Leftwich. The strong-armed quarterback would be a good fit for Ron Turner’s offense and, unlike Grossman, is exactly the type of quarterback you want with the ball trailing late in a game."

The irony is that the Bears could have drafted Leftwich with the fourth pick in the 2003 draft. Instead, they traded down with the Jets for 2 first round picks, and (after another trade with the Patriots to move down a slot in the first round) the Bears ended up drafting DE Michael Haynes (who was a bust) and Grossman in the first round.

9
by DGL (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:02pm

Does anyone else see any irony in how SD ditched Marty, who the conventional wisdom said did great in the regular season but fell apart in the postseason, and brought in Rivera, whose defense did great in the regular season but fell apart in the postseason?

10
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:19pm

#6: the 46 defense was designed around the specific talents the Bears had in the early/mid 80s. (it was, in fact, named after one of those players). It was less successful with other players.

The tampa/dungy-2 (traditional cover-2 plus MLB covers deep middle) is popular because it is also relatively easy to draft for. Smaller linemen, zone secondary... It helps to have a fast MLB. Urlacher hates it but he's built for it.

11
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:31pm

My dad asked me whether I thought the Bears should trade for Leftwich, and my answer was "meh." He really hasn't lived up to the hype. Like Grossman, he's been injured a lot. I also wonder if he's coachable. I seem to remember someone breaking down his throwing motion and saying that it's a factor in his injuries (leaves his leg vulnerable) and inconsistency. Yet he refuses to change it.

I don't have my copy of PFP here at work (unfortunately) does any one know what Leftwich's ceiling is according to the projection system?

12
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:34pm

in Hayne's defense, he was drafted for Dick Jauron/Greg Blache's system, which used big tackles. A year later, here comes Lovie and the Tampa-2. He was never able to play well in that system and may have landed with another team after he was cut right before the start of the 2006 season but was mildly injured in camp and chose to pursue and injury grievance instead.

13
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:36pm

"A bolder move would be to call Jacksonville and inquire about Byron Leftwich. The strong-armed quarterback would be a good fit for Ron Turner’s offense"

I think that this is wrong. Ron Turner runs a scheme based upon West coast principles, the qb dropping back from under center with a quick release and an accurate if no powerful arm. This is actually fits Grossman if he had much better footwork and could read a game (ie good Rex). It is pretty much the exact opposite of Leftwich. I'm a big fan of Leftwich, he's one of my favourite players but he hates taking the snap from under center, has terrible footwork and has a release that compares favourably to tectonic motion. He's an awful fit for Ron Turner's offense. Whether or not that should be the Bears' offfense is another question.

14
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:37pm

And Rivera's defense fell apart without Tommie Harris and Mike Brown -- covering the 2nd half of the season and most of the postseason.

15
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:45pm

A few Viking comments:

--E.J. Henderson's improvement this season was outstanding. It's really hard to judge, though, whether it was Tomlin who brought that out, or whether Henderson has finally come into his own in his fourth year.

--I think Jin is right, that cap number seems high. The Vikes extended a lot of their own players during the season (esp. Kevin Williams and Henderson), and I think they now have less money than that.

--I've been talking up getting David Carr all over the place. He's 28, so there's still hope, and even if he's not the long-term solution, there's no better short-term solution out there.

--the Twin Cities media hates--HATES--Brad Childress. I think it's unfair--many of them are just angry that he doesn't give them the access that Tice did. He's trying to win games, not please all the reporters, and they have completely turned on him. Unfortunately, a lot of fans have too. We have to give a first-year head coach more than one season (and a season featuring Brad Johnson throwing to nobodies at that) before we toss him aside as incompetent.

--The Vikings desperately need a pass rush and they desperately need competent pass catchers. Those are two very desperate needs in important areas. If they don't fill those needs, 6 wins would be an accomplishment next year. If they do fill those needs (and get competent QB play), they could compete for the playoffs.

16
by Chip (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:46pm

From the Vikings section: "Hopefully, their big additions are not Bobby Wade and Justin Gage, who would form a nice threesome with McMullen on an all-replacement level team."

Funniest item I've read in a very long time. As a Bears fan, I can appreciate the Bobby "butterfingers" Wade and Justin "ARL" Wade era.

17
by Moe (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:52pm

You are the top of the triangle of authority or quadrangle of power or whatever it is they call it these days in Minny.

You have a choice between drafting Quinn at number 7 or trading a third round pick for Carr.

You make the call...

18
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 2:54pm

17: If those are my choices, there's no question I trade a third-round pick for Carr. Use the #7 overall pick on a guy that a) may never be anything and b) will go through growing pains even if he is, or use a third-round pick on a guy that has had his growing pains elsewhere already. We at least know David Carr can be mediocre.

19
by Marko (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 3:04pm

Please, Vikings, do not draft Quinn. If the Vikings draft Quinn, the world will be subjected to twice yearly sightings of Laura Quinn Hawk in a half-Vikings, half-Packers jersey. If that happens, I predict a rise in self-inflicted eye injuries, particularly in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

20
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 3:06pm

#13: Except the talent the Bears have in their WRs are downfield. They run a decent number of short stuff with the TEs and Muhammad, but Grossman is atrocious at the short stuff, so yes, they did shy away from it as the season progressed.

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 3:39pm

Given that they have three MAJOR holes to fill (qb, wide receiver(s), and edge pass rusher), and given the players projected to be available through the 10th selection, the only player the Vikings should be happy to risk their #7 pick on is Calvin Johnson, who isn't going to be around by the time the Vikings pick. The Vikings have too many needs to consider trading up to get Johnson (trading up in the top end of the first round is almost always a bad idea anyways), so they really should try to trade down, but that is often easier said than done. I'd also tend to favor giving up a lower round pick (I'd prefer a 2nd day pick, of course) to obtain Carr, as opposed to using the seventh pick on Quinn. If the Vikings can't trade down, they'd probably be better served by taking the best edge pass rusher on the board, as opposed to a wr or qb. If only they had done so in 2005, they would be in much better shape by now.

How much cap space the Vikings have may be dependent on how they label their recent payouts to Mckinnie, Kevin Williams, and E.J. Henderson, which they still have flexibility with. Given how so many teams have large cap space available, and the paucity of quality free agents this year, they probably are better off just calling these payouts roster bonuses, and shrinking their avaialable cap space this year in hopes of better opportunities in the future. Unless they get very lucky in the draft, AND in regards to Tavaris Jackson's development, AND in regards to a resurrection of Troy Williamson, I think six wins next year would be about the absolute best that can be expected. I haven't been this pessimistic since Mike Tice's first full season as head coach.

22
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:06pm

Am I the only one that seriously wants to see Kyle Orton start at least a couple games?

Probably.

23
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:20pm

"they really should try to trade down, but that is often easier said than done."

Thats why they are pretending to be interested in Brady Quinn. I doubt they get Carr, Jackson was hand picked by Childress (who used to be a QB coach) and the rest of the offensive staff (Bevell ex QB coach and current QB coach Kevin Rogers who was a QB coach in college too). He's their guy for better or worse.

24
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:21pm

I disagree with the idea of GB signing a "stabilizing veteran" for the offensive line. As a back-up, maybe, but not as a starter. The middle of their line young and promising, and they need to be allowed to develop together, not screw up line chemistry by sticking in some veteran that only has a couple years in them, and may not be much of an upgrade anyways.

25
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:29pm

RE: crush

I think Orton moves ahead of Griese at camp. If it were me, I'd draft a qb late, just to take a chance on somebody. If/when Evil Rex re-appears, mayeb we will see Ortan next year.

26
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:30pm

22:

I miss the Orton era. Then again I miss Craig Krenzel's "pro" days also.

27
by MDZ (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:37pm

I agree that Leftwich (and Grossman for that matter) are poor fits for Ron Turner's offense. Neither qb is terribly accurate on short passes (the WRs play a part in this, especially for Leftwich), and both work much better out of the shotgun (Grossman at UF). Additionally, without significant improvements on the Oline, Leftwich would get killed taking snaps under center because of his lack of mobility and slow release, he starts his throw at the hip way too often. Ron Turner doesn't use a lot of shotgun, but used it in passing situations when he was with the Illini. The Bears don't use shotgun at all, and haven't for years before Turner was hired. The reason that I've been told for this is that Olin Kreutz is so bad at a long snap that the Bears coaches won't even try it.

28
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:49pm

Re: 22

Am I the only one that seriously wants to see Kyle Orton start at least a couple games?

No. I'm sure most Vikings, Packers, and Lions fans share your wish.

29
by BB (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:01pm

14: You can subtract Mike Brown out of that. They were still pretty damn good until Harris got hurt. They took a small step back when Brown got hurt. They took a giant step back when Harris went out -- I wonder what the Super Bowl might have been like if Harris was still there taking up 2 blockers and still getting in Peyton's face.

Wait, he still would have dumped it off and gotten first downs because the Bears were playing so far off the line on 3rd downs.

30
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:10pm

29

So true. Just when I think I'm over the pain . . .. If they hadn't lost to a team I like, I might still be recovering.

Losing Tommie had a synergistic effect on the Mike Brown abscence. Without Harris, teams had time to go deep, where they found Harris and/or D. Manning out of position.

With Brown's injury history, I wouldn't mind the Bears grabbing Michael Griffin out of Texas if there are no OL available.

31
by TBW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:12pm

6: I think that's an interesting question. On the surface it would make sense to just work with what you have, but doing that pretty much keeps you stuck in that box. If you aren't a 46 coach but you think that's what your talent best fits, so you decide to start playing that, then you need to start drafting 46 style players and you box yourself in. There's no way to switch over to a new scheme without enduring some growing pains.

At the end of the day, I think most coaches probably have some philosophical preferences about schemes. They think in the end the 46 is fatally flawed, or too hard to assemble talent for, etc. So, why try to play a scheme that you don't really believe in ?

If you are a new coach that is THE time to change systems. You have the political capital, or you are in the honeymoon period, etc. and expectations are lower. So, you make the switch and take your lumps and hope you can stick around long enough to assemble enough of "your guys" to play your system.

It's interesting that in San Diego which was an atypical team looking for a coach, they went in an opposite direction, they specifically hired people familiar with the existing schemes and who wouldn't change them. They know there's no honeymoon period in San Diego right now, expectations are too high.

32
by ammek (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:14pm

I think the four-game win streak in December and still-terrifying memories of Bob Slowik's defense in 2004 have helped turn the media heat down on Sanders. Barring a total disaster, I don't expect his job to be in danger.

Far less certain is the welfare of new OC 'Maggie' Philbin, who (like Sanders last year) fell into the job only because his boss quit. The offense is struggling mightily; only Driver managed to stay afloat in 2006. The new zone-blocking system gave Favre the jips and took away the screen, which he has always relied on to bail him out.

The Packers desperately need a running game; their entire offense is centered around it. But there are no interesting RBs on the market, and I'm not convinced the right coaches are in place for us to become the new Falcons.

33
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:25pm

All this talk about the Vikings getting David Carr makes me real nervous as a Vikings fan. This guy was completely outplayed by Sage Rosenfelds. More telling Carr was sacked 41 times in 442 attempts - Rosenfelds was sacked once in 39 attempts.

David Carr always reminded me of Rob Johnson. The guy just takes too many sacks to be any good.

34
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:28pm

33

Being sacked 1 in a little more then 10 times is still dramatically better then Rob Johnson.

35
by superhans (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:38pm

#21 - "Given how so many teams have large cap space available, and the paucity of quality free agents this year, they probably are better off just calling these payouts roster bonuses, and shrinking their avaialable cap space this year in hopes of better opportunities in the future."

I don't necessarily disagree with your logic, however I find it unlikely that anyone in the Vikings front office can be confident enough in their future with the team to sit on their hands like that.

I would imagine that they will try and make a run at a couple of guys at least to fill some of their needs... and I imagine they will not be afraid to spend money either.

That's not to say it'll work as a strategy, but I would be surprised if the front office in Minnesota is (a) as convinced about the futility of next season as you are, and (b) as committed to the purely longer term picture as you are.

36
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:46pm

#35: They could've spent money last year, too. They didn't. They could've generated the cap space if they needed to by pushing it onto this year's.

I don't see the teams with gigantic cap space this year spending like crazy. They got the cap space by being fiscally responsible last year. It seems odd to think they'll be fiscally irresponsible the next year.

37
by Benjamin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:52pm

Seeing as absolutely NO one is mentioning the Lions in this discussion I have to ask, have they been kicked out of the division? It honestly wouldn't surprise me. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are going to take make a inflated offer at Ahman Green and at the very least make Green Bay pay more than they are willing to part with. Kevin Jones is obviously a great back but he's coming back form a Lis Franc and may not be ready for the beginning of the season. The alternatives in house are Brian Calhoun and Shawn Bryson. I think Green could do well to platoon at this point and the Lion's have ample cap space. Just saying, look out for that.

38
by Chip (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 6:08pm

I don't think any teams in the NFC North should be too optimistic for 2007. I don't see anyone with double digit wins given the absolutely brutal schedule. Between the AFC West (the best division in the league) and the NFC East (the best division in the NFC), the north will be the NFC West of last year. Even the Bears add the pleasure of NO & SEA. Only one team comes out of this bracket and certainly as the #4 seed.

39
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 6:08pm

To be clear, I wasn't suggesting that the 46 defense was something teams should switch to if they had the personnell. I think it's pretty well established that the 46 is fatally flawed--the West Coast offense picks it apart. I was more referring to the different defensive schemes that are in vogue right now, and that all are pretty competitive.

Specifically, I have noticed a number of coaches from Belichick's "tree"--Mangini in New York, Saban in Miami, Romeo in Cleveland--trying to force the 3-4 two-gap on their new teams, because that's what they ran in New England, despite the fact that when they took over their respective teams, the personnell there were all well built for a 4-3 one-gap alignment. Not a whole lot of success there.

Specific to this discussion, I normally would think trying to force a Tampa 2 on a Detroit team that doesn't have the personnell is a bad idea. Of course, the Lions are in bad shape for a little while anyway (where "a little while" is defined as Matt Millen's life span), so I guess it's a valid point that if you're going to change styles, now is the time to do it. But in general, I think coaches could have a lot more success if they were less married to a particular scheme and were more willing to do whatever works best with the best talent they have or can assemble.

An example I gave once before--if hypothetically the Bears had not franchised Briggs, and the Patriots had somehow acquired him, don't you think they would have been running a good deal more 4-3 because that would suit the talent they had?

40
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 6:25pm

34. I looked up the stats you are right. Rob Johnson definitely was sacked at a higher rate - 140 in 806 attempts (14%) vs 249 in 2070 (10%) for Carr. But that's still a really high rate. Has there been a successful QB with a sack rate that high?

41
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:13pm

#35, yeah, Childress, who seems to have the most roster authority, may not have a lot of rope to work with, but, then again, the Vikings are close to last in the league in revenues, so the owner may not want to see big money spent on longshots, either. I think a major factor in so many teams having large cap space this year is the cba agreed to last year, and I'm just not sure what the picture will be like a year or two from now.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:16pm

Also, I share the concern that many have expressed regarding Carr, which is why I wouldn't want to see a first day draft choice traded for him.

43
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:23pm

Childress has fond reminiscence of the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia

*shudders*

44
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:23pm

40 - the 2004 and 2005 editions of Ben Roethlisberger - 55 sacks in 563 attempts - probably count as a successful quarterback with a sack rate darned close to 10%, assuming I'm reading the nfl.com statlines correctly.

Roethlisberger's first two seasons are a standard exception to most things, though, and his third year produced a similar sack rate (46 in 469 attempts) and production more in line with what you'd expect from that.

45
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 8:38pm

re: 38 Projection of the AFC West as the best division in the league next year. Possible? Sure, but far from probable. If anything, the West is at least as likely to be the weakest division in the AFC as the strongest.

I think the AFC North has the best shot at being the strongest division in the league in 2007, follwed by the AFC South.

46
by ammek (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 9:07pm

38, 45: I don't think the NFC East is shaping up well either. Any of the coaches could feasibly lose control of his team in an Art Shell stylee.

I think the North could wind up as the NFC's best division - basically the whole conference is a crapshoot and some random team is going to emerge from nowhere. Why not the Packers or Vikings? The defenses are improving; the offensive lines aren't bad; the coaching staffs are something of an unknown quantity. A good draft; a few early-season breaks - reasons to be hopeful.

47
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 9:18pm

The AFC North has a good chance to be horrible. Pittsburgh has an entirely untried head coach and problems along the O-line, Cleveland is...well, Cleveland, Baltimore could regress horribly as large sections of the side are aging and god knows which Bengals team will show up from week to week. The AFC South could be interesting - Indianapolis will almost certainly regress but remain strong; Tennessee are improving, Jacksonville ought to at least stay still, and Houston...well, the Texans keep doing the right things. The West will probably be about the same strength overall, on the grounds that Oakland ought to be better (there's no real reason the D should regress and the O has to improve, right?) and Kansas City will be worse (which is what happens when your head coach kills your star RB) whilst Denver and San Diego should both remain elite (I'm being charitable about SD's coaches for once). The AFC East looks like next year's version of this year's AFC West to me, with strong Patriots, Bills and Jets teams and a godawful Dolphins unit (I just can't see any reason for optimism for the 'fins).

South or West to be the strongest AFC division. East once again in the NFC, of course.

48
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 9:32pm

A big reason the Vikes will probably not spend a lot of money this year is that the FA class is really weak at the areas of most need. Pretty much all the DEs got franchised and the WR class is pathetic. Only WR that makes sense is DJ Hackett, and that's if the Seahawks screw up again and give him the lowest tender (will cost a 4th for DJ then). Then we'll poison pill him and screw them again. If Freeney wouldn't have gotten franchised we probably would had "Breaking News: Freeney to Vikings" as soon as the clock read 12:01 on March 2. As I said in another column, I think this year is FArmaggedon, tons of cap room + lack of talent = Napoleon Harris getting payed at Pro-Bowl level. I think at the end of the FA period, the Vikings deals in re-signing KWill and EJ are going to look like steals.

49
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 9:58pm

BTW: Anybody know when the QB projection system ratings for these years QBs are out? I'm not too high on Quinn, his Comp% numbers are kind of low. Also when is the game charting project coming out (no rush, just would like to know a timetable). I'm mostly interested in how our safetys (Sharper and Smith) graded out. P.S. I already know that the QB system thinks Jackson = the suck, in case anybody brings that point up.

50
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 10:31pm

40

Your Rob Johnson percentage is off. It's closer to 17%.

Which is actually something of an improvement. I remember a stat when he was with Tampa that I saw on a MNF game, where he was being sacked one in every four snaps.

51
by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 10:34pm

#39 - I agree, that it's rather silly to try and force players into a scheme they're not suited for, but with two caveats: (1) I see nothing wrong with trying to transition your team into your preferred system, and (2) salary cap considerations can sometimes force you to make the transition before it is ideal. I'd also make an exception for teams which were already sufficiently bad to begin with, as a short term drop form bad to worse isn't necessarily a bad tradeoff. And since the bad teams are the ones most likely to have a coaching change, I think the problem really only arises when you have a bad team with a decent unit. Fortunately for Raiders fan, Rob Ryan doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Didn't Parcells also run a 4-3 during his first two years at Dallas? To me, his first year in Dallas ranks second only to his last year with the Jets in terms of accomplishing the most with the least.

52
by Carlos (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 10:36pm

Tomlin’s work was impressive, particularly making E.J. Henderson a competent player.

Wait a doggone minute! EJ's background coming in to the NFL
-Butkus award winner (top LB)
-Bednarik award winner (top defender)
-2 time first team All American
-2 time ACC defensive player of the year
-1 time ACC player of the year (jr)
-Nat'l Defensive Player of the Year by NFL Draft Report
-473 tackles, including 17 sacks and 62 stops for loss
-6'1'' 245 with great quickness

With the Vikes he got absolutely screwed playing for Cottrell, but I don't think it says all that much about Tomlin that EJ was "competent" last year. Just let the guy line up and play D, and he'd be at least competent.

If you ever saw him play in college, you'd know this guy can bring the goods. He was the only stud defender on two talented offensive teams, and still the opposition could not find a way to stop him.

Go EJ!!

53
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 10:43pm

Mckinnie, too, jin. I think the market for a left ot of any quality at all is going to skyrocket. Given all the new cap space last year's cba created, it was predictable that there would be a ton of franchising this year. If I remember correctly, though, franchising a guy two years in a row gets pretty exorbinantly expensive, so it'll be interesting to see how quickly teams start approaching the cap limits in years to come.

54
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 10:56pm

re: 47 The North could implode but the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers could all wind up being pretty good too. If things break right for all three, the division's loaded. Not probable, to be sure. I suppose I'm just saying the North has the best shot at having 3 good teams. The AFC South has the second best chance and even the AFC East is more likely to have 3 good teams than the West.

Not that 2 very good teams couldn't lift the West above everyone else...

55
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 11:25pm

Well I left off Mckinnie (he was at a pro-bowl level 2 years ago) because I was dissapointed in his play (and the entire O-line). But I believe the O-lines play had more to do with the O-line coach/scheme (see the players fitting the scheme talk in this thread). Our guys seem more suited for a traditional man-blocking scheme than for a zone scheme. Mckinnie is 6'8 (his nickname is Mount Mckinnie for God's sake), Hutch made his mark as a nasty mauling run blocker, Birk also made multiple pro-bowls in the old scheme, and Ryan Cook is 6'7. More confusing is that Cook and Hutch were Childress guys, hell one of the reasons he got Hutch was the attitude and the whole "imposing your will" on the opponent mentality. So why then use a zone scheme?

56
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 11:35pm

#44: Not really, actually.

Roethlisberger in 2004 and 2005, when you compare to quarterbacks with similar sack rates, was singular. As in, there hasn't been a QB like him through 1997. Ever. Not even really close, actually. Roethlisberger in 2006 was still well above the pack. Quarterbacks behind an offensive line with an adjusted sack rate of 7.4% typically have around a -10% DVOA, if memory serves. So Roethlisberger was still "well better than average", just not "so ridiculously good it's crazy."

57
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 11:45pm

53: "Given all the new cap space last year’s cba created, it was predictable that there would be a ton of franchising this year"

Don't let Pat hear you say that

58
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/22/2007 - 11:51pm

Also, EJ Henderson was a lot more than competent this year, he was one of Dr. Z's best OLBs this year. On that topic, I submit the Vikings 2006 defense as the most underrated unit in the NFL. Just go outside FO and tell them they were a top 5 D, they think you are a crazy. Even Vikings fans will call you crazy.

59
by Devin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 12:39am

"Brian Griese was nearly as successful in 2003, and the Bears already have him."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Thank you, FO!

60
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 12:40am

Jin, whatever problem the Vikings offensive line had in run blocking this season I attribute mostly to the fact that they had zero, and I do mean absolutely zero, credibility in the passing game. When you have one healthy receiver who can get seperation, and he can't catch a cold, along with a qb who has zero velocity, well, running the ball becomes EXTREMELY problematic.

Give Peyton Manning and his receivers the Vikings offensive line, and a little time to acclimate, and the Colts' offense wouldn't miss a beat, and likely would get better.

61
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 1:24am

no mention of Corey Redding being franchised?

62
by Jin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 1:24am

Yes the running game would look better, but my point is the play of the O-line, not the running game that Mt. and Hutch had sub-par seasons as people that watch tape (like Dr.Z) would tell you, instead of the "experts" that barely watch anything and go by rep. Mckinnie's pass blocking fell off a lot from the previous year. In the 2005, his high level of play was the only thing keeping that O-line from being the worst in the league as everybody else was awful. I know it's hard to separate O-line performance from the rest of the players except in extreme circumstances (Arizona) but to me they clearly didn't play near their full potential.

63
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 2:33am

Oh, I think they will likely improve considerably from this past year, just from having played together, but I would just take issue particularly with the notion that they didn't run block well. Given who was catching and throwing the ball, I thought they ran extremely well, and actually, given that calling pass rush stunts against the Vikings was nearly a risk-free proposition, given the qb and receivers, the pass blocking was better than expected.

Everybody raved about how well the Colts' o-line run blocked against the Bears in the Super Bowl, and rightly so. Well, the Vikings o-line went out onto Soldier Field on a very cold and windy day against the Bears, and controlled the line of scrimmage against the Bears in the running game as well. The Vikings o-line did it with Brad Johnson, Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson, and Billy McMullen throwing and catching, while the Colts o-line did it with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark. Which is the more impressive feat?

64
by Jin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 3:17am

Well our play against the Bears is the biggest reason I couldn't fathom them winning the Super Bowl, and I pretty much blame Sean Payton's inexplicable "lets air it out" gameplan for them losing in the champ game. We pretty much beat them up statistically, even though the final scores don't reflect that. Maybe it has something to do with their lack of blitzing. It's hard to explain why our offense did alright against them, except in the 2nd game, as soon as Harris got injured we started gashing them at 10yrds a run (with Fason no less). As for the Colts, I think its been said here before how Peyton and the WRs make it the O-line look better than it really is since everybody is so scared of their passing offense and Peyton's quick release and decision making makes their pass blocking look better than it is. But if you are so optimistic about the O-line, why are you saying 6 wins? The rest of the offense can't be worse unless they really botch the draft and Childress really is as bad as all the haters make him out to be. Also our STs have to improve some. Or is it more a total lack of confidence in Jackson? Because if we win about 6 games, Childress is as good as gone or you will see empty seats and blackouts.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 10:33am

#57: Other than the fact that last year's CBA created cap space last year, not this year, why would I disagree with that? It's fairly obvious that most teams took a different tack last year than normal - eating dead money rather than extending things out, so predictably, most teams are cautious. Teams are franchising because 1) they can, and 2) they're not sure what the market will be.

66
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:21am

#6. I am nodding my head in agreement. I am sick of the square peg in the round hole argument. People were saying that Tomlin won't work because he runs a 4-3 and the Steelers run a 3-4. Now he might or might not work, but do you really think the guy is Ignorant about the " other" defense? Football is these peoples lives, and they understand more about the game than these writers.

I know you point out Bellicheck, but look at Parcells. He wants to adapt his team to play the best system for their personel. He would rather run the ball and play defense, but when he had Phill Simms and Bledsoe in his prime they attempted 400+ passes in a season, and Simms dominated the SB vs Denver.

I'm also sick of hearing about the Dungy Tampa 2.

67
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:25am

I expect big things from McKinnie in '07. Didn't he break his hand in preseason and play LT the entire season with a cast? That's the under-reported cause of his '06 struggles, I think.

68
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:28am

Re: 48

...the WR class is pathetic. Only WR that makes sense is DJ Hackett...

If Philly lets Donte Stallworth hit the market, I would be absolutely stunned if Childress didn't make a hard run at him.

69
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 12:14pm

Tomlin is a very, very, smart and adaptable football coach, and a truly outstanding teacher who is blessed with a fair amount of charisma. He'll do fine with either scheme, given the right personnel.

Jin, the reason I am saying 6 wins is because the schedule is going to be harder, and although I do think the Vikings will get very good offensive line play, they will likely regress at least a little bit on defense, absent hitting the jackpot on an edge pass rusher, and there is no way to have any confidence at this time regarding quarterback or receiver play. Who knows? Maybe Tavaris Jackson or somebody else at qb, along with Troy Wiliamson, will achieve replacement level status, but there isn't much reason to have any confidence in that outcome.

Last year, I thought nine wins was the likely outcome, because I knew the defense was going to make huge strides with hugely better coaching, the offensive line would be sound, the receivers had a proven playmaker in Koren Robinson and a up and coming player in Troy Williamson, and the qb play would be just good enough. Most importantly, the schedule looked soft.

Well, the schedule was soft, but the receivers and qb fell off the face of the earth, so the good defense and sound offensive line play became a moot point in many games. Those factors look likely to continue, and the schedule is harder.

70
by Jim M (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 12:20pm

50. You have to add the sacks to the attempts before arriving at the percentage of actual pass plays that end up in sacks.

71
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 12:32pm

Tavaris Jackson was the worst starting QB in the league. He had like 50 yards in that GB thursday night game and Collinsworth and Bryant Gumbel were prasing him. If Jackson is the starter, that team is doomed.

72
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 2:15pm

If a team wants a receiver, I'm not sure where Mike Hass is, but he clearly had the best hands at the combine last year.

Not only did he have the best hands, he ran the best routes and was the most polished product I saw. He played well in the college allstar games and had a good career. The guy ran I believe a 4.6 40, which destroyed his stock.

The Saints drafted him late ( as well as Colston), but I believe he was cut and isn't on a team now. I think the guy can turn into the next Mike Furrey if somebody gives him a chance. Everybody sees a number of catches attatched to a receiver and that's who he is to them. Well this guy doesn't have ANY stats, but I think he can be a real good player and the price tag on him is bargain basement right now.

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 2:48pm

Jackson definitely was not ready to play last season, and there is substantial reason to doubt how much improvement he can make by next September. I am trying to think of a parallel where a guy played a couple games his rookie year, was terrible, and then was replacement level or above in his second year. I can think of guys, like Culpepper, who didn't play at all their rookie year, and were above average their second year, so it is possible, but I'd give him a much better chance if the receivers weren't terrible.

74
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 2:54pm

Re 72:
The Bears added him to the practice squad and he couldn't beat out Mark Bradley (injured again...) or Rashied Davis (Arena League representin').

75
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 2:56pm

There's a big difference between "not ready to play" and "will never be ready to play": of course Viking fans hoping Tarvaris Jackson is the former.

I disagree whole-heartedly with those who say that if Jackson is the future, he should start playing now because he needs to take his lumps and won't get better without playing. There are plenty of QBs in recent years who sat out a year or two and then were competent as soon as they became starters: Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Chad Pennington come to mind. Getting a different QB (like Carr) for now does not mean giving up on Jackson forever. And if somebody like Carr comes in and proves he deserves to be the franchise starter, well, good. It's not like a fundamental requirement that Tarvaris Jackson must be the future of the franchise. I can't see the problem in having more than one potential franchise QB on the roster.

76
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 3:13pm

Oh, I agree Pacifist. The Vikings need to bring in another qb, have a real competition for the starting role, while not giving up on Jackson if he doesn't win the competition.

77
by Bob (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 3:32pm

62/63/64 - The vikes line is still avg. at best, per FO stats. While the O-line looked good against the CHI, the Bears (1) played flat after coming off a brutal 3-game road stretch (and we all know how important momentum is) (2) lost Tommie Harris mid-game and (3) got a 1.3 QB rating out of Rex. Change any of the above footnotes to the game and it's a different story.

78
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 3:52pm

Re: 75

You forgot the most relevant example, Donovan McNabb. So maybe Ned was right, "[m]aybe Childress has fond reminiscence of the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia", or at least the era that immediately resulted from the Doug Pederson era.

79
by SOW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:12pm

17: Why not both?

80
by Chip (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:19pm

46 - You're out of your mind if you think the NFC North will be the best division next year. The division had the easiest schedule in the league by a long shot this year and still had 3, 6 & 8 win teams in it. The 8 win team won by the grace of God (actually a guy who will have a bronze bust in Canton 5 yrs. after he retires and a young defense that happened to play well on 3rd down).

All 4 teams have very fatal flaws that will be exploited by the best divisions in each conference:

Lions: (1) Millen (2) absolutely no talent on the roster

Vikes: No skill players on Offense and no pass rush on D.

GB: No skill players on Offense and a young defense that happened to play well on 3rd down

Bears: Grossman

81
by Jin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:21pm

#71: He had like 50 yards on a throw to Williamson alone, of course he dropped it, one of several drops by the Vikings. And that long pass to Travis called back because of a penalty. Not saying he was good that game, but he was better than what the stats showed.

82
by CA (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:26pm

A couple reasons to be optimistic about the Vikings in 2007:

1. McKinnie and Hutchinson may be expected to improve after sub par seasons. By 2005, McKinnie had risen to the level of one of the best LTs in the game. He regressed in 2006, but he's only 27 years old, so there's not much reason to believe that he's on the downside of his career, and he was playing hurt. I believe that 2006 was an outlier and that he will return to form next season. Hutchinson was not nearly as good as advertised last season, but, having not watched him closely in prior years, I don't know whether that indicates he was always overrated or merely had a down year. If it's the latter, then having had a year to adjust to a new offense and linemates, I think that, as in McKinnie's case, fans can expect Hutchinson to be better next season (not that even an as-good-as-advertised Hutchinson isn't ridiculously overpaid, but I digress).

2. Erasmus James' return should improve the pass rush. I keep hearing that the pass rush is one of the Vikings' biggest weaknesses and they desperately need to bring in a new pass rushing defensive end. Those who make that claim seem to have forgotten about or given up on James, who I think showed great promise before missing almost the entire 2006 season with a torn ACL. Of course, torn ACLs have permanently damaged many a career, but if James is healthy, his return should be a huge boost to the defense.

A few reasons to be pessimistic about the Vikings in 2007:

1. There is no quarterback of starting caliber on the team (and that goes for the wide receiver position too). There really isn't anything about Jackson that suggests that he will end up being a good NFL QB, and there are many things that suggest that he won't be. I generally believe that teams shouldn't give up on players after their rookie year, but I don't think the Vikings should have put their eggs in the Tarvaris Jackson basket in the first place. As for Bollinger, well, I don't think I really need to say anything there. Let me just throw out here that drafting Brady Quinn would be a brilliant PR move by the Vikings, regardless of the football merits. I can't remember a time when interest in and enthusiasm for the Vikings was lower, and bringing in a golden boy golden domer as the new face of the franchise would really rev up the casual fans. I guarantee major jersey and ticket sales would follow immediately from such a move.

2. Matt Birk continues to fade. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Matt Birk has not played quality football since 2003. I know he'll always be a fan favorite, but it's getting near to the time for Birk merely to be a local restaurant owner and pitchman.

3. Pat Williams could break down at any time. In 2005 and 2006, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. However, there seems to be a tendency for these giant veteran NTs suddenly to fall apart. Williams is 34 years old, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if 2007 is the year that his game disintegrates. If Pat's game does go down hill, Kevin won't be as effective, and the rush defense will suffer immensely.

4. Most importantly, and as has already been discussed extensively, Mike Tomlin is gone, and few Vikings fans would be surprised if the defensive improvement from 2006 left with him.

83
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:46pm

73
the closest parallel I can think of is Alex Smith

84
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 4:58pm

#77, FO offensive line stats cannot account for the fact that the qb and receivers were absolutely horrible, meaning that defenses had no fear of plays being made downfield. That has a pronounced effect on FO offensive line stats, which was my point.

85
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 5:06pm

CA, I can see the PR advantage to drafting Quinn, but the Vikings are in dangerous territory now. If they whiff on another top 10 pick, like it appears they did with Troy Williamson, things are likely going to get very, very, ugly, from a win-loss perspective and a PR perspective. They desperately need this pick to be successful on the field, no matter the position or pedigree.

86
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 5:21pm

80: That assumes all four teams are going into '07 with their '06 rosters.

82: I'm not sure there's enough yet to say Jackson won't be a good QB. I'm not saying there's enough data to suggest he will be, either, but he didn't do a lot in those two starts to change any opinion I had about him before those two starts. A I-AA project with athleticism and potential.

But you're right about fan interest being very, very low. When we had a lights-out offense and awful defense, the games were exciting, I guess. I figure the team has a better chance to win with a great defense and an offense that gets up to competence than vice versa, but nobody's excited. But as Will Allen said, the Vikes have to win. If they lose, they've got bigger, long-term PR issues to worry about than if they go into another year without a flashy offensive name.

87
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 7:02pm

If the noise coming out of Chicago is any indication of the state of the Bears so far....

The DC is let go, the HC can't get an extension, and the QB Coach just left for Dallas after blasting someone with the org for the after-season review he recieved...

The fan base has mentioned every qb possible except Brooks but give it a day or two...

Didn't we just go to the Super Bowl? I know that we lost but things are falling apart fast.

(Someone even mentioned hiring Marty as the OC.)

88
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 7:35pm

81-

So should we pretend that Tavaris Jackson has perfect receivers? Have you ever seen Tom Brady's receivers drop balls ( Reche Caldwell in the playoffs). Every QB has dropped balls.

Tavaris Jackson was the worst starter in the league by far and I can't believe I had to watch that bum play. He wasn't even close to being ready. There are probably a dozen guys in Canada,Europe, and Arena that could have performed better.

He was horrible but then I had to listen to Chris Collinsworth and Deion Sanders talk about his " bright" future.

And another thing. I don't see Jackson as such a mobile guy. I think people "expect" him to be mobile. When he ran a 4.8 at the combine they still kept talking about how athletic they thought he was? He was getting chased down by 250+ pound packers linebackers. I think he has a long throwing delivery too which isn't impossible for a WCO but a hurdle to over come.

89
by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 9:20pm

87 - Well, good riddance to Wade Wilson. The guy sucks.

90
by Jin (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 10:54pm

Good news: "Chad Greenway will be ready for organized team activities this spring after recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the preseason." Bad news: "The news was not as good for defensive end Erasmus James, who had a “follow-up procedure� with surgeon Richard Steadman in Colorado. Childress doesn’t expect James to be ready for minicamps but thought he’d be ready in some capacity in training camp". Gaines Adams here we come! I had forgotten about Mckinnie's injury, its hard to know how healthy he was in the reg. season, he had a cast so big in the preseason, that it looked like a comedic prop. Pat William's age is a reason why, depending on how the draft goes, Alan Branch or Amobi Okoye are not out of the question.

91
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:37pm

Oh, man, if they don't get decent production out of Erasmus James, well, that is NOT happy news. Ugh. It looks like the 2005 draft might really haunt this team for many years to come. I'm really curious as to whether those were Studwell's preferences in the first round, or if Tice made the final call.

I really am intrigued by the prospect of a 19 year old college graduate who is already playing at a high enough level to warrant a high to middle first round selection at defensive tackle. His upside might be in a stunning, HOF, region, so even though the Vikings are o.k. to very good at dt right now, depending on how one factors Pat Williams' age, I wouldn't yelp at seeing Okoye taken.

92
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:40pm

Tavaris Jackson was the worst starter in the league by far

The guy started two games in his rookie season. The one game you're being heavily critical against was his first start, against a defense that was becoming seriously good. You're being way, way, way (with about a thousand more ways) too hard on him.

What about a rookie starter who went 8/21 for 60 yards in his first start? He even played more, tacking on a 7/17 for 49 yards game as well. Sucks, right?

Yeah. McNabb.

93
by Mike B. (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 12:12am

As far as the NFC North being the best division in the conference, I don't think it's likely, but it's not entirely out of the question. The Bears are arguably the most complete team in the division, and if they could get decent QB play they could be back in the SB. The Packers are a young team that should continue to improve, and they have only a few holes to fill (TE, WR) to become a good team that could compete in the weak NFC, and as good as the Vikings D is, it wouldn't take much improvement on offense to win them more games.

As far as Grossman is concerned, what I really wonder about is his work ethic. He's been in the league for 4 years now, yet he didn't seem nearly as polished as someone like Philip Rivers, who had also been on the bench a few years before starting. I understand that Grossman was often rehabbing during that time, but he still should have been watching as much film as possible in order to be mentally prepared when he could get on the field. Yet when he did play, he showed that he was wildly inconsistent from week to week, and to me that would indicate lack of preparation.

94
by Jin (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 12:33am

Oh yeah I forgot, click on my name for the link. Including EJ to MLB? Dwight Smith looking like he's staying and Childress's secret plan to fix Williamson (magic beans? Hypnosis?).

95
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 3:03am

91: (Will Allen)

I totally agree that Okoye is something really special. I don't think there's any chance the Vikings take him, since defensive tackle is by far the strongest position on a weak Minnesota squad.

96
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 4:03am

That would be a mistake, Yaguar, one that too many teams make. If they really believe the Okoye has a very substantial chance to be a HOF quality player, and nobody else left on the board comes close to that, they shoud take him, period.

Now, I have no idea whether he is at that level; similar to an Alan Page or Joe Greene, who were both widely thought to be in store not just for multiple Pro Bowl years, but multiple All Pro years. I just don't watch enough college football. I am really intrigued, and a bit astounded, that a guy at age 19 has managed to get his college degree while playing well enough at defensive tackle, a position where players usually don't peak until after age 25, and can play close to their peak into their mid 30s, to be considered top half of the first round material.

If the Vikings believe he is a generationally dominant player, they should take him, need be damned. This is why it often is a good idea that the head coach not have final authority on draft day.

97
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 7:07am

80: According to DVOA - which is adjusted for strength of schedule, right? - the North was already the second-best division in the NFC last year.

Total DVOA positions:
East: 3+9+10+23 = 45
North: 4+15+22+27 = 68
South: 8+16+21+31 = 74
West: 20+25+26+29 = 100

It would only require the Giants to swap rankings with the Vikes, say, for the north to come out on top - and that's not unfeasible.

As for the schedule, the AFC West's not looking as tough as it did...

98
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 3:14pm

I don't see Grossman as such an inconsistant player the way you guys do.

I see him as the same player every week... a risk taker.

It's not Good Rex and Evil Rex, but the same Rex that will try and fit balls in tight spots. Sometimes it works ( good rex) sometimes it doesn't ( bad rex).

I just don't see him playing these different styles and making different decisions. 4 TDs one game and 4 Picks the next has to deal with the fact that the guy is a gambler.

99
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 3:19pm

Pat-

I understand that Tavaris start off as a pro bowler, all I am saying is that he was the worst in the league last year and I personally don't ever see him becoming anything.

He played 1AA football which means that he wasn't THAT high of a prospect to begin with. If a guy plays 1AA at the QB position, I'd rather have him light up the league like Mcnair did, in order to be such a high round draft pick.

Then when you look at him, I don't like his slow delivery, and he isn't as mobile as people make him out to be. 9 out of 11 defenders on a defense are probably faster than him with exception to the two DT's. A 4.8 in 1AA might make him faster than say than say 6 out of the 7 of the front 7 players.

The guy never played at such a high level and he was CLEARLY not ready to step into the league last year.

I don't think he will ever be above average... do you? I don't even know that the guy WILL be average.

100
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 4:17pm

98

I agree. I think the difference between "good rex" and "Bad Rex" is whether he's up against a good D or not, and if the game took place after teams had enough game film on him.

I hate the Good Rex/Bad Rex thing. He's just a meh starter whose capable of beating bad Ds.

101
by Jin (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 4:33pm

I don't see the point in racking my brain thinking he will be good or not, he's their guy and that is all there is to it. They aren't going to take Quinn, thats just a smokescreen. He was handpicked by them and he looked great in the pre-season (I know, its the preseason, but its still a huge leap from Div 1AA. In other news, TJ Whoseyourmama may want out of Cincy, Smoot (he played under Marvin in Wash, right?) and a pick (3rd?) for TJ. Smoot's been arrested before so he'll fit in Cincy. Just imagine the Love Boat Capt. with the Bengals. Click on name for link to PFT.

102
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 02/24/2007 - 10:03pm

all I am saying is that he was the worst in the league last year

And all I'm saying is that means absolutely nothing. Nothing. Not one thing at all. Plenty of Pro Bowl quarterbacks have started off looking like the worst quarterback in the league in their first start.

All the remaining stuff, I don't care about. But don't try to hold up his performance last year up as proof he's going to be bad. It means nothing.

103
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 1:23pm

The past is the past, but I don't think he will ever be any good. I really don't even know if he will be average.

Why do we always have to watch these crap quarterbacks " develop"? I'd much rather see the NFL go the route of the Brees/Rivers. I'd rather see a guy sit on the bench for 3 years AND THEN play after he has learned a lot of the nuiances of the game.

There is nothing worse than seeing some kid that is obviously not ready run around out there and pass for under 100 yards.

Tavaris made some accurate throws which shot his stock up in last years combine, and I believe the Vikings got giddy and drafted him too high.

104
by Gonzo (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 1:24pm

The fact that everyone wants to crap on Tarvaris Jackson after two whole NFL starts is laughable at best, and completely ludicrous at worst.

His first start, he went 10/20 because his wide receivers were credited with SEVEN dropped passes. If "Stone Hands" Williamson catches one that hits him right in the hands when he was 3 steps past Al Harris, that entire game is completely different and we're talking about how Jackson outplayed Favre in the 8th annual "Brett Favre's Last Ever Home Game (really, seriously, we mean it this time.)"

Give the kid receivers that are better at catching the ball than they are at dropping it, and he'll be just fine.

105
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 3:11pm

Why do we always have to watch these crap quarterbacks � develop�? I’d much rather see the NFL go the route of the Brees/Rivers.

You... do realize that the only reason Brees/Rivers happened is because Brees himself had to develop? And even then, it wasn't intentional - had Brees been successful, they never would've drafted Rivers at all.

The reason you get to see "crap" quarterbacks develop is because all the other quarterbacks on the team suck just as bad. Not everyone has a Pro Bowl QB and a first-round pick QB on the roster. In fact, basically nobody does.

106
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 3:54pm

#105 - The Packers do.

107
by bubba (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 4:55pm

#104, et al. For a FO community that puts so much stock into getting behind the numbers, the Vikings fans on this message board really ignore the fact that T. Jackson is projected to be a terrible QB. The FO projection system from PFP 2006 has been pretty much spot-on and I can't believe anyone (let alone the head coach and GM who's seven figure paychecks are at stake) would put any stock in this guy. Yeah it's two games and there's no talent at the skill positions on this team, but why even raise expectations for this guy? McNair lit the world on fire in AA ball, while TJ posted a 55% completion % in 36 starts. Per PFP, he's projected to be "a below-avg. starter in his prime". Good luck with that Vikings fans.

108
by Jin (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 6:19pm

What does the projection system say about Quinn and the rest of the QBs in this draft?

109
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 9:03pm

#106: Current Pro Bowl, not previous Pro Bowls. Favre hasn't made a Pro Bowl since the 2003 season. Otherwise Arizona would be included.

110
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 9:06pm

#107: I don't care whether he's likely to be a bad starter or not. If you want to judge him based on that, fine. But judging him based on two starts (and really only one, as he wasn't god-awful vs the Rams) is the silly part.

111
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 02/25/2007 - 9:21pm

104-

Drops aren't always the receivers fault. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. Every quarterback has drops every game. Should we start to keep " shoulda" stats? Eli Manning had 9 drops in that disaster Jaguars game but ESPN really poured it on Eli. Should we pretend that his receivers caught all 9 of those balls too?

The fact is that the guy was an AA QB. He had some accurate throws in the combine and caught their eye. He was nothing short of god awful this season and clearly wasn't ready. I'd rather watch a D1 college football game with a better quarterback (say LSU vs ND or ND vs Michigan ST or Ohio state vs florida) instead of watching Tavaris throw for under 100 yards and " develope".

112
by Johnny (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:02am

87: I have no idea what you are talking about. I can only guess that being removed from the sports talk radio situation in Chicago colors my perception. After Briggs got franchised, I was pretty much happy as a clam with the team as a whole. The DC leaving would have bothered me, could it cause chaos for next year's D? But him being let go actually was ok by me. It clearly indicated that this was Lovie's D to begin with, and it allowed him to promote someone to DC that they had already had in line. As for the QB coach, well ask any fan about the Bears QB Coach, and although they usually won't know who he was, you can bet he would be lambasted catagorically, no loss there. As for the fans calling for every other QB in the league, if I thought the team was seriously tempted to jettison Rex for a Carr, or Garcia, or Garrard, or even a Griese, I would be seriously worried. But they aren't, so I am not.

93: BS. Rex's problem is that he has had so many injuries in his first three years. I think he is simply afraid to get hit, especially around the legs while he is looking down field. It causes him to drop out the back of the pocket (which isn't really a pocket, but more like a circle) and expose himself to outside pressure. I saw him pop a 22 yard run up the gut after stepping up in the pocket in Week 14 and felt better about that they I did any of his passes that day. Unfortunately, he stopped stepping up (literally and figuratively) after that. THAT I put on the QB coach.

113
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:57am

Should we pretend that his receivers caught all 9 of those balls too?

Nope. In both cases, the quarterbacks should be judged by larger bodies of work than just one game.

He was nothing short of god awful this season and clearly wasn’t ready

He was god-awful in one game. One game. In the other game he was roughly replacement level, maybe a little lower. He wasn't even the worst quarterback in the week of the "god-awful" game. That honor would go to Derek Anderson's 4 INT game versus the powerhouse 2006 Tampa Bay defense.

Really, it's fairly amazing how bitter you've gotten about the guy from one game.

114
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 9:43am

Daunte Culpepper was god awful in the little playing time he had his rookie season too, remember?

That being said, some of the stuff Brad Childress said at the combine seems to sound like they are seriously thinking of taking Quinn if he's available, stuff like he talked to Tarvaris and said he's open to competition at the position, and he also indicated that they are unlikely to pursue a free agent quarterback, noting that they are happy with the two guys they have now and plus the potential of one more in the draft.

115
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:16am

If anybody wants to blame the QBs for Williamson's dropped passes, that person probably did not watch Williamson play. It's not just that he dropped passes set right into his hands; it's also that he had no ability to adjust to passes thrown deep. And by "adjust," I don't mean "change his movement to catch a bad pass." I mean, "see the ball and run under it." Many times (including that bomb from Jackson) Williamson was technically in position to make a play on the ball...but then put himself almost miraculously out of position, by jumping too early, by slowing down, by moving to the wrong spot, etc.

Jackson is a project. The Viking brass saw that and selected him as a project. I don't see any reason to judge him on the two starts he had as a rookie, since everybody admitted he wasn't ready. I'm not even sure I'd use his college numbers, since it's admitted that he's a project that needs a great deal of improvement. But the talent--in terms of arm strength and mobility--is there. Yes, he's mobile--I had no idea what to expect from him, but in those preseason games he was able to move around. In that GB game he was playing against fast defenders in his first start--so yes, he got run down a lot.

I don't know if Jackson ever will be good. That's one reason I want the Vikes to get Carr--then there's two guys that could end up being the QB for a decade, and we don't have to depend on Jackson as the single QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE. But he did nothing in those two starts to change what we should think of him--a I-AA project who won't be ready for a few years.

116
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:28am

I agree with Viking Pacificst. You shouldn't change your mind on him from 2 games but he wasn't ready. Just know what he is... He's a project. I just don't want to watch his growing pains because I don't see him as mobile as you guys see him and I think he has bad mechanics and won't be very good. The guy obviously needs at LEAST 1 year on the bench but realistically 2 or 3 would serve him better. He's coming from a D1AA program and the NFL is a very unforgiving league.

Troy Williamson ran a very fast 40 at the combine. Maybe people will start to understand that there is a lot more to the receiver position than straight line speed.

117
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:35am

I mean "I don't know if Tarvaris Jackson will be good" to be as neutral as possible. I really don't know. I hope he's good, but there's as good (or better) a chance that he's not good. So I would like to see somebody like Carr brought it. I also don't think there's any reason for us to watch Tarvaris Jackson's growing pains--there may be no reason for Jackson to have growing pains. There are QBs that sit for 1-2 years, then play fine.

118
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:41am

I also don’t think there’s any reason for us to watch Tarvaris Jackson’s growing pains

Well, last year it was definitely a good idea, as the only options were Jackson's growing pains or Johnson's death throes.

Next year it all depends on who else they bring in. Carr would really be interesting. Would finally answer whether it was him, the offensive line, or both. Of course, if it ends up being him...

119
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:53am

Yeah, last year, there was no choice--Bollinger was hurt, Johnson was awful, and Jackson was raw. On the roster at the time, he was the best option available.

For next year, however, the Vikes have the options of the offseason (trade, free agency, draft) to acquire a better option. That's a lot more flexibility. So I hope the Vikes use that opportunity, rather than stick to the roster they have.

120
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 12:15pm

Gosh, they have to bring in at least one credible competitor for the starting job. Frankly, I'd like to see them acquire somebody like Carr (as long as the price is low), and also use a 2nd day pick to get another guy in. It's far and away the most important position, and unless you have somebody of Peyton Manning/Carson Palmer/Vince Young/Matt Leinert caliber, which I don't see this year, I think the best approach is to bring in a lot of guys and let them compete.

The more I look at who is likely to still be around at the number 7 pick, and assuming that they don't get a decent offer to trade down, I'm increasingly thinking that Okoye is the best guy to take, positional need be damned. The guy is already a terrific player, and he might have more upside, in terms of improvement, in his first five years, than any lineman we've seen in a long, long, time. A rare combination of superior physical talent, and superior work ethic.

Take Okoye, try to get a veteran situational pass rusher in the coming months (KGB?), and draft a couple of wide receivers in rounds two and three.

121
by Chip (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 12:37pm

#11 - Leftwich is projected at 5.7 DPAR per game, while playing at a level of 4.7 per game. Grossman meanwhile is projected to play at a level of 3.7 per game, but clearly is not playing at that level (yes, it's only 1 year). Leftwich ranked 21 (2003), 17 ('04), 13 ('05) & 32 ('06) in DPAR over the last 4 seasons. 2006 aside, he has a solid track record and a higher ceiling than Grossman. He's clearly the best "available" QB and bad fit aside, the Bears should take him.

122
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 1:51pm

Carr would really be interesting. Would finally answer whether it was him, the offensive line, or both.

I think the bigger question is not whether it was the offensive line, but is it him now. Whatever QB Carr would have been if you had plopped him onto the Steelers or the Vikings or whatever, I have to wonder how much permanent damage has been done to his professional development by playing in Houston and running for his life all these seasons. Even if it was entirely the fault of playing behind that O-line, is Carr now damaged goods?

123
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:03pm

Sacks are not just a function of an offensive line. David Carr needs to be targeted with a lot of credit ( or lack there of) for those sacks he took. It's not just his lines fault, but his fault too, and that is one of the first things Gary Kubiak told him.

There are sacks because the lineman gets beat, and "mental" sacks where nobody blocks a guy. A lot of those "mental" sacks are the quarterbacks fault for not assigning the proper protection.

At least Kubiak started encorporating more rollouts which shift the pocket and bootlegs which keep ends in the contain state of mind. Screens, draws, bootlegs and moving the pocket all helped reduce the sack total.

I also thought D.Davis was terrible at his blitz pick ups. If a MLB shoots though the A gap and D.Davis wiffs his block, that isn't really the lines fault for giving up the sack.

124
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:05pm

Well I should have said Davis from 05. I think Gary Kubiak alone helped Carr get sacked less in Houston and he didn't even play 1 down.

125
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:07pm

It's really hard to say. I can point to a lot of guys who never developed after getting pounded for the first part of their careers, but I can also point to guys, from the '70s, like Plunkett and Archie Manning, who were very productive once they got decent play in front of them. No recent examples spring to mind, however, which is why I wouldn't want to see the Vikings give up too much for a guy like Carr.

126
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:26pm

#125 - Aikman got pounded his first couple years in Dallas. (58 sacks and 36 INTs over his first two years.) But he was getting much better by his third year, so I don't know if that's a good comparison.

127
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:30pm

I don't think the Vikes should give up too much for Carr, either. I'm excited about the prospect of acquiring him because of the upside, assuming they can get him for a low pick. I think Carr would do more for the Vikes than a third round pick is likely to do, though they might be able to give up even less. He could end up being one of those (admittedly rare) QBs that struggled on a bad team but improves in a new situation. And if he's not, there's not a whole lot lost.

128
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:34pm

The title of the article mentions that three NFC North teams were among the top 6 in DVOA last year. I wonder how much of that is because none of the NFC North offenses were in the top half. (CHI-18, GB-20, DET-26, and MIN-29) Especially considering DVOA values more recent games higher and that each team played at least two games against the other NFC teams the last four weeks. GB played all three the last three weeks and greatly improved its defensive standing during those weeks.

129
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 2:58pm

DVOA doesn't weight more recent games higher. Weighted DVOA does. You could also make the exact reverse argument, mind you - how do you know the offenses weren't in the top half because most of the defenses were in the top half? The opponent adjustments will get rid of most of that.

GB played all three the last three weeks and greatly improved its defensive standing during those weeks.

Green Bay greatly improved its defense, period, over the year, regardless of who they were playing. Just take a look at Chicago, week 1, versus Chicago, week 17. Heck, same with Detroit, too. In the first Packers-Lions game, Detroit gained over 400 yards. In the second, they gained 142.

Yeah, all of the offenses were bad, but they had faced bad offenses before, too, and they still gave up yards to them. Seattle, Buffalo, etc. The entire defense just 'clicked' or something around December.

130
by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:09pm

Will Allen, #125

For my mind one of the best examples of a guy getting the crap beaten out of him on a poor team using a terrible system would be Steve Young. The Bears sacked him about 12 times in one game and he never looked like putting it together for the Bucs. Walsh knew he would flourish on a team using a decent scheme and made the move to pick him up even though he already had Joe Montana.

131
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:10pm

You Vikings guys should be proud to dominate this thread to the degree you have. It's not like we Packer fans don't feel our team has needs.

I wonder about this Okoye. How sure are we that he's 19? It's astonishing that a guy that young is seen as being physically ready to scrum against 30-yr old big uglies. In general it seems best to let other teams pay for the developmental years for DTs as their prime years seem to be in the vicinity of their early 30s - the best ones are worth the FA monay they get - but a potential monster like that may be an exception. I wouldn't let Pat Williams' age get in the way of any consideration.

But man, if any team needs a WR . . . of course, if you had a good QB the need would be even greater.

132
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:25pm

Regarding Okoye, my wife made a good point: while everyone's treating his age as an advantage, even though he might seem physically capable of handling himself against fully-developed adults, you do have to wonder whether or not the NFL actually knows that it'd be safe for him to play. It's not like teams have a ton of experience with 19 year old linemen, and there's definitely an athletic difference between college and the NFL.

133
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:34pm

Yeah, james, I forgot about Young, but he only appeared in 19 games for the Bucs, before Walsh stole him. I just looked at his stats, and was amazed to see his numbers from his first year with the 49ers; 10 touchdown passes, with zero interceptions, in only 69 attempts!

It seems as if Okoye's age is fairly well documented, but who knows? If he is nineteen, and given the typical leaps in strength and explosiveness that a 19 year old makes before he turns 23 or 24, and given his demonstrated self discipline in obtaining a college degree by age 19 while playing major college football, I say take the guy now. It looks like he'll be immediately productive, and you've got a better chance of obtaining his production between the ages of 25 and 29 if he is on your roster from ages 20 to 24.

134
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:39pm

Pat, I can see that point, but the reports I read said that he dominated Senior Bowl Week, and if he can dominate that competition, he shouldn't be terribly overmatched against NFL veterans, especially on a team which can work him in situationally in his first year.

135
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 3:46pm

#134: Nonono, Will - you're misunderstanding. She meant long term damage. His body's still growing, and so you do wonder whether or not constant impact at the NFL level might actually do him long term damage.

Just because he's physically capable doesn't mean he'll take the punishment the same way.

136
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 4:00pm

Pat, your wife is a big football fan? Lucky guy.

137
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 4:05pm

Yeah, I guess that's a consideration, Pat. There isn't much data to work with regarding this issue, although I suppose the Vikings would be better situated than a lot of teams in this regard, since he wouldn't have to be an every down player right away.

138
by Jin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 5:11pm

As I've said before, the whole Quinn thing screams smokescreen, I'm sure of it. The only way that happens is if he takes an Aaron Rodgers like drop and they take him after they've traded down many spots to stockpile draft picks. A more likely scenario is them taking somebody like Kolb or one of those guys in the middle rounds. I don't know if they would take somebody like Carr.

139
by Jim M (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 5:13pm

Regarding Okoye and his age. I would be a little skeptical that he is only 19. Why?

1) Born in third world country Nigeria that is known to have an industry in false birth and death certificates.
2) Is not only physically the most advanced 19 year old anyone has ever seen, but is mentally gifted as well.

I have no idea if he is or isn't 19, but I would certainly do everything I could to find out for sure.

If I couldn't verify the information somehow I would certainly eliminate the age as factor in my decision to draft him. If I did verify he was 19 - I agree with Will Allen - draft him.

140
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 6:02pm

#136: Not originally. Took time. She's a life sciences type, though, so that in specific interested her.

There isn’t much data to work with regarding this issue

Yeah, that was her point as well, though. That, and the fact that the NFL isn't exactly well known for anticipating all possible hazards to the players, now is it?

141
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 7:02pm

Speaking of girls, I asked my girl just to NAME the corresponding team with the city they are from...

Dallas: Cowboys, Phillidelphia: Eagles, New York: Giants, Pittsburgh: " I have no idea", Seattle: "Sea horses". Hahah.

142
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 7:13pm

Re: Okoye

Let's assume that Okoye really is 19. Everybody is looking at him and saying if he's this good now, imagine how good he'll be years down the road as he continues to develop and reaches his peak. Well, what if he already has reached his peak? Clearly, he's an exceptional physical specimen. Perhaps he's an exception to the general rule that large defensive linemen peak late in their careers. Instead of asking if he's so big, strong, and athletic now, how much bigger, stronger, and more athletic will he be years from now, perhaps we should be asking, if he's so big, strong, and athletic now, does he even have room to improve? I would be hesitant to draft such an athletic marvel (I was going to say "freak," but that term has negative connotations) purely on perceived potential because I'm not sure how much potential he really has. Just throwing that possibility out there.

143
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 7:34pm

I agree, if one didn't think Okoye would be a very productive player as he is right now, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to take him so high. Just from what I've read (I'm certainly not a respectable draftnik), it seems as if Okoye will be a good player as he is right now.

144
by Jim M (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 8:20pm

Bill James the baseball sabermetrician showed that if two players have roughly the same talent but one is a year younger (say 20 and 21) the 20 year old will have a much better career. One year is a huge difference.

Most 1st rounders are between 22-24 years of age, so 3 to 5 years older than Okoye. So even if Okoye doesn't improve you have an athlete that will be draft entry age 5 years after you first sign him.

I find it really odd how little people focus on the age of a prospect in football. In baseball it is known how crucial the age is to performance evaluation. I have not yet seen any studies on age and success relating to the NFL draft.

145
by Jin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 8:45pm

That's because in football, most guys are about the same age. Okoye is the first guy to be significantly younger than everybody else in the draft. BTW how can I divide my posts into paragraphs?

146
by Eddo (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 9:04pm

Jin (145):
To divide your posts intod paragraphs, type "less than", "p", "greater than" before each new paragraph. :)

147
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:14pm

I agree about that point. In the past in the NBA drafts they will shoot for guys that are high schoolers that aren't as good ( currently) as college players but MIGHT have a higher ceiling.

148
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/26/2007 - 11:32pm

The Packers defensive improvement can be attributed primarily to sticking KGB on the bench on early downs and inserting Cullen Jenkins in his place. Jenkins is WAY better against the run and also does a pretty good job of rushing the passer. The ripple effect was felt far and wide. I know folks will shake their head at the idea of ONE guy making that type of impact but it did. KGB was getting steamrolled on running plays and so worn down TRYING to anchor the point he didn't have the extra gear that made him special as a pass rusher.

Corey Williams also improved playing alongside Jenkins.

Regarding Erasmus James I would point out that the guy has never been the same since getting submarined by that loser tight end from Purdue in mid-season 2004. In the first half of the Wisky game at Purdue James was absolutely DESTROYING the Boiler offensive line. He was single-handedly controlling the game. Then by mere chance on a false start penalty a 260 pound f*cktard drops on James knee a la Tom Nalen and Erasmus has to leave the game. He sits out several more but to this day has never recovered that same combination of strength and speed he showed in early 2004.

Now Erasmus was always a bit injury-prone so it's possible that if that evil son of a b*tch hadn't gone Miss Piggy on his knee something else would have happened along the way to sap one of his biggest assets. Witness the ACL issue. But then who knows if the two are not somehow related.

Anyway, I doubt Erasmus will ever get back to what he showed folks for a glorious stretch in 2004.

Upset? Nah. Just pointing out the fact that any time Purdue gets its unholy *ss whipped it's a good day in the Badger household.

149
by Mike B. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 2:34am

#148:I agree that moving Cullen Jenkins to DE on running downs was the main catalyst for the Pack's late-season defensive improvement. Now that he has been resigned, that improvement should carry over to next season. And if anyone questions how much difference one player can make on defense, they should look at both Super Bowl teams. The difference Bob Sanders made for the Colts' D is well documented, and the Bears weren't the same team after they lost Tommie Harris.

150
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 8:04am

Speaking of Tommie Harris, and Okoye, wasn't Harris really young comming out of college? I'm thinking 20 or 21.

151
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 02/27/2007 - 11:57am

Re: 114 and he was god awful the last two years too ;)

152
by Jin (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:27pm

Guess the Vikes really do have $30 million plus in cap room. Rob B. is a cap GOD. Too bad all the DEs got franchised and the WR class is weak. BTW: Thanks Eddo but it still ain't working (its supposed to show up divided already in the preview right?).