Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Nov 2005

Morning After: Vikings' Defense Keys Turnaround

Len Pasquarelli is a much better reporter than he is an analyst, but he's got some good analysis today. Minnesota's four-game win streak is much less about Brad Johnson and much more about the defense finally getting its act together. (DVOA agrees, and the Vikings defense is now 15th in weighted DVOA.) As Pasquarelli points out, coordinator Ted Cottrell did the same thing with the Jets three years ago -- his defense, packed with new players, struggled early but improved at mid-season as the Jets went on a second-half run. Pasquarelli also says nice things about Larry Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 Nov 2005

12 comments, Last at 29 Nov 2005, 2:43pm by Rob


by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 6:21pm

Am I the only one not quite convinced of the Vikes 'turnaround'? Victories over GB (twice), Detroit, and Cleveland combined with a fluky win over the Giants don't have me sold yet.

by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 6:30pm

Amen, mawbrew. Though their D is playing pretty well. Pat Williams has been a difference-maker for them. They're also competing with Atlanta and TB for the last playoff spot, so they'll continue to be in the news, 'cause those two are pretty average too.

by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 6:46pm

I agree. Brad Johnson has been playing the same role as Kyle Orton in chicago. Unfortunately for the Vikes, the offensive line is not nearly as good and neither is the defense. The defense is playing good enough that combined with a solid office it could be a playoff team in the NFC, however, I'm going to say the same thing I said when Culpepper was still at QB, the offensive line is going to be the death of this team, not any of the skill position players, not poor D play, and definately not the loss of Randy Moss.
Speaking of which, have you noticed how the talk of the Moss trade being horrible has come to a complete halt since it became clear that his numbers is Oakland this season were going to be pedestrian at best?

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 7:00pm

Is it just coincidence or did the Vikes pass defense improve once Fred Smoot went out with injury?

by Rob (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 7:58pm

I'm a huge Vikes fan and I too am not totally convinced. Things are coming together, but this team still needs a new coach, and a RT. Even if they do make the playoffs this line will be in tough against teams with strong ends like NYG, Chi, Dal, Car, and Atl.

by Rob (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:02pm

The Moss trade was still a horrible trade. Napoleon Dynamite as been anything but, and the jury is still out on Troy Williamson.It is tough to say if Moss' ailments over the years have caught up with him, he definatly isn't as fast, but with the Vikes this year he'd be putting up top 5 WR numbers.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:09pm

That's a good catch:

Redskins owner Dan Snyder can't be a happy man. He's been beaten the last two weeks by former Washington head coaches he canned, Norv Turner (Oakland) and Marty Schottenheimer (San Diego), and former Skins coach Steve Spurrier is going to a college bowl game.

The regular 'Skins followers probably knew this, but for a casual observer it's kinda funny!

by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:17pm

Feels lame to answering my own post, but in fact WaPo has a long article on the subject, saying that Marty S. was not that bad in DC, given the talent he had to work with.

Click on the name.

by jim\'s apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:39pm

Nice article, Yuri. Why fans always seem to hate Schottenheimer mystifies me. He is absolutely the best coach when it comes to getting good performances out of suspect teams. Sure, his playoff record isn't so hot, but there isn't a better coach in the game when it comes to actually making sure that his team makes the playoffs.

Someone could probably do a more in-depth analysis, but I imagine that the same qualities and tendencies that help him get his teams to the playoffs also serve to undermine him once he's there. That's always been the rap on Martyball. Personally, I think his playoff record is bad simply because of some monumental flukes (the Drive, the Fumble, missed 40 yarders) and the fact that if you manage to get a suspect team to the playoffs, more often than not you're going to lose that first game.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 11:12pm

Schottenheimer wasn't going to last long in DC for reasons unrelated to winning games (okay, maybe partially related). He had a policy where, if Snyder wanted to talk to one of the players, he had to go through Marty. Now, given that it's Dan Snyder, that might not sound unreasonable. But eliminate the personalitites involved and that's just an untenable situation.

Also, Schottenheimer brought in an entirely new coaching staff, which is fine, but going 0-8 doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. He could have succeeded there ultimately, but it would have taken four or so years. Again, that would have been fine, but there were other mitigating factors involved.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 11/28/2005 - 11:20pm

And, just to prevent this from turning into a Marty Schottenheimer-related hijack, I'll say that I was a bit surprised earlier in the season when Vikings fans were joking/lamenting that Cottrell might become the head coach should Tice get fired. I remember his name being mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate when he was with the Jets, and he seemed like a decent enough coach. Was there any reason for the knocks, other than the state of the Vikings overall?

by Rob (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:43pm

Cottrell's defences usually hover around 20th in total defence even when he was with the Jets. His defences usually improve towards the end of the season. I don't think he is ready for a coaching job, he couldn't figure out that Smoot needed help on Steve Smith, so he let Smoot get torched all day. His defensive philosophy seems too soft.