Searching for Playoff Lenny; Cardiac Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Wild Card - In this jam-packed NFL wild-card mid-week edition of Walkthrough…

  • Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a break. Or at least they need Leonard Fournette and company to break some tackles.
  • Choose your fighter: the Dallas Cowboys pass rush or the Philadelphia Eagles pass rush. Or has a new foe appeared?
  • Justin Herbert gets another chance to shed his Emperor of Teflon reputation.
  • Kirk Cousins, King of Comebacks? Sigh. It's true.
  • The San Francisco 49ers have a secret weapon: being good at football.

But first…

What if the wild-card playoff games had college football bowl names and sponsors?

The Credit Card Company Fraud Alert Bowl: Giants at Vikings

"Sorry, Kirk Cousins, your charge for a flight to Arizona has not been approved. And if you try to flee this game, the gal behind the register has been authorized to push the little button under the counter which summons Joey Bosa."

The Craigslist 'Quarterbacks Don't Matter' Bowl: Seahawks at 49ers

Don't pay retail for Trey Lance or Russell Wilson when you can bid on a lightly owned Brock Purdy or Geno Smith!

The CBS Old Television Show Reboot Bowl: Cowboys at Buccaneers

Tom Brady IS Trapper John, M.D., a Korean War Gulf War vet tackling medical issues in a big-city hospital.

Remember Trapper John, M.D.? It was a spinoff of M*A*S*H, except that it was set in the present-day late 1970s, was a drama instead of a (very dramatic) comedy, and starred Pernell Roberts instead of Wayne Rogers (or Elliot Gould) as Trapper John. It ran for seven seasons and over 150 episodes! Anyway, here's me, making an "old people" joke and M*A*S*H references simultaneously, like someone with self-awareness does.

LinkedIn Business Decision Bowl: Ravens at Bengals

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with a contract-negotiation professional who will explain what coming across as either injury-prone or willing to pretend to be injury-prone to protect your future earning potential really does to your leverage and marketability.

The North Face Heavy Duty Parkas for Floridians Bowl: Dolphins at Bills

If you are going to get blown the hell out, you should at least do so in comfort!

The For Hims Him Bowl: Chargers at Jaguars

Can fawning over Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence increase virility and reverse the loss of testosterone that comes with aging? Mayhap I have been going about things all wrong.

Thanks to DinghyCCaptain on Twitter for the Him Bowl idea!

Eagles versus Cowboys versus 49ers versus QBs

The Philadelphia Eagles have the best pass rush in the NFL: 70 sacks, the highest total since the 1989 Vikings recorded 71.

No, the Dallas Cowboys have the best pass rush in the NFL, with a pressure rate of 40.5%, higher than the Eagles' rate of 35.5%. (Pressure stats come from Sports Info Solutions.)

No, the San Francisco 49ers have the best pass rush in the NFL, with 177 hits on opposing quarterbacks.

Gosh, it's gonna be a rough January for NFC quarterbacks.

The Eagles pass rush is excellent, but sacks are a quarterback stat. The Eagles got to Carson Wentz nine times, Justin Fields six times, Kenny Pickett six times, Andy Dalton six times, and Ryan Tannehill six times. There was a "win more" element to many of the Eagles' sacks, or there would have been if coaches didn't think Gardner Minshew was Dan Marino in the Saints game.

Pressure, on the other hand, is a statistic that impacts everything else a quarterback tries to do. According to Sports Info Solutions, quarterbacks averaged a 48.8% completion rate and 5.97 yards per attempt when pressured, with a 3.3% interception rate. When not pressured: a 70.2% completion rate, 7.44 yards per attempt, a 1.9% interception rate. Read those splits again. Pressure is the single biggest external factor impacting quarterback performance, and the 31 more pressures the Cowboys applied than the Eagles were at least as important than the Eagles' 16 additional sacks. Factor in 25 additional "hits" (164 for the Cowboys, 139 for the Eagles) as well as two more forced quarterback fumbles, and the Cowboys pass rush was probably slightly better than the Eagles' pass rush.

As for the 49ers, we all know Nick Bosa is awesome and they can get after quarterbacks, and their own segment is coming in a few paragraphs. Arik Armstead returned to their lineup in Week 13, so Walkthrough filtered the numbers from that week on, expecting to find that the 49ers had a December/January pressure rate of 96% or something. It turns out that the 49ers were middle-of-the-pack at applying pressure late in the season. The Eagles led the NFL in late-season pressure rate at 42.5%. The Cowboys ranked fifth at 40.5%. But the Jacksonville Jaguars ranked third (the Lions were second) at 40.8%. Anyone who watched Arden Key, Travon Walker, and Josh Allen take over the Titans game last Saturday night knows that the Jaguars can apply some serious pressure.

The Chargers activated left tackle Rashawn Slater's practice window on Tuesday. That sounds like a too-quick turnaround for Saturday night. But it's possible, and the Chargers are gonna need him.

Played-Out Lenny

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke only nine tackles and averaged just 1.2 yards after contact per attempt on rushing plays in 2022, the lowest figures in the NFL.

Here is how the 14 playoff teams stack up, per Pro Football Reference:

2022 Playoff Teams,
Broken Tackles on Run Plays, 2022
Team Broken
Tackles
YAC
Per Attempt
BAL 37 1.6
DAL 24 1.8
PHI 24 1.2
SF 22 1.7
MIA 19 1.5
MIN 19 1.5
NYG 17 1.6
SEA 15 1.5
CIN 15 1.3
BUF 14 1.5
KC 14 1.4
LAC 12 1.5
TB 9 1.2

Other sources have different broken tackle figures. Sports Info Solutions, for example, credits the Buccaneers with 13 broken tackles on rushes, still the lowest figure in the NFL. For some teams, like the Bills, the disparity is wider. We are focusing mostly on the Buccaneers for this segment.

Missed tackles and broken tackles are two different things. Pro Football Reference does not chart missed tackles. Sports Info Solutions does. The Buccaneers rank last in the NFL with just eight missed tackles; the Colts rank 31st with 16.

Any way you slice it, the Buccaneers got almost no "game-controller" plays from Leonard Fournette and company: plays where the running back's specific talents result in additional yardage beyond what is blocked up for him, Pro Football Reference credits Fournette and Rachaad White with four broken tackles each and Ke'Shawn Vaughn with one. Among the rushers with more missed tackles than Fournette had on his 189 rushes: Melvin Gordon (five on 90 carries), JaMycal Hasty (five on 47), Justice Hill (seven on 49), and Eno Benjamin (seven on 77), who was cut by two different teams. Sports Info Solutions lists similar numbers and makes the same broad point.

Only the Eagles running game was as ineffective after contact as the Buccaneers running game, and the Eagles' YAC/attempt figure is distorted to a degree by a modern record 32 quarterback sneaks, plays for which 1 yard after contact is the goal.

Think of broken and missed tackles as a running back's primary contribution to the offense. The Buccaneers' low YAC/attempt rate represents the flip side of the Running Backs Don't Matter (Much) conversation. When Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 34 broken tackles, most of us acknowledge his contribution while raising legitimate questions about sustainability, the dollar value of his broken tackles, and so on. When Fournette and White hover right at replacement value, it's a reminder that teams should indeed be seeking better-than-replacement value from their rushers, because that can add several tenths of a point to their rushing averages and take pressure off a middle-aged Hall of Fame quarterback who would kindly appreciate fewer second-and-9 situations.

The Bucs thought they had better-than-replacement-level rushing in Fournette, a bruising veteran who is supposed to break tackles, and White, a midround pick with solid measurables and film. Fournette's $4 million in 2022 compensation ain't exactly breaking the bank for a guy Brady/coaches appear to like. The Bucs did things the right way at running back, but the lack of results has nerfed an offense that really, really wanted to establish the run.

Maybe we will see Playoff Lenny next Monday night. But it's more likely that Brady will be hitting the deck often and third-and-long and wishing the running game would pitch in a big play now and then.

Obligatory Justin Herbert Segment

In Walkthrough's controversial, influential December column "What If Justin Herbert Isn't All That Great?" I outlined specific attainable benchmarks for Herbert to achieve before I would lay off the Crown Prince of Reduced Expectations-type jokes: if Herbert reached the top 15 in both DVOA and DYAR, AND led the Chargers to the playoffs, I would stop mentioning his thick layer of Twitter Teflon.

Herbert indeed led the Chargers to the playoffs. He also finished 12th in DYAR. Alas, Herbert finished just 18th in DVOA. Despite the returns of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, he could not quite push past quarterbacks such as Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, and Andy Dalton, all of whom had legitimate complaints of their own about their lack of support/firepower.

Herbert is, of course, better than Tannehill, Mariota, or Dalton. No one doubts that. The burden of proof, whether they choose to shoulder it or not, remains with those who want to place him on a pedestal in the same gallery as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen and ahead of peers Joe Burrow or Jalen Hurts. Sound analysis requires guardrails and verifiable results, and those results make it clear that while Herbert appears to be developing into an outstanding quarterback, he is not really there yet.

Ah, but sound analysis also requires a willingness to revisit and retest earlier assumptions. So Herbert's close call has given him a second chance. If the Chargers defeat the Jaguars AND Herbert is among the top seven quarterbacks in total DYAR (rushing and passing) during wild-card weekend, I will cease and desist with the Herbert Hive trolling. That's right, Walkthrough is charitably moving the goalposts TOWARD our very vocal critics!

No sweat, right? A win against the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL (albeit an opponent with an improving pass rush) plus better stats than Skylar Thompson, Tyler Huntley (probably), Daniel Jones, and a few others. Herbert should have no trouble attaining this revised set of goals.

Until then: enjoy the HIM BOWL.

Three-and-Out With the 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers start their average drive at the 30.88-yard line, the best starting field position in the NFL. Their opponents start their average drive at the 25.66-yard line, the worst starting field position in the NFL.

Walkthrough LOVES field position differential. It makes a fine indicator of the three-phases health of a team. It's like NFL blood pressure: if it's 120-over-70, a team is probably extremely healthy in multiple other ways.

Here's how the 14 playoff teams stack up:

2022 Playoff Teams,
Field Position Margin
Team Field
Position
Margin
SF +5.24
BAL +2.35
JAX +2.34
BUF +1.98
CIN +1.92
MIN +1.39
LAC +1.36
SEA +1.24
DAL +0.73
KC -0.61
MIA -1.36
NYG -1.37
PHI -1.49
TB -3.04

The 49ers' huge edge in net line of scrimmage is a function of many variables. An NFL-high +13 takeaway differential is the biggest one: turnovers are the most common cause of massive field position swings. But the Cowboys were +10 and the Eagles were +8, and they are near the bottom of the pack of teams listed above. Sacks also have a big impact on net line of scrimmage, but again: Eagles and Cowboys.

The 49ers offense had the lowest three-and-out rate in the NFL at 13.8%. High school coaches will tell you that the ability to sustain even non-scoring drives can help a team win "field position football." The Buccaneers, for contrast's sake, went three-and-out on 25.1% of their drives, 23rd in the NFL and worst among playoff teams, putting pressure on their defense not just by keeping it in the game but (more importantly) forcing it to play on a shorter field.

The good news for the Buccaneers is that their defense forced three-and-outs on 28.7% of drives, second-best in the NFL. (Poor, poor Broncos defense, we hardly knew ye.) That's why Buccaneers games were punt-fests. The 49ers defense ranked third at 28.3%. The Eagles ranked 20th (21.1%) and the Cowboys 30th (17.3%). Many more details can be found on our drive stats pages.

The 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys defenses could all force turnovers and sacks, but the 49ers were much better at forcing three-and-outs. Their offense, meanwhile, is built to pick up a first down or two despite novice quarterbacking. Eventually, those short drives turn into field goals thanks to a field position edge. That's what happened in the second halves of the 49ers victories against the Dolphins and Commanders in the second half of the year.

What's frustrating about an extreme field position advantage is that there is no single way to combat it except to play all-around better football. There are ways to neutralize the Eagles or Cowboys pass rush. A team can play Cover-2 shell and hope Mahomes or Allen make mistakes or settle for short stuff. To take away the 49ers advantage, an opponent must generate first downs, prevent first downs, prevent sacks and turnovers, and create sacks and turnovers. That's not a plan, it's a wish list.

The best thing the Seahawks can try to do on Sunday is prevent the 49ers from playing with the sort of lead that allows them to drive to the 35-yard line and kick a useful field goal, or prevents the Seahawks from doing the same thing. The Seahawks never led in their first two meetings against San Francisco. The 49ers led the first one 20-0 at halftime and the second 21-3 by early in the third quarter. Score a first-half touchdown, Seahawks, and maybe you can make a game of it. If not, the field will tilt and tilt until you're climbing a sheer cliff.

Kirk Cousins, King of Comebacks

It's late in the fourth quarter of this edition of Walkthrough: time for Kirk Cousins to play the hero.

Cousins led eight game-winning drives in 2022, tying the highest figure on record. Matthew Stafford led eight game-winning drives back in 2016; you can view the full list of quarterbacks with more than six such drives in one season here.

Stafford's 2016 Lions went 9-7 and got hammered by the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs. They ranked 26th in DVOA. Our estimated win projection formula considered them a team with a 6.0-win profile. This year's Vikings appear to be better, but the similarities are noteworthy.

Among teams whose quarterbacks led seven game-winning drives:

  • Ben Roethlisberger led seven game-winning drives for the 2021 Steelers. Remember how much fun that team was to watch and talk about? They made the Vikings look like Joe Montana's 49ers.
     
  • Drew Brees' 2018 Saints went 13-3 but lost in the playoffs because they gave up a game-tying field goal in regulation to the Rams, then Brees threw an overtime interception. There was also a blown defensive pass interference call in the game, but let's enjoy the last moments of our one-year reprieve from Sean Payton being a total whiny heiny.
     
  • Andrew Luck led the 11-5 Colts to a wild-card loss to the Ravens in 2012. The Colts actually finished 26th in DVOA that year, yet they have been trying to recapture the vibe ever since. That really explains the Colts' predicament: they spent a decade chasing the dream of a season where they weren't really very good. It's dangerous to get a false read on a team's true potential, then throw good money after bad in search of a mirage. But the Vikings should already know that. (They don't.)
     
  • Derek Carr got injured late in the season for the 12-4 2016 Raiders; Connor Cook led the team to a playoff loss. Per estimated wins, those Raiders had the profile of an 8.7-win team.
     
  • Peyton Manning led the 14-2 2009 Colts to a Super Bowl loss to the Saints.
     
  • Jake Delhomme used seven game-winning drive to lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003, where they came within a field goal of beating the Patriots!
     
  • Hey, it's Peyton again, leading the 1999 Colts to a 13-3 record as an up-and-comer before falling to Jeff Fisher's Titans in the first round of the playoffs.
     
  • Do you remember when Jake Plummer led the 9-7 1998 Cardinals to the second round of the playoffs? With Rob Moore, Frank Sanders, and Adrian Murrell as his top playmakers? It happened, even though the Cardinals finished 26th in DVOA that year.
     
  • Try to understand. Try, try, try to understand. Don Majkowski was "The Majik Man" for the 10-6 1989 Packers, who failed to reach the playoffs. The magic wore off quickly in 1990.
     
  • Brian Sipe's 1979 Browns were nicknamed The Kardiac Kids because of their late-game comebacks and a 2-1 record in overtime games. They failed to reach the playoffs despite a 9-7 record.

You can go through the six-game-winning-drive teams on your own if you like. This list was almost custom-designed to select "overrated" teams, as a half-season of game-winning drives presupposes lots of wins in one-score games. It was therefore slightly surprising to find two Super Bowl participants on the list. It was less surprising to see two Jake the Snakes, Majik Man, and the Kardiac Kids, quarterbacks and teams whose nicknames suggest that they were known for winning without being noticeably better than their opponents.

So a team with seven-plus game-winning final drives might be led by Hall of Famer compensating for a weak defense, but it's more likely to be a team so lucky and random that they are remembered decades later not for winning a Super Bowl, but for being lucky and random.

Guess which category the 2022 Vikings will fall into.

Comments

54 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2023, 2:27pm

#1 by AFCNFCBowl // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:05am

Of the comeback teams you listed, only 2018 NO was actually even close to their record according to DVOA. 2021 PIT, 2016 DET, 2012 IND, and 1998 ARI flat-out sucked.

Points: 1

#2 by andrew // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:15am

The link for "the 10-6 1989 Packers" renders as a phone number, not a URL.   Ditto the links for "the 12-4 2016 Raiders" and the Colts as well.

Points: 0

#17 by andrew // Jan 12, 2023 - 3:57pm

Looking at it again I don't think those were meant to be links to PFR  or something, just that the site uses an engine that "intelligently" recognizes phone numbers and makes any such number a tel: link.   

Points: 2

#3 by JaguarUSF // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:38am

How do the Jaguars compare in broken tackles? They were left off the chart.

Points: 0

#4 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:41am

Do you remember when Jake Plummer led the 9-7 1998 Cardinals to the second round of the playoffs?

Yes, yes I do.

Points: 3

#36 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 9:54pm

*Stroking my grey beard while remembering Jake the Snake's days in Denver*

Points: 0

#52 by vrao81 // Jan 13, 2023 - 1:12pm

Cardinals beat Dallas(!) on the road that year in the 1st round. That was the cards 2nd ever playoff win! Their first came in 1947, so they went 51 years between playoff wins. Also they had 3 playoff wins in 2008, which surpassed the 2 they had in the previous 87 years. 

Points: 0

#5 by serutan // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:52am

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with a contract-negotiation professional who will explain what coming across as either injury-prone or willing to pretend to be injury-prone to protect your future earning potential really does to your leverage and marketability.

   This not only applies to Jackson, but to a lot of his apologists.  Of course to them  the old saw "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad" applies.

   And as was discussed elsewhere, the Niners' advantage is always in danger of being neutralized by Shanny's penchant for playing to let the other team win, er,  to not lose when he has a lead.

Points: 1

#6 by BigRichie // Jan 12, 2023 - 2:02pm

Problem with the Super Bowl loss to New England is that Shanny was 1-for-2 in playing to win. The long pass to a very-well-covered Julio worked (just about the best pass I've ever seen in a Super Bowl, given the stakes), the next pass call got them sacked out of clinching field goal range.

Points: 0

#7 by IlluminatusUIUC // Jan 12, 2023 - 2:35pm

Technically it was the subsequent holding call which pulled then out of range. 

A lot of bad stuff happened. 

Points: 2

#14 by BigRichie // Jan 12, 2023 - 3:35pm

Yup, I'm confusing the earlier sack with that hold. So no need for 'technically', even.

Tactical points being, tho', had the Falcons 'played not to lose' right there, run the ball then hopefully convert the long-ish field goal, they win. If they convert the long-ish field goal.

Points: 2

#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 12, 2023 - 3:51pm

Even if they don't, they run more clock.

Points: 1

#48 by SandyRiver // Jan 13, 2023 - 9:13am

Which points to another unfathomable Shanahan/Ryan practice in Q4, that of snapping the ball with 10-15 seconds on the play clock.  Maybe do it once to catch the D napping, but that repeated action gave the Pats several more minutes to come back.

Points: 0

#8 by Pat // Jan 12, 2023 - 2:37pm

 

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with a contract-negotiation professional who will explain what coming across as either injury-prone or willing to pretend to be injury-prone to protect your future earning potential really does to your leverage and marketability.

It's not just about direct football earnings. Of all the young QBs, Lamar's the only one without an agent and also the one with the fewest endorsement deals/commercial earnings. And yes, it is a really big difference: Lamar's Oakley endorsement is almost token, and his "personal brand" is minimal and not really a professional endeavor.

I really, really don't understand Lamar. Mayfield's basically fizzled out as an NFL QB and isn't likely to get a second contract but he's made at least 50% more than his contract value just from endorsements. Saying "he's not interested in that stuff just football" doesn't make sense to me - if he only cared about football and not the money, he wouldn't be holding out for minimal gains. Just really, really weird. QB contracts are around 50-60% typically guaranteed at this point - he could easily make up the remainder in endorsements.

Points: 0

#31 by luisguilherme // Jan 12, 2023 - 6:17pm

Yes, Dak and Russ didn’t get a boatload of endorsements… (Even Watson before the happyendinggate got an AWS endorsement). 

Points: 0

#37 by Pat // Jan 12, 2023 - 10:34pm

Fields already has several deals as well.

I'm not insane to think there's not a racial disparity in endorsements, but it's not why Lamar has basically none. Note that it's not like there's information out there quantifying this stuff, but there are several articles out there pointing out that he's not really been aggressively going after deals.

Points: 2

#41 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:21pm

Lamar wants to make money playing football, not singing chicken parm jingles in insurance commercials. That seems reasonable to me.

Now, I personally think it would be pretty foolish to sign an injury-prone running quarterback to a fully-guaranteed mega-contract, and the Ravens aren't foolish. But the Browns and the Colts exist, so it's not impossible that Lamar gets what he wants eventually.

Points: 1

#49 by Pat // Jan 13, 2023 - 9:50am

Lamar wants to make money playing football, not singing chicken parm jingles in insurance commercials.

See, again, same response I get, every time. So all the other QBs - Burrow, Mahomes, Fields, Herbert, etc. - they don't want to make money playing football? The only reason this makes me go "wuh?" is because Lamar's a very clear outlier among NFL QBs in this sense, and if everyone else is doing it, you have to wonder what it costs you to not do it.

Quarterbacks are more to a team than what's on the field - they're the face of the franchise, and fundamentally, it's an entertainment industry. I have to wonder if the team worries about a guy who doesn't want to participate in that industry the same way everyone else does. And it's not just a "front office" thing - some part of me wonders if that trickles down to the other guys on the team, too.

If he only cared about football, he wouldn't be pushing for minimal gains salary-wise, and heck, also wouldn't be risking going to a different team where his value could plummet. And if he only cared about money, he'd have more of a marketing presence. So that's why I say it's a bit weird. I mean, if I'm the Ravens, the idea that what Lamar actually wants is a big guaranteed payday would worry me, because that feels like a motivational issue. And yeah, I get the "it's ridiculous that because he doesn't want to do State Farm ads he might not want to be an NFL QB" response, but I could also ask if there's a hint that there are other aspects he doesn't really want to do.

Basically, Lamar's an outlier that he doesn't have an agent, doesn't market himself aggressively, and also is going through the last year of his rookie contract with no deal. All I'm saying is it might not be crazy that all three of those things might be related to the hesitance that the Ravens are showing.

Points: 0

#50 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2023 - 10:04am

Perhaps he's not acting out of monetary need.

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html#:~:text=There%20are%20five%20levels%20in,esteem%2C%20and%20self%2Dactualization.

 

Points: 0

#9 by Ryan // Jan 12, 2023 - 2:55pm

Mike, maybe just take a column off when it comes to Herbert. You're approaching "ESPN commentators discussing comments from other ESPN commentators as if those comments are actual news items" levels here

Points: 1

#38 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 10:45pm

Nah, Herbert got a LOT of hype in the preseason. I saw articles all over mainstream outlets predicting a Herbert breakout year and even a Chargers Super Bowl victory. Mike deserves to take his victory lap.

Besides, coming to Walkthrough and complaining about Tanier's snark and sarcasm (snarkasm?) is like going to the Spearmint Rhino and complaining about the nudity. 

Points: 3

#10 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 3:03pm

I know I'm in the very tiny minority, but I still think the Vikings need to strongly consider trading Jefferson, along with definitely seperating from Cousins. Jefferson definitely deserves to be the highest paid receiver in the league, but when your roster may need as many as 8  good players before it's a top 8 team, having the highest paid receiver doesn't make much sense, especially when the qb consumes significantly more cap space than his productivity warrants.

Now, trying to trade Jefferson is fraught with danger, because it can't be done secretly, given all the other teams have an interest in poisoning the relationship between Jefferson and the Vikings. It's a mess, mostly tied to overinvestment in Cousins.

 

Points: 0

#21 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:25pm

Good players at below market prices. Anyway they look at it, if they don't start drafting well, they're f*cked. If they keep Cousins and Jefferson, there is little money to keep what quality veterans they do have, and not enough draft picks to fill the gaps. Now, if they have some solution at qb, maybe keeping Jefferson makes sense, but if they had such a solution, I think we may have seen some indication of it.

 

Points: 0

#18 by Kjbarks // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:02pm

That is a terrible idea. Justin Jefferson is the reason that the Vikings are so good in close games. 

The Vikings have an EPA/dropback of .49 in the 4th quarter on 3rd and 4th down. By far, the best in the league. The "you gotta have it plays". And Jefferson is an absolute assassin in these situations. 

Football Outsiders struggles to account for the reason that MN is so good in the 4th quarter and simply says "luck". 

The Vikings struggle when they are forced to play a traditional "balanced" brand of football because their run game is so inefficient and gets stuffed a lot. They are 5th worst in rushing EPA in the 4th quarter. This is one of the reasons they play so many close games, they can't run and put people away. 

Justin Jefferson is a cheat code especially in hurry up situations where defenses have a harder time doubling him. 

 

Points: 3

#19 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:15pm

He's a great player. 1 great player,  on an otherwise shitty roster, is not going to win playoff games. The closest to doing so was pre-injury Peyton Manning, and no receiver will ever approach that value.

Jefferson was every bit as good last year, when they were losing 1 score games.

 

 

 

Points: 2

#23 by Kjbarks // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:41pm

If that is true. Then 1 great player on a shitty roster just got them 13 wins. That would mean he is even more valuable than I think he is.

I actually think the Vikings have another blue chip player in Christian Darrisaw (PFF #2 tackle). But broadly yes, this is not a top 5 roster in the league. But that is why you don't trade Jefferson. The Vikings hit HRs in the 2020 and 2021 draft. Those are your cornerstone guys.

Most of the NFL is just trying to surround those blue chip talents with guys that are average to above average. You won't be great at every position group.

Cousins is bizarro Cousins this year. His stats are down but he is the clutchest QB in the league. He was the QB that couldn't win and now it's all he does. No way should they move on. 

Points: 1

#20 by hoegher // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:18pm

The Vikings absolutely should move on from Cousins.

 

The Vikings absolutely should not trade Jefferson, what the heck.

Points: 4

#22 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:28pm

All depends on what can be gained in return. The hardest part is having the auction.

(edit) To add on, the Vikings have traded away their best player before. Once, it was an awful result, with Randy Moss, because they didn't get enough, with a 7th overall pick, a 7th round pick, and a veteran, slightly above average linebacker. Then they stupidly decided they just had to use that 7th overall pick on a receiver, despite no receiver being graded high enough to warrant that spot.

The other time they traded their best player it was Fran Tarkenton. That was an excellent trade because they received in return 4 draft picks, out of the top 30. 1 became a Hall of Famer, another a borderline HoFer who should be in, the 3rd played 11 years with 1 Pro Bowl, the 4th was just a guy.  

Points: 0

#40 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:09pm

Vikings are stuck with cousins for another year as it would cost them nearly $50MM to cut him. Minnesota also just finished the season at 13-4 in 3rd place in the NFC. This team will sell jerseys and put butts in the seats for at least the first half of next season based on the hope and hype they've generated this year. Minnesota should -- and will -- ride him for another year. Depending on how 2023 goes, they might even want to keep him around for a bridge year in 2024. If he flames out, they only paid him $12MM AND they get a high draft pick.

The only way I see the Vikings moving on from Cousins before then is if some poorly manged team with delusional ownership thinks they are just a quarterback away from a Lombardi trophy and wants to bet a haul of draft picks that Cousins is the new Stafford, in which case YES OF COURSE TRADE HIM TO THE JETS!

Points: 4

#44 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2023 - 12:05am

They're gonna end up with two players consuming 25-30% of their cap space, and only one of them is significantly above average. Hard times ahead.

Points: 1

#25 by riri // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:45pm

I agree that they need to seriously prepare for life after Kirk Cousins, but trading Justin Jefferson is like surrender from a team-building point of view. You didn't say it here, but you've stated in other threads your belief that a couple of down years while they clean up their cap could make him sour on the team and then they'd have to trade him for less than they could get now.

I guess I'm not worried about that. We've seen star players soldier on through much worse situations than potentially a couple of 6 or 7-win seasons, and Jefferson seems to be cut more from the Larry Fitzgerald "earnest hard worker" cloth than the Randy Moss "moody mercenary" one.

Points: 1

#27 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:53pm

Like I said elsewhere, it all depends on what you can get for him. Having the auction is really difficult, however, so difficult that it's understandable why the risk might be bypassed.

Points: 0

#43 by Eggolas // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:53pm

Uncertain ownership would agree to any trade of JJ at the present time, regardless of draft haul. They are building JJ as the face of the Vikings. From a marketing and PR perspective, I don’t see the Wilfs agreeing to a trade.

Points: 0

#33 by Kaepernicus // Jan 12, 2023 - 6:46pm

Trading Jefferson would only work if they got a huge haul in return. He's a 2020 1st round pick All-Pro WR with 2 years of team control left on his contract. The 49ers had to resign Deebo because he was a 2nd round pick. To make that worth it they need at least 2 1st rounders and a 2nd. Then they have to hit the picks at premium positions while replacing him. To me WR1 is the 3rd most important position behind QB and Edge. If the Vikings had Nick Bosa in the same contract scenario would you do the same trade? It would probably take Houston's first 3 picks and Cooks to get me to bite on trading JJ.

Points: 1

#34 by Will Allen // Jan 12, 2023 - 7:50pm

I was thinking about two firsts and two seconds, but that may be wholly unrealistic, and you have to have a good handle on the next two years being good drafts. I have no idea.

Points: 0

#39 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 10:54pm

I mean, I guess one person technically qualifies as a "very tiny minority" ;P

Points: 1

#45 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2023 - 12:16am

I understand in principle what you mean, but I don't think it makes sense in practice.

For one, the Vikings need good players, but teams aren't going to trade good players like that. The contracts alone would make the deal unworkable. Also, is JJ equal to say 1 great guard and 2 solid linebackers? Hard to say.

What you are left with are draft picks, which are inherently uncertain and almost assuredly unlikely to produce a player in the same stratosphere as JJ. JJ offers certainty, which has as much value as his prodigious skills do.

Finally, I would say it's not unreasonable for the Vikings to go from awful roster to mediocre. You can find competency through the draft. Finding stars is much less of a realistic goal, but with good coaching and not horrible luck, that is achievable. Thats when having a guy like JJ is truly a wonderful thing. The Packers have a solid roster and really missed having Devante.

Points: 3

#24 by DocPossum // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:41pm

Aren’t pressures also partly a QB stat? A QB get rid of the ball before they are pressured. I can see it as less QB influenced because there are QBs who pass when pressured or escape when pressured to avoid the sack, but it seems there are also QBs who do things to avoid pressure in the first place.

Points: 0

#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 12, 2023 - 5:23pm

Pressure is generally considered a line stat and sacks a QB stat. They aren't completely independent, but that's the trend.

Points: 0

#26 by JimZipCode // Jan 12, 2023 - 4:49pm

This is twice this week you've suggested Lamar is goldbricking.  Meanwhile I saw something Monday or Tuesday (the worst kind of non-attributed internet rumor: sorry) that Lamar's knee swelled up again. So – I dunno?

Meanwhile the Ravens have been very slow bringing guys back from injury this year, from Ronnie Stanley to JK Dobbins to Gus Edwards to Marcus Peters & Calais Campbell.  I don't know why we'd give Lamar less benefit of the doubt than the rest of those guys.  (Except maybe for the famously tough Campbell.)

It seems reckless to imply that a player is taking it slow & lazy.  Certainly the perception of being injury-prone and possibly slow-to-heal is bad enough for Lamar's contract negotiations all by itself?  Without adding a layer of lollygagging on top of it?

Points: 1

#51 by Pat // Jan 13, 2023 - 10:06am

Certainly the perception of being injury-prone and possibly slow-to-heal is bad enough for Lamar's contract negotiations all by itself?

That's literally what Mike said. The sentence says "coming off as either injury prone or" what you're suggesting. As in, either he does come off as injury prone, or if he comes out and refutes it he could come off as faking it. Agents do in fact help with PR in situations like this, after all. Which is stupid, but hey, it's a stupid business. TO doing situps in a driveway, after all.

Points: 1

#30 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 5:49pm

Justin Herbert is incredibly talented but a bit erratic ... play-to-play, game-to-game, and season-to-season. Its certainty fun to watch guys play to their potential, and I think every NFL fan would enjoy watching him lead the Chargers on a deep playoff run, but this ain't the year.

Keep telling it like it is.

Points: 1

#32 by Jackson87 // Jan 12, 2023 - 6:43pm

If you were the Bears, would you offer the #1 pick for Jefferson?

Points: 0

#42 by rh1no // Jan 12, 2023 - 11:32pm

Interesting thought. I'd probably trade down and invest as much as I can in an offensive line. No sense in getting a target like Jefferson if Fields isn't going to have time in the pocket to develop as a passer.

Points: 0

#46 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2023 - 12:17am

I don't have faith in Fields as a passer yet to make that trade. 

Points: 1

#47 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2023 - 12:20am

People saying the Vikings should replace Cousins, to me, are not being realistic. We just saw what happened with Frank Reich when you have a solid roster but 0 credible answers at qb. At best, you can buy a few seasons extra of job security, but eventually you get fired. Cousins at this moment isn't the corpse of Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, or Swinging Sam Ehlriger. He's an overpaid but good qb who has deficiencies that keep him out of the convo with some of the very best QBs. In other words, he's a tier 3 quarterback.

 

People saying ditch Kirk need to give a credible answers to who he's being replaced by.

Points: 4

#53 by vrao81 // Jan 13, 2023 - 1:29pm

Right..as flawed as Kirk is, he's ranked 12th in DYAR and 17th in DVOA meaning he's gonna be tough to replace. Might as well stick with him.

Points: 0

#54 by wludford // Jan 13, 2023 - 2:27pm

I'll say this about the Vikings comparisons with teams that had 7+ game winning drives but had early outs in the playoffs:  

- the 2021 Steelers and 2012 Colts had PFF team grades about as bad as their DVOA.  The Vikings rank 4th in overall PFF team grade this year at 92.2, in sharp contrast to their DVOA ranking.

The 2018 Saints also had a top PFF team grade and made it to the NFC Championship and but for a terrible DPI non-call, would've made the Super Bowl.  

By one (incomplete) measure of luck, the Vikings rank 5th- the Giants are the most lucky- and the 49ers 8th.  

https://twitter.com/DataWithBliss/status/1613244692191141915?s=20&t=8QogG0EvflVG01YD0vejAQ

 

Points: 0

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