Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lions stink, but at least they have a real franchise quarterback

Minnesota Vikings fans are used to looking down their noses at the Detroit Lions, long the doormats of the NFC North, but today Vikings fans have reason to look up at the lowly Lions with envious, longing eyes. Today the Lions gave quarterback Matthew Stafford a new five-year, $135 million contract with $60 million of that money guaranteed at signing. That is the kind of contract you give to a genuine franchise quarterback, one you believe is capable of leading you on multiple Super Bowl runs. When was the last time the Vikings had a quarterback who was worthy of that kind of faith translated into guaranteed dollars? It's been a long time. Though the Vikings have been a more successful franchise than the Lions over the last fifteen-or-so years, and currently have arguably the better overall roster, the quarterback situation is the one thing Detroit has gotten right while watching Minnesota consistently stumble. Detroit has a quarterback they believe can help them win a lot of games over the next five years, and the Vikings have what?

The truth is, Minnesota's quarterback situation has been an Irwin Allen-sized disaster ever since Daunte Culpepper blew out his knee and elected to rehab it in a Miami strip mall rather than partake of the professional training facilities and expert help offered by the team back in Minnesota. While the hated Packers have had a great run of success with Brett Favre and then Aaron Rodgers offering consistent excellence at the QB position, Minnesota has gone through a seemingly endless succession of retreads, reclamation projects and players who were over-drafted by a desperate /clueless front office. While over the last few years Matthew Stafford has ascended to genuine franchise QB status in Detroit, Minnesota has watched every QB plan of theirs end up in disaster. The one time since the Culpepper years when Vikings fans were almost unreservedly optimistic about a new young quarterback, that QB Teddy Bridgewater ended up dislocating his knee in preseason practice so severely that amputation was briefly a possibility, reinforcing the notion that the franchise truly is cursed and especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the fricking lowly Detroit Lions at least know they have Matthew Stafford. 

Will the Vikings ever find their Matthew Stafford? A few people might believe they have their Stafford on the roster in the form of Sam Bradford, and thanks to the crazy QB market (which just got crazier thanks to Stafford's deal), there's a chance Minnesota might end up paying Bradford franchise- QB-level money. But it's very debatable that Bradford actually is a franchise QB, and he certainly is not as good as Matthew Stafford. Teddy Bridgewater if he ever gets healthy and returns to the field could be a solid quarterback, maybe better than Bradford (certainly he's more mobile than Bradford or was before he almost broke his leg in half), but it's very debatable whether Bridgewater ever could/will be as good as Stafford. Other quarterbacks the Vikings have tried in recent years include the first-round pick Christian Ponder, a player who never ascended to anything remotely resembling franchise QB status, plus a parade of stiffs and stopgaps with only the 2009 incarnation of Brett Favre providing real relief from the endless mediocrity at the position. Matthew Stafford has his detractors, and certainly many will rip the Lions for signing him to such a lucrative new contract, but the fact is that compared to what the Vikings have paraded out there at QB since Culpepper's knee exploded, Stafford looks like heaven made flesh. 

No, Stafford is not a perfect quarterback, but then who is? Perfection is not what the Vikings need/expect. What they need is to draft a young quarterback with strong skills who develops over the years into someone who can lead the team not just on the odd playoff push here-and-there but help them put together a consistent run of success over the course of many years. True, Stafford's time in Detroit has not led to a ton of playoff appearances but there aren't many people blaming Stafford for the team's mediocrity during his tenure. It's not Stafford's fault Detroit hasn't developed into a real contender during his time there; other roster issues and problems with coaching staff consistency have been more to blame than the QB. Stafford has been good for Detroit, and compared to what Minnesota has, he looks like Jesus Christ in a football helmet. If you're a Vikings fan, don't be ashamed for being jealous of the Lions in at least one way. It's understandable that you would envy them their real honest-to-goodness franchise QB. Maybe some day, Vikings fans. Maybe some day...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vikings fans want Teddy Bridgewater, will get Mitch Leidner

The big news in Vikings land over the last few days was a "report" saying Teddy Bridgewater, a year removed from a catastrophic injury to his knee, was very close to being cleared to return to practice. Teddy-fan optimism shot through the roof at this rumor (which as yet has not been confirmed by any credible source), and was given a further boost when Warren Moon chimed in to say he knows a guy who knows a guy who thinks Bridgewater is getting close to returning. Teddy Bridgewater back in uniform on the practice field? It seems closer than ever, at least according to the guy who knows the guy Warren Moon knows. Meanwhile, the Vikings added to their quarterback depth by signing another player Minnesota sports fans are very familiar with.

The arrival of Leidner in Vikings purple was not exactly greeted with fireworks and celebrations. Let's just say Minnesota sports fans did not rise up as a mass and embrace Leidner when he was the quarterback of the Minnesota Golden Gophers for a few years. Though Leidner is an impressive athletic specimen as a quarterback, he does not possess one of the great QB skill-sets of all-time. His arm-strength is sub-par, which wouldn't be such a huge issue if he had any accuracy, but he doesn't have that either. He's the kind of QB you see touted as a "dual-threat" but in truth he only threatens defenses when he runs, making him one skill short of a true dual-threat.

Why would the Vikings sign Leidner? It's not a difficult equation to figure out. Despite the hatred fans have heaped on Leidner, he's still a Minnesota guy with at least a small local fanbase. Rick Spielman is clearly hoping some of that fanbase will turn out to fill up a few seats at US Bank Stadium during the fourth preseason game. Why not? You don't have to pay Leidner any more than you would have had to pay Darnell Sankey, the guy you cut. The chances of Leidner sticking beyond the final preseason game are slim-to-none and the Vikings know that and Vikings fans should know that too. So, look out for Mitch Leidner in the fourth and final preseason game. But don't look out for Teddy Bridgewater on the practice field any time soon.

What exactly is going on with Teddy Bridgewater? It's anyone's guess. We've seen plenty of reports that he's working out without his knee brace. People keep saying how good he looks. Occasionally Teddy himself sends out a cryptic tweet suggesting he's getting a bit frustrated with being kept out of practice. All indications are that the Vikings will continue playing it safe with Bridgewater, bringing him along very slowly, knowing they have Sam Bradford and Case Keenum on the roster. Will Bridgewater start the season on PUP? How will Bridgewater's camp respond if Bridgewater is healthy but isn't allowed to practice? Will the union step in? Has Teddy Bridgewater played his last game for the Vikings?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Blair Walsh is a sad little pipsqueak who should be ignored

Last night's Minnesota-Seattle game gave former Vikings and current Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh a shot at "revenge" on the team that cut him. After banging his first fifty-yard-plus kick off the crossbar for a miss, Walsh booted a pair of fifty-plus-yarders long and true through the uprights, and after one of his made kicks he was seen pointing in a taunting fashion in the general direction of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. After the game, Zimmer declined to comment on Walsh's antics. When Walsh was asked about the taunting allegations leveled against him, the kicker claimed some of his former Vikings teammates had taunted him earlier and he was just giving it back to them (via PFT).

 “I simply was just responding to getting taunted,” Walsh said, via “I didn’t say anything. When you’ve got guys who were your teammates for five years yelling at you when you’re trying to kick, it’s just odd. And I hope they were in jest. And I hope they didn’t mean it because I didn’t mean anything with mine, but it was definitely not out of nowhere.”

If it's true that Vikings players were taunting Walsh, then their behavior was bush league and I hope Mike Zimmer addresses the matter. Professional comportment at all times, guys! Honestly, why even give Blair Walsh the time of day? It's understandable that some players would still bear ill-will toward Walsh after the way he shit on everyone's dreams by missing that chip-shot field goal in the freezing cold two years ago in the playoffs against Seattle, but why dwell on it? Why give Walsh the satisfaction of thinking he still matters? The only thing Vikings players should give Blair Walsh is the cold shoulder. The brush-off. Forget he ever existed. Treat him like just another kicker with a big leg and zero mental toughness.

The team held onto Blair Walsh too long, mostly one suspects because Rick Spielman didn't want to man up and admit he wasted a draft pick, but ultimately they did the right thing by cutting the inconsistent head-case of a kicker. Now he's Seattle's inconsistent head-case of a kicker. Good for him for kicking a pair of long field goals in a preaseason game with zero pressure, but zero-pressure kicks of course were never the issue with Walsh. No one questions his ability to boot it long and true when nothing is on the line. When the stakes are raised, that's when Walsh gets erratic. His infamous chip-shot miss against Seattle on the frozen field of TCF Bank Stadium two years ago was a hard left-hand pull, a brutal brutal miss that still echoes in the minds of Vikings fans victimized by years of soul-maiming playoff meltdowns. Walsh wide-left is in the Vikings Hall of Infamy alongside Drew Pearson pushing off, Gary Anderson wide-left, 41-doughnut, Favre across the body and 12 men on the field. These phrases are branded on Vikings fans' psyches forever and Blair Walsh is a fixture in Vikings fans' nightmares forever.

It's funny that Walsh would get fired-up over a couple kicks in a preseason game, becoming frisky enough over them to throw some taunts back in the faces of the few bush league Vikings players giving him grief from the bench. If ever there was a time when all involved should have staked out the high ground far above such nonsense, that was it. Neither side looked for Denny Green's high road and that's a shame. Elevating preseason action to the level where it matters even one iota psychologically is not a good sign for either side. Clearly, the Walsh bullshit matters too much to a few Vikings players and clearly it still matters a lot to Walsh. Okay, it's understandable that Walsh would harbor a grudge against the Vikings and might experience a small sense of internal satisfaction over kicking a pair of long field goals with his old team watching from the bench, but context matters too. At the end of the day it's a preseason game and how much does it really count? Walsh feeling a little extra glow of pride inside after booting a pair through would be perfectly justified but showing outward signs of that pride and even letting that pride swell to the point of taunting the Vikings bench just feels like a case of letting the moment get too big. And letting the moment get too big...well, that's kind of Blair Walsh's issue isn't it?

In a way, Walsh's behavior - even if it was prompted by a few dumb Vikings meatheads giving him verbal grief - is more proof that he's got a psychological glass chin. I have a feeling Blair Walsh is going to let Seahawks fans down in a big way. Hopefully it will happen in the playoffs against the Vikings. THAT would be true revenge. Only fragile pipsqueak schmos make a big deal out of anything that happens in the preseason. Fuck preseason.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cordarrelle Patterson is still Cordarrelle Patterson

His rocky Vikings tenure having come to an end in somewhat whimpering fashion, Cordarrelle Patterson is now trying to hit the reset button on his career in Oakland. And by all accounts things aren't going so well. Signed by the Raiders primarily for his return skills, Patterson is currently in camp trying to show his coaches that he deserves to be in the wide receiver mix as well. But if Patterson's showing on Wednesday is any indication, he shouldn't count on getting too many reps at receiver. Tweets from the scene give an account of what happened when Patterson got a case of the drops and started hearing it from Raiders fans.

Dropping passes. Getting openly frustrated. Showing a lack of class in his interactions. Sounds like nothing much has changed for Patterson. He's still the same limited receiver he was in Minnesota (and big whining wet diaper). Not a playmaker. Not a dependable player. A bit of a baby. He can still get you something as a return man and occasional gadget weapon, but the ship sailed a long time ago on the notion of Patterson being a genuine offensive cog. He simply doesn't have the route-running discipline, the hands, the grasp of nuances like body positioning. He gets jammed too easily at the line. Patterson is no longer the green rookie the Vikings drafted out of Tennessee in the first round after trading away a bunch of picks to move up and get him. He's 26 now and going into his fifth year. He is what he is. He'll get you a few big returns, he'll break off a couple huge gimmick plays, but outside of that he's a non-entity. Right now he's fighting for the #4 receiver spot in Oakland and frankly I don't know what else the Raiders have at receiver, so maybe he will even win the job. But he won't put up numbers during the season, he won't be a reliable target for Derek Carr. Eventually Derek Carr will stop looking for Patterson. He'll figure out that Patterson won't be there for him. He'll look for other receivers. Raiders fans who accept now what Patterson is - a return weapon - might even end up satisfied with his signing. But any Black Holers looking for Patterson to pop as a big-time weapon in their offense are going to be very disappointed. Sounds like a few fans are already fed up with Patterson's drops. Patterson would do well to keep his mouth shut and not snipe at Raiders fans. Those people are fucking nuts and a lot of them are armed.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stupid douchebag Matt Kalil takes shot at Vikings coaches

Matt Kalil was drafted #4 overall by Minnesota in 2012 and would go on to play 66 regular season games at left tackle for the Vikings, mostly at a mediocre level. Though Kalil showed flashes of above-averageness in his rookie season, his Vikings tenure would largely be marked by the sort of almost-adequacy that starts off inspiring frustration but ultimately leads to mere shrugging resignation. A not-bad run blocker, Kalil never did develop into the stalwart pass protector the team envisioned him becoming when they spent the #4 overall pick to get him. Though Kalil was typically unspectacular in 2015, the Vikings brought him back in 2016 for $11 million, having previously picked up his fifth-year option. Kalil, who over the course of his career had at least been durable, suffered a hip injury and played just two games in 2016. With the Vikings retooling their offensive line, free agent Kalil shambled off to Carolina in 2017 to join his brother Ryan. Few Vikings fans were sad to see Kalil go. As Vikings draft busts go, Kalil was hardly the biggest or most painful or franchise-hurting. Even as a bust, he was decidedly middle-of-the-road.

Kalil is now in Carolina and appears to be enjoying the coaching he is receiving there, as reported in the above tweet. Contained within Kalil's praise for the Carolina coaching staff is a less-than-subtle shot at the coaches he worked under in Minnesota, first Jeff Davidson and later Tony Sparano. That Kalil never realized the potential the Vikings thought he possessed when they spent a high first-rounder on his dopey ass is certainly not all the fault of the coaches tasked with molding and shaping the player. Certainly, Kalil's failure to live up to expectations is at least partially on him and his stupid fat moon-face. But if you watched Kalil in Minnesota, and more importantly observed his off-field behavior, you will not be the least bit surprised to see him taking a childish shot at his former coaches. Kalil was nothing if not a big, snot-encrusted, whimpering titty-baby in Minnesota. We all remember the time he got mad at a fan for heckling him outside a game and slapped the hat off the fan's head. Trumpian show of maturity Matt!

Matt Kalil was not total garbage in Minnesota, he was just hopelessly not-quite-up-to-snuff. At times he was a turnstile and there were moments in 2014 and 2015 when you were sure he would get Teddy Bridgewater killed. At other times he was almost not-terrible. On average, he was almost good enough. Needless to say, sort of okay most of the time (but sometimes brutally bad) is not what you want out of a #4 overall pick. Had Kalil been drafted in the third round and turned out to be the player he turned out to be, you'd call it not a bad pick. You would think of him the same way we think of Phil Loadholt now. That he was expected to be a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle and never really got into that vicinity makes his time in Minnesota look like more-or-less of a bummer. The fact that he's now sort of calling out his former Vikings coaches, strongly implying that he needed more pushing in Minnesota, is kind of a sad statement. But it doesn't seem the least bit out-of-character for Matt Kalil, a giant marshmallow-looking bag of shit with a dumb smugly grinning face that fairly cries out to be smashed in with a bag of bricks. I wish Matt Kalil had just gotten out of Minnesota and allowed me to forget about his numbingly run-of-the-mill existence but he had to go and say mealy-mouthed trash-talking stuff about the coaches who tried and failed to extract a level of performance from him that would have allowed us to feel good about where he was drafted. The funny part is Kalil suggesting his real problem was that he did not receive ENOUGH coaching in Minnesota. As if any amount of beating could have mended the pace of that particular dull ass. I wish stupid douchebag Matt Kalil would just shut up and be a Carolina Panther already, and stop vaguely referring to his wholly unremarkable time in Minnesota. I wish he would let us forget he was ever a thing.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Did I sense a rumbling of discontent from Teddy Bridgewater?

All may not be entirely well as regards the Vikings' relationship with Teddy Bridgewater. Under the seemingly placid surface of things there may be rumblings of discontent. I am certainly not the first to put two-and-two together when it comes to Bridgewater's intriguing tweets of a couple nights ago after news broke that Miami QB Ryan Tannehill had suffered an injury and was potentially looking at missing a lot of time. Given Bridgewater's Florida connections, and connections via Louisville to Miami receiver DeVante Parker, it took four seconds for folks to begin speculating on a possible trade of Bridgewater to the Dolphins. Then things seemingly went a step beyond mere idle trade speculation thanks to a few Bridgewater tweets. KFAN first jumped on the story in a post with the totally non-hysterial title "The Internet is bracing itself for a Bridgewater to Miami Trade..." laying out the timeline of events:

 - Tannehill gets injured late in the morning on Thursday
 - Late last night former Vikings cornerback and Miami native Demarcus VanDyke put out a tweet calling for Teddy to be traded to the Dolphins...and Teddy "liked" the tweet on Twitter. The tweet has since been "unliked" but there are screenshots to prove it.
 - Within the same hour Bridgewater puts out a barrage of tweets highlighted in the image below. 

Jackals in the Twin Cities media began frothing at the mouth over the possibility of an honest-to-goodness Teddy Bridgewater controversy in Minnesota. Radio people turned it into an instant talker.

Even Mike Florio of PFT got in on the act, drawing the amusing ire of his pal Paul Allen.
First off, there is no way in hell the Miami Dolphins are going to trade anything to the Vikings to acquire Teddy Bridgewater knowing that Bridgewater is likely not yet ready to play. The Dolphins, if they even think they need a quarterback, will want someone who can step in right away. They will not want someone who is coming off his own catastrophic knee injury. So even if Bridgewater is pining to get out of Minnesota and play with Parker in Miami, it's not going to happen any time in the near future.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to what the real story is here. Even if a trade is not realistically possible, the fact is Teddy Bridgewater did like that tweet about getting traded, did unlike the tweet somewhat suspiciously and did follow it up with a three-tweet run about sensing God about to perform a miracle in his life. Hard as I may try to ignore the implications of this Twitter activity, chalking it all up to coincidence, I can't quite bring myself to do so. There may not be smoke there, but there's definitely a burning smell. It is not unreasonable at all to surmise based on Bridgewater's tweets that Bridgewater is not happy with the way the Vikings are handling his situation. Publicly Bridgewater is saying all the right things, because that's the kind of classy guy he is, but who knows what his true feelings are. It could very well be that Bridgewater believes he's ready to play now and is cheesed off that Minnesota has him sitting on PUP while Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Taylor Heinicke get all the reps.

The thing is, looking at it in purely strategic terms, the right play for Rick Spielman is to do exactly what he's doing. Having Bradford around means he doesn't have to risk putting Bridgewater out there a second too early. He can hold Bridgewater back as an insurance policy in case Bradford gets hurt. He can also try to stash Bridgewater on PUP during the season, forcing Bridgewater's contract to toll, essentially adding an extra year to the QB's deal (after the team wisely elected not to pick up his fifth-year option). Some have argued the union would rush to Bridgewater's defense in the event Minnesota tried any such shenanigans with him and his contract, and maybe they would, but one assumes if that were a real possibility Rick Spielman would already be well-aware of it. We'll find out what happens when the season starts. For now, Bridgewater is sitting, and there is genuine evidence that he's not entirely happy with having to sit.

This would be much less of a story - or potential story, if you so far refuse to believe it rises to the level of an actual story - if Bridgewater did not have such a reputation for being a nice guy. It truly is hard to imagine a more amiable, likable, non-controversial figure than Teddy Bridgewater. And let's be honest - from the point-of-view of the media, Bridgewater's niceness makes him just a little bit bland. If the media had their way, they'd rather cover an ass like Jay Cutler. The media love QB-related headlines. Even before Bridgewater's minor tweet outburst, some were trying to foment a QB controversy in Minnesota by pointing out how healthy Bridgewater always looks in the team's video releases of him. Controversy sells, so it's no shock media people in the Twin Cities and elsewhere are now trying to make one around Bridgewater, who otherwise seems totally controversy-proof. The hell of it is, Bridgewater is the one responsible for fanning this particular smoldering pile of charcoal. If he was trying to send a message to the Vikings with his tweets, mission accomplished. Personally I think it's a positive sign that Bridgewater possesses a little ass potential underneath his nice-guy exterior. I don't trust anyone who seems totally nice.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dalvin Cook is well on his way to making Vikings fans forget Whats-his-name

At the risk of endorsing what may in fact be nothing but standard camp hype, I have to say I'm very excited about reports concerning Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook. How good has Cook been in Mankato? So good even the national media are taking notice (via

Walkthrough lineups had Cook, Minnesota's second-round pick out of Florida State, commanding all but a few looks as the team's starting back, and that trend continued later, when he was regularly positioned behind Bradford in full pads. In between a playful pat on his own back, Jerick McKinnon acknowledged everybody has "seen what (Cook) can do" with the ball on his hands.
But all the good talk about the rookie isn't even as impressive as Cook himself. The first-year back passes the eye test with flying colors. Every ounce of his listed 5-foot-11, 213-pound frame is rock solid, and he moves like someone a whole lot lighter. There's a lot to be proven yet, of course, but Cook at least gives the impression that Minnesota isn't even fretting Latavius Murray's absence.

Needless to say, Cook is an unbelievably important piece of the puzzle for the Vikings as they try this year to mount a more well-rounded and explosive offense. Sure, Jerick McKinnon can be a contributor too, and maybe Latavius Murray if he ever gets healthy - and certainly the offensive line is a big part of this story too (which makes Riley Reiff's ongoing physical issues that much more concerning) - but Cook is the player to really get excited about. By all accounts, Cook has the physical tools to be an explosive offensive weapon both as a runner and receiver. And apparently Cook is good at pass protection too. Wow, a running back who can catch the ball and block? Who doesn't have to come off the field in third down situations? Who actually has the versatile skill set to become a genuine weapon in a modern-day NFL offense with spread looks and shotgun and all those fancy things other teams have been doing for years while the Vikings plodded along as one of the last proponents of "old school" offense? Whose limitations don't back the offensive playcaller into a situation where he's forced to be more predictable? Amazing.

Thanks to Dalvin Cook, the term "old school ground-and-pound offense" may soon become a distant memory in Minnesota. And it's about fucking time. Welcome to 2017, Minnesota Vikings offense. Welcome to the Dalvin Cook Era.