As the Vikings get deeper and deeper into the 2013 season their losses are becoming more and more embarrassing.  A playoff team one season ago, the Vikings of today are putting some of the most putrid displays of football on the field that I have ever seen, and I’m counting the high school competitions I’ve watched… including junior varsity… in Alaska.

This team has been so awful in so many ways that it is difficult to diagnose any individual problems.  There are some obvious players to pick on, guys that lack certain skill sets, but all 32 teams in the league have guys like that.  There is something different about this Vikings team.  Something that just isn’t right.  Something that can’t be explained away by citing an overall lack of talent.  This team isn’t old, but it isn’t so young that it should be this bad.  In the past I’ve talked about Christian Ponder just not seeming to have that elusive “it” trait, which is a hard thing to explain about an individual player, but now I venture to say that this entire team just doesn’t have “it” this year.  How that happens to a collective group is even harder to explain.

Still, I have to do something other than pretend my website doesn’t exist.  I can’t just let you guys down and stop writing, no matter how much of a chore it feels like these days.  I can clean my gutters before I write, however, which is exactly what I did.  Despite the dirty task, Tuesday night has already been more of a success (and more enjoyable) than Monday night was.

There were no hidden treasures in my gutters tonight and, homers be warned, there are no hidden treasures in my analysis of last night’s debacle.  Here are 10 things that the Vikings need to fix prior to 2014 and I attempted to prioritize them:

10.  We Need A New Guard

Whether their regression is permanent or an anomaly, the Vikings will go into the future with their current starting tackles and center on the offensive line.  The guard positions are a different story, however, and if this team is going to make a move along the O-Line it will come at these spots.  Brandon Fusco hasn’t been too terrible this season, but Charlie Johnson should not be starting in the NFL, and these guys collectively need to be held accountable for their share of the Vikings struggles both running and passing.  It is once again time for the organization to bring some serious competition to the line and make a statement:  Continuity within the unit needs to be earned, not gifted.

9.  Aging Defensive Line

Jared Allen made a play that will forever be a part of his career highlight reel (also given an interesting nickname by ESPN’s post-game broadcast) when he sacked Eli Manning by grabbing hold of him while bear hugging the Giants left tackle.  Outside of that play, and a few opportune tipped passes, this defensive line has done nothing to instill fear into opposing quarterbacks.  Brian Robison disappears for stretches, like he did last night, and the defensive tackle has been mediocre.  You need not look any further than our third down percentage if you need evidence that this group is in decline.  There is little-to-no consistent pressure coming from this group, like we had grown accustomed to seeing, and this defense would have been much worse off last night if they hadn’t been gifted so many drops by Giants receivers.  Which brings us to…

8.  Our Pass Catchers

If you watch really, really closely you will see that Josh Freeman was on target on a couple of occasions last night.  Drops from Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jarius Wright did us no favors, though.  Drops aren’t the only problem.  There was poor route running and terrible field awareness (again, Wright) on a number of occasions.  These receivers have had the unenviable task of playing with three different quarterbacks in six games, but dropping bubble screen passes and running routes out of bounds are inexcusable

7.  Sophomore Slumps

I don’t have any statistical evidence to prove that the old “sophomore slump” theory is reality, but looking at our current group our only hope is that this is exactly what is happening to them and that they’ll be able to rebound next season.  Kalil is sluggish.  Blair Walsh missed a field goal.  Wright was terrible.  Harrison Smith is on inured reserve (but was playing well prior to that).  Josh Robinson has been the weakest link in a very weak secondary.  There is talent here, as we witnessed in 2012, so all we can really hope for is a quick return to productivity for this group.

6.  Special Teams Needs To Get Back To Fundamentals

I remember not that long ago that Mike Preifer was mentioned as a speculative head coaching candidate for the Vikings, or elsewhere, by some very knowing experts.  Now his unit can’t even play mistake-free football.  A missed field goal, a defensive tackle returning (and fumbling) a kickoff, failures to pin the opponent deep, and mental errors cost the Vikings special teams the credit they earned from a Marcus Sherels punt return for a touchdown and then some.  This unit has the potential to be game-changers, but first they need to refresh themselves on the fundamentals of football, and learn how to not lose the game through stupid mistakes.

5.  Balancing Act

How does a coaching staff take a brand new quarterback, with only four practices under his belt, and task him with throwing 53 passes on Monday Night Football?  Adrian Peterson carried the ball only 13 times.  Something is backwards there.  Not only is this unbalanced football, in a game where they were always within at least two scores, it is letting the scales swing way to the wrong side.  Leslie Frazier acknowledged that they need a more balanced attack on offense, but I am extremely puzzled as to why we didn’t see this happen Monday night.

4.  Chris Cook

We know his arms and hands work.  There are court documents proving it.  Why he can’t lift them to intercept the first pass of his career, even when they are easy pickings, is a testament for why he needs to go after this season.  He’s undependable and unproductive.  Next!

3.  This Staff Isn’t Getting It Done

It saddens me to go down this road, it really does, because I still believe Leslie Frazier is a good football mind that is capable of leading a team to greatness.  I really don’t want the Vikings to give up on him, but from a practical standpoint I can’t really defend their decision to stick with him beyond this season if they decide to.  He has surrounded himself with coordinators that seem consistently questionable, rarely genius, and often lost.  Throwing short of the sticks on third down.  Seeing consistent problems get worse, not better, such as dropped interceptions.  Rookie defensive tackles returning kicks.  Moronic penalties.  Frustratingly inept and uncreative play calling.  Players looking like they are in preseason from seven weeks into the regular season.  It all adds up to just too much to overcome this season, and big changes are coming so it doesn’t spill into 2014, and many of those changes will be necessary.

2.  This Ship Needs A Captain

Following Monday’s record-breaking (not in a good way) performance from Josh Freeman, I witnessed normally cool-headed Vikings fans turn into catty Real Housewives in their arguments for or against certain quarterbacks on this team.  Freeman did some good things in terms of manning up against heavy pass rushes and throwing the ball with some zip, but in the end he looked like a taller, curlier-haired version of Tim Tebow.  He certainly has plenty of excuses at his disposal, considering the circumstances, but Ponder can attest to the fact that eventually those excuses do you no good.  I can honestly say that I have no personal fondness for any of our three (or four) quarterbacks, nor any personal hatred, and I just want to see one of them step up to lead this team into the future.  I also happen to think that, of the three, Freeman has the best chance of accomplishing that.  But, what do I know… I wanted us to draft Tebow.

1.  Heart

I guess this goes back to the “it” factor.  This team appears to have no heart.  Not only do they have no heart now that their playoff hopes have contracted Ebola, but they have had no heart since the day this season began.  There is no fire.  There is never any sense of urgency.  There is little leadership or comradery apparent to outside observers.  They constantly look like Ben Stein gave the pre-game speech.  They look like they listen to John Denver on their headphones when riding the bus to the game.  They look like they are a bunch of guys having to clean their gutters instead of playing a fun, emotional, intense game for a living.  Every week they look about as enthused to do their jobs as I looked when I sat down to write this depressing article about the state of our beloved franchise.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Brilliant article as always Adam (outside of the embarrassing Tebow admission, of course).

    Grammar Nazi though I can be, Snoop Adam, I love the ebola/e.coli combo of ‘eboli,’ I think it has traction. I’m totes going to steal it.

  2. A very good read Adam. We all wished it wasn’t so, but alas, it is.

    You’re right though, these fellas need some Chicago, Credence, 3 Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat & Tears on their cassette players.

  3. 10 and 9, check, both lines must be betters

    4, “We know his arms and hands work. There are court documents proving it.” yes, i lol, but he did look terrible on that TD and he needs to get some INTs and improve or go

    these three points are more player’s responsibility, but better coaching would help them, too. all the rest really come down to coaching, imo. we talked about it during pre-season, we saw the signs, the progress wasn’t there, even if the talent was. the fish rots from the head down

  4. Good stuff Adam…Hey, thanks for gutting it out for us.
    It does start up front, and at the top as well.
    The O-line wasn’t good, AD had no room inside the tackles…nothing. And the play caller gave up on it too early. Freeman didn’t help the case. 8 man box, open receiver and he misses by 12 feet. The Giants had no reason to worry about the pass! That being said, 13 carries for Peterson?
    I agree with you on Freeman, at this point he has better upside than Ponder or Cassel. I like his pocket presence. But damn, he can’t hit the broadside of Big Johnny’s sister. Surely he’ll get better on the accuracy thing…that’s gotta be rust, right?
    The Defense looked a bit better, had the offense put together something…and then there was the fumbled punt that led to 7. A better showing at least.
    Do the coaches ever have the DB’s do catch drills? I always thought that catching a football was a fairly easy task…you have two hands, grab the damn thing! It aint that hard.

  5. Three immediate predictions from this news: 1. Our QB will complete more than 38% of his passes. 2. We will score more than 7 points. 3. We will still have a chance to win in the 4th quarter.

      • Tryouts, me boy, tryouts. Need to find a franchise QB, unless you are content with mediocre?

        Freeman needed a look. Granted, it probably could’ve waited a week or two, but whatevs.

        • I suppose you’re right. What self-respecting franchise would be satisfied with a QB who led his team to the playoffs in his first full season of play? These issues of happy feet and poor arm strength are the same issues we had with that danged Tarkenton! Just like that Carter guy that Philadelphia finally dumped, seems like all he ever did as QB was score a bunch of points.

          (No, I’m NOT saying he’s as good as Tarkenton or Carter, so don’t even go there.)

          • Yes, Peterson earned an MVP due to Ponder’s QB play. Ponder got us in the playoffs. Ponder. Since he gets all the credit with you, then I assume he likewise gets all the blame this year? Wait, no, just defense.

            By the way, I can’t believe you think he’s as good as Tarkenton.

            • Have you ever seen anyone hand the ball to Peterson any better than Ponder does? Huh, have you? No, I didn’t think so. End of discussion!

              I said I wasn’t saying he is as good as Tarkenton. I’m saying he’s better than Francis, and Starr, and Unitas, and better than the three Mannings COMBINED! (la da da da da da da da…feelin’ groovy. Hello lamppost whatcha knowin’, I come to watch your flowers growin…)

  6. Ponder starting has me optimistic about scoring points Sunday. That’s all that needs to be said about Josh Freeman.

  7. Adam,
    I’m on board with Cslinde on your post! Great as always
    And Yeah your right, Cleaning Gutters would be a step up.
    This is a disheartening season for sure…

    • I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m going to totally throw a hissy fit, like a big girl. I mean, an absolutely embarrassing display of childish behavior.

        • I think we’ve all proven we can live with that from you. But remember, you’re not a Ponder hater, you just utterly despise his every moment of playing QB.

        • Sad state of affairs is all I can say Coach. I can’t remember any time in my life where I wasn’t optimistic about one single thing with this team? And there’s sure been some rough times.

  8. It’s not going to be hard for Ponder to look better than Freeman did but he’s still got the same O-line and play calling.
    While he’s on the bench, he’s still going to be watching the same defense with the same coaching.
    Packer 35
    Vikings 7

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