Friday, May 29, 2015
Blog Page 175

The one promise Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman gave media and fans regarding the hiring of the next head coach was a willingness to conduct an extensive search that includes 13 different possible categories.

 Off the record, I’m betting one of those categories include looking at former Vikings’ coaches or former coaches that have served on the same staff with Rick Spielman. Former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has already surfaced as a possible candidate to replace Leslie Frazier.

 So, I decided to do a little search to look for a few under-the-radar names that might have a connection to Spielman or the Vikings. My search also includes consideration to any connections to a possible future franchise quarterback that the Vikings might be scouting in the 2014 NFL draft. This is what I found.

Well, the lack of  “unnamed sources” was nice while it lasted.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today coaxed some quotes out of Vikings players, speaking on the condition of anonymity, regarding the decision to start Josh Freeman less than two weeks after signing him.  The article does little to clarify who ultimately decided that Freeman would start that game, a crucial must-win matchup, but we know for certain that it was Leslie Frazier who was selling the idea to the rest of the locker room.

“You could tell Josh did not know the offense,” one player told Pelissero.  “Practices did not really go that well that week. But Coach Frazier was in the team meetings like, ‘Oh, I think this is the best week of practice we’ve had all year.’ And everyone’s like, what? What are you talking about?”

“Debacle,” said another player describing the decision. “When they started Josh in that Giants game, we were as confused as anybody.”

The decision to sign Freeman really didn’t cost the Vikings much.  In return for the $2 million he will be paid they got an up-close look at a young, experienced NFL quarterback and the possibility of getting a compensatory pick if he is not retained.  What they lost was the $2 million, which was unlikely to be spent on any other mid-season signings, and project quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

The gamble wasn’t the signing, it was the decision to play him so soon, and the results were pretty atrocious.

Freeman is due to become a free agent this offseason.  Pelissero cites four different sources that say Freeman was late for team meetings on multiple occasions while with the Vikings and one player noted that he was often one of the last players to show up to Winter Park.  If true, these issues combined with his one awful performance, likely means Freeman will not be retained unless our yet-to-be-determined coach is sold on his abilities.

Spielman admitted on Tuesday that he has yet to hit on a quarterback and is prepared to continue the search for that special franchise guy.  His statements were far from a ringing endorsement of Freeman or Christian Ponder.  Freeman can walk, Ponder sounds like a guy who wants out, and Matt Cassel could conceivably opt out of his contract for 2014, which means Spielman is truely headed back to the starting line when it comes to finding his guy.

The Vikings will be armed with plenty of cap space and the eighth overall pick heading into this offseason.  If Chicago hangs onto Jay Cutler then the free agency class will really be lacking at the position.  If things play out just right, or wrong in this case, an acceptable rookie may not be available when Minnesota is on the clock.

This offseason has all the makings of one where Spielman will be forced to wheel and deal (not that he doesn’t seem to enjoy that) to get the quarterback, or quarterbacks as the case may be, that he wants to staple his career to.  I say that because it is true.

It is now Rick Spielman that will be held responsible for any future debacles, and if we have unnamed sources talking to Pelissero at this time next year, then Spielman will probably be headed to Kinkos to make copies of his resume.

In today’s society and culture, consumer’s seem to crave drama, and are willing to pay good money to see it unfold.  Whether it is our television programming, political races, or professional sports we collectively want to see one human essentially do battle with another.  Today, Leslie Frazier’s departure from Minnesota likely left a few NFL consumer’s unsatisfied, and when the purple history books are written his firing will be as forgettable as his three seasons as the team’s head coach.

Frazier is widely respected within NFL circles.  Since stepping out of the shadows and into his prominent role, Percy Harvin sticks out as the only person with first hand experience that seemed unappreciative of Frazier as a man, and even that observation is pure speculation and lacks concrete evidence.

Instead, Leslie Frazier left Winter Park shaking hands with those he knew and looked as dignified as ever.  When he got in his car, if he chose to turn on his radio, he likely heard quote after quote about how loved he is by his current and former players.  He probably noticed some local and national media members talk about how they never dealt with a head coach as classy as he is.  He surely heard the statements released by his former employers that included almost nothing but respectful endorsements of Frazier’s character.

Frazier himself, as could only be expected, exited his position with grace and composure by all accounts.  His words included only the most subtle hints at disagreements and dysfunction within the organization.  The organization, most notably Rick Spielman, also poked back a little bit to make clear that Frazier made decisions that led to his demise and that they are fully ready to start another chapter.

That was, and is, the extent of the drama with Leslie Frazier at the helm.  He didn’t win enough football games.  He didn’t make enough brilliant calls.  He couldn’t get enough out of some of his players.  He couldn’t make things click at the right times.  He did, however, run the Childress Circus out of town and replaced it with an overall sense of coolness.

In some circles, there are folks rolling their eyes at the “pity party” that ensued following the news of Frazier’s departure, but I think to get annoyed is to miss the point.  Few argue that Frazier should have been retained, or that he did enough to keep his job, but almost everyone is willing to let the man walk away with his dignity and his personal pride.

In the last few weeks we have seen an NFC North coach curse out his hometown fans.  We’ve seen a midwest team fire a coach that was able to make a respectable run with perhaps the only quarterback situation worse than Minnesota’s.  We’ve seen hundreds of reporters flock to the Nation’s capitol to watch a father and his son lose their jobs.  We’ve seen plenty of things that will steal all of the headlines while the Vikings quietly move on to evaluating their options.

The coaching search sounds like it will be extensive and time-consuming.  We will have lots of fun sifting through all of the options and all of the rumors.  We will debate who is the best fit, what each candidate brings to the table, and we will all hope the future is bright.  There is plenty of time for that.

Right now, though, I am still processing the events that have taken place since yesterday’s win closed out the Metrodome one final time.  I’m certainly not crying about it all, it is no “pity party” on this end of your computer screen, but there is no doubt that this firing doesn’t entirely feel right.

The way Frazier’s career with the Vikings has ended, the manner in which it all took place, is perhaps the most shining example of why he shouldn’t be out of work for long if he chooses.  The respectful quietness also makes me wonder if this decision won’t eventually end up looking like one of Rick Spielman’s worst.

Good luck, Leslie… from one Vikings fan with a computer.

 

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Following the 42-14 beatdown at the hands of the Bengals there is little else for Vikings fans to look forward to than next season.  We will soon be in all-out optimism mode as staff comes and goes, free agency heats up, and the NFL Draft infuses the roster with new blood.  This roster certainly doesn’t lack youthful talent, however, and these young playmakers give us all reason to hope for a quick turnaround and an immediate return to the playoffs.

One of those players that has me particularly excited is running back Bradley Randle who signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, out of Nevada – Las Vegas, and has returned to the team’s practice squad after spending most of the NFL season training in California and spending time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  On December 11th the Vikings finally re-signed Randle to their practice squad and he was immediately asked to emulate Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy in practice to help the defense prepare.  The results were quite positive.

Now, most of you that have been reading my rants for some time now know that I am always quick to stump for a “scat back” in purple, as I feel that particular dimension in our offense has been missing for, well… a long, long time.  I’ve stumped for guys like Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush when they have been available, and I immediately got my hopes up following the 2013 Draft when news broke that the Vikings were bringing Randle in.

On Sunday, Randle was kind enough to spend some time answering some questions for VT, which was inspired by my curiosity as to why this guy seemed so popular with Vikings fans despite never having played in a game that mattered.

“Where else in the NFL is there a player that the fans love who has not played a single NFL regular game snap?” Randle told me.  “That is how great these fans are.”

“They are making history based off of the love in their hearts for a person like me,” he continued.  “An underdog.”

Randle is indeed an underdog.  With Adrian Peterson sitting atop the Vikings depth chart in a shatter-proof throne, Randle has to prove his worth as a backup to Peterson and on special teams, but don’t think Peterson’s stardom impacts Randle’s confidence.

“I am one of the best running backs in the NFL,” he was quick to tell me.  “I have Adrian Peterson as my mentor.  That is like having Walter Payton or Herschel Walker teaching you. He calls me ‘Mini Me.’  People began to call me ‘Lil AP’ and now big AP calls me that too.  This is because God has made me great.”

“Who is better than me besides my mentor Adrian Peterson himself?  The answer is ‘nobody,'” Randle said just before insisting he’ll be a mainstay on the Vikings roster next year.  “Just because I am great does not mean I will make the active roster.  It means I will take a spot on the active roster.”

The most noticeable thing about Randle and his Twitter account is how much he just genuinely seems to love the team that continues to give him chances.  I don’t think I have ever seen a player so outwardly loving of his team and their fanbase, and the uncanny thing about that was that it continued through the months following his release.  Even when he wasn’t a part of the team he acted like he was.

“To become a loved player on a team that has the best fans in the world has been emotional and inspiring,” Randle stated.  “It would be lovely to retire in Minnesota because now I play for fans as well.  I used to only play for God and my team.  Now the fans are a part of my heart.”

Randle’s return to Minnesota’s practice squad was well received by Vikings fans and Randle seems to appreciate the support he received from the fans.  He thinks that is something the front office will pay attention to down the stretch.

“The fans have power,” he claims.  “When the Vikings called me back to be on the team, the Vikings staff certainly heard the excitement of the fans.  The fans became excited again when there was not much to be excited about after missing out on making the playoffs this year.”

I asked Randle about the special teams hit that catapulted him into national highlight reels while at UNLV and he said he has always been a hard hitter and that he comes from a family full of hard hitters.  His father, Lenny Randle, was the MVP for the New York Mets in 1978.  While he also excels in baseball, Randle tells me that the NFL is where his heart is.

“Football is my sport of choice because of the purple warrior blood in my veins.”

I asked Randle about some of his Rebel brothers that he left behind.  With UNLV appearing in a bowl game, and Rick Spielman clearly trying to pair up college teammates on his roster, is there a chance we could see another Rebel with the Vikings next year and who does Randle think we should be keeping an eye on?

He mentioned nose tackle Nate Holloway, a large nose tackle that went undrafted in the 2013 supplemental draft, as well as defensive lineman James Boyd.  A fellow running back in Elijhaa Penny was also singled out by Randle.  Additionally, he described Kenny Brown as “a hard hitting defensive back.”  Time will tell if any other Rebels are in Spielman’s scope.

At the end of our conversation I asked Randle who he modeled his game after.  With him being listed at 5′ 7″ and 190 pounds I expected to hear him say Darren Sproles or someone of that sort.  Instead, Randle told me he runs like some of the toughest the game has ever seen, and seems to shrug off the idea that he can’t be a power runner.

Gale Sayers and Adrian Peterson. Both are gasher backs,” he said.  “LeSean McCoy is a slasher. We are gashers.”

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Matt Asiata did an admirable job last week, filling in for hobbled running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, but the position is seeing a return to normalcy this week in Cincinnati.

Peterson and Gerhart are both active for today’s matchup with the Bengals, and Asiata is inactive after struggling with an ankle injury of his own.

Today’s Vikings inactives are:  QB Josh Freeman, DE Justin Trattou, RB Matt Asiata, OT Mike Remmers, WR Rodney Smith, DT Chase Baker, and CB Xavier Rhodes.

While injury continues to keep Rhodes out of action, Chris Cook should return to the field, and now has only two games left to “ball out” and prove to all 32 teams that he is not an NFL bust before he potentially enters free agency.  Starting guard Brandon Fusco is also active today after missing last week’s game.

Feel free to join other Vikings fans in our Live Chat Page to discuss the game as it unfolds.

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