Thursday, September 3, 2015

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The New York Giants have decided to cut former Vikings quarterback (technically) Josh Freeman despite the fact that he was only receiving veteran’s minimum (and therefore had a cap hit lower than he was actually paid) and that training camp hadn’t actually happened yet. The fact that it means Curtis Painter is still with the Giants speaks more to Josh Freeman’s prospects than the simple fact that he was given up on by three teams in less than a year.

Freeman’s rookie year was fairly typical for a rookie, but his sophomore season was one of the best for a young passer in NFL history (ranking ninth all-time in adjusted net yards per attempt for anyone 23 or younger). He had a down 2011, but his 2012 was incredible until the final three games—ranking seventh among quarterbacks at that point.

After that it was all downhill. In 2013, he threw four interceptions to only two touchdowns and had one of the worst years a quarterback has put together, playing for two different teams at the time—including a disastrous stint with the Vikings

I was a strong advocate of signing Josh Freeman, and a lot of the arguments I make in that post still ring true today though don’t take into account one evident fact: that Freeman, for some reason or another, doesn’t have the mental ability to run an NFL offense, despite having that ability earlier.

The fact that we debate whether or not Teddy Bridgewater should wait to start after several months of learning the playbook while ignoring the fact that Freeman had 12 days to learn the offense in 2013 is a little disingenuous, but the fact that he didn’t catch on in New York is certainly an indictment of who he is.

NJ.com has a description of one of the OTAs New York ran that paints an ugly picture:

The pecking order at quarterback during Thursday’s OTAs: Manning, Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter/Josh Freeman. Manning appeared to take every first-team snap. That was somewhat expected, despite ankle surgery last month.

Seeing Nassib as the primary second-team QB was more of a surprise. It seems to indicate that the Giants are going to give last year’s fourth-round pick every chance to be Manning’s backup this season. If Nassib (who looked shaky on Thursday) doesn’t win that job, it’s going to be quite an indictment.

Painter is just another guy and Freeman appeared to be little more than the camp arm the Giants were trying to sell him as after they signed him this offseason. During one drill, Freeman lined up the offense incorrectly and the play was never run. He was immediately subbed out, with Painter taking his place.

The fact that Freeman was late to several meetings in Eden Prairie tells us that he gave up on the Vikings in 2013, but that may continue to be true for his career. Tom Pelissero wrote:

“You could tell Josh did not know the offense,” said one of several Vikings players who spoke to USA TODAY Sports about the situation Tuesday. The players spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they weren’t supposed to discuss team business publicly.

“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,” a second player said of the Vikings’ quarterback situation this season. “When they started Josh in that Giants game, we were as confused as anybody.”

. . .

Four people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports that Freeman was late for numerous meetings in his roughly three months with the Vikings. A third player said Freeman often was among the last players to the facility.

. . .

“I feel bad for Josh getting thrown in so quickly,” the first player said.

Freeman bombed against the New York Giants on national television Oct. 21, completing 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards with an interception in a 23-7 loss, then reported concussion symptoms the next day and never played again.

The only situation that makes sense for him is Oakland, where he could compete with Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards to back up Derek Carr and Matt Schaub—and maybe play caretaker QB if Schaub underperforms. He did, after all, put up those impressive numbers in Greg Olson’s offense, and Olson currently is the offensive coordinator there, giving him a bit of a head start on Schaub and Carr.

But if the attitude he had with the Vikings continues elsewhere, his tenure in the NFL is over despite his talent. And it looks like it has.

The Vikings have, to our knowledge, made it through the holiday weekend without any embarrassing incidents off the field and are now conducting their Organized Team Activities.  We’ve had a lot of good content right here lately (scroll down, you can’t miss it), but here is what is being said from all of our friends around the web.

Go there.  Read it.  Tell ’em who sent ya.

  • Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com is on the other side of this interesting interview where a variety of topics are covered.
  • As if you needed more optimism about the 2014 Vikings draft class.
  • Geesh, will they let anyone on the internet these days?  Good Loadholt article here.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson is quickly turning out to be one of Minnesota’s favorite professional athletes.
  • This isn’t factually accurate, and it isn’t something I agree with, but it is worthy of consideration:  Will the money given to Everson Griffen prove to be a big mistake?
  • ‘Tis the season for making lists, throwing out lofty claims, and crowing GOATs.
  • Undrafted wide out Donte Foster says he has a chip on his shoulder and is learning from Greg Jennings.
  • Five reasons why a late bye week is a benefit to the Vikings this season.
  • Chad Greenway is feeling like a younger player having to learn a new defensive scheme and play a different role.
  • Minnesota Vikings Mike Zimmer claims he can’t even Google himself because of that pesky Minnesota Viking Mike Zimmer.
  • Jared Allen says Minnesota headed in a different direction than he wanted to go in and hopes Chicago never regrets signing him.
  • Adrian Peterson says you can see Teddy Bridgewater is hungry when you look into his eyes.
  • It is sounding like the new regime are running faster and more intense practice sessions than Minnesota has seen in a while.
  • Mike Zimmer provided some insight as to why it is so difficult to find quality prospects at the safety position in recent years.
  • A lot of nuts and bolts about the Minnesota Super Bowl bid and logistics can be found right here.
  • Erin Henderson is under the impression that Rick Spielman might be willing to give him another chance at a roster spot.
  • Somewhere there is someone who just bought something that I (and most of you) once peed in.
  • More pass catching is an idea Adrian Peterson seems to welcome.
  • And, here it is, your moment of Zen:

 

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Photo provided courtesy of Vikings.com

There have been numerous discussions around Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy’s comments crowing himself as the best running back in the league.  Although there were plenty of immediate scoffs echoing from the state of Minnesota, it is hard to argue that McCoy does not have somewhat of a case for such a bold claim.

McCoy is coming off a highly productive season in which the he served as a legitimate mainstay of the high octane Chip Kelly offense.  With so many online polls taking opinions about the topic, I wanted to take a deeper look into the facts to settle the score once and for all.  As we move forward, Vikings fans, try to stay unbiased.

No homers allowed here.

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I wasn’t there for OTAs, but I have a Twitter account and a blog, so I can aggregate the various storylines I’ve heard coming out of camp and keep them here for easy reference.

Let’s start out with the players who have not practiced for whatever reason:

  • Anthony Barr is currently finishing his semester at UCLA.
  • Scott Crichton is currently finishing his semester at Oregon State.
  • David Yankey is currently finishing his semester at Stanford.
  • Teddy Bridgewater represented the Vikings at the NFLPA rookie event in Los Angeles.
  • Matt Kalil underwent a minor procedure that limited him to individual drills (not his shoulder, but knee).
  • Linval Joseph underwent a procedure of some sort that kept him out entirely.
  • Andrew Sendejo had a back procedure that kept him out entirely.
  • Jamarca Sanford sat out after getting knicked up yesterday.
  • Josh Robinson sat out after getting knicked up yesterday.

There are a few other things, but because it’s OTAs, not a ton can be gleaned from it.

 

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A lot has been said about the effects of the Minnesota Vikings moving to a new stadium, from losing familiarity to selecting a strong-armed quarterback to deal with the wind. The wisdom of choosing a ten-year franchise quarterback based on a two-year stint aside, most concerns are seemingly overblown—the Vikings should be slightly better, maybe, if anything.

According to Chase Stuart at Football Perspective, teams have been one percent better when moving to a new stadium. In his set of 55 teams who have moved from one stadium to another (either permanently or temporarily), they’ve improved their record from 47.2 percent to 48.7 percent.

I had three initial reactions to this:

  1. So obviously, there’s no effect
  2. The fact that the record before moving to a stadium was less than 50 percent implies that the sample size is small (which we know to be true anyway)
  3. The fact that the record before moving to a stadium was less than 50 percent implies that improvement is more likely regression to the mean.

It does, however, fit another study done by Jason Lisk (now at the Big Lead) that specifically looked at home field advantage (against away record) when moving to a new stadium. Depending on what in your opinion causes home field advantage, the results are what you’d expect.

Home field advantage in the NFL is about +16% for a generic team—they win at a rate 16% higher at home than they do on the road. For teams in new stadiums, the first year is slightly higher than expected (consistent with Chase Stuart’s research) but perhaps not meaningfully so at +19.2%. The second year in the new stadium, however, is +22.7%—and it’s not because teams somehow get worse on the road (that record did not meaningfully change).

That difference is not all that extraordinary; an 8-8 team gets pushed to an 8.44-7.56 team. But teams that have a tendency to get into close games (say, like the Vikings last year) could use that additional push to grab a win they otherwise would not have. Using Game Scripts, which calculate the average point differential over every second of every game (and therefore doing a lot to eliminate the effects of garbage time), the Vikings’ “true ability” was that of a 6.5-9.5 team, not the 5.5-10.5 team they really were. Having a small push here or there would have very likely improved their record and the home field advantage in 2015 may make a team like last year’s Vikings into a 7-9 team.

For the most part, this is largely trivia. The fact that teams are better at home is not news, nor is it particularly shocking to learn that teams who visit more often have a smaller road penalty. The familiarity/comfort hypothesis for home field advantage carries a lot of circumstantial evidence in its favor, including the fact that teams that visit more often do better than teams that don’t. Divisional games only carry a 1.8 point penalty for road teams (vs. 3.1 points for non-divisional opponents) and home teams win divisional games 54 percent of the time instead of the 59.5 percent of the time they win against non-divisional opponents. First-time visitors to a stadium do worse than their spread projections by over a point.

The familiarity hypothesis also carries weight because home field advantage is strongest in the first quarter (of multiple sports) and decreases as the game goes on.

The Vikings, in theory, will not be all that familiar with TCF Bank Stadium in their first year, but will be somewhat more familiar than their opponents (aside from, I suppose, the Chicago Bears—meaning Corey Wootton should feel right at home). In their second year at the Bank (I swear I’ve heard that nickname for it before), they will be significantly more familiar with the stadium than the majority of their opponents and should have a more pronounced advantage.

HFA likely comes from a number of things, though I do think familiarity is the biggest cause—things like crowd noiseevolutionary biology, travel time/distance, climate and so forth do not have a large effect (though some do have a significant effect, it’s simply small) or are difficult to test. The most popular thesis, referee bias, usually relies on data (penalty differential) that does not extract opponent performance from actual bias (teams who are behind or players who are uncomfortable may be more likely to commit penalties) and doesn’t hold up to high-sample scrutiny—except in environments where referees may actually fear for their personal safety.

Regardless, it should be fun to see warm-weather teams visit during the winter. The only one on the schedule in 2014 seems to be the Carolina Panthers, on November 30th (they play the Dolphins in Miami).

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