Monday, December 5, 2016

brandon fusco

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Examining Rick Spielman's failed record in drafting offensive linemen.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Rick Spielman is an above average general manager. This is clear to most levelheaded observers.

There are voices online that will tell you otherwise; for a segment of the Minnesota sports viewing public, criticizing Spielman seems to be something of a sport. Just a cursory search of the man’s name on Twitter usually reveals a sizable dose of anger directed at the Vikings GM, often laced with misspelled profanity and other vitriol. The particular grievance is ever-changing, but currently, it has become en vogue to begin proclaiming Spielman’s preseason trade for Sam Bradford is an abject failure. Perhaps it’s the nature of the job he holds, or perhaps it’s the fact that ten years with a franchise is certain to yield at least a handful of bad moves, but for all the observers who tell you Rick Spielman has done good work assembling the Vikings roster, there are just as many who will tell you he needs to be fired tomorrow.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the job he holds, or perhaps it’s the fact that ten years with a franchise is certain to yield at least a handful of bad moves, but for all the observers who tell you Rick Spielman has done good work assembling the Vikings roster, there are just as many who will tell you he needs to be fired tomorrow.

Do not listen to this latter group. They are an emotionally volatile bunch who choose to nitpick over specific happenings rather than step back and look at the big picture. And the big picture is this: with the Vikings, Rick Spielman has been a good GM. I’ve already laid out my thesis at length over the course of examining his best and worst moves with the club, so I won’t drone on here, but in a nutshell, I believe Spielman has built a deep and talented roster that has allowed the 2016 Vikings to remain competitive despite an avalanche of injuries at key positions, and I think his good moves far outweigh his bad ones. There are more early round slam dunks (Barr, Bridgewater, Rhodes, Rudolph, Smith, Kendricks, Peterson, et al) and mid- or late-round steals (Diggs, Hunter, Griffen, Sullivan, Robison) than there are outright draft busts. There are more shrewd, economical trades and free agent acquisitions than there are wasteful, fruitless ones. Overall, Spielman has navigated the cap well and put together an impressive roster of talent, and I think any objective analysis of his work over the long haul will show that.

But.

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What Went Wrong: Week 10

Third and a Long One Yard
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Down a point to the Pittsburgh Steelers with nine seconds remaining, Ezekiel Elliott burst through the line of scrimmage and carried the Dallas Cowboys to an improbable win. His 32-yard touchdown sealed the game for Dallas, launching himself and the Cowboys into the NFL’s rarified air.

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings experienced similar joy — albeit, in a losing game — from Adrian Peterson. Down 10 to the Denver Broncos, facing a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, Teddy Bridgewater handed the ball to Peterson. Minnesota’s All-Pro running back exploded through a crease and jaunted to the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown, pulling the Vikings within three.

Fast forward to the present day, and such short-yardage situations aren’t a gimmie for the current Vikings offense. Gone are the days of a push by the offensive line and decisive running between the tackles. Sure, the Vikings try to play “power football,” but the results have been alarmingly disappointing.

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The Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings were humbled Sunday for their first loss of the season, but the fanbase still believes head coach Mike Zimmer can Make the Vikings Great Again. To help me explain how is 1500 ESPN’s Gruesome Twosome Derek Wetmore and Phil Mackey. They joined me at Blue Door Pub University to talk some Vikes and eat some burgers (except Phil who’s doing the Whole 30 thing.)

What can be done about the offensive line (if anything)? Pete Carroll’s comments were taken EXTREMELY out of context, right? Plus a couple of random Brett Favre takes, media critiques, and a little role playing for a Sam Bradford press conference. #Chorizo

All that and more “Halloween is a Dumb Holiday But Join Us Monday at Blue Door, Details Below” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint

SWAG! Order The GREATEST T-SHIRT OF ALL-TIME

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Minnesota Vikings-Chicago Bears

The Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings offensive line is Charmin soft (just ask Mike Zimmer), so I’ve taken it upon myself to fix it the best way I know how: outlandish trade scenarios. Later on in the show, friend of the program Julie DiCaro (670 The Score – Chicago) swings in for an early look at the Halloween Vikings-Bears brouhaha on Monday Night Football. I ask her if she’s looking forward to the return of Bae Cutler, could the Purple actually drop 2 in a row, and what she’ll do if her beloved Cubs actually win the World Series.

All that and more “This is Hardees territory, NOT Carl Jrs” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint

SWAG! Order The GREATEST T-SHIRT OF ALL-TIME

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What Went Wrong, Week 7

Blame the Turnstile OL
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Without a doubt, Sam Bradford deserves some of the blame for the Minnesota Vikings’ loss on Sunday afternoon. In his return to Philadelphia, he was inexplicably inaccurate, careless with the football, and surprisingly incompetent from the pocket — when there was a pocket.

When a quarterback fails to recognize disguised coverages, as Bradford did against the Eagles, he automatically puts an offense at a disadvantage. Even worse, though, is when an offensive line blatantly misses blocks or free rushers. Minnesota’s front-five hurtled back to Earth last week, giving up six sacks in their ugliest performance of the season.

Head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t mince words when describing the unit’s play. “They didn’t block anybody,” he said, per Brian Murphy. “We were soft, got overpowered. It was a little bit of man-on-man and we got whipped.”

Sunday’s game represented a chance for Minnesota’s offense to grow, to build on the progress they’d made since losing Adrian Peterson in Week 2. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner had changed the system dramatically, employing a heavy dose of shotgun formations and quick-hitting passes that allowed Bradford to pick apart opposing defenses behind a shaky line.

But against the Eagles, Turner reverted to the tendencies that led to 43 Teddy Bridgewater sacks in 2015 — seven-step drops, slow-developing play action passes, and predictable runs on first down. His playcalling choices compounded the struggles of the offensive line, which had been masked to this point by Turner’s clever adjustments.

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