Sunday, August 30, 2015

leslie frazier

If Leslie Frazier’s current record wasn’t enough to convince you that he is coaching his last games in Minnesota, then today’s report that the Vikings are already putting out feelers ought to do the trick.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Vikings have reached out to Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, who served as an assistant with the Patriots from 2007 to 2011.  He not only has some familiarity with Vikings rookie linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, but boasts a successful pedigree of two tight end sets and offensive innovation.

O’Brien seems like a logical candidate for the Vikings to check out, but the odds are long that he is the next head coach of the team.  His Penn State contract reportedly requires an NFL team to buy him out to the tune of $7.73 million.  There are also some unsubstantiated rumors floating around that O’Brien actually has no intent to once again join the NFL coaching ranks and wants to stay put.

The Vikings aren’t the only team to contact O’Brien.  The Houston Texans, who currently have a head coaching vacancy, have also reached out to the college coach.

If things get more serious regarding O’Brien we will more extensively explore who he is as a coach and a man.  In the meantime, this story is more about confirming that the Vikings appear poised to usher in a new era of Minnesota football by doing away with their current staff.

This Vikings season is just depressing.  Not only did Sunday’s tie against Green Bay and their fourth round quarterback seem completely unfulfilling, it left us scheduled for the fourth overall draft pick instead of the first.

The failures on the field this season are disappointing and only serve to magnify the failures off the field, and in the front office, every time they become evident.  If the Vikings were three games above .500 right now, and the playoffs within reach, the arrest and subsequent release of an inconsistent reserve would barely register as mentionable.

Instead, Monday’s news of A.J. Jefferson’s domestic assault arrest provides even more venom for frustrated fans to spit at Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier, and the Wilf empire as a whole.  Jefferson has seldom shown us anything better than terrible since Spielman traded away a late-round 2013 pick to obtain him and the arrest made it easy for them to part ways with him.

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I hoped Frazier would not be fired after this season was the lack of arrests and other off-field distractions plaguing the team since he took over.  Frazier had virtually had no players arrested under his watch for over a year until Jerome Simpson was tagged with a DWI last week.

With players landing in the clink two weeks in a row, and Frazier’s on-field product looking mighty miserable, even a supportive sort of guy like me is running out of excuses for the calmest coach in the NFL.

The Vikings needed help in the secondary before Jefferson’s release.  Now it seems all but certain we’ll see a new face on this roster before the upcoming Chicago game.

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The decision to sign quarterback Josh Freeman to an affordable, one-year contract was a no-brainer for the Vikings.  If he fails to establish himself as an answer at the position, then little is lost, and they can let him factor into the their compensatory pick equation following this season.  If he does succeed then they get first dibs on him moving forward.  Another possible result of the acquisition is added pressure on Christian Ponder to step up his game and it looks like Sunday we will see if that theory holds any water at all.

Only a few weeks after Ponder’s injury that sidelined him seemed to magically appear out of nowhere mid-week, the Vikings announced Wednesday that Josh Freeman has a concussion and it sounds like Ponder will regain his starting job because of it, as this team prepares to play Green Bay on Sunday Night Football.

“[Freeman] obviously won’t be able to practice today, so he loses a day,” Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “And when you consider the amount of time that he’s missed, it probably is going to be difficult. And also, looking at the history of guys who have concussions on the short week that are able to get cleared for Sundays, we’ll have to proceed as if he’s not going to make it.”

“There was nothing on the sidelines or during the game that made us ask him, ‘Are you all right?'” Frazier said (confirming that he wasn’t, you know, watching the game being played). “He didn’t say anything about it during the game or even postgame.”

Ponder vows to be more relaxed during his latest opportunity to lead the Vikings.

“I already got benched,” he said, “so it can’t get worse than that.”

The Vikings were once again embarrassed at home by a team that, on paper, should have been very beatable.  The 35-10 beatdown delivered by the Panthers was frustrating to watch and served as a loss of all hope for many Vikings fans this season.  The mess that is the 2013 Minnesota Vikings has so many problems that are so widespread, it is difficult to sift through it all and diagnose any problems, but here are eight things that have stuck out to me through the first five games of the season.  Sorry for focusing solely on the negative, but even hack bloggers need to vent.

1.  Musgrave Is Tripping Over Himself

Bill Musgrave made a Monday Night Countdown appearance on the “C’mon Man” segment thanks to his incredibly undersized play card.  I think ESPN deserves the award, however, as there are about 99 other things that Musgrave should be called out on before the size of his playbook.  For starters, how is it that Adrian Peterson only gets 10 carries against Carolina?  Think about what the acronym “MVP” stands for and then tell me that it is truly, honestly, absolutely possible for an opposing team to neutralize him that quickly and that early in a game.  He’s a true game changer and the Vikings should never stop feeding him the ball.  The team abandoning the run game was magnified by the ineptness of Musgrave’s passing game.

Perhaps even worse is the fact that Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton only saw six snaps all game long.  That’s right, the same Vikings team that had no answer for incoming power blitzes intentionally kept a Pro Bowl caliber blocker on the sideline.  I can’t imagine the reasoning here and it is just the latest example of Musgrave, who had already shown an inability to deal with these types of blitz schemes in the preseason against Buffalo, shooting himself in the foot for no apparent reason.

The 2013 NFL season has started off on the wrong foot for the Minnesota Vikings, and head coach Leslie Frazier is willingly taking the blame after dropping the first 2 games on the road against division opponents. I am all for Frazier being more hands on and establishing a stronger vocal approach with his players and staff, but I wouldn’t say he is the right person to blame for the losses.

 The Vikings have played hard, overcame some adversities, made plays, and put themselves in a position to win both games, but miscues, inconsistent play and poor execution has shown it’s ugly head much too often for the Vikings to secure a win. The team has had moments where they have played very well and have looked the part of a playoff caliber team, yet other moments of blunder and mayhem have haunted an otherwise solid overall effort.

 Fans can point the blame in a number of directions up and down the Vikings roster, but no player is more scrutinized than 3rd year QB Christian Ponder. After 2 games this year, Ponder’s play continues to resemble something you would see in a Robert Louis Stevenson mystery-horror novel.

 A 67 QB rate with twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes would scare the… pigskin off most football coaches. But not coach Frazier. Despite rumors of a short leash, Frazier stuck with Ponder through the good and the ugly at a rainy Soldier Field.

 With 3:02 left in the first half against the Bears, and the game knotted at 14 each, Ponder threw a pick six on 1st and 10 from the Vikings 31 yard line. Most coaches might have been tempted to pulled the plug at that point on the struggling QB. However, after the interception, Frazier went over and looked into Ponders eyes, said a few encouraging words and saw enough confidence in his QB to stick with him. Ponder went on to complete 12 of his next 18 passes including a 20 touchdown strike to Kyle Rudolph. Three nice second half drives led to Blair Walsh field goals that capped a solid second half performance.

 So which Christian Ponder will we see verses the Cleveland Browns this weekend?

 The Browns are 0-2 and have scored a combined 16 points in 2 games… so, this would be a great time for the “good” Mr. Ponder to make an extended appearance on Sunday. However, if the “ugly” Mr. Ponder shows up, the home crowd boo-birds might come out in full force. Will Leslie Frazier continue to be patient and wait around for the “good” Mr Ponder to come and go? Or could a more hands-on approach by “Dr.” Frazier be the answer to controlling the mysterious erratic play of young Mr. Ponder?

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