Tuesday, May 24, 2016

leslie frazier

When Percy Harvin suffered an ankle injury on November fourth it was the third quarter of a game taking place in Seattle.

Despite the ugly nature of the hit to his ankle, and the obvious pain he was in, the Vikings coaching staff allowed Harvin to re-enter the game and play on.  That decision can possibly be added to the list of questionable ones being compiled by those that would like to see Leslie Frazier and his staff gone for good.

Harvin reportedly suffered a grade three sprain, which means a ligament actually tore, and the team held his roster spot for him hoping he would recover in the four to six week timeframe expected of these injuries.  Each week, however, Frazier strung along the media (and fans) making it seem like Harvin could actually suit up the following game.

As recently as yesterday, Frazier expressed some optimism that Harvin would be able to do some things in practice that would indicate that he might be available to face the Bears on Sunday.

Instead, news broke late in the day on Wednesday that Harvin would be placed on Injured Reserve, prematurely ending his 2012 campaign that had him in the MVP conversation early on.

The news is grim for everyone that enjoys seeing Harvin play, but it perhaps hits quarterback Christian Ponder and his 32nd ranked passing offense the hardest.

As a receiver, Harvin caught 66 passes for 677 yards through nine games, which both still lead the Vikings.  In fact, through 12 games all of the Vikings wide receivers combined have accounted for only 68 catches and 809 yards.  His three touchdowns as a receiver match that of all the others combined, as well.

Plus, those stats don’t even begin to measure the full impact could have on a game as a running back and as a return man.  His ability to pick up yards, scare opposing coaches, and set the Vikings up with excellent field position has been sorely missed in his absence and that will surely continue.

Another thing that bothers me (and quite possibly only me) is that Harvin’s ankle injury occurred on a run play.  Now, I don’t mind mixing it up and getting creative with how you use a talent like Harvin, but I have been harping on something all year long and this now gives me the chance to use hindsight to hammer a point home.

Why sacrifice a third round draft pick to trade up a handful of spots in the second round of the Draft to “steal” a running back like Toby Gerhart if you aren’t going to use the guy?

Through 12 games the Stanford product has only touched the ball 33 times.  After a rough game against San Francisco in week three, Gerhart has seen his role diminish to almost nothing, averaging less than one carry per game over the last seven weeks.

For as creative as the Vikings are in their use of Harvin, and as forgiving of disastrous performances as they are with Ponder, you would think they could find a better way to utilize the backup running back for which they invested so much to acquire.  It isn’t like they didn’t know how dangerously thin they were at wide receiver and that Harvin’s industrial-sized work made him an even bigger injury risk than he normally is.

After an amazing half of a season, however, one of our last images of Harvin’s 2012 season will be him yelling at Frazier on the sideline out of frustration for a series of red zone calls that resulted in a Blair Walsh field goal.

That spat on the sideline sets up perfectly what will surely be a drama-filled offseason for Harvin and the Vikings, previewed last offseason over a brief period of time, as Harvin and the Vikings could very well end up in a stalemate over his contract status.

2013 is set to be the final year of his contract and he is expected to make only about $1.55 million.  Harvin has been rumored to consider 2012 a “contract year,” however, and it is obvious that things could get very ugly very fast if a contract extension cannot be worked out.

And it may not be easy.

Harvin, like many fans, probably views himself as one of the top offensive threats in the NFL.  His agent Joel Segal probably does little to temper Harvin’s expectations of big money, as he is known for getting incredibly robust contracts in place for lesser talents than Harvin, and I would not be shocked to see him demanding top dollar at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have on their hands a temperamental player that came out of college proceeded by stories of his entitled attitude, and that even once hurled a weight at head coach Brad Childress in the training facility.  Oh, and while he had only ever missed three games prior to this injury, he also seems to be a weekly mainstay on the injury report.

Going to the internet and browsing Harvin’s highlight reels will make you think paying the man is a no-brainer, but I just have a hunch the decision will not be such an easy one inside Winter Park this offseason.

Get ready for a Harvin-filled offseason, folks.

Prior to this week’s loss in Green Bay, the main topic of conversation for the Minnesota Vikings fan base revolved around second year quarterback Christian Ponder.  His 119 yard performance, with two game changing interceptions, will do little to quiet the doubters moving forward.

Despite having the league’s top running back in Adrian Peterson Ponder and his offense have sunk to the bottom of the NFL in terms of passing yardage.

Many Vikings fans have taken to the internet and radio call-in shows to express their displeasure with Ponder and it sounds as if they have seen enough of the Florida State product and are eager to see him spend some time on the bench.

The one guy has perhaps seen more of Ponder than anybody, however, feels that he has not seen enough to give up on his former first round pick.  Ever since the final whistle blew on Sunday, Leslie Frazier has done nothing but reiterate that he plans to continue playing Ponder and has barely even acknowledged the possibility of benching him.

So, where are you at as a fan today?  Have you seen enough of Christian Ponder to give up hope?  This poll represents what is ultimately the most important question that the Vikings, as an organization, have to be asking themselves over the next six months or so.

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The man who dominated September and October hardly even saw action in November.

When Percy Harvin sprained his ankle on November 4th, just prior to the bye week, he was able to reenter that game and many presumed that was a sign that he would return to the field in a relatively short time span.

That has not proven to be true, and it appears that the Vikings will be without the multi-talented yardage machine on Sunday, in a must-win game at Green Bay.

Leslie Frazier said Harvin has not had any major setbacks, but simply has not improved as quickly as they had hoped, and the Vikings have officially listed him as “doubtful” for Sunday’s matchup.

This means Jarius Wright will again see extensive action in what will be his third week of activity.  The Vikings coaches say they have designed plays specifically for Wright, so it is fair to say this will be a true test for the rookie.

Yesterday, mainly out of boredom, I solicited questions from the readers and promised to answer as many as possible.  So, for whatever the answers might be worth, here we go:

Who’s the MVP of the season so far?

Adam Says:  Starting me off with an easy one, sweet!  Percy Harvin has been incredible this season.  62 catches for 677 yards three touchdowns.  22 rushing attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown.  Averaging 35.9 yards on 16 kick returns and a touchdown.  The guy has been elite in every sense of the word.  Watching guys like Larry Fitzgerald struggle with poor quarterback play, it makes Harvin’s production even more impressive considering the current state of the offense.

“Things would have to go very poorly for the Vikings in the first half of the season in order for us to feel fully eliminated from the playoffs heading into week 10. Of the last seven games of the season, five of those will be played against divisional opponents. Beating our NFC North foes is the best way to climb into playoff contention, so hope is likely to cling for quite some time this season.”

A very wise blogger wrote that paragraph back in April when the 2012 schedule was announced.  A very foolish blogger, however, forgot to heed his own warning and tossed the idea of a “rebuilding team” aside and fully embraced the idea that this Vikings team was (cliché alert!) “for real.”

It was far too easy to get swept away by the Vikings success after putting the week two loss to Indy in the rear view mirror and placing that unexpected beat down of the Niners on the forefront of our minds.

Say what you will about strength of schedule analysis and how inaccurate such thinking is, but there is no doubt that the Vikings were able to take advantage of a weak schedule early on, struggled against tougher opponents of late, and have yet to face their toughest opponents.

It duped some of us, including me.

The early success of the Vikings has created confusing feelings and opinions amongst the fanbase, as the team suddenly went from “project” to “contender” and are well on their way to being labeled “pretenders.”

The Vikings themselves are partially to blame, as their job is to sell their product, and they had no problems pointing out their successes on the field in order to generate some excitement.

The truth, as we have found out here lately, is that this team never actually became anything other than a project.  In the end, their win total is only going to be a gauge to measure how far this project has to go before they can legitimately be considered a contender.

Am I throwing in the towel?  Absolutley not.

I will still cheer and shout, curse and yell, as my team suits up on future Sundays.  However, I have had to give myself the reality check that many Vikings need and remind myself that this is a young team, with plenty of positives to point out, that is still in the process of growing into what will one day be a consistently dominant force.

Luckily for us Vikings fans, our expectations are now so low that they don’t really need to be managed, and Leslie Frazier’s team can really only overachieve from here on out in the eyes of their most critical observers.

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