Thursday, January 29, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "Rick Spielman"

Rick Spielman

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately, but every time I sit down to write during this bye week I come up empty handed, and I just can’t bring myself to write about the Draft yet since the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt.

Leave it to Tom Pelissero, however, to give me something to regurgitate and then opine about.

Pelissero recently got a chance to talk with G.M. Rick Spielman about his decision to woe tight end John Carlson away from Kansas City with big bucks and sign the unheralded veteran despite a recent lack of production and knack for being injured.

“I know what you see out in practice and how he works in practice and the types of catches that he does make in practice,” said Spielman of his veteran tight end.  “That he got hurt and missed all that part of that training camp (with a knee injury) kind of set him back, especially when you’re trying to learn a new scheme. But sometimes, some of these veterans don’t work out as well until maybe their second year.”

“John looked healthy (on Sunday),” Spielman continued. “I know he caught that one (slide) route and you saw that burst that we have seen in the past when he sprinted up afterwards.  The one thing that he’s done that he doesn’t get enough credit for is he’s done an incredible job blocking for us. I think that whole tight end group is the key to the way Adrian (Peterson)’s had so much success on the field as well, along with our offensive line. But just haven’t seemed to be able to get John going (as a receiver).”

“I think John Carlson has a lot of football (left) and is a very good football player for us and will be a good football player in the future,” Spielman reiterated.

Now, I have never been as down on Spielman’s decision to sign Carlson, as he has been a solid tight end in the past.  I’ve always liked Carlson’s abilities, personally, when observing from afar.

What doesn’t sit well with me is that the money spent on Carlson completely ignored his tendency to get injured, and he has already been injured twice as a Viking, and also ignored a clear need at wide receiver.

Sure, when the Vikings signed Carlson they thought they would have Greg Childs at their disposal, but they also didn’t know they would have Jerome Simpson (who is another questionable signing as it is).  Instead, the Vikings decided to get cheap when courting wide outs such as James Jones who has cured his drops, 42 catches, 485 yards, and eight touchdowns this season.

Spielman’s comment about not being able to get Carlson going as a receiver might indicate he thinks the problem lies more with Bill Musgrave’s offense than it does on Carlson himself.  If Musgrave ends up being on his way out of Minnesota after this season, however, then Carlson won’t be the only tight end learning a new scheme in 2013.

For most of my life I have treated the Detroit Lions kind of like the stray three-legged kitten with no tail that roams the neighborhood.  For the longest time, I quietly cheered for the Lions out of pity, but that time appears to be up.

With Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson leading the charge, Detroit is no longer the laughing stock of the NFL, and have proven to be a dangerous team.  The term “dangerous” has double meaning to it as they can score from anywhere on the field, but they also have become synonymous with dirty hits.

Following their second loss of the season to the Vikings, the Lions were plenty concerned with the level of integrity that the Vikings showed (or perhaps didn’t show) on the field.

Lions cornerback Chris Houston took to the media to express his displeasure with a Vikings lineman on Adrian Peterson’s 61 yard touchdown run that will forever be added to his highlight reel.

“Lineman just fell on my ankle on purpose. I went to cut him, and as he went down, he put both knees on my ankle on purpose. It’s part of the game,” Houston said of the play. “I was on the ground, so I didn’t get to see who it was, but as he pulled, I cut him, he was flying over the top of me, and you could feel him land on my ankle on purpose.”

I’ve watched the highlight of Peterson’s run a number of times now, and I can tell that the lineman Houston is talking about is the pulling guard Brandon Fusco.  I don’t see anything other than an excellent block by Fusco who rolls immediately back onto his feet and doesn’t seem to do anything out of the ordinary.

I can’t say for certain that Fusco did nothing wrong, but anyone that can point to the tape and claim to see a dirty play is lying to you.

Fusco isn’t the only Viking that Detroit would like slap on the wrist, however, as a number of hits to wide receiver Calvin Johnson drew some interesting remarks from quarterback Matt Stafford.

“Obviously, you never like to see anybody get hit in the head,” Stafford said. “It’s a part of our game that they’re trying to get rid of. I think it’s a good thing. Calvin’s a tough guy. He stayed in there and made some great plays for us. Obviously, had a great game, but there’s not a whole lot of place for that in this league.”

I was critical yesterday of the penalty that Jasper Brinkley drew on a helmet-to-helmet hit to Megatron, but I certainly didn’t think it was anything with malicious intent, but rather showed a lack of body control.  Johnson took a few licks on Sunday, but that is bound to happen when you 12 passes for 207 yards.  If anything, Chad Greenway’s hit on Johnson in their previous matchup would be the one to point at as dirty, but nothing in this game seemed like something worthy of such scorn.

Even Johnson admitted that he didn’t think the Vikings were targeting his head on purpose.

To throw some fuel on the fire, an unnamed NFL G.M. has had some very harsh things to say about Detroit in the media this season, and some believed that person was none other than Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.

Spielman, however, denied those rumors this weekend.

“No, no, no – absolutely,” Spielman said on the Lions official website. “If I have something to say, I’ll put my name on it.”

Spielman’s words may or may not be enough to convince some Lions fans, but I for one am kind of excited to see these two franchises building some animosity towards each other.

Future seasons are sure to be more fun because of it.

Percy Harvin is enjoying one of his most productive and drama-free seasons of his career thus far, but it was not without a rocky start.

As many of you will remember, Harvin caused a firestorm of reports and speculation when he openly expressed his displeasure with the Vikings organization this offseason and followed up by requesting a trade.  Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier seemed to quickly placate the star utility receiver, but we never heard for certain what Harvin’s issues were exactly.

Harvin has now opened up, following a game that was essentially won because of his opening kickoff return for a touchdown, and says that his problem stemmed from players not knowing where they fit into Minnesota’s offense.

“I think it was just the identity of our offense,” Harvin said via 1500 ESPN. “Not only me, just guys knowing exactly what the coaches (were) asking of them on a week-to-week basis. Not playing one position one week, and come in and not totally having a grasp on what they’re asking for the next week.

“I think (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave has done a great job — I said it all offseason — of putting (Kyle) Rudolph in great situations. We’ve got a package for Jerome (Simpson), which you’ve seen, where we’ll take shots downfield. So everybody knows their role, knows what the coaches expect them to do. Now you can just sit back and try to do it at the highest level you can.”

Harvin is on pace for a 120 catch and 1,200 yard season, not including his contributions on special teams and rushing the ball, which means his pending contract extension is likely to get more and more expensive with every week he stays healthy and production.

Sitting at 3-1 and on top of the NFC North, that is a good problem for the Vikings to have on the horizon.

I don’t know how many times I have typed this sentence, but here it goes one more time:  The Vikings always seem to be behind the rest of the league when it comes to signing their own free agents and their own draft classes.

I’ve also said before that we have no reason to worry about any holdouts now that the rookie wage scale is in place.

On one hand, it might appear as there is no reason to worry because the Vikings reportedly agreed to terms today with third round cornerback (and fastest man at the Combine) Josh Robinson.  The deal, as usual, is for four years.

On the other hand, however, there is a growing sense that the Vikings are taking a firm stance on the issue of “offset language” in these rookie contracts so Matt Kalil’s contract remains to be finalized with training camp beginning tomorrow.

The offset clause being referenced has to do with how the contract is handled should the player be cut prior to the contract expiring and then have the player sign with another team.  The Vikings want the contract to be worded in such a way that any money they still owe the player is offset by the new contract awarded.    The players, of course, would rather see themselves in a situation where they are being paid by two teams for a year or two in the event that they are cut by the team that drafted them.

Rick Spielman has indicated that he is confident that Kalil’s deal will be done without any major hiccups. 

Here is hoping he is correct.

I am heading out for the weekend, off to meet long-time internet friend and fellow Vikings fan “Fran the Man” to do some fishing on the famous Tangle Lakes (pictured  above). 

Before trekking off into the wild, however, I wanted to get one last post up as sort of a response to a comment received under my recent post on Leslie Frazier’s USO Tour.

B. Grant wrote:  “Nice piece here, Adam. Shows some real class on Leslie’s part (and on your part for pointing it out to us). Gonna put you on the spot, now…  What’s your true gut feeling about Leslie Frazier as an NFL head coach? Is he gonna have a long term and eventually successful run here in Minnesota, or will we be looking at a different head coach in the not-too-distant future? Can Leslie be a Super Bowl champion head coach? Go ahead, give us your honest take on this.

Okay, it has been a while since I have taken a real hard stance on something and made foolish predictions, so now seems like a fitting time to rekindle my old love for hack bloggering.

Yes!  I think Leslie Frazier can be a Super Bowl winning head coach.

Now, there is a long laundry list of reasons to doubt Frazier.  He mistakenly hung his hat on washed up veterans like Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian last season.  Chris Cook’s disasterous arrest prior to a Packers game and Adrian Peterson’s horrible injury during a garbage game, both happened under his watch.  Bill Musgrave, under Frazier’s authority, seemed to greatly underutilize players like Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, and even Adrian Peterson at various points last season.  There was even some unexpected wishy-washy decision making at the end of the season when a hobbled Christian Ponder, who perhaps shouldn’t have been playing to start with, was replaced a number of times by Joe Webb.  Familiarity led to jobs being handed to Fred Pagac and Mike Singletary but the results were not at all favorable.  Botched challenges and too many penalties were just more signs of a dismal season.

More aggravating to me than anything listed above, and also more worrisome, were some very questionable play calls that ended up deciding games… and not to the Vikings benefit.  Who can forget Toby Gerhart’s fourth down carries against Detroit and Atlanta, both of which screamed “desperation” and signaled to the fans that the 2011 was forever lost.

Still, despite all of the negatives, I think that this is not only a new season but also a very different season and Frazier will make improvements that show exactly why he is an asset to the team.

First, there is no lockout.  Taking over a roster with a shortened offseason and two new quarterbacks as a first year head coach is not an enviable position to be in.  The negative consequences of the craziness that was the 2011 offseason were evident throughout the season, but I think we have already started to see (outside of Percy Harvin) a cohesiveness this year that just simply wasn’t there last year.

Secondly, Frazier gets to be a coach.  He put his name on enough poor personnel decisions last offseason that the Vikings ended up essentially demoting him and giving sole authority over the roster to General Manager Rick Spielman.  I think this will take a lot of pressure off of Frazier and allow him to sit back and do the two things he does best:  coach football and mentor young men.  What we saw this offseason, in the way Frazier and Spielman handled the sudden eruption from Percy Harvin, was a refreshing change from the days of Brad Childress and, while we don’t know all the details, this is the first true evidence we have to suggest the new power structure is an improvement over the old Triangle of Authority.

Cutting down on off-the-field problems, instilling a sense of discipline on this young roster, and seeing progressive improvement and development in all phases of the game are essential to Frazier’s future with the team.  No single factor will have more weight, however, than the progression of Christian Ponder.

If Ponder excels, Frazier has a future.  If he stumbles, Frazier likely doesn’t.  Fair or unfair, right or wrong, I think that will be the case regardless of how Frazier does in all the other aspects of coaching this season.  Ponder and Frazier (and possibly Spielman) are tied together with a knot that is too tight to undo.  Ponder’s improvement and success are paramount to the future of this young team, and the employment status of Leslie Frazier and his staff.

So far, all signs are pointing towards an improved quarterback situation, so right now I have no reason to doubt Frazier or his ability to turn this mess around and get started down the right track.

Okay, have a good weekend everyone!

I’m off to catch some fish.

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