With each passing season it’s becoming more and more apparent that the Mike Zimmer era will be defined by one position group, the offensive line. I would say that it’s ironic that that position group is also the Achilles heal of the Vikings during the Zimmer regime, but that’s exactly why it’s what defines the past five or so seasons. So, yeah, I just explained my own statement, I know, but hang in there, there’s a larger point somewhere in this 1,000 word proof that I was a B- paper writer in college.
Zimmer and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman in their, whatever the opposite of, infinite wisdom, left the offensive line as the last piece of their plan to build a contender and it’s both showed and been the story of each season thus far in their simultaneous regimes.
So, I don’t want to interrupt your March Madness Betting, but we need to talk/potentially intervene.
The patchwork approach to the line has clearly not worked and has become increasingly frustrating as even when the team has invested in the line, they end up undoing those investments (and thus improvements) by not investing further and attempting to compensate for that lack of further investment by moving players around to fill the gaps created by a lack of depth/further investment.
Let me give you an example.
The Vikings FINALLY made waves in free agency a few off-seasons ago, signing two tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Then, center turned right guard Joe Berger retired and the team decided to spend their first round pick on a guy named Mike Hughes, who isn’t an offensive lineman, and their second round pick on another tackle in Brian O’Neill.
They then moved Remmers, who hadn’t played guard in the pros, to guard. The result is as bad as it is seared into the brains of Vikings fans, so I won’t go into that. Even with Brian O’Neill having one of the better rookie seasons of any right tackle in recent memory, the guards on both sides of then center Pat Elflein were historically awful.
Need another example?
We all remember the sad story of TJ Clemmings, who was moved around the offensive line so often that he essentially played every position… Poorly. So, when hints of news that the Vikings are yet again planning to move players around on the line hits, it’s hard not to react with anything but visceral malaise (if there is such a thing).
If you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, peep this Tweet:
Notes from Indy: Early signs are Anthony Harris will be too rich for #Vikings. If Riley Reiff stays, Zimmer says he's again open to a discussion about moving him to left guard. https://t.co/lKDVu6zS3S
— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) February 27, 2020
That’s right, Zimmer stated that he’s open to moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard to take over for former center turned left guard, Pat Elflein. That sentence alone sums up, again, the story of the line under Zimmer. It’s like Inception, if instead of it being a masterpiece it’d be like the movie Cats (which reminds me…).
Perhaps due to the fact that the Vikings won’t be able to afford safety Anthony Harris, combined with the fact that Zimmer can’t help but draft players for the unit he has invested in over the offense in a ratio that I’m still waiting to hear back from NASA about (as they have to find whatever is > than the infinite sign), means that the team is signalling that sure, they’ll clearly have to invest in a left tackle via the draft (necessitating the Reiff move), but instead of also investing in a left guard and cutting Reiff, they’re going to move him to Guard and probably going secondary yet again early in the draft. I know, I’m also waiting to hear back from NASA about whether or not that was the most confusing and run on sentence in the history of the written word.
It’s the sign of a move that’d be so frustrating that I might end up giving away these websites on Nextdoor… They’re going to move the aforementioned Brian O’Neill from right tackle to left tackle, Reiff to left guard and then they’ll draft a right tackle. With the 25th pick, perhaps they feel they won’t have their pick of left tackles, or what’s more likely (again), they’ll go safety in the first round and then use their second round pick to yet again draft a right tackle.
Considering the results of every position move, save for the Joe Berger from center to right guard one, has been an abject failure, it’s hard not to want to drive by TCO in Eagan whilst screaming… DON’T DO IT! RECONSIDER! READ SOME LIT…ERATURE, ON THE SUBJECT!
Then again, perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (or a coronary out of a rumor?). Zimmer simply said he was open to it. But, it’s both March 1st and Zimmer, so don’t fault me for writing about this from a time of year perspective or from the perspective of remembering that Zimmer doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean.
So, what’s my solution?
Use the draft to bring in a left tackle, cut Reiff (and eat the $4.4 million in dead cap), or keep him as insurance. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Vikings should draft a left tackle and a left guard, as the draft is a crap shoot and you need as much insurance as possible. That’d also provide SOME depth and allow the Vikings to choose from the player they draft for left guard, Pat Elflein and potentially Dru “Remember Me?” Samia.
Or they could ruin the most promising aspect of their line in the Garrett Bradbury – Josh Kline – Brian O’Neill right side by moving O’Neill to left tackle and essentially be no better off than they were during the… *Shudder*… Tom Compton – Pat Elflein – Mike Remmers era.
The hope I have in this scenario is the same hope I have for the Vikings turning things around in 2020 and that’s Gary Kubiak and his team. I don’t think that Kubiak would allow anything that nuclear to happen, and so while Zimmer says he’s open to things, it’s Kubiak and offensive line coach Rick Dennison (as well as recent addition Phil Rauscher) who will dictate these things, not Zimmer.
Either way, the Vikings offensive line needs to drastically improve in 2020 if they stand any chance of making it beyond the first or second round of the playoffs. Considering they ended up getting to the second round with the 27th-ranked pass blocking unit should encourage people out there, assuming, again, that the team doesn’t blow any continuity that they may have by reshuffling the unit YET AGAIN.
Update: For those saying the team should simply swap O’Neill and Reiff…
Also, not a fan of that move. The line was bad against the pass rush, but the one thing they were good at (partially) was run blocking. I say partially because it was the right side of the line (when Kline was healthy) that was opening gigantic holes for Dalvin Cook. The left side? Not so much. So, you’d be risking essentially negating the only positive thing to build upon by bringing O’Neill to the blind-side.
Putting O’Neill next to Elflein and Reiff next to Kline is like putting a negative number next to the two positive ones on the right side of the line (if you ignore the fact that a negative times a negative is a positive and thus the left side of the line also should’ve been a positive). You’d have Elflein negating O’Neill and Reiff Negating Kline.
So, again. JUST INVEST DRAFT PICKS and stop pretending that changes to the line up are the same thing as investing new blood in the lineup.
Or, maybe Jake Long is all healed up?