Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are the Vikings already fraying at the edges?

The Minnesota Vikings are 1-1 and are coming off a road game they lost by three points. All in all, it's not a bad start for a team almost everybody outside the organization felt was one of the NFL's have-not clubs heading into the 2012 season.

So you'd think the players on this young, rebuilding squad would be fairly upbeat about what has happened so far. Well, based on some comments and actions from some Viking players this week, you'd be very wrong to think that way.

Today, we learned veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield gave the team, coaches and general manager a stern 10-minute talking to during Monday's practise. Winfield wouldn't say what the briefing was about, but you don't have to do any mental gymnastics to surmise that Winfield was upset that the Vikings have allowed their opponents to march down the field and score at a critical junctures in the first two games.

On Sunday, All Pro defensive end Jared Allen was upset about the same issue. He called the Vikings failure to stop the Colts offense from marching 40 yards down the field in less than 30 seconds – a drive that ended up leading to Adam Vinatieri's 53-yard game-winning field goal – as "embarrassing."

And, finally, veteran wide receiver Devin Aromashodu seemed to throw offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave under the bus when he was asked about the Vikings inability to complete a pass five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. "We can only go with what's being called. If the opportunity's given, we try to go and make the play."

I don't think this is a good sign – not for the fans. not for the players and not for head coach Leslie Frazier. If we're only two games into the season and veteran players are already giving their teammates private lectures and blaming the coaches for their own poor performance, this season could go south very quickly.

That's why Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers is a critical one for the team. They are playing a very good team, and one that looks very capable of dealing the Vikings an embarrassing lopsided defeat at the Metrodome. And if the some of its veterans reacted poorly to a loss to the Colts, imagine how they'll react to a beatdown at the hands of the 49ers?

If you're trying visualize what that might look like, try rehashing memories of the Vikings 31-3 loss at the Metrodome to Green Bay in 2010. It was a humiliating performance with the team fighting among themselves and seeming out of control. Head coach Brad Childress lost his job the next day.

I don't think a blowout loss to the 49ers would cost Frazier his job, but it could certainly lay the ground work for it to occur later on. With two frustrating losing seasons behind them, there are some fragile psyches on the Vikings roster. It might not take much for them to check out on the 2012 season.


  1. Totally agree that this is not a good sign for anyone, but particularly Frazier. I think he's a nice man, but I will be glad when we get someone else next year.

    I went into this season fully expecting to rebuild, but these first two games were against two of the bottom five teams in the league. Where does that put us? Right there with them. The defense is a joke, it is flat out embarrassing. I'll give you Luck being competant, even if Chicago destroyed him, but we made frigging Blaine Gabbert look like a real NFL QB. I'm glad Antoine came out and said something, and even happier that he kept whatever was said in the locker room. I feel for him, he deserves much better than this.

    The Niners are so physical, this is a horrible matchup. At least Harbaugh will run it late in the game so the score won't get too bad, but that's the type of smashmouth beatdown that will eat at Winfield even more. Wish we had 10 more like him.

    1. I don't know if Frazier is a good coach or not, but I do think he's in a bad fit for a team like the Vikings right now. I think he's more of a figurehead than a strategist or talent developer.

      After all, he's been hands-on on defense since 2007, essentially. Since then, by my quick count, they've spent a first-round pick (H. Smith), 2 second-round picks (Cook, T. Johnson), and 2 thirds (Asher Allen, Josh Robinson), and one splashy FA acquisition (Madieau Williams) on the secondary (one of team's long-running warts) and almost all have frustrated. It's almost inarguable that despite these resources and the time they've had under Frazier's coaching and systems, their best player in the secondary is still old, undersized Antoine Winfield, a player who was established well before Frazier arrived.

    2. Anon 10:28 a.m.:

      Not sure why this only showed up in the comments section now, but anyway ...

      Good points there. Marcus McCauley was another high draft pick (3rd round, 2007 draft) who never panned out. Not sure if Frazier pushed hard to draft Johnson, Allen and McCauley or not during the pre-GM days, but it would be hard to coach up those three. They were just poor draft picks. It's still a bit early to expect Smith and Robinson to turn around this secondary. But I think the point is still worth thinking about. Frazier was a DB as a player, he's coached DBs in the pros and yet he hasn't been able to elevate the play of the secondary he's in charge of.

  2. ETR:

    For some reason I'm feeling pretty zen about the upcoming game. I'm not expecting them to beat SF, but I am expecting them to be competitive (I know, it's not logical thinking). It's not the 49ers physical style of play that makes this a bad matchup though, it's the 49ers talent compared to the Vikings. Not sure how they got this good. I guess they've been building gradually, adding pieces here and there. And it wasn't a quick climb. Willis was drafted in 2007. Vernon Davis before that. There's a lesson there for Vikings fans- patience.

  3. I'm sorry to sound so negative, but I just don't see how we compete this week. San Fran does give me hope for our future though. They've had great drafts, check out the LB's they're sick. Then they've added key free agents like Justin Smith, Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers to supplement the D. I don't know who their GM is but I wish we had him. There's more to it than just having players in the NFL though. SF didn't put any of that talent together until Harbaugh got there. And while I would rather play a physical team than someone that will spread us out and throw on every play, this Niners team is nasty. They are licking their chops about playing a soft team like the Vikings.

  4. This may be one of those years where the Vikings play up to (or near) the level of their superior opponents and down near the level of their inferior opponents. They certainly may be better than they've shown us in the first two weeks, but they just weren't taking the games as seriously as they will this week's.

  5. ETR:

    Can't disagree that Harbaugh (and his staff of assistants) have made a difference in that team. But I think he also had the good fortune of taking on a team with a number of players heading into their athletic prime.

    Peter: I'm puzzled by the comment that the Vikings didn't take the Jags or Colts seriously and they'll play harder against the 49ers. It seems to me that if you don't take an opponent seriously in the NFL, you've got a good chance of getting hurt. Perhaps that's what Winfield was getting at during his talk with the team on Monday. Gotta play with urgency and bring your A game every game in the NFL. The Vikings will certainly need theirs on Sunday against the 49ers.

    1. What I mean to say is that it's possible the Vikings prepared for JAX and IND in such a way as to be considered "average" preparation for an NFL team. Still detailed and tenacious, but within that there's the possibility to spend every waking moment studying your opponent and maintaining a sense of urgency - what I would call "above average" preparation.

      I think it can partially explain why Dallas can beat the defending world champs in week 1 and get throttled by Seattle in week 2. Or why NE can get beaten at home by 13.5 point underdogs. Sure, ARI and SEA are likely better than they were last year, but you know every team that gets to play a defending SB champ plays that game like it's their own SB for the year.

      MN knows they likely won't make the playoffs. So playing SF is their biggest and best opportunity to make a noticeable impact on a national scale with a win - and they may take SF *more* seriously than they did JAX or IND.

      Maybe. Just a thought.