Wednesday, October 17, 2012

With Jerome Simpson, the Vikings can't lose what they never had

The football gods have been pretty good to the Minnesota Vikings so far this season.

They are 4-2 and duking it out with Chicago for first place in the NFC North, with impressive victories over the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. They are getting some very good play out of their 2012 draft class. Second year quarterback Christian Ponder is showing the kind of development that makes him look like he could be the long-term answer for the Vikings at the position. It's been pretty quiet as far as locker room or off-the-field issues. And they haven't been hit by any major injuries.

But wide receiver Jerome Simpson is doing his best to break up this tranquility, and today he let it be known that he's still not happy he was deactivated for the Washington game, and money is at the root of his unhappiness. 

A few points I'd like to touch on here:

1. Head coach Leslie Frazier is handling this very well. Simpson wants to play badly and he's no doubt lobbying Frazier hard about this (so is Simpson's agent, probably). Frazier let Simpson play against Tennessee when the leg/back injury first flared up and Simpson couldn't get anything done. Frazier isn't about to let that happen again - even if Simpson is pissed at his head coach for costing him nearly $60,000 last week. Frazier's thinking of the team here, not about Simpson's feelings or his pocketbook. And that's the way it should be. The Vikings can't be dressing guys who can't help them win football games on Sundays (so why are they dressing John Carlson, you ask? That's a post for another day, I think).

2. If Simpson has a back injury, as ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero has said (Simpson continues to insist it's a calf injury and nothing is wrong with his back), don't expect him to play much again this season. The Vikings say they are going to try to get Simpson right through treatment. But a back is a delicate thing, and it's not something you can play through – or would even want to play through. I suspect the treatment the Vikings are giving Simpson won't help much and he'll be having season-ending surgery sooner rather than later.

3. If that happens, we'll probably read about how Simpson's absence will be a big loss to the Vikings passing game. Theoretically, that's true. But the Vikings are 4-2 and they've scored 20-plus points in every game this season with little help from Simpson. He's basically only played one game, the 20-13 win against Detroit, and it's impossible to say what Simpson can do for this offense. The unit sure could use a wide receiver to stretch the field and take some pressure off of Percy Harvin. Simpson just hasn't been able to show he's the guy who can do that because he's barely been on the field. And the Vikings have learned to do without him. Losing Simpson for the rest of the year might even end up being a benefit if it forces Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to send Harvin on more deep passing routes. I know, I know. That's just crazy talk, isn't it?  


  1. I was hoping for a Greg Childs + Jerome Simpson + Percy Harvin WR corps this year. Jenkins and Aroma have been serviceable though, and much of the rest of the team is encouraging for the future.

    Frazier isn't costing Simpson money by holding him out. Simpson is losing un-guaranteed bonuses by not being healthy. Big difference, JS.

    And technically I think MN is in 2nd place in the division due to the Bears having a half game on them, right? Is 4-1 a half game better than 4-2?

    Out of curiousity, do you think Minnesota might be in the market to trade for a receiver? Any ideas on who would be a good fit? I think good game planning can make proper use of Jenkins and Aroma, but a speedster would be nice.

    1. Peter:

      Regrettably, math is not my best subject. You are correct that the Bears are currently in first place in the NFC North.

      I have been reading about the possibility that the Vikings might be interested in trading for a WR. I guess, it's been more Pelissero and Zulgad talking about it as they answer fan questions/tweets. I just don't see it happening - even if Simpson has surgery. Dwayne Bowe is a guy who comes to mind. He's unhappy in KC, looking for a new contract, and wants out. But do the Vikings give up draft picks for a potential rental? They've got to pay Harvin at the end of this season, if they want to sign him to an extension and that's going to cost them.

    2. It would have been interesting to see what Childs could have done. Even though WR is a glaring need, I would have to agree that a trade won't happen. And shouldn't happen either. Draft picks are gold to a rebuilding team, and we aren't winning anything this year no matter who you put out wide. Maybe a subject for a post down the road: As for next year, they have to pay Harvin, right?

  2. ETR:

    Harvin will get paid and the price keeps going up, which is one reason why trading for Bowe, and then paying him the money he'd want, isn't going to happen.

  3. I was rooting for them to draft Stephen Hill last year (and even though Football Outsiders "playmaker score " should be taken with a large block of salt-as all their draft predictors should -but fwiw Hill's score was off the charts) . Not going to complain about Harrison Smith at this point, but Hill has 3 scores in limited time playing in a mess of an offends, and I think good receivers a harder to find than safeties.

    Point is they should be looking ar early on the draft. Hardly stunning insight, I realize. But particularly coming off a good draft and the team looking more settled, I think Spielman could opt for one early. (WR has that notorious learning curve, so a gm who feels unstable might balk at drafting one early if he's not confidant he'll have time to develop the draft pick.)

    1. Anon Oct. 29:

      Always dangerous drafting for need early, and the Vikings say they don't do that – they always draft the best player on their draft board in the first round, but they do need a WR who can stretch the field. The cheapest way to do that, initially, is to draft one. They thought they might have drafted one in Childs, but the guy may not play again, and his patella tendons don't seem to be up to the stresses of playing professional sports.

    2. Yeah, but I don 't necessarily believe them. Was Ponder really their twelfth ranked player? Granted, QB could be an exception. But how about guys like Cook or Gerhardt or Loadholt, all of whom picked fairly early, and all happened to fill an immediate need.

      But to be clear, I 'd never advocate drafting need early. I don 't think teams can afford to do that because needs come and go like the weather. And to the extent they can be identified, fans can sometimes overlook them. For instance, while it might be easy to list defensive end a ways down on the priority list, all three of Allen, Robison, and Griffen 's contracts expire after 2013, and before we can assume they'll re -sign two of them, both Allen and Robinson will be on the wrong side of 30. And of course on the interior Kevin Williams can 't go forever and we haven't really seen what their apprentice Christian Ballard can do and...well you get the idea. Rinse and repeat at any number of roster spots.

      At any rate, the receiver class next draft isn't considered outstanding and there's no megatron /Fitz /AJ Green type you go crazy for, but it's considered fairly deep. Here's hoping the purple can fond a diamond in the rough.


    3. Diamond in the rough assuming they don 't have a shot at a round one talent at wideout, that is....


    4. Jianfu:

      I haven't looked at this year's WR class at all, but it sounds like it's a lot like last year's class – fairly deep but no superstud (Blackmon got drafted high, but most draftniks thought he should go lower because he didn't have "elite" speed. I don't know, I liked him).

      There's no way of knowing, of course, but I think Gerhart, in particular, was a "board" pick rather than strictly a need pick. At the time, they had Peterson going into his fourth season as the unquestioned starter and then guys like Albert Young behind him. You know Peterson's going to be on the field most of the time, and RBs can be found late in the draft or in the UDFA pool, so the smart money would have been to draft for some other need in the second round. Instead they traded up for the Heisman runner-up. They must have liked him a lot.

      Cook was also a "board" pick, I think. He played a position of need as well, but I think the Vikings liked him more than anybody else who would have been available at the #30 slot they were picking at. Then they traded out of it with the Lions to get him.

      DL will likely be a focus for the Vikings. I don't see them bringing KWill back – not at the 2013 salary he's due given his age and current production and Ballard, well, if they released him today I would shed no tears. He's a played a year-and-a-half almost – with a fair amount of snaps given to him and I can't remember one play he's made. He's a body, nothing more.