There are really only a few things fans can do. They can stop attending games and watching games--but we don't want to do that. More fun, is that what else we can do:
Fans at Thunderdome, one of the things you can do is boo the everliving shit out of Christian Ponder when you're given an early chance to do so. The Vikings selected him. The Vikings start him. They ask us to keep watching them. They want us to keep watching them. So if you're unhappy about being asked to watch Christian Ponder, then
Now it's also true that you're crazy if you think Ponder is the exclusive problem on the Vikings. This is not a case as in some seasons past when an otherwise excellent team is being hamstrung by bad quarterback play. The Vikes are giving up 32.5 points per game, and yes, that high number is both directly and indirectly impacted by Ponder's five turnovers in those games. But the defense has generally not looked good, and I'd put that primarily on bad play from the linebackers. The secondary has done OK--they actually shut Calvin Johnson down, remember. But teams are attacking the Vikes with quick passes that minimize the pass rush, and are thrashing the Vikes with a lot of runs and short throws. The linebackers aren't making an impact, and that includes Chad Greenway, who it seems to me is basically making the tackles he's expected to make and that's about it. Ponder isn't necessarily holding back a Super Bowl contender here.
It's also true that Matt Cassel is unlikely to go on a holy tear through the league, scorching the fields as he leads the Vikes up and down the field. The best Cassel could do is likely a 2008 Gus Frerotte situation: it's not that he's good, but he might be able to stand in the pocket a little longer to deliver a pass (Ponder is still out of the pocket at the slightest sniff of pressure), and he should be willing to take shots downfield and might be successful at it. But if you're pulling for the Vikings to bench Ponder, it's because of Ponder, not because of the potential of his backup.
Still, Ponder stinks. So
Don't worry about hurting Ponder's feelings: he's made millions of dollars, and he seems happily married. I suspect Christian Ponder is going to have a pretty happy life regardless of how his pro career plays out. If his feelings are hurt from fans objecting to his poor play, he'll have a chance to get over it. The booing is really directed at the Viking organization.
As fans, we've got to get ready for the long game. The Vikings have a new stadium. Either the Spielman-Frazier regime will be successful enough on the field to still have their jobs when the team starts playing in the new Xanadu, or Zygi Wilf is going to hire some big time general manager and/or coach to run the team as it starts a new era in its new stadium with all that new stadium money. And the Vikes will keep building, and keep searching for the quarterback. They've tried everything, and they'll keep trying everything until they finally hit on a franchise guy (for the most part, the Vikes haven't had a franchise QB since Fran Tarkenton: he led the Vikes in passing yards seven straight seasons; after he retired, Tommy Kramer led the team in seven out of eight seasons. Since then, Daunte Culpepper led the team for five straight seasons, but nobody else more than three. We've never really had our 10-15 year franchise QB--even Tarkenton had his hitch with the Giants to split it up. Not as if every franchise is entitled to a 10-15 year franchise guy, of course. This could go on for a while, so*). And we can watch and wait and hope. But that desperation of every single game and season doesn't have to be there. We're going to have to be patient.
And while we're waiting, well, why not?
*Here's my guess on teams currently in the midst of their 10-15 year QB stretch: Giants, the Washington Paula Deens, Packers, Lions, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, 49ers, Seahawks, Patriots, Steelers, Colts (after just finishing one!), Ravens, maybe the Cowboys if Romo can last, and it's too early to tell on Buffalo. Obviously being that 10-15 year QB requires continued individual success, health, and team success, all of which can change quickly.
And if Cleveland does score a lot against the Vikes this weekend? Well, Jacksonville will probably still earn the #1 overall pick, but we'll be right up there! It could happen! The QB the Vikes need might be playing on Saturdays right now--I just hope he's not playing a Saturday morning flag football league for first-graders.
Other Interesting Games
Week Three Schedule
Chiefs-Eagles. I hate that my fantasy RB duo has to play in the slow, choppy, sloppy, scrappy, lethargic Thursday game.
Texans-Ravens. This is that game that I don't want to watch but I want to hear about who wins and how.
Giants-Panthers. When two 0-2 teams with legitimate qualities of talented football teams, I'm interested to watch with the stakes high, and I would think the advantage goes to the better coached team.
Lions-Washington Paula Deens. It's early: are the Lions legitimately good? Or are they going to be that talented team that plays inconsistently and makes stupid mistakes and can't bring it together?
Buccaneers-Patriots. The Pats have struggled offensively, but if while you're working out the kinks with a bunch of inexperienced receivers while your experienced receivers get healthy you're still slapping Ws on the board, you're probably alright. In December those Ws are going to mean more than a bunch of shaky receiver play.
Packers-Bengals. I keep hearing about how talented Cincinnati is, and they may be. But I also wonder if Andy Dalton actually isn't much better than Christian Ponder, but that A.J. Green is really good and he's been backed by a great defense.
Rams-Cowboys. I love a legendarily erratic team! You just don't know what will happen week to week during the Tony Romo reign.
Falcons-Dolphins. I believe in the Miami defense: Cameron Wake still gives me nightmares from his one game against the Vikes. I don't believe in the Miami offense even a tiny bit.
Colts-49ers. We'll spend the next 15 years watching a lot of Andrew Luck.
Soooo many interesting games, and our night games for the week are Bears-Steelers and Broncos-Raiders.
Why aren't former players and coaches more insightful commentators?
Former NFL coaches and players are all over TV and radio talking about the NFL. Why do so many of them--almost all of them, in fact--do such a lousy job providing unique insights about football? These are people with inside knowledge about how the NFL works. They have experience with locker rooms. Their knowledge of the game of football itself--the strategies and game plans, offensive and defensive schemes, proper and improper technique, player performance, in-game adjustments and in-game decisions--should be light years ahead of yours and mine. Yet almost never do these peoples say anything unique or interesting about football. Almost never do they support their claims with any sort of evidence or reference to any special knowledge.
One theory is that they are made to dumb it down on purpose. The die-hard football fans who are interested in the details are going to watch anyway; the commentators during games and other football shows are trying to reach a broader, more casual audience. But I don't buy that theory: it doesn't explain why Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth do a consistently excellent job of watching and explaining football to the audience. But maybe Collinsworth's excellence points to the real explanation. Collinsworth does a superb job, but his work analyzing and explaining football doesn't seem to me to be based on his experience as a player. It seems like he puts in the work and gives the game close attention. And maybe that's the answer.
I suspect a lot of former players and coaches take their broadcasting/commentating jobs as something like a career capstone. It's a respectable and symbolic but not terribly demanding position of appreciation. They've put in the work and earned their way to NFL respectability, and now they can still make good money--but put in way fewer hours and way easier work over the course of the year--sitting in front of the camera talking about football. Their jobs aren't on the line based on performance, as during their NFL careers (sure, if they really suck, like they show basic incompetence at putting coherent sentences together, they'll probably be let go. If they're just bland--and are willing to pretend to laugh at each others' non-jokes--they can work a looong time). The amount of their next contract is not likely to be helped by superb performance (I'm confessing some ignorance here). To develop those skills would take a lot of work. Simply put, they don't have to put in the effort and attention to detail that they had to put in during their playing and coaching days, so they don't.
There's also the possibility (closely connected to the lack of effort) that these former players and coaches simply aren't good at talking about the game on TV and radio. While they spent a big chunk of their lives developing the skills necessary for their sport, they did not spend much time developing the skills necessary to speak about the sport to people outside of the sport. People can ear degrees in things like speech communication, broadcasting, etc., to become professionals in their fields. Why would we assume somebody with no training/credentials/experience in the field of broadcasting could pick it up just because they used to work in the NFL? And there are many people--who are not former NFL players and coaches--putting in thorough work and time to understand the game and explain it (lots and lots and lots and lots and lots): how neat would it be for some of these people to be trained up in broadcasting and given the chance to provide game commentary?
Surly Trail Loppet Saturday.
Have a good weekend, everybody.