If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I spent much of Friday evening in full aneurysm mode. If you’re not following me on Twitter, you’re either a homer who used to follow me but couldn’t take my honesty, or you just weren’t aware I’m on Twitter. Frankly, the thought of you denying yourself access to my real-time commentary makes me sad. As a hint: you can click “Follow Me on Twitter” and you’ll be all set!
Like all Vikings fans, I guess I’m a bit masochistic. And what I mean by that is I had to rewatch the first two quarters of the game in order to do this commentary. It was like having hot pokers driven into my eyes the first time. Watching it again was like committing emotional suicide. If I can help you here, take this advice: if the 3rd pre-season game is waiting for you in your DVR but you haven’t watched it yet, don’t. Unless you’re a Chris Kluwe fan. He did a lot of tremendous punting (averaging over 50 yards per punt!) and what he was calling his “Gangnam Style” celebration, which essentially was some enthusiastic air roping. In any case, it was awesome. If anyone has a .gif of Kluwe doing that celebration, let me know, because my friend at Purple Jesus Diaries is looking for one.
If we think back to the first game of the 2011 season, you might recall that our favorite team played the Chargers. And the Vikings dominated them… for 2 whole quarters. And then they uncovered the fact that the shadow of the Purple People Eaters could only play 30 minutes of football. In this pre-season game, the Chargers had many of their starters sitting on the bench (or pacing the sidelines looking petulant… yes, Philip Rivers, I’m talking about you!) so, in theory, we should have been up 28 points at the half. As we all know, however, the Theory of Evolution proves itself out every day while the Theory of Vikings Competence hasn’t proven itself since the Vikings vs Cowboys divisional play-off game in January 2010.
The problems started immediately. Matt Kalil is not living up to the hype of the draft. Veteran Chad Greenway took atrocious angles. Ponder couldn’t hit a receiver to save his life. Until he was intercepted. That was a perfect pass to the wrong color jersey. Even our beloved Percy Harvin was out-of-sync. The interesting thing about the game stats is that the Vikings were better than the Chargers in nearly every category… but a) lost and b) were apparently deceptively better than they looked. Honestly – if you watched that game, you would never have anticipated that the Vikings had more passing yards than the Chargers.
Vikings’ QBs were sacked 5 times. I was shocked to see that the Vikings sacked the Chargers’ QBs 6 times. If you’d asked me before I looked at the stats, I would have said we got to the QB 3, potentially 4, times. The Vikings fumbled and lost the ball 3 different times. The offending parties are: Asiata, Coleman & Hilliard. The great news is that Adrian Peterson hasn’t fumbled once on zero carries! Yes, I know he’s improved, but I still blame his fumble in Chicago in December 2009 for our loss of home field advantage for the NFCCG, and ultimately our first Super Bowl appearance in decades. But I digress.
Christian Ponder’s QB rating for the evening was 76.2. It’s like T-Jack is still on the field with no jump balls to mock. He and the receiver corp were out of sync all night long. It was painful to watch. It reminded me of the 2010 season when Favre came back (but didn’t really want to) and Berrian and Greg Lewis went off to California to “relax” during our early bye week instead of sticking around to try to fix things. This good news is that, since neither Berrian nor Lewis is still on this team or playing anywhere in the league, I consider things to be “fixed” to a certain degree.
Joe Webb looked better than Ponder while he was on the field. Which destroyed that little seed of hope I had after last week’s game. The saddest thing about last night’s game was that I was looking forward to Rosenfels to take the field. He did and he was solid, scoring the only Vikings TD of the evening. And, let’s be clear, it was only the 2nd offensive TD of the pre-season. My Vikings brethren – I believe we are in for a long season that will do nothing to alleviate the pain of the last 2 seasons. The only bright spot here is that we’re not Packer fans. We do not have to wear moldy cheese wedges on our heads to games and we don’t have to worry about cheddar dust covering our persons.
Let’s get to the real reason I was angry throughout the game. Two words: Leslie Frazier. As I stated back in January of 2011, Leslie Frazier is not head coach material. He cannot motivate a team sufficiently so that they show up and try. This is apparent on multiple levels. Trouble with the law for the players. 30 minutes of football vs 60 minutes of football for most of the 2010 season. Complete lack of passion or engagement during the dress rehearsal game for the regular season. Leslie Frazier is weak and he lacks vision. His coaching bench lacks creativity. No one on that coaching staff is inspiring the players to earn their overblown paychecks. The starters, with the exception of a few of them, feel entitled to their positions because Frazier refuses to create competition and hold people accountable. Frazier will lead us to a lot of mediocrity but he will never lead us to a Super Bowl. It is time for the Wilfs to start interviewing his replacement. If they want to throw away the 2012 season while they identify his successor, I’m ok with that – as long as I know they’re going to act.
Who am I kidding? The Wilfs have money, not football savvy. They confuse feelings of warmth generated out of familiarity and friendship with conviction that Frazier will get the job done. Good leaders know you hire talent – focusing on attitude and aptitude – you don’t hire people you like. If you come to like your talent – great. If not, you have to figure out how to motivate your talent. Likeability is not a reason to hire someone. The fact that Frazier rarely shows emotion, to me, indicates that he cannot feel the depth of passion needed to inspire his staff and his team. Like many things in life, coaching a football team requires aggressiveness and vision and the ability to articulate that and plan around it. Frazier has none of these skills because he’s not a visionary. He’s a great Defensive Coordinator who was always tremendous at reacting, but rarely designed a proactive attack. The last one I remember was the postponed Philadelphia game in 2010 that the Vikings won with Webb at QB and Winfield blitzing Vick like a maniac.
A head coach must have a comprehensive game plan that is proactive and takes advantage of gaps in the other team’s defenses and offenses. Leslie Frazier has shown that his game planning is weak and, as we saw in every single game during the 2011 season, he is completely unable to adjust at half-time. It’s time for him to go. You may not agree with me right now – but you will after another 2 mediocre seasons back to back. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t take the fan base that long to wise up. I’d love to see red Fire Frazier t-shirts well before mid-season.
One thing I’m sure we all agree on is that last night’s most important pre-season game was pathetic. What are your thoughts now about the 2012 season?