Thursday, March 22, 2012

National Friday League: Your Source for Irrational Love for Sage Rosenfels

Crazy Things I Think About the Vikings: Sage Rosenfels Edition
Welcome to a new National Friday League feature: the Crazy Things I Think About the Vikings. I think a lot of Crazy Things. Sometimes I think if I keep re-reading The Great Gatsby, eventually the old sport himself will come out of it alright (though how that is even possible in that book I can hardly imagine), and that since he lives through his own book, he gets to spend the century roaming through American Literature saving people, and he'd even show up on Willy Loman's doorstep (but what the hell could he do for Willy), and these are the Crazy Things I think about.

The Crazy Thing I Think About the Vikings is that while Joe Webb is madly exciting, and Christian Ponder has the best chance of being the franchise QB for the decade, the Vikes would actually be better immediately with Sage Rosenfels starting. He's got good pocket awareness (3.3% career sack rate), he's accurate (62.5% completion), and he's experienced (he's been kicking around the league for over a decade). With Rosenfels, the Vikes would likely be running a more efficient offense and also a more error-free offense.

That said, of course it would be madness to move Rosenfels past Webb or Ponder on the depth chart: the Vikings are clearly in a spot to build for long-term winning rather than short-term winning*, and that is much, much more likely to happen with Ponder or Webb, and in fact benching Ponder for a for a 34 year old veteran sets the long-term winning project back.

Of course the Vikings need to start Ponder to develop him and find out whether or not they should be drafting Matt Barkley or some damn QB for 2013, and if not Ponder they have to turn to man myth legend Joe Webb. And of course there's a non-ridiculous chance that Ponder develops quickly and plays better in 2012 than Sage Rosenfels ever has or will, and it is important for the Vikings to play him and get that chance to find out. I'm just saying if the only goal was to win as many games as possible in 2012 with no concern for anything else, then I'd guess Rosenfels would be the guy to do it.

And this leads me to another Crazy Thing I Think About the Vikings involving Sage Rosenfels: I think the franchise would be in a better place right now if Rosenfels had become the starter going into 2009. I think with Rosenfels that Viking team still would have won 10 games or so that year. And Rosenfels might have secured the job going into 2010 as a competent**, even good starter, and he certainly would have played better than Favre in 2010. And then the Vikes might have drafted differently in 2010 with the goal of still building some all-around needs rather feeling like a near Super Bowl team and drafting to fill in depth, and the Vikings almost certainly don't trade that 3rd round pick for a month's worth of Randy Moss's services, and maybe the freak chance things like Cedric Griffin and Sidney Rice getting injured in the 2009 playoffs and changing the trajectory of their careers and the prospects for the Vikings in 2010 and 2011...well, I'm just saying I'd be interested to see an alternate universe where Brett Favre didn't come back and Brad Childress gave Rosenfels the starting job over Tarvaris Jackson. I just want to see how it would play out, since I had spent months talking myself into Rosenfels and from this rambling you can tell I haven't quite gotten past that yet. 2009 was memorably joyous and memorably heart-breaking and meant a lot to me, but ultimately we're following our team going into its 52nd season and it still hasn't won a Super Bowl, and the Vikings are in a bad place.

And also one time I had a literal dream where I had magically been transported a few years into the future, and the first thing I asked people when I got there was whether the Vikings had won a Super Bowl yet, and was told yes and I about lost my shit with happiness, and then found out Sage Rosenfels was the starting QB for that Super Bowl team.

This has been Crazy Things I Think About the Vikings.***

*which is not to say the Vikes should cede the 2012 season or anything: unexpected things happen in the league, and any professional team needs to go into each season planning to compete. It is just to say that the priority isn't to sacrifice long-term prospects to try eke out as many 2012 wins as possible.
**or in an alternate reality of this alternate reality, Rosenfels and Jackson both struggle and the Vikings go in the direction of finding a young long-term QB solution earlier and differently, and then it is all very different, and given that the Vikes still haven't won a Super Bowl and are now in a bad place seeming quite far from a Super Bowl, that's not a bad thing either. Sometimes I think how the Vikes were lucky to get Fran Tarkenton or Cris Carter or Randy Moss, but then I remember they haven't won a Super Bowl, and think if they hadn't gotten those HOF-caliber stars, they would have followed up and built entirely differently, and if they did that who knows? I mean, if you could go back and randomly start Viking history over again, and make some fundamental change at the beginning that means the whole history goes in a different direction, would you?
***All of this is stupid and insensible, I know, but a) when the subtitle is "Crazy Things I Think" I'm obviously not working on rational argument supported with evidence and b) if I didn't get back into blogging to share my senseless and irrational thoughts, I might as well go back into my withdrawal.

We will be seeing a lot of Peyton Manning
The Vikings usually play NFC games shown on Fox, a lot of their games start on noon on Sundays, and given their sorry state right now they probably don't have a lot of national slot games, so they'll be playing at noon on Sundays a lot. And that means in Minnesota we usually get the CBS late game, which is an AFC game, and given it is the late game, it is frequently an AFC West game. And given he's Peyton Manning and he's on a new team, I figure that CBS late game is going to feature a hell of a lot of the Denver Broncos. Combine that with the night games Denver is going to get, and we might just see most of the Broncos' games next season.

The Vikings need linebackers that can play in coverage
DC has been writing a lot about the Vikings' currently weak linebacking unit, and he's right: it is currently a shaky group and obviously needs improvement before September (I'll add that I don't even think Chad Greenway is very good: he is a serviceable linebacker, a guy that does his job pretty mistake free, but he doesn't make many game-changing plays. He does what you expect a starting linebacker to be able to do, but does he do much more? He is certainly no defensive cornerstone).

But the NFL is a passing league, and the Viking secondary is so bad, that the main thing you'll notice about the Viking LBs is that they get beat by TEs and RBs in the passing game. Looking through the Viking box scores from last season, you'll see TEs and RBs compiling a lot of catches and a lot of yards. The Vikings have enough trouble as it is covering opposing WRs, but opponents could generally rely on their TEs and RBs beating linebackers in coverage as well.

As the Vikings are fixing their roster with cheap, little-known players (I don't object), I hope they are finding players that might have overlooked skills. Maybe there are linebackers on their roster who haven't established themselves as all-around players, but have the quickness, speed, agility, and awareness to play competently in coverage.

We have to hope so anyway, because there are a bunch of LBs on the roster now that you've never seen play or never heard of.

On the Saints Punishment
Unless we are willing to concede that pro football is blood sport, that we derive our pleasure from watching human beings cause short-term and long-term injury to themselves and to others, that this harm is in fact the source of our pleasure, not a side effect of what pleasures us, that we do not care about the human beings on the football field, but merely want to see them harmed for our entertainment, then there must be serious consequences when a coach organizes a system to pay players to deliberately try and injure other players.

Perhaps even if we are not willing to concede this, something of the blood sport underlies our enjoyment, that we know players are hurting each other and playing hurt and we admire them for that. And perhaps a bounty system disturbs because it turns subtext into text, that it makes what is implicit explicit, that it underlines it and requires us to see what we sort of know but don't want to acknowledge. Maybe in the most basic tackle and the most basic block, there is some necessary urge to cause harm. Maybe.

But if we're neither willing to concede that fandom is bloodlust, nor that we just want to keep our bloodlust secret, then we must accept, encourage, and applaud the NFL's attempt to make the game safer and to punish those that deliberately attempt to make the game unsafe. We have to see the NFL do what it can to study, prevent, and minimize the impact of concussions, and to make rules that try as much as possible to keep a violent game relatively safe.

And in that case, serious punishment for those with authority who instigated or allowed the Saints' bounty system is entirely justified.

Bill Barnwell, who looks with more concrete attention to real specifics than most commentators, talks about Peyton Manning in Denver (Grantland).

Will Leitsch on Warrior fans booing their owner: "It's one of those wonderful spontaneous fan moments when management of a franchise believes their fan base stands rapt and worshipful at their every word ... and then discovers the exact opposite in the most vivid way possible" (New York).

How the public affected the Saints' suspensions (The Fifth Down).


  1. PV:

    The Vikings do need linebackers that can cover. A guy like the Giants Jacquian Williams. I'm not sure how he played during the regular season, but during their Super Bowl run he stood out to me, as he was able to stick with talented tight ends like Jermichael Finley and Aaron Hernandez and Tony Gonzalez. The Vikings don't have anyone that can do that, really, and they get exposed as a result.

  2. Speedier, coverage-capable LBs also stand a better chance of getting to the QB on a blitz than guys like Greenway. The problem with the Vikings' linebackers is that they are just linebackers. The unit does that pretty well (although mostly because Greenway is largely mistake-free and a solid tackler). I like the idea of LBs being constant question marks to the opposition's offensive coordinators - will they look to contain gaps and stuff the run this play? will they pressure my passer? will they drop into coverage? ...and on plays where they DO drop into coverage, apply some pressure from a CB to keep the offense guessing. Heck, Jared Allen should drop into pass coverage from time to time. I've noticed that work before.

    Your musings about Sage vs. Favre are thought provoking. Makes me wonder if it wouldn't have been better to get a lineman they year they drafted Adrian Peterson. I mean, so long as we're looking at alternate realities.

    Usually I tend to focus on the scenarios that most fans do: NOT drafting Tarvaris Jackson, Favre NOT throwing that interception in the conference championship game, the Saints NOT bounty-ing, 12 men in the huddle, Denny taking a knee at halftime... (sigh) But your suggestions are getting me thinking in other areas - makes me want to research the history of recent SB-winning teams, say, 5 years before their victory. What must the Vikings do? Get solid lines of scrimmage players, then a smart QB, then unknown talent as the main weapons? Have a mediocre first half of the year (3-5 or so) then get hot and ride momentum into the playoffs?

    I like the way the O-line is shaping up right now. I like Ponder's potential. I'm not in love with the defense's front 7, and I lament that Allen and Peterson just kept getting older the past couple of years of poor results from the team. If the Vikings don't have a legit shot in 2013 or 2014, I will have wished they traded Allen before the 2012 season.