Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Midweek Blizzard

Purple Kool-Aid cites the #17, #73, and #82 picks in the last two drafts to suggest the Vikes didn't give up too much for Jared Allen. Nameless draft picks always sound nice; when you look back at past drafts with names attached to numbers, it's less thrilling.

Patrick Reusse writes about the Jared Allen signing. I've written in the past about the obvious contempt Reusse shows for Viking fans. I'm getting over it: columnists like Tom Powers (when he's not treating Viking fans with condescension, he's outright insulting us) and Jim Souhan (whose column strategy seems to be "What do Viking fans think and how many bad jokes can I inject into a column arguing the opposite?") make Reusse the most likeable sports columnist in the Twin Cities.

Dr. Z on the Vikings draft: "Are you counting DE Jared Allen, the big-league pass rusher who came from the Chiefs for draft choices? You are? Then I love their draft. But only if they help him beat the drinking problem. One DUI and it's a bad mistake. Two and it's a problem. QB John David Booty (fifth round) from USC is an interesting choice since the position is far from locked up."

The T-Wolves should hire Avery Johnson or Mike D'Antoni: you think T-Wolves fans will be complaining about first round playoff losses anytime soon? Kevin McHale should then turn full personnel control over to a donut.

At Epic Carnival, an optimist/pessimist look at the NFC North's draft. As Bruce McCullough playing a vaudevillian says, an optimist looks at a glass of water as half full; a pessimst says the glass is half full, but you might have bowel cancer.

Big news coming soon in the PV landscape. Shiver in antici_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ pation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Playoff Legacy: Dwight Howard

If you didn't notice Dwight Howard becoming the league's most dominant big man this season, the playoffs are now the time to pay attention. In three of the Magic's five playoff games, Howard has netted a 20 point, 20 rebound game game: 25-22 in game one, 29-20 in game two, and 21-21 in the series clinching game five. He reminds me of Kevin Garnett with his ability to make a 20-20 game seem routine.

While we're on Kevin Garnett, why am I rooting for the Hawks to make the miracle and knock the Celtics out in round one? Perhaps Wolves fans could feel slightly less thwarted if Kevin Garnett lost a first-round series with another team--we don't have to feel like the tuberculosis Kevin McHale is solely responsible for our emptiness.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What the Vikes fixed

In February, I ranked the Viking off-season position needs. Free Agency is mostly finished, and the draft is over. Let's sum up how the Vikes addressed these needs.

1. Wide Receiver
signed Bernard Berrian, drafted Jaymar Johnson in the 6th round.*

2. Quarterback
signed Gus Frerotte, drafted John David Booty in the 5th round.

3. Safety
signed Madieu Williams, signed Michael Boulware, drafted Tyrell Johnson in the 2nd round.**

4. Defensive End
traded for Jared Allen.***

Are you satisfied with the Vikings' off-season efforts to improve the team at these positions?

I have suggested I'd like to see the team bring in more wide receivers: Bernard Berrian excites me, but the wide receiver position was so weak last season that the team could try more players. Then again, if they brought in more wide receivers, perhaps they wouldn't have had the resources to fill some of the other needs. It's still a position that scares me, but perhaps Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, and Robert Ferguson can make up a productive unit for a run-first, defense-oriented team.

I'm still boggled at quarterback: the team should have done more to, at the very least, acquire a competent backup should Tarvaris Jackson either struggle or get injured. So much on offense now rides on a 3rd year Division I-AA quarterback with 14 career starts. John David Booty is a helpful addition--a long-term plan should Jackson fail. But I wish there were a more reliable veteran than Gus Frerotte (who is probably completely finished) on the roster should the team need to turn to a vet, for whatever reason.

I am completely satisfied with the Vikings' moves at safety and defensive end.

* I'm not counting re-signing Robert Ferguson, since that is a move of retention, not addition. Perhaps I should include trading Troy Williamson away as a move toward improvement.
**the Vikes also signed a player they are listing as "DB," Benny Sapp.
***the Vikes also signed two players they are listing as "DL," Ellis Wyms and Kendrick Allen.

John David Booty

All I wanted out of this weekend's draft was a quarterback I had heard of, and the Vikings drafted a quarterback I have heard of.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Passing on the Passing Game

At this point, absolutely everybody is flummoxed by Brad Childress' total faith in Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  Should Jackson not turn into a competent pro, there is neither a long-term backup plan or an immediate backup player.  We might also be vexed at the Vikings' assessment that the one move necessary to upgrade a horrible group of wide receivers was Bernard Berrian.  I like the Berrian signing a whole lot, but that is one move that should be made to improve those receivers.  Evidently the Vikes also have faith that Sidney Rice and Aundrae Allison will make competent contributions.

It's always worth it to add defensive backs to your rosters; it's a passing league, and a team ought to add players to try defense an opponent's passing game.  But it also helps in a passing league to have a passing game.  The Vikes have another young defensive back, and that should be a good thing.  But the Vikes also passed on an opportunity to add another potential quarterback or another potential wide receiver to give the offensive air game some further thrust.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Enjoy Draft Weekend, Suckers

Viking fans: amuse yourself while waiting for that second round pick to come up. Holy Hitter and I will likely be sorting through and trading football cards and playing Settlers of Catan.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Potential Value: Jared Allen v. the draft picks

Pro-football-reference has a very nice statistical look Jared Allen's approximate value against the approximate value of the draft picks the Vikes traded for him. Really interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

wwtb? takes a calm, reasoned approach to Jared Allen.

HH is happy, but says the Vikings gave up too many draft picks. PV says that draft picks are just meaningless numbers unless you turn them into quality players, and the Vikes just turned their picks into a quality player. I don't want to get into that, really; I want to ask some of the pragmatic, realistic questions Viking fans should ask. Namely:

Where is the next Super Bowl being played?
How much will it cost to get there?
Do we need to book a hotel, or will anybody mind if we just camp outside the stadium?

Some Viking fans may now see the weekend's draft as a boring time--The Vikes now have no 1st or 3rd round picks. I think it can still be quite exciting. Do a little research into current college players, and try to guess what players will be available with pick #32 in next year's draft. And when the Chiefs are on the clock with pick #17, just sing the "Dr. Zaius" song from The Simpsons, but substitute "Jared Allen" for "Dr. Zaius." On Youtube, smustryder posted a remix of the song with footage of the actual movie. This will help you.

Hopefully, when pick #17 comes up, you won't be able to not be singing "Jared Allen Jared Allen, Jared Allen Jared Allen, Jared Allen Jared Allen Jared Allen, Jared Allen."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tempered Enthusiasm

It looks like #69 formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs will now be a Minnesota Viking. I am excited that the Vikings added an explosive DE to help alleviate pressure on the secondary coverage. Pressure put on the QB is absolutely essential.

However did they pay too much? I for one am happy and worried. I wasn't going to make much out of Allen being a risk because of his alcohol issues, but when you are making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and giving up a 1st rounder and (2) 3rd rounders I think the risk management was thrown out the window.

I think the Vikings are right to pay Allen the money, but giving up (2) 3rd rounders along with that 1st rounder makes the Vikings look like they are taking risk-management pointers from UBS. Seriously, that is banking alot on one player to make a big splash for your team. Is Jared Allen the type of player who could turn the Vikings into one of the beasts of the NFC? I think so, but he is also the type of player that could make the Vikings a two-time all-star on the idiotic trade team with one drive after a night at the bar.

I am excited to have Allen as a Viking, but I think we may have paid too much. (There goes my hopes of seeing Andre Woodson putting on the Purple and Gold via a 3rd round choice, but that was already a hope that Woodson would slip down there).

Now what will they do with that 2nd round pick they still have? Trade Down to acquire extra picks? Draft a WR? TE? QB?

Watching the NFL Draft as a Viking fan just lost a little bit of its luster, but at least I will be able to drown the boredom by drinking in celebration of Jared Allen. Skol Vikes!

**Addendum** How many others have suspicions that the Philadelphia Eagles being rumored to be interested in Allen made the Vikings pull the trigger on the extra third rounder? Especially with Philly having plenty of picks.

Jared Allen is a Viking!

It took a lot of picks, and it took a lot of money. And I think it's worth it--the Vikings just gained an All-Star pass rushing defensive end.

I am ecstatic. Defensive end is a terribly difficult position to fill, and the Vikings have failed many, many times to try and get a great one in the draft. Draft picks are great, but they can always suck. We know about Jared Allen. He's 26 years old, and in his four seasons, he's had 9, 11, 7.5, and 15.5 sacks. That's 43 sacks in 61 career games. Dr. Z, who picks his All-Pro team by watching and charting a lot of game film, had Allen on his 2006 and 2007 All-Pro teams.

The Vikings have Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to dominate the interior defensive line. They now have a dominant, consistent, and young pass rusher to pressure the quarterback on the edges (whether or not he records sacks is less important than whether he will hurry the quarterback--sack numbers can fluctuate, but a good pass rush can force a quarterback into a lot of bad throws and incompletions). What NFL team will have a better defensive line than the Minnesota Vikings in 2008? Ryan Longwell could play the opposite defensive end position and this unit would still be dominant.

PAT WILLIAMS. KEVIN WILLIAMS. JARED ALLEN. Just think about that for a little while.

Jared Allen has had legal trouble and a suspension in the past. Though that's a concern, I believe every human being has a chance for redemption; I don't believe past sins mark a person forever, but that a person can change for the better. Daily Norseman found a story that suggests Allen has faced his own errors, and has changed. Jared Allen has been punished for his past actions, and he should now be able to move on and live life better.

If anybody would like to complain about giving up draft picks, I encourage you to look at Grant's Tomb for a list of players the Vikings have drafted since 2000. The draft is hit or miss: you can score big (Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson, Adrian Peterson), but you can also come away with no meaningful contributors (see 2000, 2001, and 2005). Draft picks in and of themselves are worthless; draft picks are only meaningful because they can be turned into starting players. The Vikings turned those three draft picks into a 26 year old who had 15.5 sacks in 14 games last season. They turned their draft picks into a very good football player, and that's what draft picks are for.

I've got no concerns for the Viking defense next season. That doesn't mean the NFC North is going to be handed to the Purple (there's the little issue of quality quarterback play), but the Vikings could have a smothering, dominant defense.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Running Quarterbacks and the Hall of Fame

In recent decades, several quarterbacks have been successful, productive players combining passing and rushing ability. Still, when some of those quarterbacks come up for Hall of Fame consideration, commentators tend to focus on the passing yards and ignore the rushing yards.

Today Peter King discusses Steve McNair's Hall of Fame case. He provides a lot of numbers, and shows that as a passer, McNair's numbers are relatively modest and are similar to Mark Brunell's numbers (and Brunell's not going to be a HOFer).

Peter King writes NOT ONE SINGLE WORD about Steve McNair's rushing. Steve McNair rushed for 3,590 yards (5.4 ypa) and 37 touchdowns. Can one discuss McNair's HOF resume without even mentioning his contributions as a runner? To talk soley about his passing numbers entirely INGORES a major area in which McNair impacted the game. The rushing numbers are also relevant to a comparision with Mark Brunell, a decent rushing QB that lags behind McNair with 2,433 (4.8 ypa) and 15 TDs.

I'm not sure whether or not Steve McNair should be a Hall of Famer. But I worry that HOF selectors have a limited approach when they consider the QBs that utilized passing and running to gain yards, pick up first downs, score touchdowns, and win games. If we are going to have a discussion about McNair as a potential Hall of Famer, we cannot entirely ignore one of his major assets: he helped his team by rushing as well as throwing.

It's draft week, suckers (Blizzard)

Jared Allen is worth the picks
Why did the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl? It wasn't offense: the Giants scored 17 points, and the Patriots allowed an average of 17.1 ppg during the season in going 16-0. The Giants won because of their defense: the Patriot passing offense was unstoppable most of the season (4,806 yards,50 TD passes, and 8.3 yards per attempt for Tom Brady), but the Giants, behind a consistent and dominant pass rush, held Brady to a modest 5.5 yards per attempt, and the Patriots to 14 points. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Michael Strahan stood out as dominant, though the team as a whole was all over Brady. When they weren't sacking him, they were hitting him, making him throw too early, making him throw ugly. The Giants' pass rush was the main reason they won the Super Bowl.

If the Vikings' recent draft history tells us anything, it is how difficult it is to acquire a dominant pass rushing defensive end. In fact, a Pro Bowl defensive end may be the most difficult position for a team to fill. So if the Vikings could acquire a dominant pass rusher like Jared Allen for draft picks, they'd be filling their biggest need, adding a known commodity, and filling a position that is capable of taking over a game and dominating.

The Vikings have been rocked against good passing teams in recent years not because of the secondary, but because of the weak pass rush: too many quarterbacks have had time to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. On occasions that the pass rush came through (like the San Diego game last season), the entire defense looked dominant. If the Vikings add Jared Allen, not only have they absolutely filled the defensive end position with a dominant pass rusher, but they've suddenly made CBs like Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley look much better.

If it takes a first and second round pick to get Jared Allen, the Vikings should do it. If the Vikings must give up two first round picks to get Jared Allen, they must do it. There are very few other positions but DE I'd make that claim for. But getting a strong pass rusher is a chancy proposition. Adding Jared Allen could transform the defense, and make the Vikings a serious contender.

Kenechi Udeze
According to Access Vikings, Kenechi Udeze is doing well: cancer in remission, bone marrow transfer lined up, and at home with his wife and young daughter. Great news for Udeze and his family.

What individual had the best basketball game this weekend?
There were some monster individual performances in Game One of the NBA playoffs. Which of these stat lines impresses you the most?

Tim Duncan: 40 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks
Chris Paul: 35 points, 10 assists, 4 steals
Dwight Howard: 25 points, 22 rebounds, 5 blocks
Pau Gasol: 36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spurs and Suns reveal themselves

Spurs 117, Suns 115 (2ot)

This game had a clear pattern. At the end of regulation, Michael Finley made a game-tying three, and Phoenix went down the court and missed a bad shot. At the end of the first overtime, Tim Duncan made a game-tying three, and Phoenix went down the court and missed a bad shot. At the end of second overtime, the situation was reversed: Steve Nash made a game-tying three, and San Antonio went down the court. But this is where the defensive differences between the teams revealed itself. Manu Ginobli had no problem getting deep into the lane for most of the game, and as the clock wound down, Ginobli once again had no problem getting deep into the lane, making a game-winning layup.

This is pretty indicative of the teams themselves. When San Antonio needed a basket, they had perfect execution; when they needed a stop, they forced the Suns into tough shots. The Suns were fun to watch, but at the end of a close game, they had neither the offensive execution nor the defensive strength to stop the Spurs.

Tim Duncan, arguably the best player of the decade, had 40 points (on 16-24 shooting) and 15 rebounds, constantly making big shots. But guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli combined for 50 points, penetrating the lane with relative ease.

The early sloppiness of the Spurs and the ferocity of Amare Stoudemire going to the basket made me believe this could be the Suns top the Spurs (and it did hurt that Stoudemire--who had 33 points--fouled out before the second overtime). But the teams are what they are, and at the end, the Spurs executed and made plays, and the Suns didn't. With game one in San Antonio a double-overtime two-point game, this should be a closely contested series. But I'd count on the Spurs to execute and make plays late in the game the four times necessary.

Friday, April 18, 2008

So this thing could really be happening?

Seriously? A week before the draft the Vikings could acquire the league's leading sacker?

See Access Vikings for the mild foreplay.

Friday Blizzard: these are some sort of mutant strawberries I'm eating.

Twins game
Holy Hitter, PV, and our friend Jon were at the Twins' game last night. Here's the fun thing about going to a Twins game: you can look up and see two championship banners slapped to the wall. There aren't any other pro sporting events in town where we can do that.

Jared Allen
So last year's sack leader (15.5!) is a serious possibility to join the Vikings (Access Vikings). This is more good news than a Minnesota sports fan is able to take.

Dr. Z had Allen on his 2007 All-Pro team, saying

"Battling to survive on a desperate team, the NFL's sack leader kept the heat on almost all year. No defensive player, at any position, approached the 7.0 grade I had for him."

Dr. Z also had Allen on his 2006 All-Pro team.

You may also remember Allen destroying the Vikings in a September 2007 game.

You'll also enjoy this video clip of Allen at Shutdown Corner. Man, if there's any way this guy could be on our team next season, the Vikings must make it happen.

I'm planning on going to the Viking home opener against Indianapolis. Peyton Manning is my favorite non-Viking player, and I believe he is the greatest quarterback of all-time. This is likely the only time he'll ever come to Minnesota to play in a football game. I have to take that opportunity to go watch.

Of course, I'm a Viking fan--I can never appreciate an opponent's greatness while he's playing the Vikings. Every Manning completion will make me grimace, and I'll be rooting for him to get sacked or intercepted on every play.

I feel like it's OK to pick favorite AFC players and teams--they'll only play my beloved Purple once every four years, so it's easy to see them as distant from my favorite team. But when those players do match up against the Vikes, I loathe them for three hours even if I root for them every other week.

Steve McNair
D-Wil and Ballers, Gamers, and Scoundrels talk about Steve McNair. I've never been a big fan of McNair: he was a tough, versatile quarterback, to be sure, a quarterback you'd really want leading your team. But looking at his numbers, he didn't have that many great passing seasons; 2001, 2002, and 2003 were very good, but other than that, the passing numbers are often merely OK. But Roy Johnson has a point about how a win in his Super Bowl appearance would have changed his legacy (I don't quite accept the "just one more yard" bit: one more yard would have put the game into overtime and given the Titans a 50% chance of winning). Compare McNair's numbers to Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. Aikman completed 61.5% of his passes to McNair's 60.1%: slightly better. Aikman threw 165 touchdowns and 141 interceptions; McNair threw 174 touchdowns and 119 interceptions. Here McNair is better (McNair also has three 20+ TD seasons to Aikman's one). But look at the rushing yards: after his rookie year, Aikman was a negligible runner. McNair rushed for 3,590 yards (5.4 ypa) and 37 touchdowns.

By the numbers, McNair was a comparable passing quarterback to Aikman and a far superior running quarterback. He also won a lot of games. He was widely revered for his toughness, and he's got an MVP award. We have to ask: how much are we going to use team championships to determine a quarterback's legacy? By any standard, I'd say if Aikman is a Hall of Famer, McNair is a Hall of Famer.

NBA Playoffs are Starting!
At Epic Carnival, wwtb? looks at the great point guards in the Western Conference.

At SI, Marty Burns breaks down the West.

At ESPN, John Hollinger looks at the NBA playoffs.

SLAM previews the West.

Yes, I'm virtually ignoring the Eastern Conference. I will watch games when Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, or LeBron James are playing. But mostly I'll just watch the Western Conference.

Other Links
Some good bloggers have consolidated into one blog: Sports On My Mind. I love a chance to clean up the blogroll.

Brett Favre's number will be retired week one against the Vikes (Star Tribune).

On the 22 inning baseball game last night (The Sporting Blog).

The Timberwolves are selling some cheap season tickets (TrueHoop).

Oh, man, the Timberwolves suck. But I like Kirk Snyder too (Wages of Wins).

Did the NFL try take attention away from Jackie Robinson day (The Hater Nation)?

Logs in our eyes

Mike Florio of PFT:

I'm not sure a person that makes fun of people for being overweight, gives people inane nicknames, labels human beings "turds," or posts silly and insulting photoshopped images is in a good position to question a person's maturity because he makes reference to a sexual act.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All Viking Blizzard

Why I cannot get myself up for the 2008 Draft

Looking at the draft ahead of time, I feel like this will be a relatively insignificant draft for the Vikings. The team's biggest need is a pass rusher, and I fear they'll draft a mediocre defensive end in the first round; they could get a decent defensive lineman, but I'm doubtful they'll get an all-star pass rusher. They might draft a good offensive lineman which would be good long-term, but offensive line isn't one of the team's biggest needs right now (the team's two RBs averaged 5.6 and 5.4 yards per attempt, and Tarvaris Jackson had an OK sack rate). They might get another young defensive back somewhere in the draft, but I'm not sure that defensive back will be better than Cedric Griffin or Marcus McCauley (who have been occasionally awful, but have also occasionally shown signs of competence--I think they were better in the second half of the season, but then, they were playing some awful passing teams in the second half, too).

So I'm a bit cool on the draft. Of course it would be a significant (for better or worse) draft for the franchise if they draft a quarterback in the first two rounds, or if they draft a wide receiver in the first round. But I'm skeptical that any defensive lineman, offensive lineman, or defensive back the team drafts in the first round is going to have a big immediate impact in making the Vikings a better team. Obviously, in any draft a team can acquire important starters and stars throughout the entire draft: we might see the Vikes draft eventual replacements for players like Pat Williams, Matt Birk, or Darren Sharper. But I can't work myself up over "eventual replacements," either.

Anybody else having this problem?

Viking Schedule

What was that bang? already went through the schedule with some detail below, but here are a few of my thoughts:

The lack of cold weather games would have excited me back when Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss were the stars. Now that the team is built on running the ball and stopping the run, I'm not sure what the impact the weather has on this particular team. Indeed, the domes and good weather could just keep conditions easy for opponents to slice up the Viking pass defense. But I'm being a bit pessimistic: of course it's always better for a Dome team if it can avoid bad weather.

The Vikes play only two teams that I'm confident will be very good in 2008: Indianapolis and Jacksonville. Obviously other teams on the schedule will be good (I don't know how much Green Bay will decline), but I can't reasonably guess which teams will be good, mediocre, and bad. I'm with Kevin Seifert in dismissing strength of schedule rankings based on last year's winning percentages. The Vikes might have an easy schedule and they might have a hard schedule, just like everybody else.

Viking Links

Cold, Hard Football Facts on the all-time greatest pass defenses:

"If any team has frustrated its fans more than the Vikings, we don’t know about it. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, the Vikings fielded many of the most dominant teams in history. And nobody fielded a more consistently dominant pass defense than the Vikings of 1969 to 1972, the famed Purple People Eaters. [...] Offenses during this period averaged about 7.0 yards per pass attempt (roughly the same as today). Yet over this four-year stretch, the Vikings allowed opposing offenses just 5.21 yards per attempt (just 4.95 YPA from 69-71)."

TNABACG on the Viking schedule:

"there's some great news for Purple players who hate the cold: Minnesota will be spending the final months of the season in comfort this year. Their November and December games, nine in all, stack up thusly:

"Dome, dome, Florida, Florida, dome, dome, Arizona, dome, dome."

Kevin Seifert at the Star Tribune on the Viking schedule:

"The Vikings haven't started better than 2-2 in coach Brad Childress' first two seasons. But that record might be a best-case scenario in the most difficult opening-month schedule he has faced here. The Vikings will hope to capitalize on some unsettled quarterback situations: The Packers (new starter Aaron Rodgers), Panthers (a rehabilitating Jake Delhomme) and Titans (Vince Young under a new offensive coordinator) are all in some kind of transition."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The Vikings' 2008 schedule is available for us to ponder. Let's ponder it.

week 1, at Green Bay
Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Rodgers throw a combined six passes into opposing defenders' chests. Ryan Grant rushes 14 times for 30 yards.

week 2, Indianapolis
Peyton Manning laughs as the Vikings try to cover Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, AND Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai rushes 9 times for 14 yards.

week 4, Carolina
If the Vikes lose to the Panthers at home in September, we know what sort of season it will be.

week 5, at New Orleans
Drew Brees completes 50 passes for 277 yards. Reggie Bush rushes eight times for 12 yards.

week 6, Detroit
The Vikings don't lose to the Lions at home. When the Vikings are bad, this is a close game; when the Vikings are average, this is a blowout.

week 7, at Chicago
In 2007, the Vikes beat the Bears at Soldier Field for the first time since 2000. Two in a row? The Bear offense is so bad I believe it is possible.

week 8, BYE
If the Vikings are going to have any sort of season at all in 2008, they'll be sitting with three or four wins here.

week 9, Houston
The Texans visit Minnesota for the first time. Which team will Sage Rosenfels be playing for?

week 10, Green Bay
The Vikes have lost the last two Metrodome Packer games. Quite frankly, if they lose three in a row, I've got no time for Brad Childress anymore.

week 11, at Tampa Bay
The Vikings have had a lot of really lousy trips to Tampa. But by week 11, the Buccaneers will be on their third or fourth quarterback in a down year.

week 12, at Jacksonville
300 total rushing yards between the Vikes and Jags.

week 13, Chicago
Let's say the Vikes are right around .500 at this point and broiled in a quarterback controversy. No, let's say this is the Vikes' eighth or ninth win and we all dance about in the streets.

week 14, at Detroit
The later in the season the Vikes play Detroit, the better: by December, the Lions' season is totally over.

week 15, at Arizona
Oh no. Oh, please no.

week 16, Atlanta
If the Vikings are anywhere near playoff contention at midseason, they should make the playoffs. Tell me a playoff contender doesn't like to see a December slate of Lions-Cardinals-Falcons. For the last 40 years, any team that doesn't go at least 2-1 in a Lions-Cardinals-Falcons slate completely sucks.

week 17, Giants
Normally, you don't want to end the season with the defending Super Bowl champs. But the Vikings play the Giants well. The last three times the Vikes went into week 17 with playoff possibilities, they were on the road and they lost (2003, 2004, 2007). It's good to close at home.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blizzard: My eyes are still on "all eyes on"

All our eyeballs really are stuck to Matt Ryan
Last April, I first brought it up. A year later, let's look at some NFL articles written in the last couple of months and see where our eyes are now.

Don Banks of SI says that "Obviously all eyes will be on Atlanta's first pick, No. 3, to see whether the Falcons make the splashy franchise quarterback call in favor of Boston College's Matt Ryan, or go the less-sexy route in tabbing LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey." Obviously. Where else would all of our eyes go?

About a month earlier, a headline for a Don Banks column read "All eyes on Ryan." Well, that's OK: if all eyes are on Atlanta's #3 pick to see if they'll take Matt Ryan, then naturally all eyes are on Ryan.

And apparently, all eyes really are on Matt Ryan, since Sheil Kapadia of the Baltimore Sun headlined a post with "All eyes on BC's Ryan," Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe also notes that "All eyes will be on Ryan..." and Eric Avadon of the MetroWest Daily News writes that "Yesterday - with all other action stopped dead and all eyes upon him - he threw 52 passes, completing 48."

Apparently, though, we all took a break from staring at Matt Ryan: an AP article in the Sporting News revealed that we were really staring at Jason Taylor, with the headline "All eyes on Taylor in 'Dancing With Stars.'"

And in Wisconsin, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal reminds us that for the season opener, "All eyes will be on Rodgers in the first half of the Monday twin bill, assuming he's healthy and still in possession of the Packers' starting quarterback job." People in Wisconsin have different tastes: they don't realize the rest of us are staring at Matt Ryan and occasionally breaking to stare at Jason Taylor.

But of course, as reminds us, Spygate is all we really want to think about: "Until then, all eyes and ears are tuned into the topic that just won't go away."

So that's where eyes are in the NFL. In other sports, of course, "all eyes" are on other teams and players, according to various sportswriters.

Brad Childress went with Anthony Herrera to support him as he became a U.S. citizen (Star Tribune).

I'm actually getting exhausted from these lists, but Forbes came up with a system to rank miserable sports cities (Yahoo). Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked 10th. Personally, I don't think the list gives enough consideration for length of time since the last pro championship: some cities that saw relatively recent championships rank higher than I think they should.

Viking Update asks, "What about Brohm?"

I hadn't followed baseball with any degree of seriousness or consistency since 1994, and I'm really enjoying falling back into the game right now. Let's see, when I quit watching baseball, Greg Maddux was the most dominant pitcher in the game. Now it's 2008, and, what's this, Greg Maddux is still kicking ass (Fanhouse).

MJD is still one of the best bloggers out there; at Shutdown Corner, he comments on Marvin Harrison and the Colts.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team on the Twins' pitchers.

TrueHoop on the NBA MVP race.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Blizzard: Thundersnow edition

Contrariness: the 1986 49ers had the best team draft ever.
The 1974 Steelers' draft that produced four Hall of Famers is widely touted as the best team draft ever (Fanhouse).

Let me make the contrarian argument that this was not, perhaps, the best team draft ever. First of all, I think that if Swann, Stallworth, Webster, and Lambert had each been drafted by lousy teams, it's likely that not one of them would be a Hall of Famer. Sometimes Hall of Fame candidates get more respect for being on great teams; certainly, playing on the juggernaut Steelers (which they contributed to, of course) helped get each of those players noticed. They're each very good players. However, Swann's and Stallworth's numbers aren't terribly impressive, and Webster and Lambert play at positions where one doesn't tend to get noticed if one plays on a bad team.

Be honest: look at Swann's and Stallworth's numbers and tell me that those wide receivers would have stood out on a lesser team. And tell me that you're even aware of the good centers and linebackers that played on bad teams in the 1970s.

I'll throw out another contender for the greatest draft ever: #5 on's list, the 1986 49ers draft. As I've noted before, in 1986 the 49ers drafted a whopping eight players that started in Super Bowl XXIII. It's great enough to draft eight starters in a single year--but to draft eight players good enough to start and lead a team to a championship? There were no Hall of Famers, but there significant starters for multiple 49er Super Bowls, like Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer, John Taylor, Charles Haley, and Steve Wallace.

The return of the true title
I initially changed the title of this blog because I didn't want to imply that all we talked about was the Vikings and because I didn't want people to assume I was the only writer here. Every day since then I've hated the title a little more. Finally I figured, who cares if people think all we talk about is the Vikings? And who cares if people occasionally don't read the author of a post? So we're back to our roots, baby! Sorry for being a flake.

Randball asks "How much do athletes read newspapers, blogs and other such media?"

Viking Update notes that " While it seems hard to imagine, since the second year of the existence of the franchise – a span of 45 seasons – the Vikings have had just five full-time centers." It's a reasonable point, but dependent on the definition of "full-time center;" for example, Matt Birk was out for all of 2005.

In which round will the Vikes draft a quarterback (Daily Norseman)?

At Epic Carnival, wwtb? exposes his love of Carmelo Anthony.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sad news in Valhalla

Carl Eller is still struggling to keep things together (PFT). Eller has really tried to turn things around and do good things, but he's still got issues.

The Vikings have signed Gus Frerotte (Star Tribune). I'm not going to despair until he makes it through training camp. Hell, I'll even convince myself he'll be decent if he plays, handing off to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and occasionally chucking a bomb to Bernard Berrian.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Blizzard: Why is it so fun to end any sentence with "suckers"?

Week One
The Vikings-Packers week 1 game will be on KSTP locally (Access Vikings). Here's what I hate: if the Vikings play Monday night at the regular time (7:30) I could make it hope to watch them. But when they play the early week 1 game, I can't get home until the second half. And this is the second time in three years they've played that slot!

By the way, are you aware that since 1986, the Packers will have opened the season on the road just three times? For reasons I don't even understand, it infuriates me that the Packers have played week one at home for 20 of the previous 23 seasons.

For Viking Blogger coverage of the NFL draft
Check out The Ragnarok for videos, stats, and commentary on a lot of the players the Vikings could be targeting.

I'm looking forward to the NBA playoffs so much it's silly.
Hopefully here's a chance to see some teams that aren't televised much, like New Orleans and Orlando. Here's a chance to see really good teams, and really good players, squaring off against each other every night in big important games. In the West, I feel like every single game is going to have championship implications.

I did a fantasy baseball draft this weekend, and I fully suspect this will destroy my life. This is the first season I'm paying attention to baseball since the '94 strike (yeah, it's taken me awhile to come back, I'd say), and I'm just learning a lot of the players because I'm buying baseball cards now. I tried to draft a lot of Cubs because they're on WGN all the time so I can watch them.

Tommy Craggs at Slate has an interesting column on portrayals and perceptions of Kevin Love.

Meet Thomas Tapeh (Pioneer Press). Sounds like an interesting fellow.

Sorry, Stephanie Stradley, I actually think the Houston Texans have the worst nickname in the NFL. It's a bland, dull name: they may as well just be called the Houston People. And the color scheme and jerseys are pretty ugly to. But you know, about tastes there is no disputing.

Cold, Hard Football Facts looks at the top 25 passing seasons.

The Dallas Mavericks could miss the playoffs, or they could be a serious title contender. Shoals says "If anyone tries to feed me a Cinderella narrative for Dallas, I'll puke all over them. That 'anyone,' not the team."

An excerpt from David Nylund's book Beer, Babes, and Balls: Masculinity and Sports Talk Radio is at Outsports, and it's rather interesting. I'd like to see the same scrutiny turned to blogs, too. For example, why exactly do many sports blogs arbitrarily include pictures of attractive scantily clad women? What is the effect of doing so?

Signal to Noise asks which high profile college freshmen should rightly bolt for the NBA.

Ronald Tillery on Rudy Gay's sophomore NBA season (via TrueHoop). I got to see Gay live this year, and he was fun to watch: he and Mike Miller were flying around all over the place.

Dave Zirin on Roberto Clemente's reaction to Martin Luther King's death.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Chris Paul

I'm under the impression that Chris Paul can do anything he wants to on a basketball court. He leads the league in assists per game (11.5) and steals per game (2.66); the last player to lead the league in both categories in the same year was John Stockton in '92. He's averaging 21.3 points per game; the last player to lead the league in assists per game and average 20+ points per game was Magic Johnson in '87.

When has the league seen a better combination of passer, scorer, and defender at the point guard position? Watch New Orleans play basketball, folks: you'll see something special.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Blizzard: today my canvas shoes are green

Football Outsiders has an excellent takedown of a Pat Kirwan article. I'd add that Kirwan is using a Straw Argument, taking down a myth that probably doesn't even exist. Is anybody still touting out the "you don't need a great quarterback to win a championship" line anymore? That seemed like a popular conversation topic around 2000-2002, the same period that "There are no more NFL dynasties" was a popular topic (nobody's batting that idea around anymore, either).

Oh, but certainly from 2000-2002 people were discussing whether dynasties were dead and whether a "game manager" QB was all you need. It was silly and shortsighted, subsequent history shows. But we should have looked backward, too, to recognize that that period was not unique.

Let me describe an era for you.

In Year A, a former first round draft pick no longer on his first team starts the season on the bench. In the middle of the season he takes over and leads a Wild Card team to a Super Bowl win.

In Year B, a young, inexperienced non-first round pick quarterback takes over and surprisingly leads a team to a Super Bowl championship. That team and quarterback seemed to come out of nowhere.

I just described 2000 (Trent Dilfer) and 2001 (Tom Brady), right? Sure.

But I also described 1980 (Jim Plunkett) and 1981 (Joe Montana).

So the 2000-2002 era didn't signal a radical change in the role of quarterbacks on championship teams. The same sort of situations has happened in the past, and subsequent history still shows the value of great quarterbacks and the existence of NFL dynasties.

There's a reason to know sports history, and it's not just nostalgia. It offers us context in understanding the present and perhaps in predicting the future.

At Epic Carnival
wwtb? looks at The Career Backup Quarterback.

Apologies if you're waiting for me to comment on the Viking backup quarterback update; I'm just really not ready to talk about this.
Gus Frerotte

I started buying baseball cards and I got a Dennis Kucinich card.
Seriously. Topps is always doing gimmicky shit for its baseball card set. But if I'm going to get a baseball card of a politician, I'm glad it was my favorite politician. As the back of the card says, Kucinich promotes non-violence and a vegan lifestyle. I'll keep the card.

Other Links
Grant's Tomb is ready to discuss Gus Frerotte.

Dirk Nowitzki is not "soft" (Fanhouse).

A look back at the NBA playoffs after Martin Luther King's assassination (Rocky Mountain News, via TrueHoop).

On Kevin Garnett and his MVP candidacy (Wages of Wins).

Have a good weekend, folks. Go Bruins.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What is the goal of a playoff format?

Frank Deford has become a rather pedestrian sports commentator: I realized this once he wrote and spoke an essay about baseball caps and included this passage:

"I don't understand, though, why so many people wear baseball caps backwards. This doesn't keep the sun out of your eyes, and the gap in the cap looks foolish on your forehead. Of course, a few young knuckleheads even wear baseball caps sort of sideways. Whatever."

This complaint about "young knuckleheads" that wear their caps backwards or sideways is another reminder that traditional media commentators need not criticize bloggers too much; there are plenty of completely uninsightful writers among their own ranks.

Today on NPR, Deford talked about the NBA playoffs. He rightfully lamented the good Western Conference teams that will miss the playoffs and the bad Eastern Conference teams that will make the playoffs. But Deford also said the NBA is silly to model its playoff format after baseball with a seven game series:

"In basketball and hockey, though, a series becomes stultifyingly reminiscent of what Edna St. Vincent Millay said: 'It's not true that life is one damn thing after another — it's one damn thing over and over.'

"The NBA should start its playoffs with Olympic-style round robins in the various divisions, finishing up with a knockout Final Four, just like the colleges do. Yes, it would mean sacrificing several home gates, but when elimination is so imminent, when it's one game and out, as it is in the NFL, the World Cup, the Olympics, it concentrates the mind of the fan. An NBA Final Four would bring far more attention and drama — and ultimately more television money — to the NBA than its current drawn-out Edna St. Vincent Millay series. Less really can be more."

I think Deford is hitting on a key question: what is the goal of a playoff format?

We generally think the goal of a playoff format should be to determine the best team. In basketball, a seven game series is the best way to determine the best team. In basketball, an inferior team can have a hot shooting night and knock off a cold shooting superior team in one game. Over seven games, though, the better team is usually going to win more times than lose. At the end of the NBA playoffs, you can feel much more confident that the best team has won than you can in a one-and-done tournament.

Another goal of of a playoff format (and this is the goal Deford is concerned about) is raising and maintaining fan interest and excitement. The NCAA basketball tournaments do this successfully--the one-and-done brackets get a lot of people paying attention. This format also brings a lot of upsets, which also seem to bring a lot of fan attention. This format is not really the best way to determine the best game, however, as evidenced by all the "Cinderella" upsets.

Yet another goal of a playoff format is to make money. The NBA's drawn out format does this too: there are more games to sell tickets for, and even if TV ratings for particular games are lower, there are more of them, and that means more money.

These three goals of a playoff format needn't always contradict one another, but they sometimes do. For example, a lot of fans complain about the Bowl system for NCAA football. Indeed, college football does not have the best way to determine the best team: a playoff system would do a better job. But critics of the Bowl system miss out on the other two goals. The Bowl games bring in a lot of money, and they actually probably maintain a broader fan interest than a playoff format would do. A lot of college football fans are devoted to one particular team: if that team isn't playing, those fans might not care. A Bowl system that doesn't limit the postseason to four or eight or 16 teams can keep a lot of those fans paying attention (and spending money).

I like the NBA's seven game series. A series provides bigger narratives than a single game can provide, and a series does a better job of determining the better team than a single game can.

But Deford does have a point: it's stupid that bad teams make the playoffs and good teams can miss the playoffs based on conferences. The World Series and the Super Bowl have a traditional reason to pit the best teams from two leagues. Even after interleague play, the American League and the National League are two distinct leagues. The Super Bowl started as a game between the best teams from the AFL and the NFL, so there's a reason to continue that tradition, too. But in the NBA, every team in the Western Conference plays every team in the Eastern Conference every year. There's not that much special about seeing the best of the West and the East play at the end: it would be better to see the best teams. Perhaps in the past it made sense to do playoffs regionally because of the difficulties of travel, but that doesn't seem to be a concern anymore.

I don't usually worry about one side of a league (The AFC, the Western Conference, the American League) being dominatingly superior to the other side; these things are cyclical and will come around naturally. But the NBA really has no historical reason to separate its playoff format so distinctly into two sides.

So by all means, reform the NBA playoffs if you wish: it sucks that either Dallas, Denver, or Golden State, very good and very fun teams, could miss the playoffs. But don't take away our seven game series: they provide a meaningful story, and they show us a worthy champion.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Draft Keyword: Radar

When the NFL draft is approaching, NFL teams suddenly become air traffic controllers.

At Foxsports, Chris Steuber says "with a new year comes an opportunity for once unheralded and under-the-radar prospects to take their lumps in the draft, prove that they were misevaluated and show their talent at the next level."

Peter Mucha of the Philadelphia Inquirer categorizes the players that are "NO LONGER ON THE RADAR."

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald finds there's "more evidence that Darren McFadden is not on the Dolphins' radar."

The headline of a Brad Biggs blog at the Chicago Sun-Times reads "Forte on Angelo's radar."

At the Houston Chronicle, John McClain says "They're not sleepers, but three prospects flying under the radar who could be drafted higher than you think are Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, Tulane running back Matt Forte and Nebraska cornerback Zack Bowman."

Mike Garafolo in the Star-Ledger says that "Cherilus wasn't the only lineman on the Giants' radar today."

And there are a whole lot of other sportswriters at major news outlets talking about radars. There are a lot of players that are on a team's radar, a lot of players that are off a team's radar, and even a lot of players that are flying under the radar.

If you want to read up on the draft ahead of time, you're going to read a lot about radars.