Thursday, December 14, 2006

Patrick Reusse scoffs at our fickleness

Oh, we fickle Viking fans! First we cheer a player, then we boo a player. We just don't understand football and we're never happy! What's wrong with us?

Patrick Reusse is back to let us have it again. In his column "Being hero or goat comes with territory for Vikings' Johnson," Reusse interviews Brad Johnson about going from...well...hero to goat (passages from Reusse's column in italics and quotes):

"Obviously, there are similarities in the Vikings' Game 14 situation, including that Brad Johnson will be the home team's quarterback. What's different is that in '05, the Purple Faithful was of a mood to host a parade down Fourth Street in Brad's honor. And now, the same crowd would like to pass their horned hats to buy Brad a bus ticket back home to Black Mountain, N.C."

The "mood" of the Purple Faithful changed. Who can account for "mood"? Mood has no reason behind it. See's definition of mood: Mood is just sort of something one has, an irrational feeling. How could the mood of the Purple Faithful change? Could it be that leading up to week 14 in '05, Johnson had just led the Vikings to 6 straight wins? Meanwhile, in '06 with a far superior defense, Johnson has led the Vikes to 6 wins in 13 games? Do the Purple Faithful have a "mood," or are we merely responding to objective data?

"Johnson had a quarterback rating of 88.9 in his 9 ½ games as a Vikings starter last season. The populace celebrated when Childress decided to dispose of Daunte Culpepper to Miami for a second-round draftee (tackle Ryan Cook).

The trade meant the people's choice -- Steady Brad -- would be the Vikings quarterback again.

Johnson's quarterback rating after 13 games is 71.0. He had a career low of 10.3 two games back in Chicago."

Where to begin? First off, the point is that we Viking fans were wrong. "Steady Brad" was the "people's choice," but the people were foolish; we thought he'd be good but it turns out this year he stinks.

But was Johnson ever really "the people's choice"? Certainly, the crowd had soured on Culpepper, but an awful '05 combined with bizarre behavior (staying away from the team, coming to the Twin Cities just to demand more money, emailing the media to talk about it) suggest that Culpepper himself was responsible for that. Did the fan displeasure with Culpepper mean that we were in love with Johnson? Of course not; there was much speculation about which other QBs the Vikes should or could or would go after in the '06 offseason. The fact that the Vikes didn't doesn't mean that we thought Brad Johnson was a superhero.

"That Sunday in Chicago was ultra-tough for quarterbacks: cold, windy and outstanding defenses in their faces. Johnson was awful, and Grossman was awful, and then a week later -- in domes, against softer defenses -- both QBs were much more proficient.

Why wasn't a minute asterisk placed next to the Johnson/Grossman performances because of the conditions at Soldier Field?"


"A year ago, the public thought it saw a 37-year-old making the rapid reads that Culpepper could not, and throwing the ball with proper pizzazz. Now, the fans think they see a 38-year-old plagued by indecision and wobbly passes."

Isn't it possible that a QB's skills could deteriorate between 37 and 38? Plenty of aging QBs have seeming success then bottom out. Are we to think that Brad Johnson at 38 is the exact same QB he was at 37?

And of course, it wasn't "pizzazz" that impressed us about Johnson last season. After all, Reusse himself referred to "Steady Brad" earlier in the column, so clearly he knows this. It was the fact that in '05, Johnson played smart and limited turnovers, giving the team a chance to win. In '06, he has committed many AWFUL turnovers, hampering his team's chances to win. Should we ignore this?

""Honestly, I think I'm playing the same," Johnson said. "I think I've always played the same. A year ago, during the winning streak, when I made a mistake, it didn't cost us. The other team didn't make the interception, and if they did, it didn't get run back for a touchdown."

Well, Mr. Johnson, you're wrong. In 2005, you threw 12 TDs and 4 INTs in 9 and a half games. In 2006, you've thrown 8 TDs and 15 INTs in 13 games.

""And here's the biggest thing: We always seemed to be playing from ahead during that streak. We haven't been playing from ahead that often in the second half this season."

"It's a whole different game -- more manageable, many more options -- when you're ahead."

This quote is from Johnson again--and to be fair, it does have some validity. I say this not randomly, but after looking at the '05 and '06 results expecting to contradict it.

"And how comfortable is he with the transformation from '05 hero to '06 albatross?

"I'm a quarterback," he said. "That's what you sign up for.""

Reusse writes as if Johnson has magically transformed from "hero" to "albatross," as if those labels are based completely on fan perception, not in reality (for more on the meaning "albatross," see Samuel Taylor Coleridge's excellent poem ).

What bothers me in this column is not any particular statement so much as the overall tone and theme. In '05, Reusse was critical of Johnson and fan appreciation of him (nevermind that Johnson was the backup with no expectations having surprising success); this column's existence seems to be a suggestion of support for Johnson. So while Johnson plays well enough then has two bad games, Reusse attacks him and the fans; when Johnson is sucking and the fans don't like him, Reusse defends johnson and attacks the fans. I think we see the trend here.

It seems like another Reusse column intended to insult Viking fans. Choosing to write this column, and choosing to write it this way, seems like an attempt to point out the irrationality, the fickleness, and the unfairness of fan reaction to Johnson. In fact, there is a major difference in performance between '05 and '06 Johnson. But the fact that this column is written at all suggests that perhaps such is not the case.


  1. Anonymous11:28 PM

    I despise Reusse.

  2. I read that column this morning and pretty much regreatted it immediately. If Reusse were any worse he'd be Jim Souhan.