Who this game matters most for:
Leslie Frazier. A win Sunday, and it would be wildly unfair if Leslie Frazier is not hired as the Viking head coach for 2011.
Joe Webb. Another strong performance, and he might convince the Vikings he's the QB they can develop, starting soon (compete for the job in training camp?). A poor performance, and he looks more like a long-term project, and the Vikings try fill the position elsewhere next year.
Jim Schwartz. I'm afraid the Lions are building something. They do have a dominant 25 year old on offense and a dominant 23 year old on defense. They've had seven losses this season by eight points or fewer. And a win Sunday would mean finishing the year with four straight wins, including two division wins.
My dream: an NFL pregame show with no former players or coaches.
Why would I prefer an NFL pregame show without former players and former coaches?
They have friends in the league. Some of these guys make efforts to defend their friends, won't criticize their friends, and quite obviously have their commentary influenced by their friendships.
They have their own legacies to protect. This comes out subtly in some of their evaluations, but it's there.
They often don't bring much insight. My guess is that most of these former players and coaches made their millions, and for them this is a comfortable job. They're not spending hours studying film, not spending hours studying stats, and not spending hours chasing down sources for meaningful inside knowledge. Quite frequently the things these guys say are no more meaningful than what any other observer of the sport could provide.
Obviously a former player or coach can be very good on TV: Ron Jaworski, Chris Collinsworth, and John Madden come to mind. But a lot of the former players and coaches are either irritating or dull.
My other dream: no more "production meetings" with broadcasters and players
I think the broadcasters, after having friendly conversations with players, are less likely to harshly criticize those players. It's not always a conscious decision: in fact I think it's usually an unconscious, human feeling not to be critically harsh--even when justified--to people they have had personal conversations with, and who have generally been nice to them. But it's there: the friendly conversation they had influences their objectivity and willingness to honestly critique. Furthermore I'm not sure how much meaningful insight they get from these meetings that they couldn't get from other sources (some, I'm sure, but I'm not sure it's enough to counterbalance the soft treatment they give the subjects).
Leslie Frazier has earned this job.
When a team is hiring a new coach, there are all sorts of things to consider in the prospect's resume and personality to evaluate whether he will be an effective coach for the team's particular situation. When a coach is given a chance to audition for the job on an interim basis, it is usually under difficult circumstances, but it is a chance to actually prove what he can do "on the field."
Since Leslie Frazier became head coach, the Vikings have won their first two road games of the season (both outdoors, one against a 10 win team). The Vikings have won three games with three different QBs (Favre against Washington, Jackson against Buffalo [Favre went out on the first series], Webb against Philadelphia). The team has endured some pretty unique circumstances, and even though the Vikes are eliminated from playoff contention, the team has still been playing extremely hard. The game plans have been good (the coaching job against the Eagles was masterly), and on multiple occasions they've made difficult adjustments to new situations (Peterson getting hurt against Washington, Favre getting hurt against Buffalo, preparing a third-string, rookie sixth round pick QB).
What else can Leslie Frazier do to prove he deserves, in fact has earned with his performance, the chance to prepare a team through an offseason and coach a team through a season? In my mind he's already proven it: a win against Detroit to finish the year 4-2--including three road victories--should absolutely convince Zygi Wilf that Leslie Frazier is the man to run this football team.
I wasn't convinced when Frazier took over on an interim basis that he should be the head coach next year. I am now. I don't know who the Vikings can find that they could know will do a better job than Frazier, and I think Frazier has proven what he can do.
Basketball is an extraordinarily fun sport to watch live, if you're watching a well played, competitive game. I went to the Wolves' game against the Hornets Monday, and it was a treat. Wesley Johnson hit six three pointers from what I'm pretty sure was the exact same spot on the court (New Orleans would have had a better defensive strategy just to make a center stand there with his arms up, no matter what else was happening), and Michael Beasley was scoring every which way he could. Really a delightful game to watch. I'm really hoping they can bring in some better talent to support Beasley and Kevin Love, who are a good core of players that could take the Wolves to the playoffs with a little better guard play (and a lot better center play).
Other Week 17 Games
Bears-Packers. FINISH THEM!
Rams-Seahawks. Either another 8-8 team wins a division and goes to the playoffs (while teams with winning records in the same conference don't), and we go on with life as before, or a 7-9 team wins a division and the league either reforms or busts up the current system. Which would you prefer?