Friday mailbag: Dobbs now, Dobbs forever?
Vikings fans want to know what's going to happen in the short and long term with Josh Dobbs at the helm
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By Matthew Coller
Happy Friday everyone. One of the reasons I love doing the mailbag is to see how much things change each week with the questions and where we stand with this team. This year has been particularly wild in that regard. Well, let’s dive right in….
Bradley P… Allow me to drink the Kool Aid. Which coaches would you rather have than KOC?
I remember over the summer there was a question about ranking all the coaches. It was really hard to decide whether Mike Tomlin or John Harbaugh is better, for example, because it’s not like we can do a side by side stats comparison like we can with quarterbacks or receivers. So instead I put them into categories.
Guys like Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, Sean Payton, Sean McVay, Doug Pederson and Kyle Shanahan have all proven over extremely large sample sizes that they are good enough to coach a team to the Super Bowl.
After that there is another level of coaches who have less experience but I’m pretty convinced that they will eventually belong in that first category. That’s Nick Sirianni, Zac Taylor, Kevin Stefanski, Mike McDaniel, DeMeco Ryans and probably Matt LaFleur. That’s where I’d put Kevin O’Connell.
What we learned that was very important this season is what would happen if everything went wrong. Sometimes that breaks coaches and melts locker rooms. Instead they dug deep and found a way to fight through it. It’s been a pretty convincing case that he belongs in the upper echelon.
Coach Z In BC… There has been a lot of talk about whether to re-sign Dobbs or Cousins and what Kwesi and O’Connell will do mostly based on how far Dobbs will take this team. I strongly believe the decision will come down to keeping Justin Jefferson happy. He was quoted as saying “I cannot wait to play in this offense” referring to playing with Dobbs and I think it worth a talker considering Jefferson’s contract extension is one of the biggest concerns the Vikings have (except for those that want to trade him because we are 5-0 without him)
Last year at the NFL Combine, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah told us that Jefferson is going to be in the loop on big decisions so that is definitely something to keep in mind. However, I do feel like we talk about Jefferson’s happiness as if it’s something swaying in the wind. Maybe that’s because Adam Schefter tried to start some stuff about him not coming back from this injury if the team was struggling, which is the opposite of everything I’ve seen and heard. Remember, if he doesn’t want to sign an extension then the team is going to franchise tag him twice and I’m sure he is quite aware of that. I’m sure he will be looped in on the team’s plan at QB but they aren’t going to let him call the shot. If he wants Kirk back but the money isn’t right, I’d be hard pressed to believe that he would reject a new deal or demand a trade because of that.
Thomas… Matthew: How significant will Hicks’ absence be for the defense?
It could be massive. He’s been nothing short of fantastic this year. There are a ton of different alignments and details that have to be communicated during a game and Hicks was very good at getting everyone lined up right. At least Ivan Pace Jr. has done it before in preseason and they were able to manage on the fly against the Saints, which should help prepare them for this week. What it might allow is for the Broncos and other opponents to use bigger personnel to force another linebacker on the field. Whether that’s Anthony Barr this week or not, I’m not sure.
Don… If Dobbs took the Vikes to the NFC Championship, would they re-sign Dobbs, or let Dobbs go and resign Cousins, or move back to Jaren Hall, or move to a newly drafted QB.
If Dobbs takes them to the NFC Championship game then he’s QB1 next year. I don’t think that scenario would play out like Case Keenum’s situation, though they could keep Dobbs and still take a quarterback in the draft. The Keenum thing was really a matter of the Vikings believing that he didn’t have the physical talent to repeat 2017 over and over. Dobbs is a much more gifted athlete so buying into him, at least in the short term future, would feel less risky. We are a long way from crossing that bridge though.
Conor… I feel as though the mobility of Dobbs unlocks an impactful new dimension of the offense. To the point where as a defense I would actually be more worried about facing Dobbs and JJ over Kirk and JJ . Talk me into the QB that leads the Vikings to a Super Bowl win ends up being closer to the talents of Dobbs than Kirk.
If you look at it from a purely numbers standpoint, Dobbs has been worth more as a runner than any other QB in the league this year. His mobility gives them a cheat code when things go wrong and nobody’s open in the red zone and on third down, which keeps drives alive when they would otherwise end. It’s not impossible to win the Super Bowl with a pure pocket quarterback but it’s pretty clear with the defensive lines and creativity in pass rush plans that there are going to be moments where there has to be a play made by the QB. Even great QBs who aren’t dynamic runners like Mahomes, Burrow, Herbert or Purdy can escape and create a first down when there’s nothing there. Without that element you live and die on whether the third down protection and throws are there.
Jason… If you are the Wilfs, are you trying to extend KOC and/or KAM this offseason?
Usually those extensions will be handed out when they are about to enter the final year of the deal, which would be after 2024 (assuming reporting on the length of their original contracts is correct). It seems fine to let it play out but considering the way the franchise has functioned over the last two years and the way in which the roster plan is coming together and the players have bought into KOC, there is probably enough there to be comfortable with them going forward.
Aaron… With Jordan Hicks going on IR, can you explain the technical logistics of the green dot? Obviously only one person can have it at a time during the game, so do players have multiple helmets if they need to assume green dot responsibilities?
Unless I misunderstood, it sounds like there is only one helmet that has the headset, which seems pretty tricky to be handing off on a given play. My mom was an elementary school teacher and I can imagine her horror at players sharing the same hat. I’d guess we are pretty much going to see Pace Jr. out there for the entire time. I don’t know how else it would work.
This is what KOC said about it:
“It is a unique thing because that green dot, you don't want to be in a situation where you're taking one helmet off and handing it to another snap in and snap out. Ivan handled it in the preseason and that was one of the things that really jumped out at us, how well he handled that, leading those groups and he's had some work at it throughout the season kind of in spot duty. So, got to get him ready to go, and I know Flo [Brian Flores] and his group will do a good job with that.”
Neil… Admittedly, this was something I read in a fantasy football piece, but I'd be interested in your thoughts nonetheless. The opinion is that Josh Dobbs previously started well with Tennessee and Arizona, and then tapered off very quickly. So a similar dropoff is to be expected with the Vikings. Moreover, someone like Sam Howell is a far better QB. Dobbs is an incredible story, but is he truly someone who can lead this team in '24 and beyond, or will we end up viewing him as Case Keenum II?
The magical thing about sports is how impossible they are to predict. If I recall, there was a report that the Eagles were trying to trade for Russell Wilson before the 2022 season. They miss out on him and instead end up in the Super Bowl with Jalen Hurts. How about the 49ers? They spend all those draft picks on Trey Lance and now look like a Super Bowl contender with Mr. Irrelevant. Before the 2022 draft, analysts were telling the Detroit Lions to pick Malik Willis because Goff wasn’t good enough to take them anywhere and now the Lions are 7-2 and Goff is top five in PFF grade. Everyone thought the Texans blew it by winning on the last day of the year and missing out on Bryce Young. Geno Smith was a punchline for years, now a good QB in Seattle.
And you can go through any point in history and do this same exercise. Did you know Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick? I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s coming next with Dobbs. There’s some real talent there and this is one heck of a supporting cast, including the coach. Who knows. Maybe it’s a fun little run, maybe it’s QB1 for years to come. I could see it going either way.
Stephanie… Talk me into renaming Josh Dobbs, Lamar Vick (Michael Jackson?)
It’s pretty darn impressive that Dobbs has less than one full season’s worth of career snaps and 76 carries for 443 yards on the ground. Nobody reaches the level of Lamar, who had 1,200+ yards rushing in 2019 or Vick’s 8.4 yards per carry in 2006 but Dobbs causes legitimate problems for the defense with his running. You saw that when the Saints started putting a spy on him last week.
IceColdNorth… Two fill in the blank statements for your consideration: (a) Josh Dobbs' most likely career arc is like [insert the name of an NFL QB]; but, given his tools, (b) Josh Dobbs' "ceiling" could be as high as [insert the name of an NFL QB].
His most likely career arc is Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jon Kitna. A dude who can get hot and even lead you to a good amount of wins if the situation is right but doesn’t quite have enough to be a franchise QB. I like the Jake Delhomme or Matt Hasselbeck ceiling (obviously with more rushing talent). The passing is never going to look as pretty as Joe Burrow but the guy has some guts and is willing to take some chances to make plays. The thing is, the gap between a Jon Kitna and Matt Hasselbeck is probably all about circumstances. Doesn’t get much better for a supporting cast than right here.
Ben… How much heat is McDermott feeling right now?? I don’t think the Bills offense is as bad as people think it is
I’m guessing the reason they fired Ken Dorsey is that the only reason the offense isn’t bad is because Josh Allen is really good at football and he can survive by making crazy throws. That’s not really a sustainable strategy though and we’ve seen it wildly fluctuate on a weekly basis between great and terrible. Personally, I think having Gabe Davis as WR2 and continually drafting tight ends is the problem. When Allen was at his absolute best they had Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley, two dudes who were really good at getting separation. It’s very clear McDermott is feeling the heat though. It reminds me a lot of Zimmer in Minnesota. Once you have that huge playoff meltdown as they did with 13 seconds, the pressure ramps up and every loss is the end of days. Living in panic mode every year trying to chase that loss to the Chiefs is a very tough world to live in.
Scott… The Vikings get no respect. In spite of a better record and better overall roster, they open as 2.5 underdogs. WTF?!
Vegas does not do respect or disrespect. That’s not how gambling works. That’s how silly talk shows where hosts intentionally take opposite sides to yell at each other work, not the sharpest bettors who are setting the lines. It’s not hard to figure out why the Vikings are underdogs here. They have been on a crazy hot run with and they’re going on the road to face a pretty strong team with a quarterback who has outperformed his normal standard of play. Bettors are thinking there has to be a pothole here eventually for a team that’s won five in a row. Also, being a 2.5 point underdog isn’t much. Considering it’s a road game, that’s almost calling it even.
Ben… Do the Vikings have some 2017 vibes?? Defense isn’t as good but can the offense make up the difference when Jefferson returns??
Yes but I’m not there yet. There have been other seasons where they started off slow and looked like they were going to roll into the playoffs and then hit the skids. The thing about the Dobbs situation is that it widens the possibilities in terms of outcomes. With Cousins we had a pretty good sense of where the bus was headed but Dobbs could either stay hot and make the Vikings dangerous or he could start turning the ball over and losing games. They need to get through the easier part of the schedule here and roll into the final few weeks looking like a contender to start having that conversation.
Ford42-P… NFL.com pisted a list of possible head coaching candidates for next season. It is pretty wild, cause some of the teams of those coordinators are having a horrible season. BF is nowhere to be found on that list as far as I could see, is the NFL ghosting him cause he sued them?
I don’t want to speak for the folks at NFL media but I’m sure that Flores’ lawsuit plays into that list. Otherwise he would be a prime candidate. It’s very possible that he ended any chance to ever be a head coach again by speaking out, which is horrible and unsurprising considering their track record.
Christian… Thing I have gleamed from the last 2 games is the Vikings don't NEED Kirk Cousins to have a successful offense. Why wouldn't it an offseason competition Between High Draft Pick X (Fingers Crossed Jaydin Daniels), Dobbs, Hall and Mullens make sense?
It is still only two games but I tend to see it the same way. Cousins was exceptionally good at handling all that KOC could put on his plate and he’s a tremendously accurate QB, which matters. But there’s other factors at play here, including the age, price tag and track record of not having quite enough juice to get them to an elite offense. As of this moment it makes more sense to go with Dobbs, Hall and Draft Pick X. That’s if Dobbs takes them to the playoffs. If it all comes apart, well, then we’ll have to talk about other options.
Friends, check out a bonus YouTube video done with football coach Bobby Peters looking at four plays that speak to Dobbs’ fit with Kevin O’Connell:
John… What is up with cine and Davenport?
Nothing is up with Cine. On a defense that finds a way to play everyone, it’s very telling that he can’t get on the field. Pretty clear that there’s serious issues there. Marcus Davenport had surgery for a high ankle sprain and there’s a chance he will return this season.
Allen in Delaware… What do you think about franchise tagging Dobbs if he continues to do well, while we draft or evaluate him as the long term answer?
That’s a very reasonable way to go about it but the problem is that the tag number last year was $32 million. If they move on from Cousins and take all of that $28 million dead cap hit and pay Dobbs $32+ then you’re looking at $50 million for the QB position. If they really like how it looks, they might rather sign him to a two or three year deal that has a lower cap hit in the first year and opportunity to move on after that. If you look at Geno Smith, his cap hit is $10 million this year and then jumps to $31 million in 2024 and $33 million in 2025 and Seattle can get out for very reasonable dead cap hits in ‘24 and ‘25. That should be the model if he’s going to be the guy.
Jeff... So far, it seems as though Dobbs hangs in the pocket as long as he can. He will run when out of options - and even then keeps his eyes downfield and looks to throw it & has good accuracy throwing on the run. All of this would also describe Russell Wilson circa 2012-2020. My question is: with the right weapons & coaching around him (as Russell had) could you envision Dobbs rising to that level?
That’s way too far. In Wilson’s prime he was a top five quarterback. Wilson made the Pro Bowl nine times and has the fourth highest passer rating of all time. We’re talking about a borderline Hall of Famer.
I get what you are saying though. In a lot of instances we have seen quarterbacks with the right systems and weapons outperform what we would have thought based on draft status or previous performance and that’s possible with Dobbs. He just doesn’t have anywhere near the decision making or accuracy or arm strength of peak Wilson.
I have a more recent comparison that nobody’s going to like at first but hang with me. The 2022 version of Daniel Jones, only with better receivers. He was a serviceable passer and got more out of the offense than expected because he ran for 708 yards and 57 first downs. If Dobbs plays that way and has Jefferson/Addison/Hockenson, it could be a pretty darn good offense.
Bradley P… Is there an in house candidate to take over for Flores?
People have been high on Daronte Jones, the defensive backs coach, for a long time. He’s done a good job with these young corners/safeties this year.
ThePurplePlague… Whenever people talk about the coaching of this team, it is always KOC and B-Flo. What does Wes Phillips actually do? How much of the creativity and ownership of the offense is KOC and how much is Wes?
They have never let me in the meetings to be completely sure of the dynamics but I would assume he’s integral in putting together the gameplan each week and then implementing it during practice. They spend every Tuesday as a staff putting together the gameplan and I’d imagine KOC has final say on everything but everyone plays a role including the QB coach, OL coach, WR coach etc. Both KOC and Wes came from the McVay system and Washington before that so I’d guess that they are very much on the same page with how the system works and the different ways that it can morph based on what they are trying to accomplish.
Ron… Is this team the best team Josh Dobbs has been a part of
He was on the 2017 Steelers that went 13-3 and the 12-4 Steelers in 2020 but he didn’t play. Since he’s only played for last year’s Titans, who were mediocre, and the Cardinals, it’s a pretty easy yes that this is his best situation by a country mile.
Skol Viking 44… Assuming there’s no more injuries to key players, how would you pie chart these outcomes: 1) both sides of the ball keep rolling, making the Vikings a legit NFC playoff threat; 2) Dobbs and / or the defense level-off but the team does enough to stay in the hunt; 3) there’s a steep regression and the Vikings spiral out of playoff contention.
I’ll go with 60% that they will level off a bit but stay very much in the hunt, 20% that they are a legit playoff threat and 20% that the spiral out of contention. I know that everything feels like it’s rolling right now but the extremes are simply less likely than the middle outcome. If I had to put my entire bank account on what’s going to happen, I’d say they have a few games where we are like… what the heck was that?…and a few more games like what happened against the Saints and they end up with either nine or 10 wins. That would be a great result still but I have a tough time seeing them get to the playoffs and we’re talking about them being on the same plane as teams like Philly/SF/Dallas. I also have a tough time seeing a total collapse. To quote Rick Spielman, I’m not a soothsayer, so we’ll see what happens.
@jeffintokyo1 I have a mailbag question. Why is there so much Kwesi hate? While we can argue a bit about the trade down from the 12 spot in the 2022 draft he seems to be moving with purpose and a fair amount of shrewdness overall and his is constrained by the Wilf on the issue of tanking.
When someone asks me about things that other people are saying, I find it hard to answer because I don’t know who we’re talking about. Randoms on the internet? I haven’t seen anyone credible criticizing Kwesi’s approach, even when they did things that were unorthodox after winning 13 games i.e. not extending Cousins and letting veterans walk. He’s very much stuck to the plan that they laid out when he got here and it’s starting to bear fruit in the form of a lot of foundational players for the future stepping up and flexibility at the QB position to have an option of moving on from Cousins if need be. Even when we talk about being constrained by the Wilfs, this may ultimately have been the right way to go because the team was always going to be too good to tank (even as much as I have been Tank Commander over the years). The overall results of the front office’s approach have them in prime position to be contending for years to come if the QB situation works out. Heck, even the 2022 draft class is looking way better with Evans becoming a legit starter and Ingram showing improvement this year.
If I had to guess, I’d say that some folks decided the day he was hired that they didn’t like the hire and couldn’t wait to point out when things went wrong. But especially considering the home run last two trade deadlines and 2023 draft/UDFA, the criticisms now don’t make any sense. We’ll see if that changes in the future. We are getting new information all the time and it’s OK to shift opinions when that happens.
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