Friday mailbag: Have we reached the end of the Vikings' 2021 season?
Vikings head to Green Bay and Vikings fans have questions about what comes next
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By Matthew Coller
Hey everyone, Happy New Year! I want to say that I’m blown away by the great and interesting questions that you guys come up with every week. It makes every Thursday my favorite day to write. So off we go…
@GA_SKOL Can you consider yourself a Vikings fan if you’re rooting for GB to win on Sunday, just to ensure Zimmer gets fired? I say no
That is a difficult question. When I worked in Buffalo, the hockey team was tanking and the fans argued for years about whether it was OK to root for the team to lose in order to get higher draft picks. Everyone looks at that question differently. From a Purple Insider perspective, we always look at things from the lens of the team winning the Super Bowl. If you feel like a loss this Sunday would have a domino effect that results in better chance to win the Super Bowl next year and beyond, I lean toward it being fine to say that you’re rooting for one step back to take two steps forward. Fundamentally, I don’t believe in saying one type of fan is better than the other when everyone wants them to raise a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the day. Considering it’s the Packers though…I can completely understand why most people would say they can never root for the Packers.
@DarrickMoren Do you wait on Rodgers decision before moving on/extending Kirk? Cousins is easily the best QB in division if he leaves...
Two things: 1) You can’t make decisions based on any other team. The Vikings have to build the best roster the Vikings can to win the Super Bowl. 2) The Packers haven’t really been the problem for the Vikings in the Cousins era, right? The Vikings have been the Vikings’ problem in the Cousins era. They’ve done fine against the Packers but the overall product hasn’t been good enough to compete with them for the division. It’s hard to see that changing even if Rodgers was a Denver Bronco. And the minute you think Rodgers is gone and the division is wide open, you might see the Bears or Lions emerge or the Packers find another winning QB. If the best option (which is likely) is to trade Cousins and draft a QB, do that. Thinking that Rodgers being gone means an easy NFC North title seems like some really wishful thinking considering the amount of work that needs to be done on the roster to be a Super Bowl contender.
@timmurp39091593 Four 3rd round picks, Davis, Suratt, Jones, and Mond. Essentially ZERO production. How big of a failure? Why not package those picks for a high- 2nd rounder that could have produced?
Well, if you remember from last year’s draft, the analysts said that it was basically a two round draft because all the players who were expected to be later picks were going to stay in college. I’m not sure teams were taking third rounders to move up into the early second. Teams look at second rounders as starters. On draft night, the experts seemed to like what the Vikings did in the third round. That’s the draft for you. The thing to be annoyed about is trading their second-round pick for Yannick Ngakoue when he wasn’t going to be part of the long term. They could have used him this year, huh. Oh, and I should mention that you never draft for the next year. We thought KJ Osborn was a big flop and now he’s a good player. Anyone past the second round is going to need time.
@BIG_dannn Alright season miss out the playoffs..zimmer and Rick are fired.. i’m sure you’ll dig deeper into this when the time comes but off the top your head who would be the worst hire for the Vikings HC in you’re opinion? You can give like top three if that makes it easier
Number one on my list is Byron Leftwich. Bruce Arians could have picked anybody to work with Tom Brady and he went with Leftwich. Brady hasn’t just been good, he’s been marvelous the last two years and the Bucs have given him the freedom to do what works best for him, which would be a change of tone here. He’s an NFL guy who has worked his way up and considered high, high character. Reminds me of Frank Reich. The worst hire is any college coach. I understand they look really flashy but we have seen way too many times that NFL schemes are so much different. Look at the way Kansas City adapted this year to the way opposing defenses played Mahomes early in the season. That’s what your looking for, not Kliff Kingsbury’s offense being figured out halfway through the season every year.
@benjackson0812 Let’s say the Vikings hire the right GM and HC and they Draft a QB in the upcoming draft, how quickly can they become NFC contenders with the current roster??
I’d say 2023. When the Bills moved on from Rex Ryan and Tyrod Taylor, they were in the playoffs with a lead late in the fourth quarter two years later. Sometimes I hear from fans that they don’t want to be bad for five years. That just doesn’t happen if you hit on the right QB and give him weapons (which the Vikings already have in place). Carson Wentz’s team was in the Super Bowl one year after he was drafted. Jared Goff had the No. 1 offense in his second year. Joe Burrow’s team is legit in his second season. Arizona took a huge jump with Murray. Heck, suddenly Miami is in the playoffs with Tua. Philly is in the playoffs with Jalen Hurts. The Chargers are good in Herbert’s second year. Lamar Jackson won MVP in his second season. The all-time example is Mahomes. (Side note: Go look up the draft opinions on the QB class that produced DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Analysts said it was a bad year for drafting a QB).
@basilray With most fans/pundits believing Zimmer is done at the end of the season, if he sticks around for next year, what's his path to success next year look like?
It does seem like we’ve written a slightly premature obit, doesn’t it? If they were to move on from Cousins and create a ton of cap space, they could sign difference-making free agents rather than gap fillers. That’s Part 1. The other part would be getting a veteran transition QB while they develop whichever rookie they pick. Then they have to have some of these recent draft picks become legit players. Whether it’s Darrisaw taking a big step or Chazz Surratt becoming a good starting linebacker or Ihmir Smith-Marsette emerging as a weapon. There have been so few hits in recent years that it leaves tons of gaps to fill and very little depth. Without some young players becoming quality starters, it’s hard to tape it all together.
@NicholasMMiller You always have a lot of insightful guests on your show, so before we hear more about options for the Vikings, can you and @SamEkstrom give us who would be your choices for GM/HC/Rookie QB if those spots were to open up? Want to track your thoughts through the process.
The GM part is difficult. It’s hard to look at executive names and have any idea who’s going to have the right vision. I’ll stick with the Leftwich thing for HC and whichever QB is available for them to pick with their own draft pick. Trading up with lots of needs isn’t wise. There are other interesting head coach candidates though. Someone mentioned Nate Hackett from Green Bay. I covered him in Buffalo. He’s a bright and enthusiastic guy. Kellen Moore is similar to Leftwich in the backup QB-to-OC path. I don’t think we should entirely count out defensive-minded coaches like Matt Eberflus and Patrick Graham.
@jdbondy Happy belated holiday to you and the family! Loved the airport guy from your last pod with @Sirles71_HSKR! Question, say we trade Cousins and go the route of journeyman QB…from the 90’s who are the top 3 on your wishlist?
Happy Holidays to you too! This is perfectly on brand. I’ll take Brad Johnson, Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie. It was always hard to keep Brad healthy but he went 28-18 as a starter for the Vikings and was downright great playing with Washington in ‘99. Washington had the No. 2 offense in the NFL with Brad. It seems like he was only considered a game manager but he could be more than that. Vinny has the funniest career. He was so bad with Tampa Bay and showed some signs with Cleveland before having a great stretch with the Jets. At ages 35-38, Vinny went 31-15 and led the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks two years in a row. Flutie is an all-time journeyman story. From the CFL to the bench in Buffalo to leading the Bills to the playoffs. Yes, my parents had his cereal Flutie Flakes in the house when I was 13. Flutie is one of the all-time most entertaining quarterbacks to watch play.
@HerbP20 Is the QB draft class 2023 > QB draft class 2022?
I have no idea. What I know is that I’ve covered tons of drafts where all the experts say there isn’t great quarterback prospects and then I see the same young QBs thriving in the NFL two years later. The Wentz/Goff draft was supposed to be bad and both of their teams won quickly. The Mahomes/Watson draft was criticized a lot. Nobody ever remembers headlines like this…
@MJPeas Did Kirk or any other team leaders buy presents for other members of the team? Maybe I missed the story but seems like a leadership
I haven’t heard about him buying gifts for everybody but sometimes those things aren’t publicized. We already kinda know how that whole leadership thing has been going, so whether he bought presents or not… I’m not sure it would offer any new information on that front.
@SKOL_doctor Can you rank the likely available HC jobs available (Vikings, raiders, bears, jags, Seattle? etc.) and give your top 3 HC candidates?
Sure. I’d go Bears, Vikings, Jags, Raiders, Seahawks. If I’m a potential HC, I’m very interested in inheriting Fields with a year under his belt. The Vikings’ ownership would be very attractive along with Justin Jefferson. The Jags are concerning because of their ownership. Seattle and Vegas are in NFL no man’s land. Who wants to take over the Seahawks only to see them trade your HOF QB? Who wants to try to solve the Carr conundrum?
@orangesuds Hypothetical question for you… If the pandemic-related media restrictions been in place during the 2017 season, what would have been different about your book?
It would have been much tougher to write. I’m not sure I could have written it. So many of the anecdotes came from standing around talking with guys like Terence Newman, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Tom Johnson, Adam Thielen etc. It’s so much more difficult to connect with players on a personal level when it’s press conferences alone. Vikings PR has done a tremendous job with getting reporters 1-on-1 interviews when we need them but there’s something about an organic conversation popping up by wandering up to someone’s locker and asking them a question. Newman was eating lunch after a Friday practice when I walked up and asked him how he knows if a receiver is a good route runner. He gave me a clinic. I can’t wait until stuff like that is back.
@Scott_Roberts25 If the Zimm fired Rick moved to non gm role that was floated happens do you think Rick would have any say still or new GM would have full autonomy? Beyond the roster there are a lot of football ops hires beyond the coaches. Loyalty is common in the league but need objective eyes.
I would assume if Spielman is moved to a President of Football Operations type of role, that would mean the GM would take over the decision making process on free agents, picks and the day-to-day stuff. Here’s how the Chargers describe their President of Football Ops: “He oversees all of the team's football operations, including player personnel, coaching, player finance and the salary cap, medical, equipment, video, player engagement and security. He also represents the team at League and Management Council meetings.”
That sounds like a person in charge of how things work, not the decisions that get made. But I’m sure every situation is different.
@RobDN1 I really thought the defensive line and run defense would be a strength this year-besides the obvious injury to Hunter (and Pierce) what went wrong?
A couple years ago, PFF did a study that showed that coverage was the most important thing to a defense being great. That would make sense for why the Vikings have sacked the heck out of quarterbacks but still given up a ton of points. They can’t cover anyone because their corners are just bad. Alexander and Breeland went bust, Peterson has been just OK, Dantzler has allowed catches against him in big spots. If the Vikings hit on Hughes/Gladney, we’d be talking about a way better defense.
@CooperGoff2_0 Any good book recommendations for Vikings players and/or fans to read with all of the spare time during the postseason?
You could always read my book, Making of a Miracle. If the pain is too much to remember 2017, Doug Farrar’s book The Genius of Desperation is terrific. Chris B. Brown’s The Art of Smart Football. I really enjoyed Bruce Arians’ memoir. Bruce Feldman’s The QB.
@CarlisleKirby Why do the Vikings regularly refuse to play their draft picks? Year after year?
I get what you’re saying but my question is: Who were they supposed to be playing that they didn’t play? I do not buy the idea that Wyatt Davis is being victimized here. If you aren’t in shape by the end of camp, there’s no working your way into football shape during the season. I see Christian Darrisaw playing. Justin Jefferson played last year. Jeff Gladney played. Garrett Bradbury started Day 1. So did Pat Elflein. As soon as KJ Osborn was ready, he played. One thing you can say about this team is that they rarely whiff on assessments of young players. I can’t remember anybody getting cut or getting little playing time and then lighting it up in their next stop. Maybe Jayron Kearse but that was more of a personality issue, it seemed.
@WarleyOwl Listened to your podcast with Sirles today, which was great, and wondered if the idea of trading Cousins, bringing back Teddy and then drafting QBs is a bit naive? Nice story of course, but any realistic chance?
Bringing back Bridgewater would feel like them acknowledging that they’re going to need another year after drafting a QB and knowing that it would be a wildly popular move. They’re probably an 8-win team with him. But it’s not a bad thing at all to have a bridge quarterback. Unless someone walks into a perfect situation, sitting a rookie for a year is fine. I’ve heard analysts say that it’s wasting a year of their rookie contract but that developmental year can be just as valuable to the future. Is there a realistic chance of it happening with Teddy and a rookie? I’d say yes.
@alexjjlarsen If the Vikes are looking at a new GM and HC, which veteran players do you think get cut/traded as part of the rebuild?
It feels like Anthony Barr’s last year here. New management might not see it as a good idea to sign Danielle Hunter long term. You could see things coming to light with Dalvin Cook that would make the team want to move on (I’m not implying I know anything is coming by saying this, it’s just possible), Patrick Peterson could sign elsewhere, maybe Adam Thielen asks to be traded to a Super Bowl contender. It’s hard to see anyone trading for Harrison Smith with his contract but that’s plausible and not a bad idea if there’s a defensive rebuild.
@bobh332 We gave up on Cordarrelle Patterson. Would a more offensive minded staff have kept him on the squad?
Yes. Mike Zimmer said in 2018 that he regretted not using Patterson in a better way. In 2013 they got him the ball and then in 2016 Pat Shurmur put in some bubble screens and reverses but they left a lot on the table. The guy is legitimately one of the most unstoppable players with the ball in his hands in the NFL. I will say that it’s possible he grew along the way to be where he is now, but it feels like the Vikings couldn’t accept that he wasn’t a traditional receiver and they wanted things done their way or no way. It cost them and it’s a smoking gun for anybody who wants a new staff.
@vikingsjazzfan The Jags requested interviews with both Tampa coordinators. Is this going to be similar to every New England coordinator to get a head coaching job?
Could be. I think Leftwich is really deserving. I don’t mean to be banging his drum here because we never know for sure but he’s taken the long road. He isn’t a guy who showed up and had one good year with Brady and got his name in the mix. Todd Bowles is probably more of a defensive coordinator than head coach but then again, he was coaching the Jets. If you see random coaches like the LBs coach or special teams coach getting head coach gigs, that’s where it’s gone full New England.
@VikingAfterDark If the Wilfs move on from Zimmer how important of a question in the coaching interviews is “How are you going to develop Kellen Mond”? Because if he actually can be developed it saves an incredible amount of draft picks and cap to turn a player already on the team into good.
It’s not important at all. Kellen Mond isn’t part of the conversation for the future quarterback of the Vikings. If he has a career as a backup, that’s a big win for him. His ceiling is probably Taylor Heinicke.
@kevingustafson Is Rick coming back in your opinion? Also how much scouting does a gm normally do or are they mainly depending on the scouting department?
The report from Jeremy Fowler that he could be bumped up to Prez of Football Ops makes so much sense. He’s been around football for a really long time and has headed up a good overall front office. But they need some new eyes on the roster. A GM like Spielman who was a scout by trade does a ton of scouting himself. Rick travels to a lot of games. Some of them don’t do any at all and lean entirely on the scouts. It’s different with every team.
@varichak Nobody will answer my question. Why doesn’t Zimmer at least start Davis to see what he can do? Thanks, Terry V Hibbing Mn
I totally understand why people would want to see Davis over Dakota Dozier. Here’s the thing: Let’s just see what Willie Beavers can do. Let’s just see what TJ Clemmings can do. Let’s just see what Dru Samia can do. It can be worse than what we’ve seen and likely would be. If Davis can’t beat out Dozier, there is a reason for that. They had Dozier on the practice squad, so don’t tell me that they have some undying love for him. In order to play, the coaches have to trust that the player is going to know the offense and the techniques and be in shape to play the entire game. Clearly they do not think that about Davis (if he doesn’t start this week).
@NsportsfanM Double down on the Davis mystery in camp they didn’t give him many reps at guard remember he was playing center? Then he disappeared and we heard it was his weight and then we heard nothing. So many rookies are playing interior o line this is a frustrating failure
He played center for one day at training camp because the No. 3 center was hurt. It didn’t appear to be a legitimate position change. You’ve heard nothing because every time we’ve asked, they’ve just said, “he’s developing.” That’s code for: We are not playing him because he isn’t ready. I can’t call it a failure yet because KJ Osborn didn’t play a single snap on offense in 2020 and now he’s good. It’s definitely not a good sign. I’ll say it over and over: Do not fix immediate issues with third-round draft picks.
@vikingfan_1964 Who was really at fault for the Vikings poor line play year after year? RS for poor draft picks it the coaching unable to develop the lineman?
Remember the Magic Johnson episode of South Park? It’s money. The Vikings are spending the least amount of money on their offensive line in the NFL. Yes, some because of rookie contracts but they didn’t spend the cap space on proven guards and got what they paid for. Another thing I wonder about is whether there’s something happening over the last four years with Cousins and protections. Aaron Rodgers played with an entire backup offensive line and didn’t have as many problems as Cousins with two or three good starters. Losing the O-line coach probably wasn’t easy either. But usually it’s just about the talent. When you throw a project tackle in at guard, the chances of that working are pretty low.
@alrmpls Have we seen the last of Adam Thielen in a Vikings jersey?
I wouldn’t count that out. If the Vikings change coaches and QBs and have the feel of a team that might need a transition year to be ready to really compete. If he said, “thanks for the memories, please trade me to Kansas City,” I think they might do that. Mahomes and Thielen would be something.
@SKOL_doctor If the Vikings trade cousins, does it make more sense to try and acquire a 2023 1st round pick when more qb prospects would be available
Definitely not. You want 2023 to match up with your rookie QB being ready to compete and having Justin Jefferson on his rookie contract so you can spend oodles of money elsewhere. The next QB draft class having all the answers is usually a myth.