Football fans already know the subject of this particular article: the Minnesota Vikings.
Anyone exposed to a newspaper sports section, ESPN, or Fox Sports over the past few weeks has probably heard every possible way to work a nautical reference into a sportscast. It’s gotten so bad that even NBA articles in Sports Illustrated reference the Vikings’ notorious naval adventures. I’m going to sail past any easy digs at the Purple and Gold’s off-field misadventures (after that one, of course) and analyze the team itself.
Mike Tice - As much as I was willing to give Tice the benefit of the doubt years ago, it is now time for him to go. Even if he is the second coming of Parcells, Belicheck, or Walsh, his image in Minnesota is forever tainted. He will forever have problems getting and retaining respect amongst Minnesota fans.
Offensive Line - The offensive line is easily the worst part of the team. It should be no surprise that it is such awful shape. The past few years Culpepper has scrambled for his life time and time again. It was only his talent that kept opposing defenses from burying him under the Dome’s turf. With the line’s best player (Birk) sidelined, the weakness of the line has been truly exposed this year. The right tackle, Rosenthal, has been exposed (again) this year as an awful signing. He isn’t any better than any old guy we could have drafted in the past few years but we’re paying him significantly more than we would a rookie. The guards, for all their mobility, might as well be concrete pylons placed on either side of the center. In addition, they aren’t particularly good just going straight ahead, either. The left tackle, McKinnie is a bust. The line on him is that he’s got the talent; my line is that he refuses to show it consistently. We can’t keep paying a guy who plays ten plays a game and just happens to be on-field in uniform for the rest. The center position is another disaster. Withrow was a failure; Fowler isn’t much better.
Wide Receiver - Burleson is decent, but I haven’t anything from him that makes me think he’s going to be great. He might be good, but he’ll never scare defenses like Moss did. Marcus Robinson was a stiff when the team signed him two years ago. He hasn’t gotten any better in the intervening time. Koren Robinson hasn’t been on the field enough yet to see his potential as a receiver. Williamson hasn’t shown much beyond one or two catches. Wiggins runs like he’s got an angry badger in his pants, but somehow he’s nearly always open. Kleinsasser is a punishing blocker, but isn’t much of a receiving threat.
Running Back - Mewelde Moore is the team’s best running back at this point. Though he’s not fast, he’s shifty and difficult to tackle. Moe Williams is the clear number two back. Michael Bennett is a stiff. He can’t move laterally and his speed is worthless since he can’t get out into the open field.
Defensive Line - One of the few areas the team improved over last year. Pat Williams has been a huge improvement over the twin do-nothings the team trotted out the last few years. Kevin Williams would be dominant if he saw fewer double teams. Even so, he is still often the team’s best lineman. Erasmus James hasn’t seen the field enough for us to see if he’s any good. (Obligatory tangent: James is routinely, and unfairly, blamed for causing Michael Vick’s knee injury during the Atlanta game. If you watched the replay, you’d see that Vick’s knee was actually injured when he went to plant his foot several second prior to James’ hit. In the replay you’ll see him plant his right foot, and though he takes several “steps” afterwards, they are really just hops on his left foot. He never puts his weight on his right leg after that plant. It is only after those hop-steps on his left foot that Vick gets hit by James.)
Linebackers - Stiffs, sloth-like, mentally suspect, or all of the above.
Safeties - If Darren Sharper was any good wouldn’t it make sense that Green Bay would have wanted him back? Chavous is serviceable, but I doubt that offensive coaches stay up the night before the game planning for him. He’s not a devastating hitter, nor is he particularly fast.
Cornerbacks - Smoot is certainly an improvement over the Cast of Thousands that have broken fans’ hearts over the past few years. Of course, he’s also now forever linked to the Love Boat fiasco. Winfield was good last year, and he’s been good enough this year that offenses generally haven’t thrown too much his way. Ralph Brown? He must have some really great blackmail material on someone in the Vikings front office.
Kickers - Sign Chris Kluwe to a long-term deal. Now. I’m still not sold on Edinger. Yeah, he won the game last week, but he also has a history of missing field goals. Again, if he was any good doesn’t it make sense that Chicago would have wanted him back? Retread kickers, with a few exceptions, don’t have a great history in the league.