It comes as no surprise that most of the anger over the Vikings 0-3 start falls squarely at the feet of quarterback Christian Ponder. It’s always easy to fault the QB when times get hard and in Ponder’s case, he makes it really easy. Right now he is 12-17 in 29 career starts.
Many Viking fans say he is not the answer our problem, he’s not even the backup answer. Remember Joe Webb? The now wide receiver deserves credit for the 2011 win in Washington— but he seemed to lack the accuracy and confidence that the Vikings needed to be the in the quarterback position long term.
But before we get too carried away with the “fire Ponder” band wagon we have to remember one thing: While just blaming Ponder is easy and right, we are missing the fact that this team has widespread problems this season. These problems began in the offseason with decisions made by the general managers and make their way to the coaching staff. And because of that this team has taken a momentous step backwards and that is what you see in every single play on the field in the past three games.
What’s most difficult is attempting to start placing the blame on someone for what has gone wrong. There has been no element of this franchise that has performed up to any level of high or low expectations.
But we lost at Detroit and Chicago then we lost in the most humiliating fashion to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, forget what high hopes everyone had in the preseason for the Vikings because they appear to be far closer to the 3-13 team of 2011 than the team that came back swinging with a 10-6 record then went to the playoffs a season ago.
Remember when we let go of Antoine Winfield because of salary cap issues? Of Course you do. The Vikings wanted to re-sign Winfield at a cheaper price and they would have offered him more guaranteed money than the Seattle Seahawks. But Winfield was offended and upset so he left for the Seahawks then retired after he knew he wasn’t going to make their roster.
If the Vikings were going to stay competitive, letting Winfield go and just assuming he would come back was a stupid move. It doesn’t take a genius to know the Vikings’ secondary has issues, even though we added first-round cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and are now paying the price for going with Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and Rhodes at such key spots.
Cook has not played in all 16 regular-season games in his first three NFL seasons and a groin injury on Sunday benched him in the first quarter. And it is looking like he won’t be able to play against the Steelers this Sunday.
This probably means that the starting corners will be Marcus Sherels and Robinson. Sherels can contribute on special teams and played pretty well against the Browns, but asking him to the starter for the game in the base defense is asking way too much.
But Frazier has far more to worry about than who will start in the secondary.
This brings me to Frazier. Remember in 2010 when he did a great job in the management position because they fired Brad Childress that November? Of course you do. What became clear fast with his first full year as head coach was that some of his in-game decision making was questionable. But Frazier was given the benefit of the doubt because it was his first year. And those mistakes made in 2011 were cleaned up last season. But Frazier and the rest of the coaching staff are struggling in the first three games this season.
Coordinator Alan Williams, who was praised for the job he did in his first season, now has a defense that isn’t getting the four-man rush it needs from its veteran line and is near the bottom of the NFL in total defense (29th) and scoring defense (30th). Remember the last minute in the 4th quarter of the Bears and Browns game? Yes the defense was not ready for those plays.
And that bring means to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Every week his play-calling and use of personnel leave many scratching their heads. Many Vikings fans have also felt that hiring Musgrave at all was a mistake and are always calling for his head.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer isn’t doing any better either. Chicago Bears Devin Hester averaged nearly 50 yards on five kickoff returns in Week 2. That brings us to last Sunday, the Browns got a first down on a fake punt, leading to a field goal, and a touchdown on a fake field goal. What also is baffling is that no one noticed that Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron wide open.
This unfortunately leads me right back to Frazier. See the full circle I did here.
Why did no one see Cameron and call a time out? Why did nobody call a time out in Chicago when Cook was waving his arms trying to get help in coverage before Jay Cutler threw the winning touchdown? And my favorite personal— why did Frazier attempt to challenge a muffed punt on Sunday? A call that can’t be challenged.
That decision got the Vikings a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the referee. While that was the wrong call the punishment should have been to charge the Vikings with a timeout. But if Frazier doesn’t throw the red flag, it’s not an issue.
If the Vikings problems were as simple as simple as putting in Matt Cassel and that would magically fix everything that would be great. But the teams problems are rooted deep in problems that have to deal with the powers that be. Not just the Ponder.
I know that many of you are going to disagree and tell me I’m all kinds of wrong, and that’s fine. But it really isn’t just Ponder. He is definitely a huge part of the problem for the Vikings. But if we want to get to the root of this teams problems, it starts with the powers that be.