Friday, December 30, 2005

Should Mike Tice make it past Monday?

"Should he stay or should he go?"Just as The Clash have asked before, Minnesota fans wonder the same thing. The Vikings' season ends after Sunday's game against the Chicago. With the playoffs out of reach, the game's outcome is secondary to speculation about coach Mike Tice's future. To begin, any evaluation of Tice should be done with the understanding that the Vikings have underachieved the last two years. Obviously the solution is not so cut and dry; there are several reasons for the team's dissapointment:

Red McCombs' stinginess handcuffed the team from acquiring key free agents, and hiring additional coaches.The team went through three defensive coordinators in four years, team distractions on and off field. Whether it was Randy Moss, Onterrio Smith or the boat scandal, there were many things out of Tice's control, (although his scalping controversy didn't help).

There were plenty of things in Tice's control too. Tice's own self-professed timeline for the Vikings. where he repeatedly claimed to have a 3-year plan to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl. The team has not won a division title and made the playoffs just once in four years. The last three seasons the team struggled down the stretch.

Forget about injuries-every team deals with that, forget about other things that should have went right and didn't, the fact is that the Vikings have become stale and a fresh start is needed. It's not all Tice's fault, but the Vikings have too much talent to go 8-8 every year. To me Tice has not proven enough to keep him around for another year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"The Terminator" needs a "save"

In a shocking turn of events, former Twins reliever and bearded-wonder Jeff Reardon was arrested for robbery over the weekend. From the story it sounds like Jeff has had a rough couple of years and this might have been the breaking point. It's hard not to look at that picture and laugh, but after knowing the details, it's difficult to look at this whole thing and try to find something real funny about any of it. Perhaps the one cool thing beyond the fact that Reardon will now get the help he needs, is the fact that Jeff is still rocking one of the sweetest beards in Twins history!

Friday, December 23, 2005

You can't make it up: The Weak in the Sports World

It was a typical week in the sports world with all sorts of wacky, wonderful and weird stories. Here's a slice.
-Chad Johnson promises his best end zone dance ever. He's cocky, flamboyant, and a primma donna, but he's original and creative and definitely not TO. This week he hints at using a reindeer prop and predicts an NFL suspension. He's just having fun and entertaining us all, therefore I will be watching.

-Johnny Damon is a bleeping traitor. That's the sentiment in Boston, but the fans need to get over it. He was a major part of a historic World Series winner and one of the most unique characters in baseball. At some point though, Red Sox fans will remember that he was signed as a free agent four years ago and not some homegrown legend that paid his dues at Pawtucket. Red Sox and Yankees fans both have a way of overreacting to their baseball teams. Oh and he cut his hair, scandalous stuff indeed!

-In other Hot Stove news: The Giants acquired 40 year old Steve Finley to add experience to their outfield. Their starting outfield will now have a combined age of 120 between Finley, Barry Bonds (41) and Moises Alou (39). I smell pulled hamstring...After signing with the Royals, Reggie Sanders said he was the missing piece of the puzzle. Considering Kansas City's other acquisitions include Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek, Paul Bako and Scott Elarton, the Royals are indeed a puzzle.

Matt Lawton is Pumped Up-The former Twin, Cub, Pirate, Indian and Yankee admitted he took a veterinary steroid last year. Of course the admission came after MLB announced he tested positive for steroids. He does get credit for being an adult and addressing his mistake, unlike somone else who we'll call Brafael Balmeiro.

-NBA on Christmas Day, and nobody cares. The NBC, ESPN and ABC are really trying to get someone, anyone, to watch the Lakers and Heat. Kobe scored 62 in three quarters this week on an effecient 29 shots. That means he will try to make up for his efficiency this weekend by putting up 62 shots to score 29 points. Shaq and Jerry Buss don't like each other, Phil Jackson against Generalissimo Riley, and you have an NBA game more trashy than thrilling. Let's see, there's NFL games, Christmas with the family, new movie releases, gnawing one's elbow or watching regular season NBA action. No thanks, please pass me another Christmas Cookie.

-For those of you concerned about your Christmas Card List. A feud between the coaches of England Soccer Clubs Chelsea and Arsenal reached a head when one refused an apology sent in a Christmas Card. Someone might be shocked by the level of immaturity and pettiness. Don King might say, "Only in America", but when it comes to sports, goofy things are a global concept.

Twins Acquire Blaylock

In a much anticipated move the Minnesota Twins have finally made a splash in the Hot Stove League. The trade will send outfielder Torii Hunter, and pitchers Scott Baker and Kyle Lohse to acquire the former All-Star Blaylock. "This is the missing piece for our club," said an obviously excited GM Terry Ryan, "He is a long range threat, excellent on defense and it gives us a playmaker."

The 6'0", 180 pound Blaylock was excited to continue his career in Minnesota. "I'm excited to continue my career in Minnesota, they have a lot of great players and I hope I can help the team in it's quest for a championship."

Update: The Twins, first believed to have acquired Rangers' slugger Hank Blalock, announced they have actually acquired former Atlanta Hawk and Pearljam favorite Mookie Blaylock.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oh Joy it's College Bowl Season!

Tuesday night kicked off the first of 28 college bowl games. Beyond Southern Miss and Arkansas St alums, there were four people in the country that cared. No one cares because 56 of 117 division one teams make a bowl. A bowl is supposed to be a reward for a good season; rewarding half of the eligible teams with a bowl is the equivalent of getting a D in school. The defense is always made that it's a reward for the kids and also grants an extra month of critical practice time. For a lesser football program like Akron or Tulsa this is truly a reward, but teams like 6-5 North Carolina St or 7-4 Michigan it's hard to believe they care that much. Why not give every D1 team permission to practice through December and trim the number of Bowls down to 12-15? Take the Minnesota Gophers for example. They have been to three of the last five Music City Bowls, it is certainly not a prestigous bowl or any great achievment to win 7 games every season. In a system with less bowls, the years that the Gophers have a great season and win 9 or 10 games would be much more impressive.
Instead of watching 28 games in two weeks, here's a cheat sheet of five intriguing games for different reasons. Obviously the Rose Bowl speaks for itself, and should be a better game than last year's Orange Bowl.
MPC Computers Bowl Dec 28 Boise St Broncos vs. Boston College Eagles
The Broncos have become a serious football school by beating up on WAC opponents. This year they beefed up their schedule for more of a challenge. They lost big at Georgia and barely lost to Oregon State. Now they face a pretty tough Boston College team in Boise on the Smurf Turf. The Eagles boast DE Mathius Kiwanuka, who is a (pick one cliche) tenacious, ferocious, relentless pass rusher. As the Broncos continue to look for National respect, they will now do so without coach Dan Hawkins, who took the Colorado job.
Alamo Bowl-Dec 28 Michigan Wolverines vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
It probably won't be an exciting game to watch, but one to keep an eye on. In a battle of struggling powerhouses, the loser of this game may be looking for a new coach. Considering the history of these two teams this matchup would normally be on New Year's. Both teams still have lots of talent but did not produce wins this year. Nebraska is still learning the forward pass, while Michigan continues to learn how to play hard and smart every week. Michigan does have a lot of offensive talent that will return next year, lead by RB Michael Hart and WR Steve Breaston, so they could again be overrated at the beginning of 2006.
Sun Bowl-Dec 30 Northwestern Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins
This game is worth watching if no other reason than UCLA RB Maurice Drew.  He is the closest thing to Reggie Bush in college football, running, receiving and returning he's a threat to score. Quick, who was the best QB in the Big Ten? Northwestern's Brett Basanez had the most passing yards, completions, and fewest int's. The Wildcats spread offense will put up points and they beat Wisconsin and Michigan St this year.
Peach Bowl-Dec 30 LSU Tigers vs. Miami Hurricanes
This is a potential title game for 2006. Without poorly timed November losses, both teams could have played in BCS games. Both teams have very good defenses with young talent on offense. 'Canes QB Kyle Wright is a freshman that improved throughout the season as he gained confidence in his receivers. The Tigers had a very good season despite the chaos around them. QB Jamarcus Russell is a good passer, who also can run when needed. WR Skyler Fulton is the main target when LSU needs a big play.
Fiesta Bowl-Jan 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Ohio St Buckeyes
This is a very big game for many reasons. The two midwest schools compete for many of the same recruits, both have large national fan bases, lots of stars on both teams and great traditions. Ohio State has an exciting defense with a boring offense, while the Irish are the opposite. With coach Charlie Weis being crowned a "genius", the Irish are expected to win. If the Buckeyes realize Ted Ginn is their best offensive player and get him the ball, they are the more talented team. The Irish will play well and fall short, but next year should be a preseason top 5.

Twins "nab" White

In a move that does absolutely nothing for me, the Twins signed journeyman free agent Rondell White. According to KFAN, who spoke to Twins GM Terry Ryan, this signing officially ends the club's pursuit of free agent sluggers Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, as White will become the everyday DH.

I'm sorry, but I can't look at this move and get excited about what he brings to our lineup in the DH spot. He's never hit 30 HRs (He's only hit more than 20 twice in 12 seasons), never had more than 82 RBI (his next highest season total is 67!!!), and he's had a hard time staying healthy his entire career. This is your new DH Minnesota.

I have liked how Terry Ryan has run this team in years passed, but when Ryan comes out and says that the Twins needed to sign "two professional hitters" this offseason, it makes me wonder. Which of the three guys we gotten this offseason would fit in to that role. Batista is a professional hitter, but that would be professional in Japan, not MLB. Castillo is a decent hitter, although I think he was signed for his defense than his bat. And now Rondell White who's managed to string out a 12 year career by posting mediocre numbers and a nose for finding the DL.

I've tried hard to look at Ryan's situation with sympathy. Mike has put me in my place many many times after I've taken Terry downtown. The realities of the situation are that the Twins have to compete with the likes of Boston, New York, and now the White Sox for free agents and with how skewed MLB is these days it's very hard to be competitive with a $60 million budget. But, there comes a point in time when the system won't work well enough to be a winner within the division. Chicago is setting themselves up for many more years and Cleveland is in the process of doing so as well. Okay fine, keep the pitchers, but at some point you have to look at trying to unload in an effort to build for the future using FA, not just the draft. Hunter is due $13 million next year. Unless he has an absolutely monster year (30 plus HR, and 100 plus RBI and not just another Gold Glove), there's no way I can justify paying him that, knowing many others who put up superior numbers could be had for that amount if not less.

I'll try to be optimistic, but until these new guys show me they're the game-changing players Ryan promised us in October, I'll be very skeptical of this teams ability to compete for the AL Central title.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pat gets the shaft

The Pro Bowl rosters were announced today. Darren Sharper is the lone Viking representative. The Vikings probably don't deserve more than one or two players, but Pat Williams is a very large omission.

The DT's chosen were Tommie Harris, Shaun Rogers and Rod Coleman. Harris is a key figure on an excellent Bears defense, Coleman has 9.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles, but Shaun Rodgers? He has 27 less tackles on a comparably ranked defense (Det 22, Min 23 overall). Granted Defensive Tackle is a tough position to choose with limited quantifiable stats to compare, but ask Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz if Pat is deserving. Williams has played at a very high level the entire season despite seeing every other Vikings lineman miss time to injuries. Rogers has 5.5 sacks to Williams' 1.5, but if that was the swaying stat, then it is missing the point of a run stopper. Minnesota is 9th in the NFC in rush defense, compared to Detroit at 14th. Additionally in 2004, the Vikings sans Big Phat Pat, allowed 2006 rushing yards compared to 1599 this year. Unless someone runs rampant the last two games, this is a significant improvement.

Voting fans shouldn't be expected to notice the play of defensive lineman, but the players also cast ballots and account for a large part of the process. Don't be surprised in the next two weeks if the Ravens and Bears become believers in Williams' stellar season.

Alcohol+NFL Fans=Family Entertainment

In another sign that NFL stadiums are comprised of the lowest rung of society, Giants Stadium officials have outlawed beer sales for the Jets-Patriots Monday night game. Apparently a sauced Jets fan stabbed two people in a bathroom a few weeks back (Reports that the assailant was wearing a Starter Jacket were unconfirmed). The brilliance of this no-beer policy is that after the Monday Night game, beer sales will resume for next Sunday's game. That should teach the fans a good lesson. It's not like the fans will drink less whther they are playing the Bills or Patriots.
It is a nice attempt at a safer environment, but NFL stadiums are America's answer to European soccer hooligans. Many of these people start tailgating three hours before kickoff, which means they could blow a .20 while passing through the turnstile. Once inside they are not going to spend time or money in the concession line, they are packing the flask. Why waste time on light beer when said fan can have Wild Turkey? So the fans will still be loaded by the end of the game, the Jets will still be bad and the fan that just lost $1000 because the Patriots covered is still going to be looking for someone to fight, yell at, or when all else fails, stab.
The positive of no beer sales, no (beer) bottles thrown on the field.

Tice fired by Vikings...

...will coach Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Random NFL thoughts:

-ESPN’s resident jabber mouth Michael Irvin said the Colts’ loss was a “good loss”. Why must this be the token answer every time a contender loses late in the season? There is some truth to this thought, but it’s a tired response. Ask Peyton Manning if it was a good loss.  How about noticing how overwhelmed the Colts’ offensive line was instead?


-The other end of the spectrum will notice the way the Chargers blitzed Peyton Manning and got him rattled. This is not a new surprise, every team tries to pressure Manning, but very few teams have a fast pass rusher as good as Shawne Merriman. The only other teams capable are New England and the New York Giants.


-Rex Grossman is now the Bears starting QB. He should be more comfortable throwing downfield than Kyle Orton, but don’t expect the Bears to suddenly scare defenses in the playoffs. It's an upgarde from an Escort to a Taurus.


- Among the Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, and Bears, Seattle is the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have the NFC’s best record and the most balanced offense. A large key to the offense is their line, especially G Steve Hutchinson and T Walter Jones. While other teams rely on their defenses, the Seahawks are the one team with enough consistency on offense to stand out.


-It is December and Reggie Bush is universally considered the best player available in the ’06 draft. This is important to remember because come April, scouts and draft experts will suddenly create reasons why he shouldn’t be the number one pick. Just because he doesn’t play any games in the spring does not mean his talents erode or his muscles atrophy.


-People are comparing Bush to Gale Sayers and someone impossible to pass on in the draft. The situation reminds me of Barry Sanders in the 1989 draft. Sanders became a star immediately, but the Lions never could assemble enough talent (Gems include Andre Ware, Robert Porcher, Scott Mitchell) around him to do anything, ultimately ending with Sanders retiring early. The Texans and 49ers both have lots of holes to fill, and while Bush will sell tickets and probably be a very good player, running back is a position that does not require elite talent to win.  

What's eating Mike Tice? Everything but hyprocrisy.

Maybe Mike Tice is perturbed by all the insane Christmas shoppers. In his weekly press conference he took issue with the Jumbotron and fickle fans. He seemed to imply that season ticket holders sold (surely not scalped) their tickets to Pittsburgh fans.

"Maybe they're not really diehard season-ticket holders or maybe they needed the money for Christmas presents. I don't know. One of the two."

Considering Tice's recent history regarding ticket sales, one would think he'd steer clear of this. He also questioned the loyalty of the fans. Then he does his best Glen Mason impression:

"Look, when you go to some stadiums, it's so deafening that you can't hear. When you have 15 to 20 thousand of the opponent's fans in there, it's not deafening. There is a difference. The fans that were there were great. But it wasn't like a big game when it's just your guys in there."

The Vikings would have lost Sunday whether the whole city of Bloomington was in the dome or the game was played on ice in Warroad. I appreciate Tice's candor most of the time, much more so than Mason, but could a coach just once say, "We lost because we played bad."

Adieu Jacque

I think most people knew this (another article here) was gonna happen and I don't think the move surprises anybody. And, to be honest, I'm not gonna lose any sleep about this at all. Besides his HRs (which let's be honest, on any other team are probably good for second or third place on the team), his numbers are very pedestrian and the strikeouts and average are just not that good. And unlike Hunter, Jones doesn't bring anything spectacular to the RF spot.

If you read that Star Trib article, one thing strikes me as a little odd. When Jones says he was "surprised that the Twins didn't even try to re-sign" him. I don't know if Jacque just doesn't have the ability to look objectively at things, or that he's just so delusional about what he "brings" to the squad. It's clear that in offering arbitration, but not trying to re-sign him, that they put more value in that first round pick than they do in Jones' manic plate-appearances. One of the Twins' major problems last season was their discipline at the plate. When guys aren't hitting well, they tended to force things and started swinging at nearly everything remotely close to the plate. Jones is the leader of that group that also included LeCroy, Morneau, and others. I just think it's time to move along, but apparently Jones is "surprised" by this fact.

I guess one of my pet peeves of the last few years is how the group of guys that included Hunter, Jones, Mientkdlgwglkjkwricz, Eddie G, and a few others continue to have this love affair with each other. Think about it, how many times have you heard one or more of those guys blabber on about how they miss playing with one another and how "special" that team was. Okay we get it, you liked playing with each other. As the last couple of years have passed I've started to think it might be time to just let Hunter go too, as he's always spouting off about the good ol days, and how much fun it was with "those" guys. It gets old...I mean real old, and it does nothing to help this team create it's own identity.

Oh, and another major media outlet (Pioneer Press) pulls the "Piazza might not be much of an improvement over LeCroy" card. And it doesn't surprise me at all.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What kind of 'tenders Randy?

If you watched the Vikings game yesterday you were privy to a dandy of a comment by CBS color man Randy Cross. The game was definitely tilting the Steeler's way when Randy let fly with something to the effect of:

There are two types of 'tenders in this league, "pre" and "con". The Steelers are showing they're "contenders" and the Vikings are showing us they're "pretenders"

You know Randy spent the entire week racking his brain for some quip that he could drop when the game got out of hand for either team. Randy is just one more guy in a string of horrible color guys (Randy, Bill Maas, Tim Green) that try so hard to be what Madden was in his prime, and fail miserably. We'll no doubt get into bad play-by-play and color guys at some point I'm sure, as it's a "talker" with Mike and I.

I got to thinking what Joe Buck would have said if he would've called the Vikes game on Sunday. Perhaps he would have come up with his own line. Maybe something along the lines of:

There's two types of 'inners in this league, "win" and "sin". The Steelers are clearly "winners", while those rapists in purple who have no respect for the law and spit on the cross of our Lord, are showing they're the "sinners"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stop the tape. Rewind it. And listen to how dumb you sound.

In a bold show of allegiance to the dearly departed chubby one himself,Matthew LeCroy, Steve Thompson, host of the Twins pregame show and many other's on 'CCO dropped this gem on us today:

"When it comes down to hitting and that DH spot, there wouldn't be all that much of a difference in the numbers between Mike Piazza and Matthew LeCroy."

Okay, we get it. LeCroy was a good guy, probably still is. But this borderlines on stupidity. But hey, this guy has a job on a major market radio station talking sports, so he must know something we don't right? Granted stats aren't always the thing to look at, but in this case the argument is about numbers, so numbers is what we'll look at.

Here's the career per season (162 games) average numbers for LeCroy:

AVG: .263
H: 129
R: 53
RBI: 79
HR: 22
OBP: .327
SLG: .447
OPS: .774

Now here's Piazza's:

AVG: .311
H: 183
R: 93
RBI: 116
HR: 38
OBP: .382
SLG: .555
OPS: .937

I understand it's unfair to look at Piazza's numbers as a whole, as a large part of those numbers came in the 90's and early '00's. But even the numbers from the last three years don't tilt towards LeCroy at all. But say for arguments sake, you do keep LeCroy for maybe $1 million a year, which would be a slight raise for him. What else can he do? At least Piazza is playable at first and obviously catching isn't a problem. The other major issue is consistency. Sure LeCroy can hit the long ball, but how many of those 17 last year came with men on base? I seem to remember our squad losing a lot of one and two run games last year.

In the end it's a question of who's the proven hitter. If Piazza can become a full time DH and not have the rigors of even splitting the catching duties I think those numbers from the last few years take a pretty decent uptick. Especially playing in a park like the Dome. This is nothing against LeCroy, but if Piazza can be had for a reasonable price, as most FAs this offseason have not, it would be a nice move for the Twins. And an absolute no-brainer when choosing between the two.

Doug I'm-taking-my-ball-and-going-home

This is a case for Judge Judy. Former Twin Doug Mientkiewicz is headed to arbitration with the Boston Red Sox. Not for a pay increase or a new contract, it's for a ball he says is his. Remember when he single-handedly won the World Series for the Red Sox to break an 86-year curse? Neither do I. Dig Doug's grounds for keeping the ball are due to him catching the final out in Game 4. You might say, "Surely he must have done something else to help the Red Sox?" Let's see he had eleven at bats in the entire 2004 playoffs, four hits and one RBI. Maybe during the regular season, he probably carried them at some point? One HR and ten RBI and a .215 average after the trade deadline. And I'm not sure but I think it was a fluke ten-run homer in an otherwise silent summer. The only reason he made an appearance in any game was the combined miserable defense of Kevin Millar and David Ortiz. And for that he feels entitled to a piece of baseball history.

It's a real puzzle that Mientkiewicz is now on his fourth team in three years. That's right Twins fans, he's back in the Central with K.C. It's safe to say he won't be creating any World Series disputes again.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hi, I'm Julio Franco, and I'm older than your Dad.

Julio then...

...And Now

I thought it might be prudent to throw a little love Julio's way seeing that he just signed a two year deal with the Mets worth a reported $2.2 million. Talk about a career with some longevity. He signed his first deal in 1978, the year Mike and I were born. Finally made it to the bigs in '83, in which he nearly won NL Rookie of the Year (only to be beat out buy none other than the Straw himself). His stat line is so long it requires an actual scroll down the page.

He played in both Mexico and Japan, during a stint of three or so years in the late 90's (Can you say visionquest?) and has stuck with the Braves ever since. He's never played in a World Series and went to the playoffs only one time ('96 Cleveland) before landing in Atlanta (By the way, are the Braves the worst postseason team in MLB history?). But now he's gonna be on a Mets team that may have a chance to take him to that World Series, and don't think for one second that they'd let that story go. How many times next year are we going to have to listen to Tim McCarver say something about how this player or that player wasn't even born when Franco was a rookie?

In an age where backs and knees start to deteriorate at 35, it's pretty amazing this guy is still playing at all, much the less playing at a fairly decent level. Does he belong in the Hall, no probably not. Does he deserve the respect of true baseball fans? Yeah, I think so.

(Sidenote: In Decmeber of 1982 Julio was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with Jay Baller, Manny Trillo, George Vukovich, and Jerry Willard to the Cleveland Indians for none other than the legendary...Von Hayes. who may or may not be the Devil according to that site.)

Twins "nab" Batista

Apparently the Twins had saturated their search for third-basemen here in the MLB and needed to look in another country for their guy. I'm not sure what to think about the pickup. I guess you can look at it as a fairly large upgrade from Terry Tiffee and Cuddyer. I'm fairly certain he comes at a decent price (not sure of the specifics), but it certainly would fit into Grandpa Carl's budgetary stronghold. But on the other hand, if Castillo and Batista are the "two professional hitters" Terry Ryan was talking about early in the offseason, then this squad may be in trouble.

I think at this point if they add either Piazza or Thomas, I could say in earnest, that this was a successful offseason. At this juncture I'm not sure who I'd prefer between the two. Any thoughts?

Why are the Vikings suddenly winning?

This article is from Roy S Johnson, a very good writer, unfortunately I think he missed with this one. He poses the question, since Brad Johnson has saved the Vikings, why not trade Daunte. This seems to be the easy and popular answer for the Vikings success. To this I say do some research into why the team is winning.

The easy answer is Brad Johnson, who on the surface is the most obvious difference in the Vikings’ 6-0 turnaround. Some in the media have even suggested that Johnson is the better long term answer for the Vikings. To the casual observer it makes for simple math. Daunte Culpepper struggles to a 2-5 start, and then suffers a season ending injury. Enter Johnson who wins six straight: A+B=C. Beyond the barroom logic and fuzzy math, there are several reasons for the Vikings turnaround.

Let’s start with an easy answer for the Vikes 180.The schedule for the first seven games included losses to Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati, at Atlanta, at Chicago and at Carolina. Four teams leading their divisions, plus playoff contender Atlanta all with a combined record of 45-18 (.71 winning percentage).

Since the low point in Carolina, the Vikings have won versus Detroit, at New York Giants, at Green Bay, versus Cleveland, at Detroit and versus St. Louis. A whopping 25-40 record and .38 winning percentage is helpful when breaking out of a slump. Quite simply the Vikings have won all the games they were supposed to plus a big road win against the Giants.

The next point starts with Culpepper’s play. It is a fact that he was struggling and threw for more interceptions in six and a half (12) than either of the past two seasons (11). Johnson conversely has two in basically the same time frame. That is significant and there’s no doubt Culpepper struggled, but an important question is why? Here’s a clue; it wasn’t Randy Moss. Entering 2005 Minnesota had new personnel in many important places. New receivers Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson and Koren Robinson all took time to create rapport with their quarterback, plus incumbent Culpepper favorites Nate Bureleson and Moe Williams were injured early in the season, leaving Culpepper with few comfortable options. The offensive line, a strength in past seasons, was in flux after losing Matt Birk (injury) and David Dixon (retirement). They were replaced by career backup Cory Withrow and rookie Marcus Johnson. To make matters worse, former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scott Linehan’s duties were split among three coaches. The communication errors led to delay of game penalties, wrong personnel and burnt timeouts. All of these ingredients combined to create a cocktail of discomfort for Culpepper, who in turn pressed and forced bad plays. On top of this was his physical discomfort in the form an injured knee from week one.

The Week 8 loss to Carolina marked the point of despair for the Vikings. For a playoff favorite, that had lost their Pro Bowl quarterback and was now 2-5, the season appeared lost. Brad Johnson has done a lot of things right for the Vikings since then. To say he is the sole reason for the turnaround is inaccurate.

The offensive line has been more consistent, keeping Johnson in the pocket and off his back. The play calling, once clumsy and inefficient was simplified. Newcomers like Koren Robinson have stepped up at receiver. Probably the most credit should go to the defense. At one point the defensive line suffered such attrition that the team switched to a 3-4 just to have enough able bodies on the field. Thanks to the emergence of rookie lineman Erasmus James and C.J. Mosely the team reverted to a 4-3 and the turnovers soon followed.

Had Johnson entered a lineup as the only modification with the same results, then he deserves a lot of credit, much the way Tom Brady and Kurt Warner emerged. Johnson deserves credit for taking care of the ball and keeping the Vikings in every game. But let’s not get carried away, he’s not going to throw for 300 yards or be a quarterback that defenses will scheme for. This turnaround was a complete team effort and should be viewed that way.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blog Beginnings: What's in a name?

Mike- Here’s my ideas: thebattingcage, or how about seventhvisionfans (or whatever that band's name was). Maybe thinktank and we could have a cool logo with us sitting on a Sherman tank. Take a classic cliche or our favorite RBI player. Or if all else fails we can call it the sound you used to make when you'd see a hot girl: Booufgh

Chris- I still make that noise by the way, only it's in my head and my intentions are quite different nowadays. Seventh Vision is right on, weren't they like Rage but instead of praising Che, they praised Jesus. I think The Think Tank could use a logo similar to the No Limit Records logo. I was thinking "Chatterboxers" would be okay. "Readydownhuthuthut". "EternalSlide". "Noink"; All are available. Any other good stuff. I think staying away from peoples names is good since if we want to do shirts or whatever we won't get pegged with a cease and desist. That's thinking pretty far ahead, but y'know I don't wanna get to that point and not be able to do it.

Mike-Oh come on Dickie Thon won't care! Plus then we can rejuvinate Sisqo's career with the Thon song Part II. 'Stache like what what? Baby lay down that bunt bunt. (as soon as I did this I found They have a wall of shame with players like Argenis Salazer, Ozzie Canseco, Bam Bam Muelens and Paul Zuvella. It's 87 Topps all over again!)

I like downhuthuthut and Eternal Slide. How about tweener, project or possessionreceiver?

Chris-Yeah Think Tank is taken already, as is Think Tanks. Tweener and Tweeners is gone as well. I just suggested Chatterboxers because it was available with in the .com variety. whatismoxie and wevegotmoxie are available too if we wanna go that route. They're a little bulky but it fits. I don't have a real strong preference for any of them. Readydownhuthuthut I like, eternalslide, I don't know what do you think?

Mike- Readydownhuthuthut is good with me. Let's do it and if something else comes along or we get huge we'll take over

Thursday, December 08, 2005

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.


Moxie, testing 123, Moxie...