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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Nov 28, 2011

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

Can you explain why the Vikings tried to go for it when they are 4th and 1 on the 1-yard line of their opponents? They were down by 10 points, so they needed a field goal and a touchdown to tie the game.
-- Philip M.
Eau Claire, WI

This was a big topic of discussion after the game, and to be honest it’s a debate where I can see both sides. At the time of the play, I was of the opinion that the Vikings had to kick the field goal because we needed one anyway and because it extended the game. By going for it and not making it, the game was over at that point even thought there was still 4:22 on the clock. In my mind, it was a clear-cut decision. After the game, though, a few people I spoke with were of the opposite opinion, so I began to see both sides of the issue.

After the game during his press conference, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained his decision to go for it, saying he believed his offense could get one yard and that once they did score a touchdown there, they would have an opportunity to come back down on their next possession and win the game with another touchdown. You have to appreciate that attitude from the head coach. Sitting with a 2-8 record and playing on the road against a team making a push for the playoffs, Frazier had the attitude of “I want to play to win this game.” And that’s certainly understandable and acceptable. Would Frazier make a different decision if he had the chance? Maybe. Would some fans have kicked the field goal instead of going for it on 4th and goal from the 1? Probably. But given where the Vikings are at this point in the season, it’s not fair to criticize Frazier for making the call to go for it. You don’t have to agree with the decision, but it’s not a debate where one side is clearly correct and the other side is clearly wrong.

I am a Vikings rube and have been for years.  I have watched faithfully good years and bad years. To me, it seems that the Vikings offensive play calling has been very limited. Mostly short and out to the sideline or run plays. I know that Christian Ponder is new and is not taking all his reads, but I don’t understand where the diversity is in this highly touted Bill Musgrave offense? I see a very vanilla style of offense, perhaps protecting Ponder from making mistakes? I know that our talent level isn’t what it should be, but that really shouldn’t limit what our playbook is, should it? Ponder needs to be out there to learn and not to just dink and dunk down the field. I want nothing more than this team to be successful, but I get extremely frustrated seeing this week in and week out. Thanks!
-- Justin
Elko, MN

I understand the frustration on this issue, but I don’t believe Musgrave and/or the playcalling are to blame for some of the limitations and deficiencies in the offense to this point in the season. In fact, I think Musgrave has at times displayed creativity in his playcalling and offensive schemes. On Sunday in Atlanta, Musgrave found a way to stretch the field vertically with Percy Harvin, he threw several screen passes to Harvin, and he continued to utilize Harvin as a running back. Musgrave has also used end-arounds to get Harvin the ball, he’s been creative in using bootlegs to get Ponder out of the pocket and space to throw, and he’s even found a way to get the speedy Devin Aromashodu the ball downfield on a few occasions.

Certainly Musgrave will be the first to acknowledge that this offense has work to do and improvements to make, but I don’t think poor playcalling is the reason for offensive struggles. As Justin referenced in the question, there is an issue with talent in the playmaker positions on this offense as well. Yes, Harvin and Adrian Peterson are outstanding playmakers. But there are pieces to the puzzle that are missing, such as a reliable field-stretching wide receiver to take some attention away from Harvin. I think we need to see more than 11 games before we judge – positively or negatively – the playcalling and scheme development skills of Musgrave.

With all the shortage of talent, be it injury or not, why are we not using Joe Webb? With his ability and talent, it seems to be a waste not to use him. I am sure that he would be willing to give it a try.
-- Ann S.

This is a question that I get a lot from fans, and earlier in the season there was a simple answer. The answer was that he’s been training as a quarterback, and since he’s training as a quarterback it’s going to be hard for him to contribute consistently and reliably in another role. But now we’re 11 games into the season and Ponder has been installed as the starter for now and into the future. Ponder has demonstrated clearly (to me) that he’s this franchise’s answer at the quarterback position. With that being the case, I think it would benefit the team to find a way to use Webb on a more regular basis. Perhaps there’s more to this issue than I realize, but I agree with Ann that it’d be great to see Webb’s talents utilized. I know the Vikings coaching staff realizes Webb’s talent, and the staff is obviously doing everything they can to create offensive production, so perhaps there’s a plan for Webb and we just need to be a bit more patient before we see that plan develop. I’m willing to wait because I trust the coaching staff, but I’m also anxious to see Webb’s talents on the field more frequently.

I am wondering why aren’t we looking at available free agents to help with our offensive line issues? Are the guys we have on the offensive line the best available? I have to think there are some out there that are better than what we have. Still hoping we can win some games.
-- Mike B.
Goodwin, SD

There’s no question the offensive line has had issues at times this season. But when the team is 2-9, there really isn’t any area of the team that can say they have no issues. To be honest, there was a point in time this season – at Carolina and heading into the bye week – where I thought the offensive line was really coming together and playing well as a group. Since then, there have been a few moments where it seems the group has regressed. Granted, this is a group that has dealt with injury, especially at right guard where starter Anthony Herrera is trying to comeback from a knee injury. The Vikings are a solid running team, and this line has blocked well for Peterson this season.

With all of that being said, and to answer Mike’s question, the Vikings may well have looked at free agency to try and add depth and talent to the offensive line. If a team hasn’t signed a free agent, that doesn’t mean they haven’t looked at free agents. Every week NFL teams bring in players and run them through workouts. This is mostly due diligence, but there are also times when teams do this to fill a specific need. Building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process. Teams are continually scanning the waiver wire and discussing certain free agents. I’m sure the Vikings have been doing this, but they haven’t found the right player along the offensive line to sign and add to the group.

Just wanted to say on a positive note, it’s nice to see our guys still competing and fighting and making it tough on everyone else to beat us. That shows a lot of promise for next year, and with all the negative things this season, I just thought it would be good to shed some positive light there. Also, get well soon to Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin. I know Griffin is playing, but he’s just not the Cedric I’m used to seeing. I really hope he can get better. Those knees are clearly still shaky for him.
-- Anthony A.
Connecticut

Good point, Anthony. This is a credit to the guys Rick Spielman, Frazier and the Vikings personnel and coaching staffs have brought into the locker room. There is good leadership on this team, and this team fighting to win each and every week even though they’re now 2-9 is proof of that leadership. Guys such as Jared Allen, Harvin and Peterson continue to bite, claw and scratch every step of the way, even though the easy thing to do is quit. This is an important time for the Vikings. And it’s not because they have a chance to make a late-season run for the playoffs. It’s an important time for the Vikings because this is the time of the season where a team sitting at 2-9 finds out which players have competitiveness, integrity and pride. The players that possess those traits are the players you want to keep around for next year. The players who demonstrate they don’t have those traits – by not playing hard and mailing it in at this point in the season – are the players you want to let go during the offseason and replace. I believe that each of the three players Anthony mentioned – Peterson, Winfield and Griffin – are players who take pride in their work, and are players who deserve to be a part of this team going forward.