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The questions below have been edited for clarity.
I love listening to Paul Allen announce Viking games on the radio. How come I can can't listen to games on my phone? When I tune into KFAN through [the iHeartMedia app], a recording comes on that the broadcast is not available. I can get the game on the radio in my car. I can get the game on my Bose radio at home. Why not my phone? It's very frustrating.
— Jill Lutgens
Hey P.A., have you yet approached [Kevin O'Connell] concerning your weekly podcast, Xs and Os? Wouldn't it be great if we could get our new coach in a 1-on-1 every week?
Seems to this old-time Vikings fan a great way to meet our newest and bestest, since Bud [Grant] ran the show.
Keep up the great work.
Lot of deserved love and interest for "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen out of the gate to open this Mailbag.
He and the Vikings Radio Network do such a great job, from the on-air experts to the talented behind-the-scenes folks.
To answer Jill concisely, NFL rules have not yet been modified to extend broadcast coverage in the app, but there are parties who are working to change that so the games would be available in the app.
It might not be too dissimilar from the way the NFL has worked with television broadcast partners the past few years to expand the streaming options and offering more and more ways to enjoy NFL games.
It seems like, with so many people seeming to live on the go, there is a growing consensus of "more options is better" since pocket radios have been replaced by smartphones.
We'll definitely let you know if this becomes a reality, Jill.
As for Wayne's question, the Vikings Entertainment Network spends time during the offseason evaluating all content and planning to keep, modify or replace content.
O'Connell's hire adds a new layer to those conversations. I've heard some other coaches say one of the hardest aspects of becoming a head coach is managing the external time commitments. Beyond putting together schedules, managing the staff and guiding the team, there are other aspects like media appearances that have to be figured out.
Based on the past few months of observations, it appears O'Connell: enjoys talking football and obviously has the requisite knowledge. One of the greatest attributes he has demonstrated so far is his ability to communicate information in an entertaining and understandable way.
I really struggle with how mismanaged the end of each half was over the last few years. They go out of bounds when they should stay in and stay in bounds when they should go out. And they didn't know if the field should call timeout or the bench. This looks real BAD!
I see this as a glaring failure of the QB to control the huddle.
Question: Can you find out what's going on in the huddle. Is Kirk [Cousins] reminding the players of the situation in the huddle? He is supposed to be the leader. He's supposed to lead them to stay in or get out. And call timeout if he thinks so, and not wait for the bench.
— Richard in Connecticut
The Vikings have had a knack for making things more difficult on themselves. There were numerous hiccups in games last season, where Minnesota could have won 11 or so games, or lost 11, instead of finishing 8-9 for a second consecutive season.
All of the tense situations seemed to create a rite of passage that further bonded Vikings fans.
Some of the issues could have been communication lapses, sideline decisions that didn't quite work, or failure to properly execute on the field. It wasn't for a lack of trying. Head Coach Mike Zimmer repeatedly created end-of-half/end-of-game situations in practices the past few years.
Cousins is one of the more analytical players — I'm using the word "analytical" to describe the depth at which he commits to mentally preparing each week. He can remind folks in the huddle, but in hurry-up, the team is probably not in the huddle that often. Thus, all 11 on offense need to understand exactly what to do in as many scenarios as possible. Once the ball is snapped, there is a burden back on his shoulders for understanding if it would be better to throw the ball out of bounds instead of a completion to the middle of the field that could waste too much time.
And each player on defense needs to be able to process communication quickly and understand where help is within a play. Losing leverage prevented the ability to keep the ball carrier in bounds multiple times last year in Detroit, enabling a final-play stunner.
Back at the combine, O'Connell was talking about the importance of winning the "middle eight" minutes of games, meaning the final four of the first half and first four of the second half. He said there's "nobody better" at managing that than Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick (who drafted O'Connell in the third round in 2008).
View photos of the Vikings 2022 coaching staff.
One of the most intriguing hires the Vikings have made this offseason is the addition of a pass game specialist/game management coordinator. Ryan Cordell, who was with Cleveland the past three seasons, was hired for the new role.
The Vikings devoted some time during Organized Team Activity and minicamp practices to these types of situations, but ultimately we won't know until games are played if we'll see some forward progress in these critical areas.
I know that having spent a first-round pick on [Lewis] Cine there comes a certain expectation that he will be the day one starter, but from what I have seen and heard about [Camryn] Bynum, I had really high hopes for him. Is there looking to be a battle for the starting FS spot between the two, or is Cine a lock at this stage?
— Andrew in Queensland, Australia
The Vikings were pleased to select Cine with the 32nd overall pick, but as a first round proceeds, I think teams have more wiggle room and less pressure to start a first-rounder in Week 1.
The Vikings might turn to Cine in Week 1, or they might go with Bynum, who made three starts as a rookie in 2021, or someone else could win the job with an incredible camp.
Bynum made quite the splash with an interception at Baltimore in his first start and a sack the following week at the L.A. Chargers.
What we have learned so far, is it seems like O'Connell and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell like safeties who can do multiple things as interchangeable parts and help disguise the coverage the secondary is deploying.
One thing we've all learned is no team has ever suffered from having too many highly effective players.
Perhaps there's a situation where Harrison Smith is paired with Bynum or with Cine; or maybe there will be a sub package involving all three players.
View photos of the Vikings 2022 schedule at U.S. Bank Stadium and on the road.
On the Vikings website, there are "national scouts" and "college scouts." What's the difference?
When I was working on the scouting feature that was part of our five-part "Introducing" series this offseason, I spoke with Vikings Assistant Director of College Scouting Pat Roberts, who had previously been a national scout, as well as Chisom Opara, who was promoted earlier this month from being a national scout to Assistant Director of Player Personnel. I didn't go too much into individual roles because there was so much to try to fit into the story, so I'm glad to have the opportunity to provide more info here.
National scouts are college scouts with a broader territory who often have previously refined their acumen in particular areas of the country.
When Roberts held the role, he was assigned the Eastern half of the United States and focused his time on where the most draftable players were. His travel destinations often were based on information provided by the area scouts.
Opara explained he approached the position as providing "another level of coverage" beyond the work done by the area scouts.
"When it comes to comparing players and stacking players, I can take a guy that's in the Southwest and I've seen him, but I've also seen the players on the West Coast, so instead of just looking at it through a straw, it's about zooming out, and having more coverage allows you to make those comparisons from player to player," Opara said.
The Vikings now have three national scouts: Sean Gustus, Donovan Jackson and David Williams after finalizing the personnel department additions and changes earlier this month.
Hi Vikings, I'm John Gramer, a teenage diehard Vikings fan.
My question: Do you see the Vikings as a competitive team for the division/conference THIS SEASON? Or — since we just had a big staff and player overhaul, will it take probably 1-3 years for us to be a serious team?
— John Gramer
We'll close with John's question.
At multiple points this offseason, there have been opportunities for Ownership, new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell to speak and outline their expectations. At every turn, they've emphasized they expect to be competitive.
This quote from Adofo-Mensah from late March after the initial wave of free agency provides some illumination.
"The way we look at it is we're trying to navigate both worlds, we're trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however you want to phrase it or market it," Adofo-Mensah said. "I think that's kind of how we've approached this offseason and our time horizons going forward.
"We have a thorough approach. We spend a lot of time with resources and understanding what we have on campus, what we think the players that are here can be one day and how that helps our needs within our time horizons," he added. "Because of that, we are allowed to be very patient, really selective in what we do, and that's kind of how we've approached this offseason so far."
It's quite certain that Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell did their homework on the existing Vikings roster before they took the jobs, and they've both stated there are a number of things they liked about the roster.
During the interview process, candidates likely presented their plans for how to optimize key players. The vision for the returning players shaped Minnesota's approach to free agency and the draft.
In fairness, I don't believe I've ever heard a team approach training camp with, "I can't wait to be middling or worse this season," even when they have much fewer pieces in place than the Vikings.
There's a lot to be excited about, whether it's providing a fresh approach with veteran players, or seeing what the free agents and draft picks can bring to the team.