There's been a lot of talk about Sam Bradford and his season with the Vikings as they prepare for their final game on Sunday. Mark Craig of the Star Tribune, however, took a moment Wednesday to recognize Shaun Hill, his longevity in the league, and the value of a solid backup quarterback.
Craig emphasized the unlikely journey Hill started 15 years ago.
Hill has been toting an NFL clipboard since 2002, the year he wasn't drafted or even invited to the scouting combine. Actually, scratch that. It took Hill three seasons as a third-stringer in his first Vikings stint before he scratched his way up to holding the No. 2 clipboard.
"As a backup, I'm hired to do a job," Hill told Craig. "I just get in line and do what they ask of me, which is probably why I've had as long of a career as I've had."
Craig referenced injuries across the league in recent weeks to illustrate the significance a good backup quarterback has for his team:
Oakland's Derek Carr, an MVP candidate on a 12-3 team, broke his leg and will become the first quarterback to win at least 12 regular-season games and not start a playoff game. Matt McGloin, who hasn't started a game since 2013, steps in.
Meanwhile, Tennessee lost a quarterback (Marcus Mariota), a game and its playoff hopes to the same injury on the same day. And Miami is playoff bound with its backup quarterback, Matt Moore, having won back-to-back road games while starter Ryan Tannehill continues to rehab a knee sprain.
"You have to prepare as if you're going to be the starter," Hill told Craig. "No matter what else is going on around you."
Hill has done exactly that in Minnesota, being called upon when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending injury on Aug. 30. Craig wrote:
Then there's Hill, who stepped quietly between Teddy's gut-punch injury and Bradford's blockbuster debut. He threw 33 passes in an efficient, turnover-free win at Tennessee.
Then he stepped aside without a peep or a grumble.
ESPN reviews Vikings defensive missteps against Packers
In a look back at the film from Saturday's game, and with the help of ESPN's Matt Bowen, Ben Goessling of ESPN said the Vikings defense experienced a number of breakdowns against the Packers.
Goessling pointed out that Packers receiver Jordy Nelson did damage from a variety of positions on the field.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Nelson in zones and against man coverage, hitting the receiver on crossing routes, posts and corner throws. And once Nelson had the ball in his hands – particularly when he was in the slot – the Vikings' shoddy angles and missed tackles helped him turn modest gains into major ones.
Goessling noted the damage that Nelson did in the slot with help of some bad angles and missed tackles by the Vikings. He also said the Vikings troubles on a 48-yard gain by Nelson started at the line of scrimmage.
With the Packers up 7-3 and on their own 26 late in the first quarter, Nelson set up in the left slot against [Captain] Munnerlyn. The Packers called a basic 'smash' concept, with Jeff Janis running a hitch on the outside and Nelson running a corner route from the slot, and Munnerlyn was quickly forced to turn and run with Nelson.
Goessling then quoted Bowen:
"If you watch them at the snap, he immediately opens the gate," Bowen said. "When you open the gate, you're giving the wide receiver a free release. Now, he gets his hand on him, but in any sport, whether you're talking about basketball or fielding a ground ball in baseball, if you're not square to the target, you're not going to have much power. Because he's not square, that jam isn't going to do much to slow down Nelson. And then, you can see, he stacks on top [of Munnerlyn]. Now he's got full control of that route."
East-West Shrine Game teams to be coached by NFL assistant coaches
Members of the Vikings coaching staff will be eligible to be selected as part of the East-West Shrine Game coaching staff this year.
According to Josh Alper for NBC Sports, the league and the East-West Shrine Game announced Wednesday that the two teams will be coached by "NFL assistants that are not involved in the postseason." Alper wrote:
At the Senior Bowl, two teams are selected to serve as the coaching staffs, but the Shrine Game will work differently. Per the league's release, teams will nominate coaches that will be evaluated by 'a panel that includes NFL Football Operations staff, East-West Shrine Game leadership and two members of the NFL's General Managers Advisory Committee.' Head coaches will be selected and they will select 12-person staffs from [a] pool of nominees.
The 2017 East-West Shrine Game will be played in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Jan. 21, one week before the Senior Bowl.