What does it matter? The eye in the sky measures all. During practice, a coach can mentally measure & catalog every movement ... every action ... every inaction, but what does it matter? He can chart it all, and then statistically evaluate a result. Did you see how many dropped balls he had in practice? Did you see how well he covered in practice ... rarely out of position? Did you see how his pass was not as crisp as it should be? Which begs the question ... how important are those practice games ... and are we treating the game as it should be? Maybe Dennis Green had the real answer, as in his first year, he absolutely dominated the preseason with total scoring numbers like 112 to 22. In that last practice game, the last plays revolved around a hotly contested goal line stand. It was memorable. It was apparent to every player on that field that they collectively knew that those games counted ... not like what we see today. The result was that they were absolutely terrible during the season however from that humble beginning ... he built a playoff dynasty.
This is not to say that just about anyone can see a player being completely dominated. To see a player being over-matched either physically or mentally. These things are obvious. What we are talking about is when the decision is close. Very close. We identify with years in the league, as if that means something. We see that a player is 0.1 second faster in the 40, not caring that there is a difference between speed and quickness. For the uninitiated Jerry Rice didn't have blazing speed, he had change in direction quickness and his head appeared to never move vertically as measured from the field of play giving his eyes complete dominance over the ball. As an elite receiver, he could also catch the ball just about every time it was thrown his way. Notice how the words elite & catch go together. Do coaches identify with what is seen in practice rather than when the lights turn on? How does what is seen in practice compare to when these misfits & malcontents are playing in front of their own friendly confines ... or more importantly ... in front of a raucous crowd that wants their head served to them upon a platter?
Way to often, coaches use (mental) statistics, categorizing & checking off mentally on every mistake ... never truly nurturing or pursuing true potential. Why? Because one is easy to do and the other is quite difficult to do. Coaches overly rely on mental statistics as an evaluation method. They do this to discriminate, to differentiate between players, to develop their favorites ... because it lies within that coaches comfort zone of safety. How is this thinking flawed?
Does #25 Chris Carr, with 8 years of pro experience, actually belong on our team based upon what he did on the practice field, or how much we paid him in guaranteed money to sign his contract or do we evaluate him based upon his time while under the lights when it supposedly didn't count? To answer the question, maybe we should understand, why deer freeze on the highway at night when placed under siege by the lights. In other words, what was it that secured David Carr's to his 8th year of experience and did that evolution result from tragically flawed concepts?
Let's look at it from another perspective. Chad Johnson was a completely different player when he was a rookie. At the time, his physical skill set dominated, overcoming numerous other issues. Where do we find ourselves now in his evaluation? His face & his body language tell a completely different story. What is apparent is that Chad's salvation lies within his ability to forgive and in releasing all of his burdens ... to take an inward approach of self ... but apparently coaches aren't paid to instill in him these simple & basic concepts that he needed to be successful. I'd like to think that in Minnesota, we've done more with less than any other organization because of these simple concepts combined with a players environment, like no other. In Chad's case, and for many others, too much money and stupid stuff like that, can prevent you from seeing the real answers to our problems.
Where does the decision on Sage Rosenfels lie within these concepts? Does anyone actually think that Christian Ponder is going to be a better player because Sage Rosenfels is on our side line standing in a uniform? Is Ponder a puppet with Sage tugging at his remote controls, tickling Ponder's tonsils by way of his rectum? Are they connected mentally by ESP? Did I miss something? Coaches help with film study ... not players. Players compete, or at least they should be able to compete. On the other hand, does anyone actually believe that Sage is going to lead this team to a Super Bowl, as this is the definition of invaluable, not some other intangible immeasurable feel good concept? How is it that they can treat Sage as if he had no prior history in Minnesota? How is it that his roster spot doesn't matter, where every other roster spot is a matter of life & death urgency? Does this make sense to anyone understanding that this is a business? Was Dan Marino a puppet?
Was Bud Grants concept of never starting rookies a tragically flawed concept? Under Chilly's regime, it was better to sacrifice draft picks to move up to secure one coveted player. What did Chilly forgo? Can anyone say ... depth! Did it become easier to hold onto a flawed veteran, not upsetting the balance, than to instill a never ending flow of revitalized skill sets obtainable from the draft pool? Now, under Rick Spielman, to give him credit, things have changed, but for how long? Does Scott Studwell, who also actually played for Bud Grant, now sense that Bud may have been wrong about playing rookies, to make his present position within this organization a good part of his life's work. Can youth & revitalization actually be a very good thing? The New England Beaner's have focused on securing their future from the draft, using the cheap signing of mostly non-effective marquee players as their most effective screen of smoke & mirrors.
Why is it that Erin Henderson always appears huge on film? Why is it that whenever Joe Webb struts behind center that absolutely unexplainable stuff happens? Who could explain Everson Griffen's play last year, before he was made to learn how to compete at line backer? Do you think Everson Griffen really cares whether you call him a linebacker or a defensive end or if he's on he field when it's crunch time? Is that a 3-4 or a 4-3 or a 5-2? It's a mystery? How did the slow footed Toby Gerhart end up with 4.9 yards per carry as part of Ponder's absolutely flawed offense? To a lesser extent, who could explain the slow footed Audie Cole's back to back pick 6's versus the Bill's, as that could possibly be a one & done (for Audie's sake, we hope not). How about Percy Harvin tearing it up from the back field? These things go well beyond a coaches statistical evaluation and comfort levels but there is a deafening message here that goes well beyond the West Coach Offense. How is it that we allow our coaching staff not to explore these anomalies to the fullest extent? Couldn't one say that anomalies win championships? The answer of course is unequivocally ... Yes!
These things, that show up on tape, under the lights, leave an indelible image that are incalculable in result, even when they are not used. What should Toby Gerhart in the backfield mean? What does Harvin in the backfield mean? What does Adrian Peterson in the backfield mean? Who is the decoy and who is the real McCoy regardless of down & distance? This is not in reference to these studs, it's in reference to who might or might not get the rock to shred.
What I can tell you is that there is a reason why players don't show up under the lights? Why they appear like they are deer mesmerized by the lights. Maybe Joe Webb's accuracy is off in practice due to unintended consequences (limited 1st team reps). Maybe, no matter how well you perform during practice, when there is only simulated pressure, and simulated everything, practice players can show up huge during practice but leave you flat under the lights ... when it counts.
How did we get away from the word ... "GAMER"? In days of old, who would give up that pristine practice player for the practice screw up that was a gamer on Sundays', and any other day or night for that matter. Well there's at least one Ryan boy who went bull goose looney for GAMER in New York. Climb aboard because this flawed team just might be in for a hell of a ride.
Isn't it time that we move coaches from their established comfort zones back into the concepts of developing and nurturing "GAMERS"? There is one thing for certain ... the safe way ... the safe play ... the statistical call based upon practice players is not going to bring us to the promised land.
For those that awoke at 4 am this morning, Jupiter the magnificent is now right in the heart of Taurus, with the morning star supporting it all in the east, with an almost full moon in the west. As the season evolves, Jupiter within and surrounding Taurus will dominate the evening sky. Isn't if funny about anomalies. Does Jupiter's dance with Viking horns? Beautiful!
The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: August 30, 2012