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Additional Minnesota Viking Commentary

State of the Union -
With the draft now over, along with the major impact of the first wave of free agency now to include the long term extensions for Kendricks & Hunter, we can now begin to access this franchises "State of the Union". To do so, the overall assessment stands in contrast with the evolution within the league.  For example, referring back to last years NFC's championship game, there were many things that became quite clear.  First & foremost, the Eagles offensive line was as good, or better than I've seen in decades but of course much of the accolades were not directed at them but rather to their skill players.  To be direct, Christian Ponder could have flourished under that offensive line.  It was not clear if the debacle on the defensive side of the ball in the NFC championship was a function of Philly's offensive skills & abilities or if it was the diminishing aspects of our defensive squad, or due to the heart ripping performance of Keenum.  For example, it was clear that Everson Griffen was only a mere shadow of himself after his foot injury & that lingered on throughout the remainder of the season ... which showed up in a big way versus that dominant Philly Offense.  Of course, a pick 6, a fumble in the Red Zone, followed by another pick just might be enough to remove the wind from our sails versus an elite squad.  

It was also clear that the Eagles 2017 regular season schedule helped them in a big way where by comparison this Vikings franchise seemed to be immersed within the scrap heap week after week.  With almost 40% of your games scheduled against divisional opponents, the Eagles faced a severely depleted Cowboys squad without Elliot, not to mention a completely ineffective Giants squad, not to mention the bumblings of the Redskins, even with Cousins at the helm.  You'd might think that stronger competition throughout the year would result in stronger preparation for the playoffs, which might be true but what instead surfaced, was a severely depleted Vikings squad versus a very fresh Eagles Squad.  Way too often, the Eagles beat teams early over the top, giving them the ability to cruise or in other words, there is less resistance when the other team gives up due to not being able to get back in it.  I don't think 2018 will be so easy for the 2018 Eagles as Dallas with Elliot will be an entirely different team.  As for the Giants & Redskins ... the outlook is still uncertain until we see that product on the field.      

Said directly ... our overall 2018 schedule is brutal as compared to our 2017 season where many see very favorable results based upon the addition of Cousins, Cook, Richardson, et al.  For this to occur it will require almost instantaneous chemistry ... which may be a pipe dream.  What is of fact is that we will face a great deal of adversity by the other elite franchises in the NFC which shall include the reemergence of the Packers, Lions & yes even the Bears as it will always be an almost impossible task to win in Chicago.  Although the skill sets of Brees & Brady may finally wane in 2018, both of these opponents are prime candidates to rip off victories.  Of course our contests in Green Bay, Los Angeles, Philadelphia & Seattle are all laced with land mines where we would be lucky to win any of these contests.  Of course, this makes no mention of our squad losing focus at just about any other scheduled contest.  To be able to win 12 or more games in 2018 would mean that we'd have to have the elite of the elite squads in this league ... where team chemistry must be unquestioned.   

Maybe there is something to be said in the statement, "Live for Tomorrow".   The mentality throughout the league is to lay out your body in an instant decision ... to make that play ... versus discretion ... to be there in top form during that NFC championship game.  Said another way, maybe the greatest Viking athlete to grace our field (Randy Moss) was accused of taking plays off, whereas versus the Cowboys on Thanksgiving he caught only three passes while Cris Carter worked his butt off all game long.  The only problem was that all three catches resulted in touch downs.  What might have happened in 2017 if Griffen hadn't suffered that foot injury?   

In regard to the draft, I was impressed with the fact that this franchise was fearless in its focus to find pieces that it could develop.  Turning potential energy into kinetic energy is truly what it is all about.  The only question is can this Vikings franchise find a true opening day starter on that offensive line or will that line have to evolve & transition.  If we are talking odds here ... my bet is that addition of Dalvin Cook skill set will help to cover up a deficient offensive line ... that is ... until we are having to face the elite squads.  Our youth is going to have to develop & learn on an almost vertical learning curve understanding that your best efforts can only occur when you are thrown into the fire.    

We have all heard the Kirk Cousins dribble about him being in a place where he can be appreciated, where he's now justly compensated (as if the Redskins didn't already overpay him) & that the team around him was inferior but that doesn't reflect the overall true story regarding this Viking squad.  The often injured & overpaid Sam Bradford could never be relied upon, overshadowed by his awesome skill set ... where he just wasn't a winner.  Teddy, who provided an infectious love, even when healthy, looked like a rag doll ready to break ... but .... he was certainly a winner that will be tough to overlook by the Jets.  As for Keenum, even with a substandard elite quarterback skill set ... he just could not be trusted when our chips were down.

So, where do we find ourselves today ... well ... what Kirk Cousins provides for us is that Brett Favre factor, where he has the ability to come from behind to lead us to victory.  He is most certainly a gun slinger.  Fortunately for him, we have a squad that will not put him in that position.  Unfortunately for him, he himself may put us in that position.  It is clear that the need for that gun slinger will be very real, so my expectation will be that Cousins overall win-loss record will improve dramatically within this franchise over time.  In regard to Cousin, there is only one question of note.  Is he about the money ... willing to sell this franchise out to the highest bidder ... or is he about something that should be unattainable ... his commitment (the only true measure of the man)?  My guess ... from examining his losing record ... is that he's much more than about the money.

From his blank slate in Minnesota, he has one enormous factor in his corner & it maybe by someone that he doesn't even know.  As for quarterbacks that have led this organization, there was Tarkenton (except on Super Bowl Sunday), Kapp & the severely depleted Gus Frerotte (an ex-Redskin quarterback).  Cousin's now has the situational ability to join this elite set where none of these quarterbacks were about ability ... they were are about elite Viking lore.  Tarkenton playing a season with what was essentially a broken arm ... Kapp grabbing his back writhing in pain in Super Bowl IV or his backward championship TD run ... or a pummeled-skill-deteriorating Frerotte leading his squad toward the playoffs before it was ripped from his hands.  There can only be one message for Kirk Cousins ... "When you come off that field ... you better either end up out cold, dead or crippled ... because this franchise cannot handle having its heart broken again."  The only thing that matters to every purple ladened Viking is your commitment (what it is to call yourself a man) combined with your unquestioned leadership on that field.         

As for Keenum, you cannot help but wonder back to the days of Drew Brees back in his days in San Diego.  At the time, things were quite murky for the quarterback where an arm injury set him on a course of change.  He could have ended up in Miami, or with some other squad including the Chargers, but instead he would re-write the NFL record books wearing the Saints black & gold.  Is it possible that Keenum might be the next Drew Brees for the Denver Bronco's?  Well of course, the answer could be yes, especially after the year that he had in 2017 but there are very real differences to consider.  The first is that the Vikings had not committed to any other quarterback where all that money & future security was on the table which was not available to Brees.  Keenum clearly sealed his own fate either by not having elite quarterback abilities (the ability to come from behind & win), but instead took the bird-in-hand rather than the two in the bush.  Either way he was just simply incapable of taking-on the elite status.  Now, under John Elway, Keenum will either become elite or he'll eventually find himself on the street because Elway has absolutely no patience.  The projection is that Denver's defense is actually elite where Keenum will be able to duplicate his success in what is seen is a similar system.  Now, try & guess exactly how this will all play out.  There is no doubt that Keenum is an NFL caliber quarterback but what I refused to believe after reviewing his play in 2017 was the statement after statement that Keenum was not an elite level quarterback.  Well ... we'll soon find out.  Either way, Keenum made the entire 2017 season a pleasure to watch ... playoffs ... not so much.   
Much discussion is now revolving around Diggs & Barr but the two are at very different ends of the spectrum.

Diggs must play under his well under paid rookie deal & he must do so at an elite level, as he's in his contract year which if he plays out his rookie contract, it could secure him an absolutely enormous contract.  The problem is getting there where all that "Promised Money" is beyond the confines of this franchise.  What this is saying is that Diggs will be forced to bear all the risk, not having any long term security, having only his skill set & his NFL numbers as his leverage.  To add insult to injury, the Vikings have not had a great deal of success investing in wide receiver free agents, which Diggs will be competing against for that next contract where all he should be looking at is 3 quarterbacks that recently found the door.  It is also clear that Diggs is overtly stubborn ... being willing to play out his rookie contract ... based upon his self aligned principles & some very poor advice.  To be direct, his judgment alone may be the overwhelming factor in regard to the Viking's long term commitment.  If Diggs plays out his rookie deal that should be considered a major red flag directed at the result of his judgment.  What is clear is that whatever the Vikings offer has nothing to do with "What is fair (which is meaningless)" or what will make Stephen Diggs happy (as per all the free advise out there ... there isn't ever enough money) but rather does Diggs want to play in Minnesota?  If the answer is yes, it's time to consider the long term projection ... as it is real.  The bird in hand.              

As for Anthony Barr, there is only one question.  How does he value Mike Zimmer?  Either that value is warm or it is distant.  As for Zimmer ... Does the squeaky wheel get the grease?  My guess is that it doesn't.  Historically, Mike Zimmer does what he can with what he has.  If we had a crystal ball to peer into, there is only one thing that can be perceived ... what's on the other side of that door ... you will not like.  

The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: June 28, 2018