Minnesota Vikings: The Biggest Media Misconceptions
Football is the most popular sport in America and it's not even close.
There is no simple explanation for this—the reasons range from the rise of fantasy football to the shrinking of the normal attention span. The NFL season is a once-a-week showcase for 17 weeks, from early September to the end of December.
What was once a three-hours-on-a-Sunday pastime, with maybe an hour of highlights and another hour reading the recaps the next day, has become a truly 24/7, 365 days a year, never-ending story.
It seems that there is no point at which NFL fans deem information or opinion on their sport surfeit. The more the merrier. For every iota of NFL information, there seem to be 25 talking heads and hundreds of bloggers with an opinion.
With this 24-hour cycle of NFL re-dress there is simply no stopping the media from making mountains out of every single molehill of a story that comes along. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as fans prove over and over again that there is no sating an NFL appetite.
Having said that, one of the offshoots of this constant hot-stove is that stories, rumors and speculation can take on lives of their own.
Here then, are six of the storylines that have been twisted and turned and gripped and re-gripped so many times among Minnesota Vikings fans that it's become hard to see reality through all of the rumor.
2012 Is a Make-or-Break Year for Christian Ponder
Truth: Christian Ponder didn't have a great rookie season.
Huge Misconception: Ponder has to prove himself in 2012 or it's time for the Vikings to look for a new starting quarterback.
It's been said over and over again that playing quarterback in the NFL is probably the most important position in all of sports in terms of franchise success. It's also true that quarterback is the most complicated, mentally demanding position not only in all of football, but perhaps in all of sport.
So to say that Christian Ponder will be a finished product after just two seasons in the league is more than a little preposterous.
What Ponder is learning, and will have to continue to learn, is that what comes with the territory of being a starting quarterback in the NFL is an illogical amount of scrutiny. Rarely is there a more highly thought of player by the fanbase of a losing NFL team than the backup quarterback.
What's behind curtain number two is always a better idea than what you can see on the stage—ask Kevin Kolb, Matt Flynn or Matt Cassel what a few good snaps as a backup can do for your wallet.
Ponder was tossed the reins after six games.
What Ponder will have to show in 2012 is improvement. Nobody is expecting him to be in the top five of any quarterback stats. Nobody is expecting him to be an All-Pro. The truth is he will be a second-year quarterback of a team that is rebuilding.
What will be expected from Ponder in season two are the following: bring his completion percentage up, bring his touchdown-to-interception ratio up and show a normal maturation progression in his reads—when to check down, when to hang in the pocket and when to use his legs as a weapon.
There will be dumb mistakes, bad decisions and poor throws. They happen to everyone. The worse your team is, the more they will happen. How much is on Ponder and how much is on those around him is what keeps the NFL chat-world spinning.
The Triangle of Authority Has Been Fixed
One of the more famous episodes of the classic television series Cheers had three of the main characters, Sam, Woody and Carla, all going into the boss's office looking for a raise. None of them got any more money, but they all left their meeting with a new, superficial title that didn't mean anything.
Now the Minnesota Vikings' offseason restructuring of the front office certainly gives more definition to the roles of those involved. But when all the faces remain the same, how much have you really changed?
This is not to say that the moves weren't necessary, and nobody is saying the Vikings should have cleaned house after a 3-13 season that was mostly collateral damage from the Brad Childress era. What the newly-assigned roles clear up is accountability within the organization. Rick Spielman is now the GM and Leslie Frazier is the head coach.
Gone are the days when everyone could just shrug when questioned on the Donovan McNabb signing. Spielman will certainly consult with Frazier and staff on personnel moves, but now the decisions are ultimately his.
So has the front office been fixed?
No—it's been re-arranged.
Leslie Frazier will begin his second year as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Rick Spielman will begin his first as GM. They should be given a rational amount of time to prove their capability.
Spielman seems to have passed his first offseason with flying colors. The steering wheel has now been passed to Frazier. We'll see how fast this car can go.
Percy Harvin Wants to Be Traded
Percy Harvin caused quite the stir at the Vikings recent mini-camp when he announced out of nowhere that he wanted to be traded and then skipped a mandatory workout.
We will forgive the media for being a little confused on this one.
What we do know is that Harvin did indeed hint at wanting to be traded, but nobody, including Percy, seems to know exactly why. The rumor mill, as with any off-season NFL story involving a big name, cranked into overdrive.
Harvin wants to be traded. Harvin wants his contract re-negotiated. Harvin hates the Vikings offense. Harvin doesn't get along with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
All of the above or none of the above?
Harvin certainly didn't clear things up when he tweeted after practice a day later, "I'm really clueless on all the crazy reports."
The best guess on all of this is that a lot of everything is involved.
It has to bother Harvin that the Vikings will be paying at least twice as much money to the likes of John Carlson, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson, none of whom has contributed a fraction of what Harvin has to the team.
It also probably bothers him that the Vikings plan to use two tight ends a lot more this season, which, logic would dictate, would reduce the number of balls he gets thrown his way out of the slot.
All of this can be taken care of.
The Vikings were smart to immediately dismiss any idea of trading Harvin. He's the third-best player on the team after Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. Harvin's payday is coming. If Harvin throws up another big season for Minnesota this year, he will be paid handsomely for his new contract.
On the other hand, the Vikings have to get the ball in Harvin's hands as much as possible. To their credit, they've tried to balance his playing time with his migraine issues that tend to limit his time on the practice field.
We don't know what's going on in the mind of Percy Harvin all the time and we don't have to. He's a fancy sports car. He takes a lot of gas and needs a lot of attention, but wow can he go fast and he's a lot of fun to drive.
The Williams Wall Has Crumbled
Yes, Pat Williams is long gone and Kevin Williams is coming off perhaps his worst year in the NFL. Williams' ninth year in the league saw his impact dwindle, and heading into the 2012 season he'll be 32 years old, a real greybeard by NFL standards.
Don't be so quick to call Kevin Williams' best days behind him.
The 6'5", 310-pound defensive tackle is one of the best the Vikings have ever employed, and he played most of the 2011 season injured. Williams is completely recovered from his 2010 offseason knee surgery and from the plantar fasciitis that bothered him for most of 2011. Williams had five sacks in the Vikings' last seven games last season and looked to be the Kevin Williams of old.
Williams is heading into a contract season with the Vikings and is hoping to do enough to get one more big contract with the purple.
2011 proved to be a tough season for Williams—he had to learn to play without the behemoth Pat next to him, and got virtually no help plugging gaps from those who were tried in Pat Williams' absence.
Kevin Williams is not done as a dominating defensive tackle in the NFL—look for him to have a much better season in 2012 and hopefully beyond with the Vikings. He can only add to his reputation as among the Vikings' best defensive tackles ever, along with Alan Page and John Randle.
Adrian Peterson Will Be as Good as New on Opening Day
When it comes to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, there are things we know and things we don't know.
We know that Peterson was the best running back in the NFL before his knee injury last December. We know that Peterson has an unmatched work ethic and that he attacked his rehabilitation with as much intensity as any human being could.
We've seen the pictures and video of the absolutely shredded Peterson running up hills and pulling along coaches on his resistance runs. Nobody who has watched Peterson run and train during his first five years in the league would even consider questioning the zeal with which Peterson is trying to return from his injury.
But we just don't know how it will turn out. There's just no way of knowing.
Peterson will be back on the field—we know that. The Vikings will use sound judgement as to when and how much of a workload they will foist upon Peterson. We know the desire and the effort from Peterson will be unmatched.
But will he be the old Adrian?
Will he still have that unmatched combination of speed, power and elusiveness? Will he still have that X-factor that got you up out of your chair every time he broke through the line of scrimmage?
Again, there's just no way to know yet. The media certainly hasn't piled on in saying that Peterson will be as good as new, but the general sentiment has been that the Vikings will have to figure out how to live without Peterson for the first few weeks of the season.
Those of us who have watched Peterson know that he'll be back as soon as is humanly possible. But will he be all the way back?
We can only hope so at this point. We have no way of knowing.
The Brett Favre Signing Caused the Current State of Affairs
This one is not so much a media conceit, but one held by far too many Vikings followers.
The Brett Favre signing was a no-brainer. It was then, it is now. Make whatever you want out of how it was handled, how the media obviously overplayed every move Favre made and how the Vikings didn't get the big prize at the end of it all.
It was worth the shot.
Sure, Favre could have had about a third as many pressers as he did and could have just flat-out admitted he had no interest in coming to training camp, but in the end the Vikings got just about everything they could out of him.
Favre put on a quarterbacking clinic in 2009 that Vikings fans can only hope to see again in their lifetimes. I don't care what the numbers say, no Vikings quarterback ever had a better season.
Favre's arm, leadership and accuracy were a thing to behold as the Vikings got to the NFC Championship game. Yes, he threw the stupid pick at the end of the Saints game to stick a dagger in Vikings' fans hearts, but his 2009 season was one for the ages.
And it did not lead us to the morass of the 2011 season. Poor drafting, poor front office decision making and poor coaching did that.
If there was one decision that led to the 3-13 (there wasn't, it's always more than that) it was that Tarvaris Jackson was the future of the franchise, not signing on Brett Favre for two years.