Post Favre Era: What the Vikings Need to Do to Survive in the NFC North
The future looked bright for the Minnesota Vikings after the 2009 season. The loss in the NFC championship game to the New Orleans Saints was a mighty blow to the spirits of players and fans alike in Minnesota. Many believed, though, that Brett Favre would return and lead the Vikings to another great year.
Well one of those thoughts did happen and one did not. Brett Favre returned for his 20th NFL season, but unlike the year before, the 2010 season was chalk full of interceptions and injuries.
The offensive line could not protect their veteran quarterback which led to turnovers, the defense was not the same wrecking ball it had previously been, the coaching staff went through changes with the firing of head coach Brad Childress and even the Vikings stadium roof collapsed after a severe snow storm in December.
The Vikings finished tied for last in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions, both with records of 6-10. Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers had obvious success, winning another Super Bowl, and the Chicago Bears finished the regular season first in the NFC North but lost to the Packers in the NFC championship game.
The Packers and Bears are coming off of great seasons. The Lions hopes are high with Matt Stafford coming back from injury and the almost guarantee that their defense will be much better after a great 2011 draft.
Some believe the Vikings are going to start the 2011 season in a rebuilding process. Others believe the Vikings are just a quarterback away from repeating the 12-4 season of 2009. Whatever you may think, here are my thoughts on how the Minnesota Vikings can put up a fight for the NFC North.
Stay Away from Veteran Free Agent Quarterbacks
With questions at the offensive line, why bring in a veteran quarterback just to throw him to the wolves? I understand getting a veteran quarterback to help coach along Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, but why gamble with the 12th overall pick in the draft on a quarterback if you don't plan on starting him?
Successful teams in today's day and age have either young quarterbacks or quarterbacks that they have groomed to be winning quarterbacks. The Vikings have had a never ending revolving door of quarterbacks in the past 10 years, which might be a reason they haven't had consistent success.
They should not continue the carousel of veteran quarterbacks in Minnesota.
Don't Waste a First-Round Pick on Kevin Kolb
Frankly, I think that is just too high. He suffered a concussion last year and even though he had flashes of greatness in 2010, he still turned the ball over 10 times in just seven games.
Don't trade in one beat up and undependable No. 4 for another.
Hold onto Sidney Rice
This should go without saying, but I figured I would throw it on the list. Sidney Rice is a superstar wide receiver.
When given the opportunity, he always comes up big. He is worth what he is asking for because when it comes to a deep threat, he is it for Minnesota.
He is the perfect weapon for whoever starts behind center for the Vikings.
Develop Ponder. Hand Him the Keys to the Offense. Start Him.
When you draft a quarterback 12th overall, you must have faith in his skills and smarts. Well Christian Ponder is a smart kid with a football mind, and many believe he is ready to start in the NFL.
He was drafted in the first round, which makes him one of the lucky few that were able to get a playbook from whatever team drafted them while the lockout was still lifted. He also has been doing offseason workouts during this lockout with his two best weapons, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin.
Also, he is stepping into a brand new offensive system, run by former assistant head coach and quarterback coach for the Atlanta Falcons, Bill Musgrave. Musgrave groomed Matt Ryan into the superstar quarterback he is today.
Let him work his magic with Ponder and see what happens.
Work on the Offensive Line
Keep the quarterback safe and off his back side—a very fundamental concept in every level of football. The Vikings have had a problem with this lately.
Three years in a row, they have allowed 30-plus sacks. Holding penalties and false start penalties don't help the offense much either though. Another thing that has haunted the Vikings offensive line.
Whether old and fragile or young and sloppy, the Vikings O-line hasn't been very dependable. There are plenty of offensive lineman available in free agency that could help protect whoever is the Vikings quarterback in the future.
Find a Replacement for Ray Edwards
Ray Edwards seems to be more concerned with his boxing career than his football career.
He has already stated that he doesn't think he will be a Viking when football start backs up. Kevin Williams and Jared Allen are still threatening and even though Pat Williams is slowing down, he still has some fight left in him. The "Williams Wall" though is facing a four-game suspension for substance abuse.
The Vikings did draft Christian Ballard(DT) and De'Aundre Reed(DE), but whether they are ready to start is to be seen. Free agency is an option, and at that position, there is plenty of good players available.
Moss Is Not the Answer, but Another Big WR Is
Bringing Randy Moss back to Minnesota was a mistake made by Brad Childress. There is a reason Randy Moss has been passed around the NFL for the last few years. His talent is unquestionable, but his attitude is all wrong.
He was nothing but a distraction while he was in Minnesota, and that showed on the field. Tennessee probably won't hold on to him, but that definitely doesn't mean he should be in purple again.
Bernard Berrian is more than likely going to be gone next season, but if not, he is a non-factor in the Vikings offense. There are plenty of good WRs available this year in free agency. James Jones from Green Bay or Malcolm Floyd from San Diego would be great options.
Someone has to be opposite of Sidney Rice, and Hank Baskett is not the answer.
Give AP the Ball
Adrian Peterson is definitely the Vikings MVP. In four years, he has never rushed for less than 1,200 yards, never rushed for less than 10 touchdowns and has had a yards per rush average of at least 4.5.
He has had some problems with turnovers, but in 2010, he only fumbled the ball once. With different quarterbacks, a weak offensive line and a conservative head coach, he has still managed to be one of the Top 5 running backs four years in a row.
Since his breakout rookie season in 2007, he has been a Top 5 fantasy football pick. No matter what the issue is at quarterback, AP is a superstar and more than capable of putting points on the board for the Purple and Gold.
The Vikings will have success if they continue to hand him the ball. Just have faith in "All Day" Adrian Peterson!
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