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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    From the San Jose Mercury News;

    Posted on Sat, Nov. 12, 2005

    [size=18px]Bad start points to trouble at the top for Vikings[/size]

    BY SEAN JENSEN

    Knight Ridder Newspapers


    ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Vikings dodged questions about their championship aspirations during training camp, masking a quiet confidence that they would finally field a well-rounded team.

    After an offseason emphasis on defense and character, the Vikings' brain trust - entering the final year of their contracts - was ready to gamble their future on the 2005 team. But at the midway point of the season, the defense is only one spot better than last year's final ranking, the behavior of some players during a boat party on Lake Minnetonka Oct. 6 is being investigated, and the offense has struggled in the post-Randy Moss era.

    Coach Mike Tice has led his team to three victories over inferior teams. But his team is winless on the road, losing by an average of 25 points away from the Metrodome, and the Vikings' defense and offense have been erratic throughout.

    The rankings reflect the Vikings troubles: Ted Cottrell's defense is 27th overall, and Steve Loney's offense is 24th.

    Injuries have not helped. The offense's best two players, quarterback Daunte Culpepper and center Matt Birk, are on injured reserve. Two of the defense's top players, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Fred Smoot, have not fulfilled their own expectations. Safety Willie Offord and defensive end Kenechi Udeze suffered season-ending knee injuries, and other key players were out for important stretches early on.

    Minnesota still could win the NFC North Division because the Chicago Bears are fallible, led by a shaky rookie quarterback. Although they are 3-5, the Vikings are coming off a solid 27-14 victory over the Detroit Lions, and they play a favorable second-half schedule.

    Remarkably, despite all the issues on and off the field, a strong finish could bring a playoff berth.

    Here is an analysis of the coaching staff at the midway point:

    MIKE TICE

    Coaching is a sensitive topic at Winter Park.

    Because there is no salary cap or floor for a coaching staff budget, previous owner Red McCombs made sure the Vikings spent less than anyone else - by a long shot.

    Earlier this season, Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, said the Vikings' staff remains the NFL's lowest paid, making an estimated $2.8 million. Tack on Tice's $1 million salary for 2005, and the entire Vikings staff makes less than at least eight NFL head coaches.

    Tice plucked the largely unknown Scott Linehan to run his offense in 2002, and Linehan was a man in demand during the offseason when his contract ran out. But McCombs insisted Tice replace Linehan, who left for the Miami Dolphins, by promoting someone already on his staff.

    Financial inequities aside, Tice must be held accountable for several miscalculations.

    He projected that rookie Marcus Johnson could handle himself at right guard. But Johnson was benched early in the season, and his replacement, Adam Goldberg, has played markedly better.

    Tice also insisted that his offense would remain potent, even after the departure of Moss, and that his defense was the best since 1994 or 1995.

    Neither has proved true.

    Heading into the season, Tice also preached the importance of consistency, and the Vikings have been anything but, buckled by turnovers and penalties. Communication issues on the sideline have been evident.

    The head coach's leadership was even questioned.

    The day after a 30-10 loss in Atlanta, Tice called an 80-minute, meeting with his players.

    The coach delivered what one player called a "rambling resignation speech." Although Tice said his message was about perseverance, three players told the St. Paul Pioneer Press the coach told them he contemplated resigning hours after the loss.

    "He quit on us," one starter said. "I lost all respect for him."

    Tice managed to rectify that rift. But it points to another issue for the embattled coach: getting involved with problems after they arrive.

    STEVE LONEY

    Loney had expressed confidence he could handle the dual responsibility of being the coordinator and offensive line coach because he had done so at the collegiate level, for the Gophers and at Iowa State.

    Loney isn't in Ames anymore.

    His offensive line struggled early in the season, and his quarterback, Culpepper, turned the ball over at an alarming rate. In fact, the offense's struggles cost them the season opener, and their inability to score in the first half against Chicago cost them momentum. Meanwhile, their performances in Cincinnati and Atlanta were deplorable.

    Loney was hurt by the trade of his top offensive weapon, Moss, to the Oakland Raiders. And while the Vikings added several players during the offseason, Loney did not get high-caliber playmakers anywhere near Moss' level.

    The offense faltered enough that Tice involved himself in the play-calling, and he added offensive assistant Jerry Rhome to bolster the staff.

    Loney and Tice were on the staff when Culpepper played like an MVP last season, but they couldn't get him to approach that level this season.

    The offense has yet to find a rhythm for meaningful stretches this season.

    TED COTTRELL

    Tice handpicked Ted Cottrell to be his defensive coordinator.

    Unlike others on the staff, Cottrell is believed to be paid in line with his peers around the league. Unlike Loney, Cottrell had a responsibility (coaching linebackers) handed to someone else so he could focus more on the entire defense.

    Cottrell also was given significant input on the team's offseason decisions on players. The team allocated much of its resources to his unit in the draft and free agency.

    The players and coaches were optimistic this unit could crack the top 10; instead, they are among the bottom six.

    In fact, this defense is not clearly better than some of the flawed models of the recent past. It is ranked 27th overall, 26th against the run, and 23rd against the pass.

    Injuries have hurt Cottrell's ability to establish continuity, and his hand was forced to switch to the 3-4 scheme.

    His unit played winning football against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Chicago_ for three quarters, anyway - and Detroit. But the game plans against Atlanta and Carolina were clearly off base. In fact, cornerback Antoine Winfield, who played for Cottrell in Buffalo, questioned the defense's schemes after the Carolina game.

    Winfield insisted players needed a more aggressive approach to be successful and that in-game adjustments needed to improve.

    Not exactly a vote of confidence for the coordinator.

    RUSTY TILLMAN

    After two years out of coaching, Tillman surely questioned in the past two seasons why he returned to the NFL. Never blessed with much talent, Tillman's units were consistently exposed as problematic.

    But during training camp this year, Tice emphasized special teams, highlighting the unit in practices and in meetings. Tillman benefited as the Vikings have steadily improved their depth.

    Tillman shouldn't get credit for the success of rookie punter Chris Kluwe, whom the Vikings' scouting department suggested. But Tillman does deserve kudos for the unit's improvement in coverage and kickoff and punt returns.

    Other than the game against the Bears, when they gave up a long return just before halftime that set up a touchdown, the special-teams play has been solid if not outstanding.

    Paul Edinger's 56-yard field goal with no time remaining against Green Bay is the highlight of their season, and Tillman's players have delivered several clutch plays, including punts downed inside the 5-yard line and key kickoff and punt returns. That the offense or defense did not capitalize is not Tillman's fault.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    gregair13's Avatar
    gregair13 is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    interesting. most of that is pretty true. we do need to bring in some better coaches. what about rich gannon as a qb coach or when rodney harrison retires in the offseason, get him as a secondary coach. mabye seau as a linebacker coach?
    We're bringing purple back.

  3. #3
    umaguma1979's Avatar
    umaguma1979 is offline Asst. Coach
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    Gannon would make a fine Qb coach. If anyone exactly the same and totally different than Culpepper it is him.......what I mean is that physically, Gannon was always a poor man's Culpepper. Gannon is a football genius and Culpepper is not the sharpest tool in the drawer.

  4. #4
    akvikefan89 is offline Star Spokesman
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    Thanks McCombs..... :banghead:

  5. #5
    PurplePackerEater is offline Ring of Fame
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    I have to hand it to McCombs, he sure knows how to make money.

  6. #6
    PurplePackerEater is offline Ring of Fame
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    Moss called it though, telling McCombs you can't win AND be cheap. (I don't remember the EXACT wording)

  7. #7
    SamDawg84 Guest

    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    i love our division lol. its easy lol

  8. #8
    umaguma1979's Avatar
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    Re: Coach analysis: Bad start points to trouble at the top

    McCombs hurt us Vikings fans than the regime that proceeded him......Allowing fans to buy tickets knowing the team has no shot....thats cheap.

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