As most people realize this team has never fully recovered from losing Tony Dungy as our DC, and that was 10 years ago. Dungy turned the Vikings into one of the best defenses in the NFL. In his first year we had 42 total takeaways. The next year if I remember correctly we were at the top of the league in total defense. They sacked, they picked, they pressured, they blitzed, they covered, and most importantly, they TACKLED.
Dungy was a brilliant defensive mind, but it occurs to me that although he developed some of those players, our defense already had talent that had played with the Vikings for several years before his arrival. We had Doleman, we had Henry Thomas, we had Carl Lee, John Randle, Audray McMillian, and Mike Merriweather...all were Pro Bowlers before Dungy was hired. Dungy's first year, we drafted Ed McDaniel, and added Jack Del Rio a veteran from the Cowboys. Todd Scott was also in his second year.
Dungy had a total of 5 new starters, but he had a lot to work with when he first came.
What did Cottrell have in his first year? In the secondary he had one pro bowler, Corey Chavous. He was able to bring in Antoine Winfield. On the line he had rookie sensation Kevin Williams as well as Keith Newman, who was also playing well but was no Pro Bowler. Other than that he had a bunch of rookies and second year players in the front 7 as well as injured Claiborne and struggling Hovan. In the secondary he had almost no depth especially at safety. Most of our defensive talent was added this year, and much of it has been injured so far.
I guess my point here is that I'm not so quick to give up on Cottrell despite our questionable defense. Tice I'm convinced needs to go, but Cottrell is just now getting his defense together and has had problems keeping it healthy. Some of these guys, like Winfield, Cowart, and Pat Williams came to Minnesota partly because they had worked with Cottrell before and believed him to be a great coach.
A lot of people were angry at Cottrell because they felt he wasn't blitzing enough, or pressuring Vick or Palmer enough, or calling the right coverages, or whatever. That's true...Cottrell is keeping the defense simple, and by all accounts from Viking Land, the reason he is doing that is because the younger players are really struggling and having a hard time with more complicated schemes that you might see out of New England or Baltimore. So if you don't feel Cottrell is making this defense confusing for the opponent, you're right, because it's too confusing even for some of our own players right now. Even the veterans like Cowart and Smoot admit this.
SO have patience, give the defense time. It will develop into an outstanding unit, and I really believe Cottrell is the guy to mold it. Things will get better down the road.