Welcome to the Team, Josh.
Since the departure of former Vikings head coach Brad Childress, Vikings fans may have believed quarterback drama would be over. Today, however, the Vikes will sign embattled free agent Josh Freeman—who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week—and Leslie Frazier has brought QB drama back to the forefront. Let me be clear: there is a difference between quarterback controversy, and quarterback drama. Quarterback controversy is what the Vikings had last week, after Matt Cassel filled in for the injured Christian Ponder and led the team to its first victory this season. Quarterback drama is when you sign a guy who got cut from his team after beginning the season as its starter due to disagreements with his previous head coach and other issues.
Don’t get me wrong. Freeman has a lot of upsides. He’s a first-round draft pick, has a strong arm, and he holds franchise records for the Bucs in just 5 years as a starter. I’m also glad that the Vikes didn’t waste a player trading for Freeman. But Freeman’s downsides are also numerous: turnover prone (we already HAVE that in Ponder), questions about leadership (stripped of his captainship this season) and dedication (missed the Bucs’ team photo last August).
Not only does Freeman bring his own baggage, he also muddies up the water for the Vikings’ quarterback question marks. Frazier has publicly stood behind Ponder, but it’s unclear if Ponder’s even ready to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Cassel did a serviceable job in backup, but he can’t be happy about the Freeman signing. I understand that the Vikings want to light a fire under Ponder. I understand the need for depth at quarterback.
The Freeman signing may be good for the fans, but I’m unsure it’s good for the team. Who will the players stand behind? It seems the players have had enough to worry about just living up to their expectations, that to throw another question mark in the mix could further corrode team chemistry. We had enough QB drama with Brett Favre. I look forward to how the Vikes deal with this issue in the coming weeks.
The Vikings’ first four games boil down to three major issues:
1. Poor defense, especially the secondary
The team has led every game at halftime, and three of their four games games were decided by the final drive. The defense has had the opportunity to put the game away, and they have not. The glaring issue here is the health and talent of the secondary. The team is giving up 326 yards per game in the air, which places the Vikes at 29th in the NFL.
2. Too many giveaway turnovers
To give the Vikings defense some credit, they are tied for third in the NFL in takeaway turnovers, with 12. But they are also tied for third in the NFL for giveaway turnovers, with 10. The have coughed up the ball 5 times, and thrown the ball away 5 times. I truly believe if the Vikes play safe, hold onto the ball, they will mightily improve the final three-quarters of the season.
3. Shaky QB Play
There’s not much more to say about this, and uncertainty looms even larger with the signing of Freeman.
At this rate, I believe the Vikes will end up 8-8. The next five weeks will tell the tale. The Vikings ought to easily handle the Panthers and the Giants, and they have a chance at beating the hated Packers at home. The game in Dallas is also winnable, as is the game against Washington at the Metrodome. After that, a tough stretch lies ahead, with games at Seattle, at Green Bay. Then the Bears come into town before a trip to Baltimore.
If the Vikes take advantage of the next five weeks, they could be in the playoff hunt. I don’t think the last half of the season bodes well for the Vikes, however. The team will either be backing into the playoffs, which is highly unlikely given their poor start to the season, or they will be eliminated in the final month of the season.
Preview Next Week Against the Panthers
The Vikings have struggled against the Panthers in the past decade, winning 3 of 7 games. The good news is the Vikes will be playing at home. Cam Newton is unpredictable as ever, and the Panthers’ passing offense is among the worst in the league, but, given the state of our secondary, he may shred the Vikes’ defense for one of his best performances this season. The Panthers’ defense is also stout, and Adrian Peterson may struggle. It’s unknown who will start this Sunday for the Vikes. Ponder if he’s healthy, Cassel if he’s not. Still, I think this will be another close, high-scoring game for the Vikes. Turnovers may abound on both sides. Final score: Vikes 30, Panthers 24.