Brian Hall’s Nov. 27 Vikings mailbag

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on this early holiday edition
of the mailbag. A tie Sunday is a hard one to encapsulate for me and the fans,
it appears.

The Vikings did some good things but a tie doesn’t make
anyone happy with the current situation. Most of the mailbag questions hit on
similar topics.

Here are this week’s questions:

Q: Brian, I probably
write to you more then I should but I have a comment and a question. I’m very
tired of hearing the coach always saying “Ponder gives us the best chance
to win”, I disagree, I think the defense needs a major change in scheme or
let the younger linebackers play or what do you think they can do with the
worst defense I can remember the Vikings have?

— Alan Tiseth,
Chatham, Il

A: I do
appreciate the questions each week, Alan. Sounds like you have to separate
topics here. Coach Leslie Frazier has maintained that “right now”
Christian Ponder does give Minnesota the best chance to win at quarterback.
Ponder has made enough plays in recent weeks and his stats stand up well, which
keeps him in the starting position for now. I’ve contended that Matt Cassel
probably gives the Vikings the best chance to win, but it appears as though the
team doesn’t want him to start. And in reality, letting a 31-year-old start for
a team that needs to find a long-term answer doesn’t solve many problems other
than providing more professional outings in a lost season. Ponder at least has
kept Minnesota competitive. As always, turnovers are the key with Ponder.

The defense does need major improvement, and the linebackers
have received nearly as much criticism as the secondary. Erin Henderson has big
tackle numbers but might be better off moving back to the weakside. Audie Cole
fared well in his first start and Frazier said he could be in line for more
playing time. I’ve been on record as saying I’d like to see Michael Mauti get
more playing time as well. Of course, the Vikings simply don’t play a third
linebacker much in games, negating some opportunities. Chad Greenway has also
been the target of blame. I wonder how much his ailing wrist is bothering him
when it comes to missed tackles or if he is trying to compensate for others in
the defense. Greenway has been hesitant to get into specifics. He’s a two-time
Pro Bowler with a long future in Minnesota, and I believe he will be fine.

Q: Why are the
Vikings not starting Josh Freeman?

— Hal Butterfield,
Pierre, SD

Q: When do you think
we will see Freeman? We didn’t give the guy 3 million to ride the pine and hold
a clipboard.

— Frankie Marino,
Mason City, IA

A: Simply put,
Frazier is sticking with Ponder until he has a reason to switch. Ponder has
done enough to hold on to the job in recent games. His stats show he is
improving, but Ponder doesn’t exactly pass the eye test. As far as Freeman,
it’s really hard to say.

I see parts of practices as the team keeps the beginning of
practice open to the media, which usually involves special teams and position
group work. Freeman also stays late after practices working with quarterbacks
coach Craig Johnson. Accuracy might be one of the things still keeping Freeman
from a starting role. We can see some misfires during the small parts of
practice we see and the after-practice work usually involves footwork and accuracy.
Freeman has been credited by coaches for his work ethic, but he’s also a
laid-back person. In his interview with the media last week, Freeman said he
wasn’t disappointed with the situation and he’s stopped trying to figure it
out. You wonder if his attitude, while not causing trouble, isn’t pressing the
coaches either. I hesitate to call him apathetic, but he is certainly rolling
with the punches right now.

That said, I still believe Freeman will start games this
season for Minnesota. I very well could see the Vikings sticking with Ponder
for a few more weeks and then eventually turning to Freeman with two or three
games left and with the playoffs truly out of the picture. Also, fans need to
stop worrying about how much money the team gave Freeman — for the record, the
equivalent to $2 million for the rest of the season. Signing Freeman, even at
$2 million, was worth it for the chance to see if he had what it takes to be a
long-term starter for Minnesota. To find a franchise quarterback, $2 million is
really a small gamble. If the Vikings believed he had a chance to be the
long-term starter, he’ll eventually get his chance. If they don’t, it was still
worth the opportunity to bring him in and have him in the building every day,
working with the team’s coaches and staff.

Q: Hey great news
about Childs. I am rooting for this kid to come back and play. My question is
when do the Vikings put Frazier and his staff on IR. Starting Ponder again and
not playing last years draft picks is just as painful as Childs injury.
Wouldn’t the Vikings want to see what they have in the LB core with Cole, Mauti
and Hodges before going into the draft. What about Patterson and Rhodes these
kids should have been starting on day one. Every move that Frazier has made has
not worked out, he is not Tony Dungy. Time to pull this sunken ship out of the
sand and see if she will float again.

— Tim, Idaho

A: Great analogy.
Greg Childs’ return is a fascinating one. No one has ever come back from
bilateral patellar tendon tears to play again, but he is sure making it look
like a possibility. In 15 months he’s returned to the practice field and could
be activated within two more weeks by the Vikings. A great story, but Childs
still has some work to do. He didn’t practice the day after his return because
of some soreness. Even if he doesn’t return this year, Childs likely is in line
to play next year.

I’ve touched a bit on the linebackers. Mauti and Hodges are
playing special teams and Mauti has made an impact on special teams. Cole could
see more time as the season continues after his impressive debut. Patterson and
Rhodes will get a lot of playing time the rest of the year, even if many
thought their usage was less than it should have been earlier in the season. In
some ways, Frazier is like Dungy. But Frazier hasn’t shown to have the coaching
acumen Dungy had.

Q: How much do the
Wilfs know about football and do they watch the Vikings play?

— Dan, Perham, MN

Q: Feel sorry for the
Wilf’s. Shouldn’t they hire a top notch consultant like Bill Parcells to
evaluate the whole team including coaches players and make recommendations for
next year.  These Vikings find ways to
lose. They have become the Detroit Lions of the ’70’s!

— Steve, Sioux Falls

A: The Wilfs
don’t have any background in football. I’m sure they are learning along the way
as owners. Coming from New Jersey, the Wilfs were noted Giants’ fans and the
link with Parcells, New York’s former Super Bowl winning coach, has been made.
The New York Post once ran a story that the Wilfs approached Parcells to run
the Vikings, but the report was denied. The Wilfs were admirers of Parcells.

Parcells, inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, might
officially be done in the NFL. He is now 72 years old and has surely been
pursued before. The Wilfs, without much of a football background, rely on their
football decision-makers. By most accounts, the Wilfs trust general manager
Rick Spielman. Spielman has their ear and now has the power to make any moves
after being promoted to general manager to be the final decision-maker. Whether
the Wilfs sour on Spielman because of the losing might be the biggest question
heading into the offseason.

Q: Hi Brian- thanks
for the opportunity. Another embarrassing performance from our sidelines and on
the field. What are your thoughts on Ziggy offering up a Coach/GM position to
try and land Bill Cower (or someone else having the leadership skills needed)
to lead the Vikings out of this very dark period in team history?

— Donald G., St.
Paul Park

A: I really
believe that’s the decision the Wilfs need to make this offseason. I’m not sure
if Bill Cowher even wants to return to coaching, though he’s always one of the
names fans and media go to when considering coaching candidates. Cowher, who
won the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh in his second-to-last season, hasn’t coached
since 2006.

I envision Minnesota could have trouble finding a
“power” coach if Spielman is still in place. Spielman likely won’t want to
hire someone that will challenge his authority, nor will a coach with options
to have full power want to join a team in which he will be second-hand to
Spielman in the decision-making process. The history was top coaches would come
in and be the coach/general manager to run the whole show and have the final
say. The occasions of coach/GM’s in the NFL have dwindled.

Q: I don’t believe
the players and coaches on both the Vikings and the Packers got any
satisfaction with a game ending tie. What is your opinion, on playing until
someone wins. The Vikings don’t have enough talent on defense to stop anyone,
when they use the prevent Tampa two defensive scheme. Which they used in every
fourth quarter on every game this season. Why do continue to use it.

— Casey, Minneapolis

Q: The Vikings found
a way to neither win or lose a game, thanks to the Vikings defense. Do you
think the NFL should go back to the sudden death overtime. First team to score
wins the game. Ties are almost like a no game.

— Mike, Minneapolis

Q: Why is the Defence
loosing its intensity at the end of the game once more, do they not realize it
4 quarters long and not 3?

— AJ, Sioux Falls

A: I’m like
everyone else. I don’t like ties. I do like the NFL’s switch in which both
teams get a possession in overtime. They could solve the tie situation very
easily. Keep the arrangement as it currently is and just play until someone
wins, not worrying about the clock expiring. If a team scores a touchdown on
the first possession, they win, as it is now. If they don’t score or kick a
field goal, the other team gets a chance. After that, it’s a true sudden-death
situation. Eventually someone  is going to
score and it probably wouldn’t take too much longer than the current overtime
quarter timing. Just go another 5 minutes, if needed, until someone scores.
You’re right: No one was particular happy after Sunday’s game.

As for the defense, football is too complex to simply say
the losses this season are because of the defense or the offense. Both sides
could have helped the situation. But other than quarterback play, the defense
is in the crosshairs for criticism. The defense gave up 16 straight points on Sunday
to allow Green Bay to tie the game. Of course, a few more plays by the offense,
and the defense is taken off the hook. It’s all relative. But the late-game
defense by Minnesota simply has to be improved and that includes taking a look
at the defensive schemes.

Q: With the season
all but over for the Vikings; what are the chances we see more playing time for
Toby?  I think he showed against GB that
he is a talented RB.  It seems like the
smart move would to give Toby some more touches so that we don’t run AP into
the ground during a wasted season.

— Adam, Bloomington

A: This is one
question I would have disagreed with earlier, but am coming around on.
Gerhart’s performance the past two weeks has certainly earned him more
opportunities. And Frazier said on Monday the team will make more of a
concerted effort to give Gerhart more carries. In his final season with the
team, we’re likely looking at the last few games of Gerhart — a former
second-round pick — in a Vikings’ uniform.

I’ve always believed Gerhart’s a capable running back and he
is a good guy in the locker room. He just happens to back up one of the best
running backs in NFL history. Tough break for a player who has shown he can
play in the NFL. Gerhart will likely get the chance to go somewhere else next
season and be a 1-2 punch back in a rotation, if not a lead back himself.

But, like the Vikings, I wouldn’t have given Gerhart many
chances in lieu of Peterson. Peterson is simply too explosive and powerful to
not have in the game. Yet, as he deals with a groin injury and the season
continues to slip away, Minnesota would be better served saving some wear and
tear on Peterson, who isn’t exactly young at 28 years old. The belief is
running backs begin to slip as they hit their age-30 season. Gerhart could help
keep Peterson from wearing down and maybe save some miles on the MVP’s legs for
another season when the Vikings have more to play for.

Q: As a long-time
Viking fan, I am more than frustrated at what I see as a coaching problem.  Why, with both Ponder and Castle on the
sidelines would a new (only a few weeks with the team) quarterback get the
starting job and THEN steadfastly refuse to take him out?  Does the coaching staff really want to win? Peterson
is a great running back but he could use some help.  In the Green Bay game, both running backs
looked good.  We still need some defense
help.  I am still not sure the coach has
the Vikings best interest at heart.

— Barbara Tracy,
Ormond Beach, FL

A: I understand
the fans’ frustration with Frazier, but I can say he has the Vikings’ best
interest at heart. Frazier wants to win. Frazier needs to win. He’s coaching to
save his job as much as the players are trying to save theirs.  So, I do believe Frazier is trying to win

Thank you for your submissions. Sorry we’re not able to
answer each question individually. I’ve tried to hit as many different topics
as possible. I hope we continue to hear from you in the future. Be sure to
check for upcoming mailbags.

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