Brian Hall’s Nov. 21 Vikings mailbag

Losing brings out may more questions in the weekly mailbag. Take a guess where the concerns lie this week. We’ll get right to them:

Question: Can we get a Quarterback Now?
— Anthony McDonald, Plantation, FL

Q: Christian Ponder said in his postgame interview. That all the mistakes he made were correctable. It’s the same excuse, Ponder and the coaching staff has used all season. If correctable, why do the Vikings continue to make the same stupid mistakes week after week. Ponder is just a lame duck, he and Spielman should be the first to go.
— Casey, Minneapolis

Q: Do you agree that the removal of Christian Ponder from the game, and off the playing field for the remainder of the season. Is in the best interest for the Vikings? I question Ponder’s vision. He cannot see the middle of the field. He threw two interceptions right to Seattle’s defenders. The biggest problem the Vikings have is their defense is a sieve. For a various reasons.– Mike, MinneapolisvQ: If coach Frazier play Ponder against the Packers then he should be fired on the spot. The Vikes needs to play Freeman and ride him to the end of the season. We know who Ponder is and what he’s going to do. Can’t throw a hailmary short of the endzone enough with Ponder already. To the coach and GM it’s ok to make mistakes but it’s stupid not to admit to it and move on. I like the coach and GM but lets move on from the Ponder era please.
–Thao, Southwest MN

Q: I made a prediction before the Vikings game against Seattle. That Christian Ponder will have the worst game of the season. Throwing three interceptions and fumble the ball twice, being sacked seven times, knocked out of the game. I was close. When are the Vikings organization going to stop catering Ponder, and let him warm the bench.
— Hugh, Minneapolis

Answer: Just a sampling of the submissions asking for the end of the Christian Ponder era in Minnesota. Ponder is still the Vikings starter going into Green Bay on Sunday. Leslie Frazier won’t be fired — at least I can assure it won’t happen before the game. Matt Cassel will be the backup Sunday and Josh Freeman will be the third quarterback and likely inactive.

The only thing I can say is Frazier sees Ponder and Freeman in practice every day. And Frazier is also trying to win to save his own job. So, to me, it’s telling that he sticks by Ponder. Frazier is loyal, maybe to a fault, but he sticks with Ponder when he needs to win games. Frazier and the rest of the organization see something that has led them to give Ponder his fifth straight start Sunday.

Freeman is working after practice but even in drills you can see his inaccuracy show up at times. Reporters aren’t allowed to watch the full practices, but Frazier sees it all. So it makes you wonder what he is seeing when deciding on Ponder over Freeman.

The past two weeks have been a microcosm of Ponder’s career. He played well against Washington and looked like he was adding some stability to the position and then he got hurt. Then he returned in time to play the following week and had three turnovers and a poor second half. Inconsistency is the thing with Ponder. He has, at times, shown promise, but it’s ultimately undone by bouts of erratic play and injuries.

Count me as surprised Frazier went back to Ponder this week. Last week was only the second time in his career Ponder was pulled from a game for performance reasons and the first since the seventh start of his rookie season in December 2011 in a loss at Detroit. We know what Ponder is by now. He’s had 33 mostly up-and-down, more down than up, starts in his NFL career. The Vikings, while they won’t say it, know what he is too. Minnesota will be drafting a quarterback next summer.

But in the meantime, Ponder still gets to start. For those done with Ponder, if you want hope, Frazier gave no real assurances about the starter after Sunday’s game. He did mention he would look at it again Monday and said he hasn’t ruled out Freeman starting again this season. So, be prepared for a lot of the same next week as Frazier is again faced with a decision.

Q: Brian, all the Sports Talk Radio Shows are talking about how Percy Harvin wants to play this weekend because the Vikings traded him. I thought Harvin did not want to play with the Vikings and was upset with Ponder. What is the story as you know it?
— Alan Tiseth, Chatham, Il

A: Harvin didn’t like the situation with Minnesota’s offense or Ponder. He did prefer out and he wanted an extension and got both with Seattle. Even still, Harvin was a prideful guy and his departure from Minnesota was ugly. So, yes, he wanted to play against the Vikings and Sunday’s game just about went as well as Harvin probably hoped.

Q: Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Football. Would being in a position to draft Johnny be incentive enough to get Kevin as a head coach?
— Kevin, DC

A: An interesting thought to consider, the college coach and quarterback joining each other at the next level. Another possibility you might hear throughout the offseason is the teaming of Louisville coach Charlie Strong and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater reuniting at the NFL level. Bridgewater is the consensus top quarterback right now, though it’s still early in the draft process.

Sumlin, the head coach at Texas A&M, is also having his name circulate more as the season progresses. It’s an intriguing idea with Sumlin and Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel was, and is, bound to have his game picked apart as part of the draft process, but he might be gaining steam in scouting circles by following up his Heisman Trophy winning first season with another strong year. Manziel has also had the likes of former quarterback Troy Aikman and current New Orleans star Drew Brees saying he will be a good NFL quarterback.

Manziel will definitely be one of the more interesting names at draft time.

Q: The bad Ponder was back in the 2nd half.    Will Freeman be quarterbacking next week?   Next year I would like to see J Gruden as coach and Leslie Frazier as the defensive coordinator and someone other than Musgrave as offensive coordinator.
— Kathy B, Claire City SD

A: I separated this one just because I wanted to respond to the different parts. As I mentioned, it’s still possible Freeman will be the starting quarterback next week when Minnesota returns home to play Chicago.

However, while Jon Gruden’s name will continue to be floated about and he’s said he’s open to a return, I’m pretty sure you can rule out Frazier remaining with the team if he’s fired.

Q: Is this statement right?  The Vikings need more help then the draft can provide. Do they have the cap space to be a player in Free Agency?
— Norskie, Austin, MN

A: The Vikings could have the cap space to be a player in free agency with many big contracts falling off the books, such as defensive end Jared Allen’s $17 million and defensive tackle Kevin Williams’ $5 million. General manager Rick Spielman just doesn’t believe in making big moves in free agency. Instead, Minnesota will look to the draft and augment with a few possible free-agent signings.

Do the Vikings need more help than the draft can provide? Honestly, it’s hard to say. Minnesota will be looking at a very early pick and could potentially come away with a quarterback and defensive help. If the Vikings found a strong quarterback, had bounceback seasons from the offensive line, fullback Jerome Felton, running back Adrian Peterson and a few defensive players, they could recover just like they did in 2012, when they went from 3-13 to 10-6 and in the playoffs.

Q: Why do we still have this coaching staff? They are totally unable to make sound decisions and lack accountability.

Q: I think the biggest problem the Vikings coaching staff has is in game adjustment. When the same problem occur ever week and out, the coaching staff/personnel is a bigger issues here to consider. What your thought?
— Omar, Mankato

A: Of course, right behind quarterback is the questioning of the coaching. Some of the decisions have been baffling and the instability at quarterback is a red flag for the entire organization. Coaching has been in question in many of the games this season. However, the Vikings did make good in-game adjustments against Washington leading to the win. It just doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

I still believe Frazier has what it takes to be a strong coach and manage the personalities of a locker room, and I believe the players are still behind Frazier this season. Perhaps that’s one reason Frazier likely won’t be fired in-season. You’re unlikely to see a mutiny with Frazier leading the way because many of the leaders respect Frazier and his approach. However, I believe Frazier is the kind of head coach that needs coordinators, and Bill Musgrave and Alan Williams haven’t proven to be top-notch assistants yet …

Q: When will the Vikings get a play caller that is not so predictable?  My friends and I sit and watch the game laughing at the play calls…It is simply to easy to see what is coming next…We play a prevent defense with zero penetration and a scared secondary…an offensive play caller that seems to think the outside throw is his way of punting the ball to the other team…How many touchdowns have gone the other way this year with that exact same throw?  come-on man!!!
— Paul Day, Baxter, MN

A: … Which leads right into Paul’s concerns. The breakdowns this season are shared between the coaches and players. Musgrave deserved credit for some of the offensive game plans last season and his utilization of Harvin, that turned Harvin into the league’s leading receiver before he was injured. Yet, this season, it doesn’t seem like there’s been any apparent coaching advantage for Minnesota as you watch the games. Particularly early in the season, the Vikings would throw on first down and a long second-down attempt meant an Adrian Peterson run on second down. The late-game collapses on defense have come with a less aggressive approach, which led some players to speak out about the play calling.

Q: Clearly the Vikings are far below average in the QB, DB, LB, CB, OL and coaching departments. My question is, being soooooo many players away from contention, do you think the home team is smart enough to trade away Adrian Peterson this off season for a handful of draft picks to help in a complete rebuild to debut with the new stadium?
— Harrison L., Lakeville

A: It’s not the first time we’ve seen questions about trading Adrian Peterson. I can say I don’t think you’ll see Minnesota trade the reigning MVP anytime soon. It’s past the trade deadline this year, so it’s not even an option. And it likely won’t happen in the offseason as Minnesota tries to retool. The Vikings best bet, as evidenced by last season — and the fact they’ll likely be breaking in a new quarterback next year — is to build around Peterson.

Peterson might be having an off year, and the blame lies with him and the blocking. But the run-first approach has worked for Minnesota in the past and getting equal value in a trade — especially in a league that is so pass-heavy elsewhere — would be highly unlikely.

Q: After another disappointing lose, I have finally come to the conclusion that Ponder is NOT the answer for the Vikings….Even though the whole team had good and bad plays I really think it’s time to see what Freeman has. On almost every passing play Ponder stares down his target and almost never looks for another one…is this something the quarterback coach can’t teach him? The season seems to be done at least as far as the playoffs go so why not let Freeman play the rest of the games to see if he is the real deal or if the team needs to be looking to draft a quarterback for next year. What are your thoughts on that? I sure hope that after this terrible season the Wipfs don’t trade AP…do you think that is a possibility?
— Jenny S., Brookings, SD

A: And we have a vote for keeping Peterson around. As for the other questions, see above.

Q: I hear lots of talk about what the Vikings problems are; Ponder, Frazier and the coaching staff and Rick Spielman etc. My question is, who does our scouting of college players and who recommends or makes the final decision on which player to draft? Seems like we are striking out a lot.
— Randy, Fairmont, MN

A: Spielman does a lot of scouting himself, but the team also has its array of area scouts, as every team does and Minnesota has a director of college scouting in Scott Studwell. The final say is Spielman’s on draft day. But the process is long and involves all of the team’s scouts.

The Vikings have struck out at the quarterback position, but the hits and misses under the current format are probably about league average. Spielman and his staff has hit on players like Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Blair Walsh, Kyle Rudolph and the jury is still out on this year’s class that had three first-rounders in Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson. There have been hits and misses, just like there are with any team. But when a particular miss is drafting a quarterback in the first round, such as Ponder in 2011, it will be magnified.

Q: It seems like not just starting QB is important but seems like we’ve seen with other teams this year that the backup QB may be more important than people tend to think.  With that, coming into this season it seemed like people were liking the development of McLeod Bethel-Thompson.  I think it’s safe to say MBT would never be a starter but a solid backup.  Why would they release MBT for Freeman when they haven’t given much of a look at Freeman? Again, though he wouldn’t be more than a backup; is this a move that the Vikings may end up kicking themselves for?
— Adam, Bloomington

A: Frankly, no, I don’t think the Vikings will look back one day and kick themselves for releasing Bethel-Thompson to take a look at Freeman. Yes, many are surprised Freeman hasn’t gotten a chance, but the coaching staff is still working with and seeing Freeman on an everyday basis. You’d like to see him play in a game to see if he could become the franchise quarterback some thought he was developing into in Tampa Bay, but Minnesota took a chance to get Freeman in its own building and work with him on an everyday basis.

It was a worthwhile gamble to take a look at a potential long-term starter. The move might not be working out like the Vikings hope, but they won’t look back and regret giving up Bethel-Thompson, who is in the same No. 3 spot in San Francisco and surely not guaranteed to even make it as a backup in the NFL.

Q: Dear Brian, I am sick, hurt, depressed and pi$$ed with the way my beloved team is performing. Every Sunday, I expect them to play better and win. I feel that Vikes play to lose NOT WIN. Is that the team philosophy so they get a good pick in the upcoming draft? Every week I am sick of buying lunch for my friends (If my team wins, my buddies buy me lunch and vice-versa). I have only gotten 2 lunches. I WANT MORE LUNCHES in the future. Please convey this message to Coach Frazier (If he cannot fix this, please make him pay for my lunch). Your help is greatly appreciated!

A: Coach Frazier, help a guy out. He needs some lunches. Times are tough.

Q: After watching the Saints this weekend I have come to one conclusion about the NFL:  It’s not who you have at quarterback, it’s who you have on the sidelines.  I like Frazier.  I like him more as a defensive coordinator than head coach.  How about this, we hire Dungy as head coach, demote Frazier to D. Coordinator and hire Billick or Gruden as the O. Coordinator.  It would cost major $ and I don’t know if the Wilfs’ would be willing to spend it but it sure would be nice to have top of the line executives for a change.
— Kyle, San Antonio

A: Anyone want to take this one for me? Interesting ideas, but that’s a lot of wishing and hoping that just wouldn’t come true. Tony Dungy says he is done coaching. If Frazier is fired, he won’t stick around as the defensive coordinator. And Brian Billick and Jon Gruden, two former coaches that are out of coaching, I’m sure wouldn’t want to return as coordinators.

Q: Seeing as this season has turned into a complete disaster, why wont our coaches hand the reigns over to some of these younger players? Why wont they give guys like Cole, Mauti, and Hodges a shot at playing linebacker? Why are we still targeting an unproductive receiver like Simpson instead of integrating more plays around Patterson, Wright, and Web? Look at what Wright did last week for the first time this season. How has it taken us 10 weeks to finally target Wright? I just dont understand why we waste time playing guys like Erin in the middle when he cant fill a hole. Yeah he has made a lot of tackles, but they are all 3-4 yard past the line of scrimmage. Im tired of watching him get run over. We need someone in the middle who can actually plug a hole. Im not even going to get into the quarterback situation but why did we have to waive MBT? He may have been the most talented QB on the roster. Look at what guys like Keenum, and the undrafted kid in Oakland have done! Just a thought hope to hear a reply.
— Carsen Myhre, Billings, MT

A: I do believe you might see more from some of the young guys going forward, particularly Patterson. Wright started last week for Greg Jennings and had a strong game, but Minnesota’s offense just simply isn’t the type to allow for big games from several receivers.

The Vikings believe in Henderson and he’s signed past this season, so he won’t be sat down. I am intrigued by Mauti, who looks better and better each week on special teams. I would like to see a bit more of Mauti going forward, but it would mean moving Henderson back to the weakside linebacker spot, and I’m not sure the coaches are willing to do that in-season.

Some teams have hit on unexpected quarterbacks, but it’s rare in the NFL. I covered Bethel-Thompson a bit above. I guess when it comes down to the quarterback spot, the question becomes if Minnesota has the right people evaluating the position, which I wrote about a bit the week leading up to the Dallas Cowboys game after some strong comments from Dallas coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo. Romo said the position is a hard one to judge and only certain people can’t evaluate quarterbacks properly.

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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