Brian Hall’s Oct. 24 Vikings mailbag

The quarterback change was made, again, but it didn’t solve the Minnesota Vikings’ troubles at the position or the fans’ questions about the approach and direction of the team.

Here’s this week’s Vikings’ mailbag:

Question: Please help me understand, I have followed football since 1958 and been a Viking fan since they started up in Minnesota. I have Sunday NFL Ticket and watch a lot of football but I’m tired of the Coach Frazier saying “we had a good offensive game plan”. I think last nights game doomed the Coach and the General Manager and I think the game plan is terrible. The Vikings have more talent then KC on offense and Alex Smith seems to do all right and that is because of the game plan. Do you agree with that?– Alan Tiseth, Chatham, Il

Answer: Monday night’s loss, while it didn’t lead to immediate changes, is the type of game that will cause coaches, management and players to lose jobs by the end of this season if things don’t change. Minnesota was embarrassed on national TV and looked ill-prepared for the second straight game. No doubt Monday’s loss will stick in the minds of decision-makers. Interestingly, the Vikings’ owners, the Wilfs, are from New Jersey and had to endure that loss in their own backyard. They have to be thinking of their other options at this point, though a midseason change is unlikely.

The Kansas City Chiefs have made a remarkable turnaround this season with new coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith. Smith might be the ultimate “game manager” as a quarterback in the NFL and has thrived with better coaching in Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and Reid. Count me as surprised at the effectiveness of Smith this year. Some wanted Smith in Minnesota. I’m not sure he would have the same success here, but Kansas City this season does show what the right situation, coaching and a confident quarterback can do in the NFL.

Q: Well, another lousy effort from our squad. In a division that 8-8 may just be enough to get into the playoffs, our entire coaching staff looks ‘dazed and confused.’ Anyone remember the scene in ‘Spinal Tap’ where the band leaves the dressing room all amped up…but cannot find their way to the stage? My question is, “Do you see Ziggy instructing Frazier & Co. to hang out on the Packers sideline during the next game to take notes & hopefully learn a thing or ten about leadership and accountability?”– Mike M., Mpls

A: I’m sure it won’t help the Vikings if the coaches spent the entire time on the Packers sideline (insert joke here). Unless Frazier and his coaches were able to relay the information during the game, but I think that’s illegal.

Q: Why not cancel the plans to build a new stadium?  I would suspect that will get a lot of people excited to do their jobs at the Vikings – everyone from coaches to players to the owners.– Vikings Taxpayer, Anywhere in Minnesota

A: Now there’s a new idea. Nothing would probably motivate the Vikings’ management and ownership more than losing the financing and plans for the new stadium. That said, it won’t happen. Also, the players and coaches wouldn’t be motivated by a stadium that opens three seasons from now, with many of them potentially not around by that time.

Q: 2 questions, With all the issues with our “wonderful” passing game, why is it this team limiting Adrian down to 13 runs for the game? We all know Freeman was going to struggle but hoped it wouldn’t be as bad for not knowing too much of the playbook yet, so why not give it to your STAR tailback and beat em down with the run like 2012!!!?!?!?! Also who’s candidate for Head Coaching next year?!– Jay, Sioux Falls

A: I was confused as well by the game plan on Monday night. Freeman threw 53 passes, while Adrian Peterson had 13 carries. Instead of establishing the run game with the reigning MVP, the Vikings were too eager to let the game be decided by a quarterback who had only practiced with the starting offense for a week. Frazier said the team needs more balance and he said the team didn’t go into Monday’s game looking to pass 53 times.

Frazier’s comment was that the ineffectiveness of the run game led to the reliance on passing. Yet, Minnesota didn’t seem to try and establish the run, which was my biggest concern. Peterson didn’t have success running the ball, but the Vikings needed to stick with him. He only had two carries in the first nine offensive plays. That isn’t enough of a sampling to establish the run game. Making matters worse, the distribution was the same in the second half after Minnesota had already seen Freeman struggle. Peterson saw the ball on one of the first five plays and two of the first nine in the second half. And, as Frazier said, the game was never out of hand. The Vikings were never more than two possessions down.

Q: Why is the GM getting away with destroying this team?  I think we need a complete sweep top – down!– Dave Hyland, Grand Rapids, MN

A: The calls and questioning of general manager Rick Spielman are beginning, some in part to the coaching and some because of personnel decisions. It’s tough to fire a coach midseason, but Spielman will have a decision to make at the end of the year. I guess the question becomes whether Spielman will also join Frazier on the way out. Spielman seems to have the ear of the Vikings’ owners, so he’s probably safe. Of course, a lot of the questions about the quarterback position and the midseason tryout of Freeman very likely is Spielman’s doing. While Frazier says he’s calling the shots on the quarterback, very likely it is an organization-wide decision, probably led by Spielman.

Q: Should the Vikes consider not showing up to play the Pack? I know I wouldn’t show up if I were them..– Joe T, Inver Grove, MN

A: I don’t think that’s an option.

Q: What is the reason Leslie Frazier left Freeman in the game ? It left such a bad taste in the Vikings fans mouth, it told me that they wanted to tank the season.– Bob, In Darien, WI from White Bear Lake

A: A very valid point from Bob. Many were excited to see what Freeman might be able to accomplish with the Vikings, but Monday night’s game was bad. And the longer it went on only made it seem worse. Freeman threw 30 passes in the fourth quarter and 17 were incompletions.

Going back to what I said about the quarterback position as a whole, I’m not sure the freedom that Frazier has to make in-game changes. I think leaving Freeman in on Monday night was less about trying to tank this season or win Monday’s game and more to do with being set on evaluating Freeman and giving him as much time as possible to make the evaluation.

Q: When are these woeful losers moving to LA?– barry dechaine, montana

A: Well, they’re not moving to LA. In a few years, they will be opening a new facility in Minneapolis. You might have heard.

Q: After Monday’s loss to New York, it was quite obvious, Josh Freeman wasn’t ready to start. He didn’t have enough plays in his arsenal to be effective. Who ever made the decision to start Freeman should be held accountable.– Mike, Minneapolis

A: You’re right Mike, it was clear Freeman wasn’t ready to start. Though I also wonder how much more prep time would help the accuracy issues. Freeman was just missing receivers and often they were open receivers. Frazier said there were issues with mechanics and maybe the coaches can help Freeman improve his accuracy, but Monday wasn’t a good sign. Again, Monday was likely less about winning a game as it was giving Freeman as many chances to prove he can become a long-term answer at quarterback. And while you might have to wait until the end of the season, I believe there will be accountability for the continued issues at quarterback.

Q: Are the offensive and defensive line coaches doing their job? That seems to be the biggest problem.– Dave Zurn, Fargo,nd

A: Dave touches on two of the most surprising aspects of this season for the Vikings. The offensive and defensive lines were expected to be the strengths of their respective sides. All the starters from each side returned. The offensive line’s cohesiveness was expected to improve play along the line even more than last season. Instead, the line has struggled to open holes for Peterson and Frazier talked about the group not sustaining blocks. The line has also had its issues in pass coverage.

The defensive line had its top six players in the rotation back and Minnesota has struggled to stop the run and isn’t getting the pass rush — at least not getting the quarterback on the ground — as it has in the past. Both lines need improvement if the Vikings are going to show any life this season.

Q: Why don’t they get rid of Coach Frazier, he is the whole problem.– Ty Etterlein, ogden, Utah

A: Count me among the Frazier backers in the past, but with the way the team has performed the last two weeks, coaching is a legitimate concern at this point. Frazier isn’t the “whole problem” but you wonder how much of the blame can be placed on his shoulders. It’s always tough to discern how much responsibility belongs to coaches. As Frazier has said, he can’t go out and throw the ball for the Vikings. But ultimately the team’s performance does fall on his shoulders. However, I disagree he is the whole problem.

Q: I’ve been a Vikings fan for 45 yrs and we all know how bad this yrs team is. We need a Qb plain and simple. What do you think about Manziel? I think he would be the best Qb for this team. Reminds me of another Qb with an attitude that led the Bears to a Super Bowl, another Qb we had at the end of his career. Would love to see the Vikings draft a solid Qb for once.– Winston Eaton, Sacramento, California

A: If the season continues down this path and Freeman doesn’t respond, Minnesota will be drafting another quarterback. And if Freeman doesn’t look good over the final 10 games — once he passes concussion testing, that is — the quarterback will likely be coming in the first round. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel will be heavily scrutinized over the coming months.

As it is right now, opinions are widely varied on Manziel’s pro potential. But he will have credentials coming out. He was the first freshman to win the Heisman, and has shown potential with his throwing ability and mobility. Of course,  the Vikings thought they were drafting a solid quarterback in 2011 — Christian Ponder.

Q: Since Rick S has taken over the player selection (draft & FA), how would you grade his performance?– Norskie, Austin, MN

A: Spielman’s track record is a bit mixed, right now. He received a lot of acclaim for his draft classes, but those additions don’t look quite as sterling after some time. Ponder is definitely questionable as the first-rounder in 2011, and while tight end Kyle Rudolph is a quality player, he cost a second-round pick. Sixth-rounders Mistral Raymond and Brandon Fusco are the only other remaining players from the 2011 draft.

No doubt, Spielman received a lot of response for his success last year in the draft, and the Vikings are getting a lot of playing time from several players, yet there are questions still remaining here. Left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith, first rounders, look like potential stars and kicker Blair Walsh (sixth round) has become one of the best in the league. Third-rounder Josh Robinson is struggling mightily. Jarius Wright (fourth round) hasn’t offered much this year after emerging a bit last year. Greg Childs (fourth round) has yet to play in a game because of injury. Fourth-round tight end Rhett Ellison is a solid blocker and special teams player. Robert Blanton (sixth round) and Audie Cole (seventh round) have been stuck mostly on special teams when active.

This season, Spielman made another splash with three first-rounders after his trade to get receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but is actually behind most of the first-rounders in impact this season. Still, all three (Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes are the others) appear to have big talent. Punter Jeff Locke (fifth round) is improving. There are no other guaranteed starters from the mix.

Spielman also wisely jettisoned a few older, veteran players in 2012 to build a younger and cheaper roster, which was a good thing. But the release of cornerback Antoine Winfield looks bad, especially with hindsight as the season has progressed. The quarterback questions still cast a shadow over the entire building of the roster.

Q: Your organization should really consider signing Tim Tebow, he has a better passing rate, more discipline and follows playbooks. He would also sell tickets in a breeze!– Steve, Minnesota

A: And with Freeman’s struggles the calls for Tebow come back.

Q: Go to the Lions and work out a deal to get one of the best college QBs, Kellen Moore. You need someone who knows the game and has passion for what he does.  Bigger is not always better.– Steve Skogrand, PNW

A: Or there’s another lefty who had college success in Detroit.

Q: I think the O’line’s physical play last season paired with AP’s amazing running ability was the perfect identity for this team! Knowing if AP gets 20 carries a game he will break at least one for a TD! Why have the Vikes drifted away from that physical attitude of play?– Stacey Rice, Iowa

A: Agreed. Minnesota seemed to have found a mix that worked for the team last season. Of course, that was with Peterson having a historic second half to the season. Peterson did make comments after Monday night’s game about talking to the team and getting back to what the Vikings did so well last year. It will be interesting to see if Peterson’s words will change anything.

Frazier did say this week that the team needs more balance. He mentioned the offensive line needs to improve its blocking and sustain blocks better, and Peterson needs to be patient and run through the hole the play is designed for. I believe some of it is almost a mentality, and Frazier spoke to as much on Wednesday. Teams have always known Minnesota is going to run the ball, but last year the Vikings basically said “try and stop us.” This season, teams are stopping them. Minnesota does need to get back to playing a more physical game, offensively and defensively.

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

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