Dustin of The Pewter Plank and I exchanged a little Q&A over this weekend’s big Vikings/Buccaneers tilt. I began my half of the session by asking Dustin about Jon Gruden and all the rumors he might be headed for Tennessee:
The Viking Age: Do you believe Jon Gruden when he says he’s not interested in leaving for the Tennessee job? And just incidentally, is he as big a dick as we all think he is?
The Pewter Plank: I actually do believe Gruden. I don’t see how this would be a step up for him professionally. He was offered (apparently) the Notre Dame job, or was at least asked about it a few years ago, and turned that down as well, so why go to Tennessee? The only thing that scares me about Gruden, is the local radio personalities down here have the majority of the retarded fan base hating Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen; in Knoxville, this would not be the case, Gruden would be revered. By the way, one of my favorite underrated college towns in the country!
As far as Gruden being a dick, I’m an unabashed Gruden lover, so I might be the wrong person to ask here! He is definitely a hard-nosed coach who demands a lot out of his players. The Wade Phillips and the Norv Turners of the NFL world though, currently possess stacked teams that are underachieving. Is this because of their placidness, who knows. All I know is I like a coach who demands accountability and performance out of his players, because that is what this game is all about.
TVA: Are you happy with Jeff Garcia or would you prefer Griese still being in there? Or perhaps Chris Simms or one of the other 60 quarterbacks you’ve sported the last few years?
TPP: I have to be perfectly honest in this instance. I am not a huge Jeff Garcia fan. I think that he tends to move through his progressions too quickly, normally tuning out any receiver over the 9 or 10 yard mark, and constantly looking for his check downs. Since he came back from his benching though, he has been looking in the middle of the field in that 9-15 yard range more often. There is no denying his ability to escape the pass rush and move with his feet is a valuable asset to our offense. I don’t think, as long as Gruden is here, that we will ever have a young franchise QB, he just puts too much onus on the ability to comprehend the playbook and accuracy. These are things that young QB’s often struggle with.
TVA: Did you laugh as hard as I did when you read about Warren Sapp calling Keyshawn Johnson a bitch?
TPP: I called everyone I knew and told them about this. Hilarious. The only caveat for me is Keyshawn is still one of my 10 favorite players of all time. There was never a player more willing to go over the middle, get his back wrecked, and still come up with the grab. In love with himself, sure, but we’ve all come to realize the WR position is filled with me-mongers.
TVA: Are you surprised at how competitive the NFC South has been this year? The Falcons? For reals?
TPP: To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised at all. Since the realignment, we have had one SB champ, one SB loser, and two NFC championship losers come out of our division. We have arguably been the most consistent division in the NFC since the realignment. As far as the Falcons are concerned, I’m a little surprised at the amount of success they are having, but I was thinking an 8-8 season before the year started. Our division happens to play the NFC North and AFC West, two of the 3 worst divisions in football in my opinion. The other thing working them is Mike Smith. He seems like the kind of coach who will always get the most out of his players, regardless of talent, a la Jeff Fischer. Remember when the Titans teams sucked 3 or 4 years ago? They never got routed. They always bust their ass, and play hard, and this Falcons team seems to be doing the same. Two key acquisitions in Michael Turner, and of course the silky QB Matt Ryan, coupled with the out of hibernation sack party from John Abraham, and this team is solid.
TVA: What kind of team can the Vikings expect to see when they face the Bucs? And how about a game prediction?
TPP: For most of the season, we have been a run first kind of team. The one game where we truly got away from the ground game was against the Bears, and that is because we had nothing going on the ground. It looks as though Ernest Graham is going to be limited this weekend, and Warrick Dunn has been a non-factor for the past two weeks because of injuries. Couple that with the fact that you guys give up 70 yards per game on the ground, good for third in the league, and the running game has me a little worried. We are a stellar team at home (albeit a crappy one on the road) and RayJay is a tough place to come play. I think we will bring a lot of pressure at Gus Frerotte and force him into a few bad mistakes, which lately, doesn’t seem to be too hard to do. We give up a paltry 16.3 points per game, and are 11th in rush D, and 5th in pass D, so I think offense is going to be tough for the Vikings come Sunday. We are quite susceptible to the big play though, so a huge gain for AP at some point is not out of the question. I think this will be an ugly old school, pound it out, defense wins kind of game. 17-7 Bucs.
And here’s what I had to say, starting with a question about the Vikings’ other weapons besides Adrian Peterson:
TPP: Besides Adrian “The Chosen One” Peterson, what player or plays should the Buccaneers defense and be fans be prepared for?
TVA: I think Chester Taylor is our second-best offensive player. He’s the go-to guy in any kind of longish 3rd down situation and he’s shown he can shake guys and make big plays out of little swing passes and tosses into the flat. I’m actually annoyed that they don’t get him the ball more – he’s almost unstoppable in the open field. Also, watch for Visanthe Shiancoe up the seam. That’s our big touchdown play when we get down reasonably close.
TPP: Do you think the organization seriously regrets not going out and getting a proven player to back up Tavaris Jackson, or are the fans ok with Gus Frerotte?
TVA: I think the fans were okay with Gus up until last week when he threw 3 picks and nearly gave the game away. I don’t know about the organization regretting not getting another QB – I honestly don’t think they looked that seriously at anyone, except maybe Sage Rosenfels for a couple minutes, so they obviously thought Gus was their man. If anyone regrets anything, it’s that they ever put their faith in Tarvaris Jackson in the first place. I think they all know now that he is a bust.
TPP: Where do you think the Buccaneers will be able to have success offensively versus the Vikes?
TVA: Throw it to the tight ends. The middle of our defense is soft as mush since E.J. Henderson got hurt. Owen Daniels had about 600 yards against us a couple weeks ago when we were busy covering everything deep. And if you get in the redzone, just throw it up to whatever receiver is being covered by Cedric Griffin. He can’t react to balls in the air worth a crap.
TPP: The Vikings allow the 6th fewest yards in the league defensively (3rd in run d, and 19th in pass d) yet still give up 23.9 points per game (20th in the league). This would seem to be an anomaly of some sorts. Any explanation?
TVA: 6 special teams touchdowns allowed – that’s a lot of it. Our punt coverage is so bad it’s actually painful. And big kick off returns that give the other guy a short field. It keeps the defensive yardage numbers down but they score. So basically, the special teams have put the defense in a lot of tough situations.
TPP: Game Prediction?
TVA: Based on my thirty-second evaluation of the Buccaneers, I’d say Tampa should win this one 21-13. Actually, I’m feeling like this is just going to be one of those bad weekends for the Vikings. They’ve played well a couple games in a row so they’re bound for a stinker (I have no faith in their ability to discover consistency at this late date). And any time you give a guy like Gruden that extra week to prepare, it can be a problem.