Okay Vikings, we got it. Bernard Berrian is staying with the team and he is going to have a big year. You got that people? The Vikings aren’t cutting Bernard Berrian and furthermore they are certain he is going to bounce back after two lousy seasons and finally earn his millions.
It all started two days ago, the barrage of pro-Berrian propaganda flying out of Winter Park and raining down on all our heads like a super-insane never-before-seen level of Missile Command. Leslie Frazier launched the blitz by saying to the media, “We’ve got Bernard Berrian here for a reason. He’s going to step up and help us in that [deep-ball] area. Percy [Harvin] can still catch the ball deep. Visanthe [Shiancoe] can still stretch the field down the middle of the field. We’ve got some weapons to stretch the field when we need to.”
The memo then went out from Frazier’s office to every corner of the Vikings organization that it was time to talk up Berrian. The whole endeavor reached a height of absurdity this morning when Vikings.com writer Mike Wobschall posted an article entitled “Expect a Big Bounce Back From Bernard Berrian.” In his company line “news feature,” Wobschall argues that the problem with Berrian isn’t Berrian, it’s all the expectations placed on Berrian. According to Wobby (as he is affectionately known) we shouldn’t look for consistent production from Berrian but should instead be content with the occasional big play, because that’s what Berrian really is: a sometimes-good player who is mostly not going to do much.
See fans? It’s all your fault. Berrian may earn a huge salary but that doesn’t mean we should expect anything from him, beyond the odd 20-yard gain on a busted coverage. If you manage those expectations, and conveniently ignore his cap number, you’ll see how much value Berrian really has.
Wobby also argues that Berrian is worth the money because he shows up in big games, like the NFC title game where took advantage of all the attention being paid to Sidney Rice and Adrian Peterson and posted some big stats (he also lost a fumble in that game but we’ll just overlook that). So the key is for the rest of the team to play well, setting up big game situations that allow Bernard Berrian to shine. Don’t expect Bernard to do anything in the early games that create the later big games because, well, he only cares when the bright lights are beaming down. Bright lights bring out his eyes, don’t you know.
Most insanely of all, Wobschall tries to make the point that, if you compare Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian’s Vikings stats, they weren’t that different as players. Wobby writes:
Yes, Rice’s numbers are better. But are they that much better? Also consider that as great a season as Rice had in 2009 (83 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs), he had three ordinary years around that one great year. Outside of 2009, Rice has never had more than 31 receptions, 396 yards or 4 TDs in a season. Those are below average numbers and Berrian has bettered those numbers in four of his seven NFL seasons.
Nothing like subtly dissing the guy who left while building up the guy who stayed. Only problem with Wobby’s argument is that two of Rice’s three “ordinary” years were ruined by injury. What kind of season would Rice have had in 2010 had he not been forced to have hip surgery? I’m guessing he would’ve exceeded his “below-average” career numbers.
Here’s the other point Wobby overlooks: With Rice out of the picture in 2010, Berrian was handed a chance to prove all his doubters wrong and be the man, and instead of stepping up he became even worse than he was before. That’s what’s known as withering under pressure. Granted that wasn’t all Berrian’s fault; the entire offense was a mess and the quarterback situation was just a total freaking catastrophe. Still, guys like Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson managed to have good years amid the chaos. Berrian didn’t rise above the circumstances like those guys but was instead swallowed up by them and spat out.
Stats don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes the eyeball test is more important and over the last two years the eyeball test told me that when healthy Sidney Rice is a brilliant playmaker with great ball-skills and a knack for getting open, while Bernard Berrian is an overpaid #3 receiver who drops too many balls and pouts when he doesn’t get enough targets.
I should clarify that it is not my intention here to trash Bernard Berrian (even though that’s kind of what I’m doing). In fact, lately I’ve begun feeling sympathetic toward Berrian, who is perhaps taking more heat than even he deserves. I hope Leslie Frazier is right about Berrian bouncing back and giving the Vikings a good season. We’ll need Berrian if this offense is going to click.
So it’s not about ripping Berrian. It’s about ripping the Vikings and their media stooges for trying to sell me an obvious line of bull. Not for a second do I believe the Vikings have any real faith in Berrian; everything they’re saying about him is happy talk to calm fan angst and build up a player who is experiencing a severe lull in his confidence. It says something about Berrian that Frazier thinks he needs to talk up him this much. It tells me Berrian is fragile and pouty and they’re worried about losing him mentally before the season’s even started.
And why would they be worried about losing him mentally? Because they lost him the last two years. They could afford to lose him in ’09 because they had Sidney Rice, and it didn’t matter in ’10 because the whole team ended up going in the crapper, but now Sidney Rice is gone for good and they really really do need Berrian…at least until the team once again goes belly-up.
In short, Berrian has pressure on him, and the Vikings know that despite all the stuff about how he shows up in big games (baloney cherry-picking is all that is) he isn’t a guy who handles the media glare very well. It also couldn’t have helped Berrian’s confidence to hear all those rumors about the guys who were coming in to take his job. Hence the multiple meetings with Berrian to soothe his poor aching ego. Hence the “Bernard Berrian is going to be great, just you wait and see” media blitz.
It’s all more than my BS detector can take. And what makes it really hilarious is this: Everybody knows the Vikings would’ve dumped Berrian in a heartbeat if they could’ve gotten Braylon Edwards for a decent price, or Malcom Floyd, or if they would’ve had a shot at keeping Sidney Rice (who I don’t think would’ve stayed with the Vikings for any amount of money, so pissed off was Sidney at the organization over past situations).
The Vikings can talk up Berrian all they want, it won’t change the fact that they looked into multiple receivers in free agency. It won’t change the fact that he’s only here because they couldn’t get anyone better. It also won’t change the fact that Berrian has been a bust. No amount of stat-spinning will ever make Bernard Berrian as good a player as Sidney Rice was when healthy.
Like I said before, I hope Berrian bounces back, I’m just not very optimistic that he will. Maybe I should do like Wobby suggests and expect less. Way, way less. I’d probably be a happier person.