This is not the statement of a hysterical fan going way overboard in the wake of a loss. Nor is it a cynical attempt at grabbing traffic with a sensational headline. I assure you I am completely calm and rational right now. And though I’m certainly not above going for the traffic grab, I assure you that’s not what this is. This is a sincere statement arrived at after long, hard thought. There is only one course of action that makes sense for the Vikings in light of all that’s happened this season. They must dump Bill Musgrave. As soon as humanly possible.
Despite what you may be thinking, this statement has nothing to do with my estimation of Musgrave’s offensive scheme. I actually think Musgrave has done some smart things this year. I think he’s done a fantastic job finding ways of getting the ball to Percy Harvin. It speaks well of Musgrave that he was able to look soberly at the way Harvin was used last year and conclude that a change needed to be made. The Harvin plan was, for awhile, the best thing this offense had going for it. But that’s not working so well now. Defenses adjust eventually and that’s what has happened to the Vikings. That’s a big reason the offense is struggling. Harvin isn’t getting free, and it’s now time for the offense to work in other things.
But where are those other things? They’re not materializing. But should we actually blame Bill Musgrave for this? Is it even really his fault that other options aren’t showing up? Not necessarily. At least some of this has to be laid at the door of the GM. Fact is, Rick Spielman hasn’t done Musgrave any favors with his personnel decisions. It wasn’t Musgrave’s idea to fill holes with two egg-laying turds named Jerome Simpson and John Carlson. It was Spielman’s plan to go cheap. Spielman handed Musgrave an undermanned offense and told him to make it work. And for awhile Musgrave made it work. But the lack of talent has now been exposed. Spielman could’ve gone out before the trade deadline and tried to remedy the situation but he elected not to. By not going after any receiver, he tacitly reinforced his own previously stated position. It’s not about 2012 for this team. It’s about 2013 and beyond.
Had Spielman been focused on 2012 he might’ve gone after Vincent Jackson in the offseason. Or he might’ve looked around for a veteran QB to put behind Christian Ponder in the event Ponder should struggle. None of this is on Musgrave. Yet I still say fire Musgrave. And here’s why the Vikings should fire Musgrave. It’s not about bad scheming and it’s not even really about his questionable in-game playcalling. My whole argument for dumping Musgrave relates not at all to the immediate situation, in fact. My argument is all about the future. It’s completely in line with Rick Spielman’s long-term thinking.
It’s all about Christian Ponder really. Leaving aside everything else that’s wrong with this offense, Ponder himself is clearly not getting better. In fact he seems to go backward with each successive week. The argument has been made that Ponder is being given too much to think about. He’s being force-fed too much information and is no longer playing loose and free. His natural football instincts are being suppressed. Let’s accept that argument entirely, for it has merit. Who then is to blame for this? Is it not Bill Musgrave?
Musgrave was supposed to be the QB guru, if we remember. He helped Matt Ryan, or so went the argument. He also helped Matt Schaub when the two were together at the University of Virginia. This is a guy who grows young quarterbacks. So Christian Ponder was supposed to thrive under his tutelage. So went the claim. But does anyone look at Christian Ponder and think he’s thriving?
Okay, but how would canning Musgrave now, throwing the entire situation into chaos, help Christian Ponder? Wouldn’t changing now actually hurt his development ultimately? Maybe. But here’s the flipside. If you’re truly convinced, as many people are, that Musgrave is over-burdening Ponder with information, is over-coaching him right to the point of a nervous breakdown, why then would you want Ponder under this man’s thumb for one second longer than necessary? Wouldn’t it actually be doing more damage to let Musgrave continue hammering his stuff into Ponder’s brain?
My plan is all about the future, just like Rick Spielman’s. If Ponder is your long-term solution, and you truly think Musgrave is doing a bad job with his development, then the only sensible move is to fire Musgrave without hesitation and minimize the damage. I realize this isn’t very practical given everything that goes into designing and running an NFL offense. Maybe if you had an offensive-minded head coach who could take over playcalling duties. But Leslie Frazier is a defensive guy. If you can Musgrave, who steps up and runs the offense?
Going outside the current staff for an interim OC isn’t an option. It would have to be someone already on the staff. The only person who leaps out at you as a candidate is QB coach Craig Johnson. Johnson has never been an OC in the NFL but he did run the offense years ago at VMI, so at least he has some experience calling plays. He also has plenty of NFL experience and has coached not only quarterbacks but running backs. So he has some feel for the big picture of offense.
Obviously, elevating Johnson or anyone else on the staff to OC at this point would be putting them in a tough spot. But again, it’s not about immediate results for this team, is it? Rick Spielman made that clear by giving his coaches no help at receiver either in the offseason or at the trade deadline. Spielman wants Ponder to develop long-term. So give Ponder the best chance to develop. Get Bill Musgrave the over-coacher out of his ear and give him someone to listen to who might actually nurture him. Get a different offensive mind in there. Get Ponder off this track toward the gutter.
Firing Musgrave would look like a panic move, but it would actually be the ultimate long-term move. If you in fact buy that Ponder’s main problem is the way he’s being coached. The other possibility of course is that Ponder isn’t actually any good. Then it doesn’t really matter who’s designing the offense or who’s playing wide receiver. But that’s just a crazy idea. It couldn’t be Ponder. It couldn’t be that Spielman messed up making this guy the #12 overall draft pick.
Nope. Fire Musgrave. Trust me, this is the only move that makes sense. Otherwise Ponder will be ruined not just for the rest of this season but next season too. His fragile brain will be smashed beyond repair.
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