For those of you who aren’t aware, the Vikings Fan Line is a weekly (during the football season) call-in radio show hosted by Cory Cove and Mike Morris that airs immediately after the game every week on KFAN. It serves two main purposes as far as I can tell: it is a forum for thoughtful discussion about all things Vikings, from the players and the preceding game, all the way down to the future draft, as well as being an outlet for frustration and fury that would make you think the worst team in the league is being talked about – regardless of the team’s record at the time. For the most part the types of calls that come in are a reflection of how well or poorly the game went for the Vikes – when they lose it’s nothing but incessant complaining about who should be out of a job, who made the biggest mistake, who is solely responsible for the loss, and why we can kiss any chance of making the playoffs goodbye. When the Vikings win, It’s the exact same thing with a few more positive phone calls sprinkled in.
Let me clarify that I’m absolutely being too harsh. I actually really love the show and I listen to it every week. Getting former Viking Mike Morris’s insight into things is always valuable, and many if not most of the callers tend to have good takes on things and are able to contribute meaningfully to the conversation. But as with anything in life a few bad apples can ruin things for everyone, and after every loss I come away from listening to the Fan Line with the overwhelming sense that Vikings fans everywhere are ready to revolt, that the entire coaching staff’s heads will be mounted on spikes all around the Metrodome, regardless of the fact that I know that the views expressed by the few unreasonable callers do not reflect the fan base as a whole.
I finally got around today to listening to the Vikings Fan Line episode for this past weekend in podcast form, and there were a few things that struck me. The following is a list of some of the more absurd notions put forth by callers this week, some specific to individuals, others are summarized versions of what a few different people said. All of these have been addressed (sometimes just dismissed) by the hosts of Fan Line, but I thought I’d offer my take for those of you who haven’t listened.
1. It’s time to give up on Christian Ponder.
A few people called in to complain about Ponder’s performance against Chicago. The complaints ranged from “he cost the team the game” to “it’s time to give up on Ponder and go with someone else” to “he was the biggest mistake this team has made in years”. Let’s be fair to Ponder: he had a bad game no doubt, but his receivers absolutely killed him. He made his share of poor throws and poor decisions, but there were no fewer than six near perfect passes that were just dropped by receivers. If even a few of those passes were caught, Ponder’s stats would look a little different, and the final score might as well. Now it’s fair to look at this season as a whole and say that Ponder has underperformed – he absolutely has – but it’s not quite time to abandon all hope of him ever becoming a decent quarterback. It’s still very early in his career, and right now he is not what he is going to be. We won’t know how he’s going to turn out in the long run for at least a couple more seasons, so don’t get too excited or bummed out just yet, it’s simply too soon to tell.
2. Rick Spielman needs to go.
This point ties into the last one, and was one of the most absurd things that anyone said throughout the show. Let me quote Ken from Forest Lake, “I think if we just get rid of Spielman, this team will be better”. His two points of contention with Spielman are that he drafted Ponder with the 12th overall pick and that Ponder is a bust, and that the Vikings didn’t do enough in free agency to address some of the problems the team has. This guy picked the wrong time to pick on Rick Spielman. Along with some duds, his draft record includes Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Percy Harvin, as well as a number of other guys that are still starters on this team. But since becoming general manager this past offseason and taking the reigns entirely into his own hands, his drafting choices look really good. Of the 2012 draft class for the Vikings, Spielman’s first in charge, there are three players not only starting, but making a huge impact on the team, those being Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, and Blair Walsh. Both Josh Robinson and Rhett Ellison have been solid contributors, and Audie Cole, Jarius Wright, and Robert Blanton have looked pretty good in their very limited playing time. Obviously it’s ridiculous to try to judge a draft class without watching how they grow and mature for a few years, but in terms of immediate impact, this draft class is one of the best all around that we’ve seen in a while.
The second point was actually mentioned by a few different people, in reference to the lack of receiving talent on this team. It’s completely fair to say that the Vikings could have, and maybe should have, done more in free agency. They could have gone after a big name receiver who would have made an immediate impact, or at least a bigger name that Jerome Simpson. Again, I’m going to defend Spielman on this one. His plan is/was simple and under the circumstances, coming off of a dismal 3-13 season, it was a good one. Solidify the things you need to solidify with the draft, sign a few free agents to short deals to see how they’ll work, and don’t break the bank going after a name. Get the offensive line and secondary figured out, then next year worry about the big time receiver, once the team has something going. Maybe that strategy would be different if Spielman would have known what a good start the team would get off to, but he didn’t. I’d also like to point out that the receiver position wasn’t ignored by any means. Four new targets were brought in for Ponder, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Jerome Simpson, and John Carlson. It just so happens that none of these worked out how they were supposed to, at least not yet.
3. Leslie Frazier is not a good coach.
After every loss, Frazier gets reamed on Fan Line as if he himself had thrown some interceptions or dropped some passes. It’s natural after a poor performance by a team to look at the coach and say “how’d you let this happen?” but in all fairness to Frazier, the coach can only do so much. In my mind, there’s no question that Frazier is doing something right. We should all be careful not to forget what bad shape this team was in last season and how quickly things have changed. We still have hopes for the playoffs. Read that last sentence again and let it sink in. It’s more unlikely now than it was when we were 5-2, but it could still happen, and if someone would have told me that after last season I would have said they were crazy.
One thing that callers seem to always bring up in regards to Frazier is his calm demeanor and seeming lack of passion or enthusiasm. This is something that has come up since he took over as head coach, and until he takes the Vikes to a Super Bowl, it’ll probably never stop. Their argument goes like this: he stands silently on the sidelines, never showing much emotion, never getting in anyone’s face or pumping them up, always with the same blank expression, therefore he is a horrible coach. The hosts of Fan Line did a good job of shooting this one down, as they do every time it comes up. Leslie Frazier is calm, quiet, and collected on the sidelines during game day. So was Tony Dungy. So was Bud Grant. So is Bill Belichick for the most part. Other than their toned down personalities, what do all of these people have in common? They’re all great coaches. Frazier is not the stereotypical screaming coach that Jim Harbaugh is, but that factor alone in no way makes him a worse coach. The guy’s not a screamer. So what.
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