Oct 21, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back Antoine Winfield (26) against the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 21-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings May Need Antoine Winfield, But Winfield Isn't Coming Back

The Vikings currently have the most pitiful pass defense in the NFL, thanks in large part to the play of Josh Robinson who is statistically the worst cornerback in the NFL, having surrendered 35 receptions on 38 targets. It hasn’t helped that the Vikings’ best corner Chris Cook has been on the shelf with a bad groin. It also hasn’t helped that, for some reason, the coaching staff refuses to unleash Xavier Rhodes, a talented player who has shown big-time flashes playing outside in the nickel.

How to remedy this awful awful mess? If you’re the Vikings you try furiously to coach up Robinson and hope you can get him at least to the point of being serviceable, cause you need someone to man the slot corner spot and deal with all those pesky slot receivers and open field running backs (or “air backs” as Pete Prisco thinks we should call them).

If you’re a fan of course you have a much simpler solution: just call up our old pal Antoine Winfield and stick him back in his old slot corner position. Then everything will be right with the world. And we’ll never have to watch Josh Robinson get torched again or fling himself helplessly at the ankles of a runner in a vain attempt at making what football experts like to call a “tackle.”

Unfortunately the world of football reality is much more complicated than that of fan fantasy. It’s not like the Vikings can just call up Antoine Winfield, offer him a bunch of money and bring him back. There’s a major sticking point that everyone keeps conveniently ignoring: the fact that Antoine Winfield absolutely hates Rick Spielman’s guts.

It’s been pretty well established at this point that things ended in ugly fashion between Winfield and Spielman back when Winfield was cut for cap reasons. At that point Winfield believed he had other options, so it was easy for him to say no when the Vikings tried to make it right by offering him a fully guaranteed contract. But it didn’t work out for Winfield in Seattle and now instead of playing ball he’s sitting at home playing Playstation or whatever he does with his free time.

So according to the logic of certain fans, Winfield is miserably unemployed and should therefore be happy to take any job he can get, even a job back with the Vikings and that jerkoff Spielman. But there’s another factor that enters into this: the pride factor. I don’t know Antoine Winfield, but from afar he seems like a pretty proud dude. He seems to me like exactly the kind of dude who, if someone he hated offered him a bunch of money to play football for 12 games, he would tell that person to kindly take the money and stick it in some orifice that shall not be named.

In short, I believe Antoine Winfield would rather stay retired than ever play for Rick Spielman again. That’s how bad I think Spielman burned Winfield. So it doesn’t matter how many times Leslie Frazier calls Winfield. It doesn’t matter if the Vikings send a Three Musketeers contingent down to Winfield’s house to beg him to come back. It doesn’t matter how much the fans WANT Winfield back. The dude ain’t coming back, because the dude has pride, and frankly I respect him for that.

So all the fans pining for Winfield’s return, please just give it a rest. If the Vikings are going to fix their secondary they’re going to have to do it without Antoine Winfield. They’re going to have to do it by finding someone who can play the slot corner position the way their defense dictates it must be played. That man is not Josh Robinson, who was simply a bad draft pick by Rick “Never Misses In The Draft” Spielman. Maybe Marcus Sherels can hold down that spot after Cook returns and Rhodes finally convinces Leslie Frazier that he’s ready to play outside every down. Maybe some mixing and matching will need to be done. Or maybe the thing just ain’t fixable and we’re doomed to watch guys like Brian Hoyer light us up all year.

In the end, it’s all on Spielman’s head. He drafted Robinson thinking Robinson could replace Winfield. He was wrong. He dissed Winfield and now Winfield won’t come back. He was the architect of this disaster, and now it’s up to the players and coaches to cobble together something workable out of all the rubble.

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