Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

After the Minnesota Vikings' 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Joe Webb plays quarterback like he's the point guard on a run-and-gun basketball team. He gets the ball and takes off, looking to make a play somehow via some means. That mentality probably isn't conducive to being a long-term starter at quarterback, but if it wasn't clear before, it's now obvious: Webb has enough playmaking skills to merit a regular place in the Vikings' offense -- somewhere. Plans to use him purely as a receiver never materialized, mostly because the Vikings felt they needed him for depth at quarterback. One of the Vikings' top offseason goals should be to devise a role that maximizes Webb's multi-positional skills, perhaps in a way that -- gasp! -- has never been done before. Webb might not be a full-time quarterback prospect, but it doesn't make sense to have him holding a clipboard on the sideline.

  2. If Webb is one of the top priorities of the offseason, then making a clinical evaluation of starter Christian Ponder's recent performance is the most important. Ponder has seven turnovers in his past two games and 10 in his past four. You could make an argument that he shouldn't have played Sunday after a hip pointer dramatically limited his practice time last week, but there are going to be times in his career when he'll need to play competently when less than 100 percent. It's not alarming in itself when a rookie quarterback commits piles of turnovers. So it's important not to overreact to what's happened. To me, real concern will be merited if it continues into next season. The jump between a quarterback's first and second year is arguably the most important in his career, and I think it's fair for the Vikings to expect significant improvement this offseason..

  3. The Vikings' defense deserves some credit for limiting the assumed damage the Lions' offense would inflict on their undermanned secondary. Quarterback Matthew Stafford managed 227 passing yards. One of them was a 56-yard scoring pass to receiver Titus Young. That means Stafford had 171 yards on his other 19 completions. The biggest reason was another monster game from defensive end Jared Allen, whose three sacks returned him to the top of the NFL's leaderboard. His total of 17.5 is a career high and 2.5 higher than the next-best performer this season. Can Allen pick up another 5.5 over the Vikings' final three games to set a single-season NFL record? It's probably the most interesting aspect remaining in this lost season for the Vikings.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

The Vikings have been in an unusual situation for some time with cornerback Cedric Griffin. It's rare that a player returns in a full-time role after tearing the ACL in both knees, and at the beginning of the season, the Vikings decided to give Griffin a chance to do it. It became obvious long ago that Griffin wasn't playing the same kind of physical, tight coverage that marked his best seasons with the team. But as Frazier admitted last week, the Vikings didn't have any better options. So until Sunday, at least, they left Griffin on the field to fend for himself. NFL players never want to tap out, so Griffin gamely kept trying even as he continued to get beat. The Vikings finally found mercy Sunday and benched him. Griffin should have been quietly thankful, but instead he appeared angry. My guess is he is upset about the pending end of his career, at least in Minnesota, but I don't know for sure.