Saturday, April 14, 2012
NFC North weekend mailbag
By Kevin Seifert
Even a quiet week by NFC North standards leaves us with some loose ends to tie up over the weekend. I see many of your blog comments and Facebook responses, all of your mailbag submissions and every one of your @replies on Twitter. Proceed accordingly.
Several readers think Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had more to do with this "unfortunate timing" than I debited him for in Tuesday's post about his future. Randal of Cambridge wrote: He is mostly to blame for the 2011 lost year. They could have been one or two steps further into rebuilding. He pushed for the Donovan McNabb trade but even more damaging was when the season was lost in late October; Frazier did not see what he had in his young players. It was inexcusable to play Jared Allen and Brian Robison as much as they did. He should have given the following players more playing time: DE D'Aundre Reed, DE Everson Griffen, G Brandon Fusco and T DeMarcus Love. And signing Benny Sapp was a mistake. There must have been some practice squad CB from another team who could have been given a chance.
Kevin Seifert: I'm torn on how much blame Frazier should get in that regard. If given the choice, few if any coaches are going to take the long-term road. The Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2009 and were torn apart by internal strife in 2010. Frazier thought they could be competitive in 2011 with a decrease in tension, especially if he could find a veteran quarterback to replace Brett Favre.
In truth, the Vikings would have had a much better record in 2011 if McNabb fit the bill, but his shortcomings have been well-discussed. What Frazier really needed last season was a general manager to tell him that a quick fix lasts only as long as the next one. Frazier needed a general manager to reassure him that he would be evaluated based on what he did with the tools he was given, rather than allowing him to influence the choice of tools themselves.
Rick Spielman's promotion has created that type of structure, and we now see the Vikings taking the longer-term approach that Frazier understandably eschewed when given a choice in 2011.
As far as playing untested youngsters to evaluate them for future years, I've always considered that idea on a case-by-case basis. Only players that have demonstrated in practice that they're ready for such a chance should play. It's reasonable to wish Griffen would have gotten a few more snaps from Robison, but I'm not going to hold it against Frazier for limiting his rookie offensive linemen last season. The Vikings' top priority at the time was to develop quarterback Christian Ponder, and Frazier was obligated to use the best offensive linemen he had -- regardless of their futures -- to facilitate that.
Wil of Minneapolis wonders if Spielman and owner Zygi Wilf will evaluate Frazier on a curve as a result of the roster overhaul: Do you think that Rick, Zygi, and Frazier had a goal and expectations meeting about the 2012 season? Although no one wants to tell the public we expect a 6-10 or 4-12 record, this youth movement and historical records from other teams would probably indicate that. I think it's only fair to have reasonable expectations of Frazier and the football product. After all, the Vikings can easily go 0-6 in the NFC North alone!!!
Kevin Seifert: That's the unfortunate part of the timing, in my view. It's reasonable to have non-tangible expectations and goals in the first year of a coach's tenure, but generally teams want to see progress in the second year.
The Vikings finished 3-13 last season and are competing in a division that features two 2011 playoff teams along with a much-improved Chicago Bears team. Say the Vikings finish 4-12 or 5-11. That would give Frazier a 10-28 or 11-27 record in two-plus seasons. Most coaches deserve three years to make an impact, but at the very least, it wouldn't be an easy decision to bring back a coach with that kind of record.
Rick of Moorhead, Minn., notes the list of players invited to the NFL draft and writes: Shea McClellin invited to NYC for the draft? Doesn't that indicate he will go the first night? I thought he was more like mid second round. Green Bay might be the team to take a shot, but it seems like a reach at 28.
Kevin Seifert: McClellin is a Boise State defensive end who would probably project as a linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. He has been a so-called quick riser in the draft, but whether he is a first-round pick remains to be seen.
Regardless, the NFL invites a cross-section of players so they can have at least some live interviews on site during the first two nights of the draft, which includes the first three rounds. Don't forget that receiver Randall Cobb was in New York when the Packers made him the final pick of the second round last season.
Facebook friend Steve asked if the new deal Lance Briggs received from the Chicago Bears has a "no more whining about contracts" clause.
Kevin Seifert: Ouch. At the very least, it bought the Bears two more years of relative peace. At that point, Briggs will be approaching his 34th birthday and, like most players at that age and his position, will probably be thrilled to have a job.
As several reports have noted, Briggs will earn $6.25 million this season and $5.75 million in 2013. He'll also be in position to earn $5.275 million in 2014.
In the end, Briggs got less than $2 million in "new money" with this renegotiation. But it just shows that teams don't always have to break the bank to make a player happy. They just need to show a gesture of love, and in this case that's all it took for Briggs.
It's time for our semiannual reminder about "balance." Mitch of Green Bay writes: At the rate you are discussing the Packers, it'll take you all of next season to "even things out" after how much Bears talk is going on the past few days. Anonymously, another reader added: Five of the last six blog posts have Bear headlines. There are three other teams in the NFC North. You should be a little more balanced in your reporting.
Kevin Seifert: I realize that readers filter in and out of the blog network, so it bears repeating: News doesn't occur in neat and equal 25 percent increments between our four teams. I have no interest in manufacturing posts to maintain daily balance when experience shows that everyone will get their turn over time. If you're taking a three-day, three-week or even a three-month snapshot, you'll almost certainly find an unequal proportion of posts relative to our four teams.
There were interesting things to write about the Bears this week, including the Briggs extension, and that's where I focused my time. Where will we look next week? Only The Shadow knows what evil lurks in the heart of all men.