NFC North: Jimmie Johnson


We're Black and Blue All Over:

Recent comments by Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher seem neither vindictive nor controversial to me. Rather, they appear more like the honest musings of a player whose retirement was abrupt and still a bit raw to the senses.

As you might be aware, Urlacher told NFL.com that he is rooting for the Bears this season. But he added: "They better not win a championship without me, because I'll be really [ticked]."

Everyone can read into that what they want. All I see is a player acknowledging it would be personally painful to see the team reach the one accomplishment he couldn't during his career. The pain wouldn't derive from jealousy or a feeling that he wasn't needed in a Super Bowl run. Instead, I'm guessing Urlacher knows how disappointed he would be to have missed out on the experience.

Let's end our week on a positive interpretation, shall we?

Continuing around the NFC North:
The Minnesota Vikings' 2011 home stadium remains in doubt, but their plans for the draft are not. In reviewing comments Thursday from coach Leslie Frazier and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, it seems clear they intend to draft a quarterback who could jump in as a near-immediate starter when the season begins.

The Vikings hold the No. 12 overall pick, and as we noted Wednesday, early mock drafts suggest anywhere from two to four quarterbacks could already be off the board by that point. But past decisions have put the Vikings in an unenviable position this spring: They have little choice but to force a pick. The only question is whether the rookie will be ready to play right away or if the Vikings will also have to acquire a veteran option.

"I guess it depends on that young guy," Frazier said. "Ideally, you'd like to find the Matt Ryans of the world, the Joe Flaccos of the world and ride with one of those guys. But it doesn't always happen that way. We just kind of have to see where things fall. If we find someone like that, you'd like to build around him. That really gives you a chance for the long term. But as I mentioned it doesn't always happen that way. If we have to go with a veteran guy while we're developing that young guy, I'm not opposed to that either. But ideally, find a young guy, build around him and know you're going to have him for that next nine or 10 years as your starting quarterback. But those guys are sometimes hard to find."

Said Musgrave: "Ideally, you would like to find a young guy that has a bunch of promise and potential and you would hand him the keys and let him make his mistakes and learn and but also know that he would be there for you in the long term. That's ideal. I believe that will be one of our goals to identify any candidates that can fit that role but at the same time be ready to find some other fellows that may have some experience, that can come in and be effective and also have some upside to them as well."

Frazier announced most of the additions he has made to the coaching staff Thursday, acknowledging Musgrave along with Mike Priefer (special teams), Fred Pagac (defensive coordinator), Jeff Davidson (offensive line), Craig Johnson (quarterbacks) and Mike Singletary (linebackers). Holdovers will include George Stewart (receivers), Jimmie Johnson (tight ends), Karl Dunbar (defensive line) and Joe Woods (defensive backs).

Where that staff is working on game days next season is anyone's guess. Ted Mondale, the new chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said Thursday it could take up to six months to replace the damaged roof of the Metrodome, if engineers determine a total replacement is necessary. That timetable could threaten the Vikings' preseason schedule if a lockout doesn't do the trick first.

As we've noted before, the Vikings have already questioned whether they will be able to play next season in the Metrodome. It's possible they'll move to TCF Bank Stadium, at least for 2011, while awaiting approval for a new stadium to replace the Metrodome. Stay tuned.

Following a pattern

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
1:00
PM ET
 
 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
 There will be plenty of similarities on display when Brad Childress' Vikings and Andy Reid's Eagles square off Sunday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

When it came time to make his first big decision as Minnesota's new owner, Zygi Wilf looked east and hatched a plan. He would figure out a way to spell "Vikings" using "E-A-G-L-E-S."

In January 2006, Wilf made plans to hire Philadelphia's offensive coordinator as the Vikings' head coach and its linebackers coach as his new defensive coordinator. He wanted the Eagles' top personnel man as his general manager, and he was sold on the personnel and schematic approach -- draft a young quarterback to run the West Coast offense, upgrade the offensive line and blitz the bejeezus out of opponents -- that has made the Eagles a playoff team in seven of the past nine seasons.

"What we wanted was to be a first-class organization," Wilf said. "We wanted an organization that was patient and did things the right way with a goal of being a consistent winner that could challenge first for the division championship, and then for the Super Bowl, every season. We still have improvements to make, but that's always been what we have strived for."

As it turned out, Wilf hired Brad Childress as his head coach but couldn't lure talent evaluator Tom Heckert to be his general manager. The Eagles blocked Childress from hiring Steve Spagnuolo as his defensive coordinator, but a year later Childress tapped another former Philadelphia assistant -- Leslie Frazier -- for the job.

And in building the team that will host the Eagles on Sunday at the Metrodome, Childress has emulated his former employers on a number of levels. Among them:

  • Signing a prominent free agent offensive lineman to a mega-deal with hopes he would add a level of nastiness to the offense. The Eagles did it in 2000 with right tackle Jon Runyan. The Vikings followed in 2006 by acquiring left guard Steve Hutchinson.
  • Drafting a quarterback early in his tenure and put him on the developmental fast track. The Eagles had Donovan McNabb in the starting lineup by Week 10 of his rookie season. Tarvaris Jackson started the final two games as a rookie in 2006.
  • Hiring all of his athletic trainers as well as his strength and conditioning staff from Philadelphia. Eagles coach Andy Reid blocked Childress from taking any position coaches to Minnesota, but several Vikings assistants nevertheless have Eagles ties. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy played for them in 1999, Childress' first year as an assistant in Philadelphia. The Vikings' current quarterbacks coach, Kevin Rogers, was McNabb's position coach at Syracuse. And tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson was once an Eagles intern.
  • Authorizing Frazier to mix creative blitz packages into the Vikings' cover-2 base defense. Frazier played in Chicago's "46" defense of the 1980s, but he learned the fundamentals of blitz schemes from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson while serving as Philadelphia's defensive backs coach from 1999-02.
  • Calling his own plays during the 2006 season, as Reid always did in Philadelphia. And coincidence or otherwise, Childress handed those duties to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell not long after Reid gave that role to Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

(Read full post)

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

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Monday, 9/8