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Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

9/26/2011

After the Minnesota Vikings' 26-23 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Leslie Frazier mostly played it by the game-management book as the Vikings' interim coach last season, but this season there have been a number of instances in which his decisions and explanations don't add up. In Week 2, he didn't use a timeout during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' final possession, saying afterwards that he was confident his defense would make a stop or generate a turnover. Sunday, Frazier tried to put the game away with a fourth-down play at the Lions' 17-yard line in the fourth quarter. But he approved a run to backup Toby Gerhart, who was lined up at fullback, instead of involving Adrian Peterson. Most running backs would have struggled in that spot given the way the Lions' defensive line pushed back, but Peterson would have had the best chance. Frazier said he thought the play would work, but ultimately he allowed offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to get too cute. Frazier did acknowledge the Vikings erred in giving Peterson only five carries in the second half, which might have been the more egregious game-management error. How could you forget about Adrian Peterson?

  2. I realize cornerback Chris Cook was the defender on Calvin Johnson's 32-yard touchdown reception, but from what I saw, Cook had quite an encouraging day overall. Most notably, he knocked down a late pass that could have gone for a touchdown. Cook looked aggressive and confident, and it was reminiscent of his rookie training camp in 2010. There's no shame in getting beat by Johnson, and Cook had a few victorious moments of his own.

  3. The Vikings had free agent left tackle Max Starks in for a visit Monday, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. It's not uncommon for teams to take a look at available veterans in the event an emergency replacement is needed, and there is no indication that a signing is imminent. But the decision also reminds us that the Vikings are playing with a left tackle (Charlie Johnson) who is best suited to be a utility backup. I know we have a long way to go, but I feel relatively confident that the Vikings will enter the offseason with left tackle as perhaps their top personnel need.

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

Frazier has made clear he has no plans to replace quarterback Donovan McNabb, but curiously acknowledged Monday that coaches will look for mechanical issues that might be causing McNabb to short-hop passes to receivers. Said Frazier: "Whether it be his drop or whether it be his footwork, whatever we need to do to help him improve some of those balls that aren't quite on target. But that's not the only reason we are falling short. That's one of the reasons, but there are some other things we need to work on as a team." A 34-year-old quarterback isn't supposed to need mechanical adjustments midway through the season. It's yet another reason to question what the Vikings are accomplishing by committing to McNabb while rookie Christian Ponder sits on the bench.