NFL Nation: Fran Foley

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Falling:

1. Ted Thompson, Green Bay general manager: It wasn’t a good week to be the Packers' official ultimately responsible for sending quarterback Brett Favre on his way. Favre has led an NFC North rival to a 7-1 start, and in the process he has nearly eliminated the Packers from contention for a division title. Thompson’s own roster has proved dangerously thin at some positions, most notably offensive line and running back. The situation has prompted the midseason signings of veteran free agents Mark Tauscher and Ahman Green. For a personnel chief who prides himself on developing his own young depth, both were revealing moves. Thompson’s narrow philosophy of team-building is being tested.

  Raiola
2. Dominic Raiola, Detroit center: Usually a reliable veteran presence, Raiola doesn’t seem to get the unfortunate reality of fan relations. In a nutshell, there’s no arguing with them. No matter how nasty the criticism gets, it goes with the territory of being a professional athlete. (And trust me, Detroit fans are pretty average when it comes to nastiness.) After confronting some Lions fans Sunday, Raiola said he doesn’t want them getting to rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford like they did to former Lions quarterback Joey Harrington. That’s another misread by Raiola: It’s up to Stafford to ignore the jeers, not for the fans to stop. If he’s like Harrington, unable to block it out, then he wasn’t destined to have a successful career in the first place.

  Jolly
3. Johnny Jolly, Packers defensive lineman: His inexcusable head-butt of Minnesota tailback Chester Taylor in the first quarter Sunday helped Minnesota to an additional four points. It didn’t cost the Packers the game, but it played a big role in the Vikings taking the Lambeau Field crowd out of the game early on. Worse, Jolly expressed no remorse immediately afterward. Jolly has been playing well this season, but I hope he realizes how loyal the Packers were following a 2008 arrest in Houston. (Felony drug issues were eventually dismissed.) Jolly needs to work harder at returning the favor.

Rising:

1. Minnesota’s Triangle of Authority: The “TOA” was once a sarcastic description for the Vikings’ cumbersome leadership structure that included coach Brad Childress, vice president/football operations Rob Brzezinski and vice president/player personnel Fran Foley and later Rick Spielman. But with the support of owner Zygi Wilf, the TOA built a talent-studded team that has started 7-1 and is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. In Sunday’s victory over Green Bay, the Vikings got key contributions from three players -- quarterback Brett Favre, receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin and defensive end Jared Allen -- who were all either drafted, signed, or traded for in the past two years.

2. Chicago’s secondary: We’ve questioned the Bears’ defensive backs since training camp, but Sunday they fulfilled the mission of a Lovie Smith defense: Create havoc. Safety Danieal Manning forced two turnovers, including a diving interception and a strip/fumble recovery of Browns tight end Steve Heiden. Cornerback Charles Tillman also was in on two turnovers, recovering a fumble and returning an interception 21 yards for a touchdown. The Bears might continue to give up yards in the passing game this season, but they could certainly mitigate the damage by coming up with multiple turnovers in the secondary.

  Avril
3. Cliff Avril, Detroit defensive end: Yes, I’m fully aware the Lions absorbed an inglorious loss at home to previously winless St. Louis. But Avril should be recognized as the only Lions player who had field awareness on the Rams’ fake field goal, which ultimately resulted in Josh Brown’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells. Avril, a defensive end, chased Fells across the field. He was unable to make the tackle near the sideline, but give him some credit for recognizing the Rams made no attempt to actually kick what would have been a 54-yard field goal attempt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Early Wednesday, I started making a list of all the bizarre, you-only-see-this-once bits of drama I covered during nine seasons on the Minnesota Vikings beat.

 
 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
 Former Vikings WR Randy Moss caught some heat for "mooning" the Lambeau Field crowd.

There was Randy Moss nudging a traffic cop with his car, which was later found to have marijuana in the ash tray.

Onterrio Smith and the Whizzinator.

Dennis Green agreeing to a contract buyout, running practice, and then announcing his departure during his daily media briefing in 2001.

Koren Robinson driving 110 miles per hour down a state highway to make training camp curfew.

Moss "mooning" Lambeau Field during a 2005 playoff game.

Moss declaring a few days later that he would pay the resulting fine with "straight cash," and suggesting that next time he would shake a different body part in front of the crowd.

The Vikings missing their turn in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Personnel director Fran Foley getting fired in 2006 after three months on the job; he had exaggerated his resume and threatened staffers with a "bloodbath" after the draft.

The more time I spent with the list, the more I realized how historically insignificant the suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams actually were in Vikings off-field lore. It seemed to be standard stuff relative to this franchise.

Until, of course, a Minnesota judge took the unprecedented action Wednesday night of temporarily lifting their suspensions pending further hearings on the topic.

The NFL plans an immediate appeal, and it's conceivable both players will be "re-suspended" as early as Thursday. But as we sit here Wednesday night, about 85 hours before the Vikings' game Sunday at Detroit, no one has any idea what will happen next. Will the NFL's steroid policy be voided? Will the move ultimately force the players to miss a playoff game? Who knows?

This is the type of chaotic sideshow we've never seen in these parts.

Oh, wait. There was the time Mike Tice found out that his contract was set to expire during the 2004 season because of a clerical error. The mistake forced then-owner Red McCombs to pick up his option for 2005 amid rumors he wanted to fire Tice and hire a new coach.

It's rare that a team in the playoff chase must deal with such off-field distractions. Except for the time in 2004 the time Moss walked off Washington's FedEx Field prior to the end of a one-score game. Center Matt Birk went after him in the locker room afterwards. Later that day, the Vikings earned a wild-card bid.

You couldn't come up with a story like this if you tried. Two All-Pro players going to court to take down the NFL's steroid abuse policy? Come on. It's almost like a bunch of players deciding to, I don't know, rent some boats on Lake Minnetonka, fly in some out-of-state strippers and have a party.

Oh wait, that's what happened on the Love Boat in 2005.

Birk, a St. Paul native, complained a few days later that the out-of-state invite list was an "insult to Minnesota strippers." For that smart-aleck remark, Birk went nose-to-nose with quarterback Daunte Culpepper and linebacker Keith Newman in what turned out to be heated locker room confrontation.

Ah, we don't mean to make light of the situation. The reputation of two players, not to mention about $1.5 million in salary, is at stake here. Nothing evil happened, right? Just two players trying to make weight. It's not like they were caught in a compromising situation with a naked woman in a downtown stairwell or something.

That was safety Dwight Smith. August, 2006. Remember?

SPONSORED HEADLINES