Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dr. Z Effectively Ends Vikings' Title Hopes

By picking them to win it all.

Last year, I locked in my Super Bowl pick early and felt very good about the choice. For once, I wasn't trying to do a roster breakdown or getting myself all tied up in strengths and weaknesses. I was looking for a team with a chip on its shoulder, one that would be coming into the season with something to prove, a hungry team, nasty, etc.

Yeah, I mean, when any sportswriter is fatigued from a long and tiring day of careful analysis and number crunching...I suppose the next step is to just make up a bunch of intangibles as a defense for picking

The Saints were my Super Bowl winner.

(the Saints) to win the Super Bowl.

Anyway, the Saints didn't really look any worse at the end of the season than they did when Dr. Z picked them. The offense, passing offense at least, really didn't go anywhere from the prior year. Per DVOA, the Saints had the very worst pass D in the NFL last season. I don't think they were expected to be that bad, but they were 22nd against the pass in 2006, so one might assume that their 11 win season was sort of a fluke.

Anyway 7-9 wasn't a particularly poor season for them. They were just a really weak Super Bowl pick.

So why do I get this real hunch about [the Vikings]? OK, yeah, right now they're my choice for the winner of Supe (sic) XXIII. And here's why:

Let's get down to basics. Run the ball. Stop the run. Best in the league at both last year. I can't help it -- I'm hooked on the fundamentals. Their middle triangle of tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, backed up by E.J. Henderson, is classic, and now there's a serious element added to that mix.

DVOA doesn't actually have the Vikings the best at either, but I think I can ignore this point for now. They had Y/C numbers in the 3-4 range on defense, and in the 5-6 range on offense: which are both phenomenal. They were the first team in NFL history to finish with a greater than 2.8 yard difference between rushing yards for and against per play. Very good.

Of course, there are two major problems with this argument:

1) Assumption that trends will carry over from one year to the next. Sure the personnel is much of the same. But ESPECIALLY in the case of Pat Williams (dude's 36!), it's not smart to assume that career high performance is repeatable. And with Adrian Peterson's rookie year: the smart money is on his second season being not as good. Tremendous talent, but if he only averages 4.8 (only?) YPC, does this SB pick look smart then? Also:

2) Last year with elite rushing and rush stopping units (that really have zero room for improvement), the Vikings won (only!) 8 games and posted a 4.9% total DVOA, losing a must win game at home to a superior Redskin team in Week 16.

So yes, Dr. Z is predicting that 1) The Vikings will sustain their run production, and 2) somehow, they will win more games.

Of course, part of that somehow could be:

A trade with the Chiefs brought them defensive end Jared Allen in April. He brings with him the 2007 NFL sack title, plus a two-game DUI suspension at the beginning of the year. A gamble? Childress says no. Allen says he's on the wagon.


It's almost a miracle to get a guy like that in a trade. Sack specialists are like diamonds, and Allen's a young one -- only 26 years old! And he's not one of those wild-angle loopers who leaves a couple of acres inside for the runners. He's a technician who honors the down home of the game.

What the fuck is the "down home of the game"?!

I honestly think that Jared Allen is one of the five best defensive players in the game. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2008 Vikings are a better defensive team with Jared Allen than without him. He's probably worth every penny he got. And the Vikings do need a pass rush.

"Why," I was asked, "did Allen's production usually fall off in the second half?" And my answer was because he was on the field too much. The way the game is now, no defensive lineman, especially an edge rusher with a high motor, can do it without relief. And the Chiefs kept Allen on the field.

Allen's production really didn't fall off in the second half. Sure, a majority of his sacks came in the first half of ball games, but the Chiefs ranked 3rd (read: Third) in adjusted sack rate last year, so that 2nd half bs was probably just a sample size issue.

Anyway, I'm helping you make your argument, which isn't my job here.

Pass rush begets pass defense, which begets better statistics than the Vikings had last year, one of their big failings. They finished last in yards allowed. Where's the fix there? Madieu Williams, an active free safety for the Bengals last year. Charlie Gordon, a good, quick, free-agent cornerback.

I'll accept Williams being a decent addition, he's younger than the departed Dwight Smith -- but probably not any better.

Here's Charlie Gordon's PFR page. Let me know if you see anything there that screams Super Bowl caliber pass defense.



Okay, then. Moving on.

And I know where we're headed. Tarvaris Jackson, QB. Just 25 years old. Fine athlete, terrific scrambler, able to make big plays, but so far in his two years in the league, not enough of them. Sixth from the bottom among the ranked passers last year. When does it happen? Third year? Fourth? Not at all?

America voted: and they think it's...Not at all!

"(says Vikings coach Brad Childress) Besides the production, there's something to walking into the building every day and being the man. I mean every day. Tavaris is pretty good with that."

Tavaris Jackson, 2007

Comp %: 58.2%
QB Rating: 70.8
DVOA: -12.4%
the "man" efficency: 101.9

"I told him that when those legs go, you're going to have to learn to rely on other things," the coach says. "You've got to evolve. It's like a wounded animal. All the other senses are heightened. And he went out and had some of his most accurate games, passing the ball.

For 3 weeks (12-14), Jackson did an impressive impersonation of an NFL QB.

The next two weeks: 1 TD, 5 INTs.


(Childress, still) "When I got the job here, well, in my wildest dreams I didn't think I was going to have to get rid of a franchise quarterback. But after three weeks in the spring, it was just obvious that it wasn't going to work, with Daunte Culpepper. So I replaced him, and everybody pilloried us.

"Daunte was a guy who always used his legs. He wasn't an anticipatory thrower. He had to see the whites of their eyes. And once he got hurt, well, coming back from the injury, he couldn't play that way."

Per Wikipedia: "The pillory was a device used in punishment by public humiliation and often additional, sometimes lethal, physical abuse."

Given the circumstances: Justified.

(Again, Childress)"As a franchise quarterback, there's the matter of the work ethic, putting in your hours," Childress says. "Tarvaris knows that, how important it is that people see you working when they come in. Is he in the right place for a guy evolving? Yeah, I'm convinced he's got what it takes.

Except that

"We just have to see how he does on the field."

I suppose the next step is to just make up a bunch of intangibles as a defense for picking (the Vikings) to win the Super Bowl.

(Zimmerman here) So en fin, do I like the Vikings to go all the way? Well, yeah, why not? A feeling of destiny, that's what I sense about Brad Childress and his baby quarterback.

1 comment:

GTripp said...

Baby Quarterback...benched

Stout defense underachieving...

Feeling of destiny, suspended!