Daunte Culpepper Or Brad Johnson?

It has had to have been a strange few days for new head coach .

On January 9, Strib columnist saying: "I spoke to Daunte Saturday morning. I had a nice conversation with him. I will have a chance to sit down face-to-face with him here later in the week."

On the same day, Pioneer Press writer seemingly trying to put Culpepper at ease: "Daunte Culpepper right now is the franchise quarterback. That’s how they signed him. He’s the guy."

A handful of days later, with in town, , over the phone.  How very odd.

[UPDATE 1/18/06: The Pioneer Press that Culepper was in town to meet with his doctors, not Childress. Still…]

All the while, in the background were the rumors that wanted to be traded, or, at the very least, start for the the Vikings next  year. The rumors became fact  when that though he didn’t ask for a trade, he does want to be a starting quarterback.

The Vikings have had a quarterback controversy since the final game of the season ended with their win against the . Johnson’s insistence now that he start just moved up the time table of the eruption of the controversy from when it would have otherwise occurred: The point next season when Daunte is healthy enough to play again.

Perhaps that explains Culpepper’s odd behavior in not meeting face-to-face with his new head coach; perhaps he saw the inevitability of Johnson beginning the season as the Vikings’ number one signal caller and he wanted to play a Whose The Boss? card.

I don’t know that another quarterback in the NFL has ever returned from the type of : He injured three of the four major ligaments in his knee: The  ACL, PCL, and MCL. That’s going to take a while to recover from. From what I understand, it would be a miracle if Culpepper were to be ready to play by the time training camp rolls around.

Couple that with the fact that Daunte would need to learn an entirely new offense, and it’s reasonable to think that he couldn’t possibly be ready to start the season opener.

And all that, of course, makes Johnson’s boat-rocking all the more aggravating. He signed a three-year contract. He’s locked in. And he should just keep his mouth shut because he already is the de facto starting quarterback. If he plays well enough, who knows? By the time Culpepper’s ready to play, Childress may not want to change quarterbacks.

Who Is Best Suited To The West Coast Scheme?

For a West Coast offense you need a quarterback who is accurate and can throw with touch so the ball is catchable. He has to have an excellent sense of anticipation in order to effectively execute the timing routes upon which the West Coast offense it built.

Another skill you want in a West Coast quarterback is the ability to throw all types of passes, from screens and timing passes, to Short, middle, and deep routes.

But since the West Coast offense is predicated upon the idea of obviating the running game with a short passing game, throwing the deep ball is not nearly as important as it is in other schemes. The idea in the West Coast is that when you start killing a team with a short passing game, they’ll inch up to defend it to the point that the middle and deep routes open up.

When that happens, you don’t need to be able to throw that deep in order to get the ball behind the defense. Your deep routes are explosive because the receiver catches and then runs for a lot of yards.

Brad Johnson

Right off the bat, it would seem that Brad Johnson is currently better suited to running the West Coast offense. He is very adept at getting the ball out of his hands to his receivers quickly and he can put some touch on the ball. While his arm strength is nowhere near that of Daunte’s, he’s got enough of a long ball to work well in the West Coast offense.

Perhaps the biggest thing Johnson has over Culpepper right now is his experience. He’s played in three different offensive schemes in Minnesota, Washington and Tampa Bay and, with the Bucs under Jon Gruden, he ran an extraordinarily complex system. That bodes well for Brad quickly picking up Childress’ version of the West Coast. Check out the following video clips to understand Johnson’s understanding of the game:

Oh, yeah; and, uh, Johnson has won a Super Bowl.

Daunte Culpepper

Assuming Culpepper can come back from is injury, no one seriously thinks he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. But it is a big assumption he can come back and even if he does, it’s an even bigger assumption that he will return as the same player he was before he was injured.

One of the things that made Daunte such a dangerous weapon on the field was his mobility; not just the ability for him to tuck the ball in and run downfield or beat defensive ends to the edge, but his ability to make a quick move in the backfield to make a rusher miss. He’s also got a cannon for an arm, he’s a very accurate passer, and he’s a load to bring down.

But Daunte has played in one system his entire NFL career and for most of that time he was afforded the ability to freelance on the field. When both he and Randy Moss were on the field together, if a play broke down, both were such superior athletes that they had the ability to make something out of nothing. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

The West Coast offense, however, is built on precision and timing. There’s very little freelancing involved. So that part of Daunte’s game would not be utilized.

In addition to his injury, he’s also got to learn a new offense. It’s not that he’s not capable of overcoming his injury and learning the West Coast offense, it’s a question of whether he can do it in time to be of much help to the Viking next season.

Yet when you take a look at the following video highlights of Daunte Culpepper, any Vikings fan can only fervently hope that he comes back as good as new and thrives in the West Coast system. Because, damn, that guy can play:

The West Coast Offense Explained

The Vikings will be adopting the West Coast offense under head coach .

There is some dispute over the origin of the West Coast offense. In January, 1999, in an article in The Sporting News, saying it’s misnamed because, he says, it began in Cincinnati when he was on the Bengals staff.

But Sports Illustrated‘s Paul Zimmerman, or to Sid Gillman of the 60s-era San Diego Chargers and of 1930s-era Ohio State teams.

Others have put Don Coryell of the Chargers of the 70s and the Redskins’ Joe Gibbs in the West Coast tradition.

Annoyingly, no one ever mentions the Vikings as a West Coast team even though the 70s-era teams under and his offensive coordinator ran an offense consisting of a short, ball-control passing game directed by with running back Chuck Foreman often used as a receiver our of the backfield. (Tarkenton himself argues in this NFL Films interview that the Vikings ran a forerunner of Walsh’s West Coast offense).

ESPN’s .

Pasquarelli describes the Bill Walsh version of the West Coast offense thusly:

The initial Walsh concept was for a standard
pro-set offense — two backs in split alignment, two wide receivers and
a tight end — designed to get the ball quickly from the quarterback to
the skill-position players. The idea was to release all five of the
eligible receivers at the same time, relying on three- and five-step
drops by the quarterback to compensate for most blocking breakdowns,
and to throw the ball crisply and on the break.

Sounds a lot like the Eagles offense, which probably means that we’ll get something closely akin to a Walsh-style West Coast offense.

ESPN’s Joe Theismann, Sean Salisbury and Mark Malone list . One opinion they all share is that the West Coast puts less pressure on the offensive line because the lineman do not have to hold their blocks as long as they do in other systems; that will help the Vikings current linemen.

of the Bill Walsh version of the West Coast offense on his Football 101 site. and a PowerPoint presentation by Ron Jenkins called (only works with the Internet Explorer browser) are designed specifically as aids to teaching the West Coast offense.

For a superb explanation of the interdependence of the quarterback drop and the receiver’s patterns in the proper execution of timing routes, watch these NFL Films videos featuring Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.

Vikings New Defense – How The Cover 2 Works

I thought I might have to write a long post explaining how the Cover 2, or as the Vikings new defensive Coordinator might have it, the Tampa 2 defense works. Fortunately for me, I found a handful of superb, in-depth articles explaining the intricacies of our new defensive scheme, so I don’t have to do it.

For a quick description, read . ESPN provides a bit more depth . If you really want to get your hands dirty, check out the or the . Another ESPN piece––includes explanations of how offenses can attack the Cover 2.

Ssssssswwwwwweeeeeeeeet.

Finally, the Orlando Sentinel has a very nicely illustrated piece on "."

UPDATED 9/8/07: This is an video that explains the Cover 2 defense:

Happy reading, Vikings fans. There will be a quiz next week.

Reason 999 I Love The Internet

I love the Internet(s) so much. How much? This much:

One of the best things about the Internet is how pheonomenally easy it has made it to find new music. Then along come’s Fastboot’s music search engine to make it easy to not only find your favorite musicians/bands music online, but to play it right there on the search engine, as well.

SSSSSSSSTTTTTTTOP!

My next, and last, sentence of this post was going to be: "Very cool; try it out."

But then I went back to the site and found that the website from which the Fastboot music search application was pulling music, Radioblogclub, had disabled the search engine.

Very, very sad.

Viking To Adopt Tampa 2 Defense?

Judd Zulgad and Mark Craig‘s excellent piece in the Strib yesterday (the firing of most of Tice’s staff) leads with indications that
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive backs coach is Childress’ choice for his defensive coordinator.

(Sid Hartman has some on Mike Tomlin in his column today.)

Buried in-the-third to last graph, however, is the logical conclusion that Tomlin’s hiring probably means the Vikings will adopt the popular Tampa 2 defense that, as the article says, "if employed with the right personnel, eliminates big plays because the
safeties split the field deep, linebackers patrol the middle and the
pass rush is applied by the front four."

If that’s the case, we will probably need a speedier and more adept tackler to play strong safety. That probably means bye-bye for .

We’ll probably also need a faster middle linebacker with better coverage skills. That could mean the emergence, again, of as our middle linebacker, and, therefore, allowing to leave via free agency. Or it could mean we will agressively pursue a free agent middle linebacker more suited to the .

2006 Vikings Free Agents

The have some decisions to make this offseason on their 2006 free agents, all but one of whom are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA), meaning unless the team re-signs them, they’re free to go elsewhere. They’re only (RFA) is wide receiver Nate Burleson.

Because he was injured most of the year, his statistics were underwhelming, to say the least. As an RFA, the Vikings have the right to match any offer another team made Burleson and if the Vikes refused a qualifying offer and Burleson did sign with another team, the Vikings would get a draft pick in compensation. For all those reasons, expect Burleson back.

Who To Let Go

I’d letร‚ย center Cory Withrow go his merry way. Withrow is simply not big enough to play in the NFL; I couldn’t count how many times I watched him get jerked into the backfield at the snap by a defensive tackle. Running back Moe Williams, our only back who knows how to properly pick up a blits, will probably retire. Quarterback Shaun Hill? Who cares? Let him go, if he wants.

Who We Must Sign

First and foremost: Wide receiver and return man, Koren Robinson. That’s a no-brainer: He’s the most explosive playmaking wide receiver we’ve got on the roster. Give him a five year deal.

Unless we’re going to go after a rock star, experienced middle linebacker, and I doubt there are any to be had, re-sign MLB Sam Cowart to quarterback the defense. Likewise, Keith Newman was our best linebacker and, if we try and find another starting linebacker in free agency or the draft, his play would only get better.

Melvin Fowler is necessary because we have no idea how healthy Matt Birk will be when he returns and if last season proved anything, we need a viable backup at center. Fowler may want to be a starter, though.

We also must sign kicker Paul Edinger. Even though he was inconsistent with no-pressure kicks, he excelled at the clutch kick. We finally solved our kicking problems last year; let’s not go through that again.

Who Would Be Nice, But Not Essential, To Keep

Cornerback Brian Williams has proven himself to be a stellar defensive back. That will likely land him a big paycheck in free agency and that is why, of all the Vikings free agents, he’s the one I’m most pesimistic about retaining. Fred Smoot did not deliver this year and it remains to be seen if he’s the shutdown corner we thought he was. Williams wants to be a starter, so why not sign him, tell him he’ll be the starter, and if he falters, you’ve got Smoot to step right in. I doubt it will happen, but it would be fantastic to keep Williams on the roster.

That’s why if we lose Williams, we should sign Ralph Brown, who seems to have figured it our this year. He’s a vastly improved player from last season who could probably fill the nickle role very well. He also will not command as much free agency attention as Williams. If we lose both Williams and Brown, we at least can be consoled with the thought that rookie cornerback seems to be the real thing.

It sounds like defensive end Lance Johnstone would like to come back. He’s getting older, so he might not command much attention from other teams and he probably wouldn’t be too pricey, so why not re-sign him? The guy consistently puts up double digit sack totals in his limited role.

Raonall Smith is a three-year veteran who finally stayed healthy enough to show what he could do; he’s a fast guy who played well this season. But he’s another player who may not draw much interest because he’s been injured too often and has only one season of work to show. He could be re-signed cheaply. The same goes for safety Willie Offord, who was injured again this season but also looks like he’s figured out how to play.

Guard Toniu Fonoti is probably worth an investment even though he’s got some injury questions. But the guy is huge and we could use that on the interior line.

Conventional wisdom has it that this was Michael Bennett‘s last season in purple, but I’m not so sure. One of the most encouraging things that Childress has said so far is that it all starts up front, on both sides of the ball. That means he will put a heavy emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines. If Childress improves the Vikings O-line (and he could draw unrestricted free agent offensive tackle away from the Eagles), that could help Bennett become the dangerous back he once had been.

Because of Bennett’s injuries and his lacklusterr play the past several years, he, too, may see limited interest in the free agency market. Bennett is not the type of back who is shifty enough to outmaneuver defenders and he doesn’t break many tackles in traffic. But put him behind a mammoth, athletic offensive line that gets him past the initial traffic where he can cut past a linebacker and make a move on or outrun the safety, and he’s back the the Michael Bennett of 2002.

2006 Minnesota Vikings Free Agents

Disciplinarian Brad Childress?

The angle that news media quickly pounced on in their stories on the hiring of new Vikings Head Coach was that he’ll be a disciplinarian for an undisciplined team. It is, I admit, the first thing I thought when I read in his bio that he attended a military high school; perhaps he’ll bring some of that military discipline to the team. On the other hand, the guy’s 49 years old it was in high school when he experienced the military life, so there’s that.

At any rate, it didn’t take much reading between the lines that the presumed discipline the team needed was off the field. That’s clearly true, but if there’s one major criticism I had of , it’s that his teams were consistently undisciplined on the field; that lack of discipline most frequently manifested itself in the form of penalties. On offense, they were penalties that consistently killed drives and on defense they were avoidable penalties that kept their opponent alive.

To me, that’s the coaches’ fault. And for whatever reason, Tice never got that part right. It remains to be seen what kind of coach Childress will be, but at the very least, he’s got a stellar resume.