A spectacular fall back to earth crushed the hopes of millions of Minnesotans as the Vikings fell 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago in the NFC Championship game. Case Keenum turned back into a pumpkin and, once again, a dome team struggled to win in the playoffs outside in the cold. It’s a story that’s been written before.
Still, there’s plenty to be excited about for this Vikings squad. I was a firm believer that something was wrong with Mike Zimmer as a head coach when the team fell apart last year and Norv Turner quit as offensive coordinator two months in. If there was a problem, much like Vanilla Ice, Zimmer solved it.
Now Zimmer has an entirely new set of issues to solve. With one of the best defenses in the league coming back and his stars all under contract, this off-season will be focused on the offensive side of the ball.
WHO WILL BE THE NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR?
With OC Pat Shurmur’s exodus to the New York Giants as their new head coach, Minnesota has a gaping hole at playcaller they’ve yet to fill. The fact that they haven’t plugged a guy into that spot tells me a couple of things. First, they don’t like any of their in-house candidates and, second, they’re looking at quarterback coaches still working, specifically John DeFilipo of the Philadelphia Eagles.
— Pro Football Rumors (@pfrumors) February 1, 2018
They’ve brought in some outside guys for interviews like New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell, Houston Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan and fired Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, but nobody stuck. According to Zimmer, they’re looking to interview a couple more guys “next week.” So, you know, after the Super Bowl.
“We want to pick the best guy that we can bring in,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman told reporters. “After we handle that, then we’ll go to the next step. Next week, we’re in our Vikings personnel meetings. And then we’re going into the draft meetings the following week, and then the UDFA meetings before we all head to the combine. So, once we get the coordinator in place, we’ll go through our normal procedures, our process that we’ve done every year, and then we’ll have a pretty good game plan as we head down to the combine, the direction we’re going with a lot of things.”
If you’re a regular reader of my postmortems and coaching articles, you know I’m pretty high DeFilipo. If you look at what Carson Wentz and now Nick Foles have been able to accomplish in Philadelphia in a relatively short period of time, you have to know that’s no accident. It’s great coaching, great preparation and great play design. DeFilipo has been a huge part of that and I think he’s ready to take over the playcalling duties somewhere. If Minnesota is waiting on him, they’re smart.
By losing the NFC Championship, the Vikings went from having three potentially starting caliber quarterbacks to exactly zero under contract.
Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford will all be free agents next year and there are serious questions about bringing any of them back.
First off, let’s look at Keenum. He unquestionably had his best, most successful season as a pro in 2017. He completed a career high 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He went 12-4 as a starter counting the playoffs, but in those playoff games all his numbers dipped. In two games he completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 589 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. If you look at Keenum’s career before the 2017 regular season, those numbers look pretty damn familiar.
— Case Keenum (@casekeenum7) February 4, 2018
Keenum has earned a shot at a job and, as starting quarterbacks go, he won’t be nearly as expensive as getting into the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. Still, Which Keenum are you getting? And if you get 2017 Keenum, is that really good enough? He hit his ceiling this year. Do the Vikings think that can win a title?
Teddy Bridgewater is another interesting case. The Vikings didn’t select his fifth-year option last off-season because no one, even then, knew if he could ever play again. He’s stepped into one game in two years and threw two incompletions and an interception. But before he nearly tore his leg off during a Minnesota practice, he was 17-11 as a starter, completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 28 touchdowns and 21 picks in his first two seasons. If he can get back to that, and no one knows if he can, he’s a franchise quarterback. The quarterback the Vikings picked him to be in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Teddy Bridgewater's accuracy and anticipation was on an entirely different level.
This is a pass from a rookie quarterback: pic.twitter.com/ATiPkaRH4p
— Nick Olson (@NicholasJOlson) January 27, 2018
Lastly, you’ve got Sam Bradford, the greatest asterisk in the history of the position. When he’s healthy, he can play at an elite level. But he’s had knee issues now three out of his eight NFL seasons. He was active and held a clipboard for Minnesota in the playoffs and could have played if called upon, but what does that mean for next season or beyond?
If Bradford had two good legs, he too would be a franchise quarterback. In his last 17 starts, he’s 9-8 with a 73 percent completion rate, 4,259 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Bradford will be more expensive than Keenum to keep, but he’ll be less risky than Bridgewater.
The #SKOL QB search reminds me a lot of house shopping.
Sam Bradford might be the nicest house option. It's only a 1-yr rental though, most likely. You have the option to buy. (Warning: On ocean – 50/50 chance of losing to hurricane. pic.twitter.com/TCOIvw2Ugt
— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) February 4, 2018
Of course, there’s a good chance the Vikings will just let them all walk and draft somebody, go after Cousins or try to trade for Nick Foles. Hell, the Denver Broncos will be looking to toss Paxton Lynch after the season and who knows what DeFilipo could get out of him? There are plenty of options.
THE NFC NORTH
The Vikings are going to have to figure something out. They were one freak pass play away from being one-and-done in this playoff season. Aaron Rodgers will be healthy next year and even though he’ll still be saddled with Mike McCarthy as his head coach, you can’t count the Green Bay Packers out.
The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears have both made (or will make) serious upgrades at the head coaching positions and, unlike Minnesota as of today, all three of these teams have franchise quarterbacks (or potential franchise quarterbacks) under center. This is not the off-season to stand pat for the Vikings.
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