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As if almost to thumb their fans in the eye on the way out the door — the Minnesota Vikings scored a season-high 38 points in their 2016 season finale victory over the Chicago Bears.
Not since early in the 2016 season…way back around Week 5…when we all started to believe the Vikings were the best team in football and we’re definitely heading to the Super Bowl…has the Vikings offense looked so menacing. Finally hitting on all cylinders…doing so once it didn’t matter. This game was insignificant for playoff purposes; just a meaningless Week 17 affair.
What a massive disappointment of a season for Minnesota. They really did look like the best team in football the first quarter of the season. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is a Mike Zimmer problem more than anything else. Two years in a row of a dreadful offense with the added shocker of his defense completely falling apart in-season in 2016. The one thing everyone lauds Zimmer for (defense) — and it fell apart. You can be a fantastic assistant coach or mid-level manager in a corporation but it takes a whole different skill set to connect with and lead a massive, high profile organization as the top guy…the face. I don’t think Zimmer has that ‘face of a franchise’ gift. Not many people on earth do. His team quit on him. His offensive coordinator quit midseason…and we all praised God, but then the offense got even worse.
How is this going to get any better in 2017? Unless the Viking sign Tony Romo somehow – the situation isn’t getting any better. Another bellyflop like 2016, and Zimmer & friends are hitting the unemployment line this time next year.
Honestly, which team has a more positive outlook at this moment? The Bears or the Vikings?
I would submit to you that the Chicago Bears have the brighter future, as of this moment. I would also argue that they are a sleeping giant – a quarterback away from being a playoff contender.
It’s funny how the Bears got good on offense this year. It goes back to what longtime NFL exec Mike Lombardi quipped about how terrible at personnel decisions coaches are. Lombardi used to say during some of his stints in personnel before he met up with Belichick – “We are one injury away from being a good team.” The meaning, from Lombardi’s view in the personnel wing, that the head coach was utilizing the wrong players. John Fox looked over all of his assets in 2016 and decided to push Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford, and Alshon Jeffrey with Kevin White as the heads of his offensive attack. Completely overlooking superstars sitting right in front of his face – Jordan Howard and Cameron Meredith. Also being completely blind to the fact that Brian Hoyerwould have more support from the team and better results than with reviled, rocket-armed Jay Cutler. I would love to endorse the Bears and has a super sleeper for 2017 if not for the fact that I think John Fox has his elbow firmly on the pulse of what’s going on with personnel. No one could be this awful at football things to see Jordan Howard and Cameron Meredith up close every day…and yet push Jeremy Langford and Kevin White. It’s like a death wish.
However, Fox has been blessed that the right injuries forced him to ‘discover’ that Jordan Howard and Cameron Meredith are Pro Bowl talents. Fox is a decent defensive coach – and has the framework of a young, scrappy defense. There are pieces in place, including a lot of cap space, if Fox can tie them all together…and that’s a big IF.
Trying to figure out which of these teams has the brighter future is a debate about Mike Zimmer and John Fox… Please don’t make me have to figure out who to choose and that battle. Don’t make me figure out whom to choose in that battle.
Player notes I have from re-watching this game weeks later…
— One of the things that struck me very odd from this game was the fact that Alshon Jeffrey (1-10-0/3 targets) had recently returned from his four-game PED suspension and he played the entire game but only saw three targets and had just one catch. It’s like Matt Barkley did not want to acknowledge he existed. That happened on and off to Jeffrey all season once Jay Cutler left. It’s probably a telling sign for whatever team makes the huge mistake of overinvesting in Jeffrey this off-season – the non-Cutler QBs did not feel the need to lean on Jeffrey. Alshon is a talent but also has questionable motivation. I wouldn’t want to be the team to ship him a bunch of guaranteed money…
The receiver the Bears’ QB did look for on purpose in this game – Cameron Meredith (4-61-0/6 targets). I could not be any more excited for Meredith. Ignored in the 2015 NFL Draft. Scrapped his way onto the Bears roster. He should’ve been starting as a rookie. He should already be being talked about as a #1 wide receiver. Instead, the game analysts here spoke about Meredith as if he still needed to prove himself to make the roster next year. One of them said in-game, “This kid might be a keeper.” Really? You think? I said it for two years and I’m going to go even more ballistic this off-season – Cameron Meredith is a star wide receiver in this league. He finally got a chance…because of injury…and not because anybody in Chicago knew what the hell they were doing.
When Meredith starts out taking a backseat to freaking Kevin White next season – just know I’m going to lose my mind.
Oh, by the way – Meredith the former high school quarterback threw for the only Bears score of this game. He also had two tackles as well. Possibly the most underrated offensive weapon in the entire NFL.
— Speaking of underrated NFL weapons…
Fourth play of the game, Sam Bradford heaved a deep ball to Cordarrelle Patterson (1-39-0/2 targets). Being the great receiver that he is, Patterson jumped over a defender and came down with a sweet 39-yard reception. Over the next 58 minutes, Patterson would see one more target and have no catches. Pat Shurmur, you mad offensive genius! Mike Zimmer – you suck.
I’ve bellyached about Patterson in the Vikings enough the past three years. If Cordarrelle needed any more proof why not to re-sign with Minnesota – this game should have clinched it. With Patterson heading into free agency he played an entire game and saw two targets. In other news, Kyle Rudolph got 15 targets because it’s important that we get that kid involved in a meaningless game.
I swear if Patterson re-signs in Minnesota – he’s sick in the head. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to re-sign there but is giving it some lip service (I think to sound like he’s a magnanimous human being heading into free agency). He’s going to go somewhere for the opportunity to be really tall Tyreek Hill. He’s already been talking about that in interviews.
— Speaking of disappointments — where was this Jerick McKinnon (16-89-1, 3-21-1/4 targets) all season?
Speaking of guys who were wasted by this ridiculous Vikings offense, Jerick McKinnon would be a star already on most other teams. Instead, he’s a bottled up for nothing runs up the middle with no blocking for the entire season with Minnesota. Unlike Patterson, JMK is stuck with this for another couple years.
Assuming Adrian Peterson does not come back, I’d love to trust McKinnon for a big season in 2017, and I probably will (and get burned), but most likely this Vikings offense will just deliver up another dud of a season to McKinnon.
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— Some people who draw paychecks for analyzing the NFL, at one point in 2016, stated out loud that Matt Barkley (10-14 for 125 yards, 0 TD/2 INTs) may be the Bears answer quarterback. Does 8 TDs/14 INTs in seven games finally answer the question here?
David Fales (2-5 for 22 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) got a couple series of play at the very end of the game filling in for Barkley. Fales is a better quarterback from an instinctual standpoint, but I don’t think he has the arm to be a successful NFL quarterback. I think if given the chance he could hold his own – but the book is already been closed on Fales, as far as NFL evaluators are concerned. It’s easy to dislike him because he doesn’t have a rocket arm like the glorious Jay Cutler, and the fact that Fales has a better idea of where to throw the ball despite not having a laser beam arm is inconsequential to NFL scouts and coaches. Arm strength is everything. Billy Joe Tolliver and Jamarcus Russell live on!
— MyCole Pruitt (1-6-0/1 target) got in for a few snaps in this game against his former team. I’d like to get more excited about Pruitt but it’s hard pressed to see him getting much of a chance with the Bears. I think John Fox prefers a bigger, traditional tight end and I think they found one in former Ravens wide receiver Daniel Brown (2-10-0/2 targets), a converted WR to TE. He looks and works just like Zach Miller…without all the injuries.
If I were the Bears, I roster both Miller and Brown, and then when Miller gets hurt as he does every year – then he has Brown sitting right there. Honestly, I think Brown is on the verge of becoming a starter and Ben Braunecker can back him up. Very impressive showing for Daniel Brown to finish out the 2016 season. He did not get many games to shine but impressed when he did get the opportunity. I hope John Fox was paying attention…probably not.
— I was looking at various Vikings defenders and thinking what disappointing season as they had – Anthony Barr (6 tackles) inEverson Griffen (3 tackles) at the top of the list. Both of those guys were breakout stars recently and flopped in 2016…which is another reason I place blame on Zimmer. He supposed to be getting these guys motivated and uber-productive – and they’ve proven in the past that they were star-like talents. In 2016, it almost looks like they all laid down on Zimmer.
A minor scandal erupted after the game prior to this when we found out that Xavier Rhodes and Terrence Newman made their own coverages on Jordy Nelson and openly defied the head coach. So much so that they felt comfortable talking about it in the media the week before this game (where is Colin Cowherd screaming that Mike Zimmer has lost control of the team?). In major media markets, this would be a huge scandal. In most places, it would have been seen as the coach losing control. This issue in Minnesota is seen as more of ‘bad players doing bad things’…instead of a coach losing his team. One more ‘bad’ season like this and Zimmer will lose his team permanently.