The Vikings are still feeling the sting of the national media, who have likened Mike Tice, Scott Studwell and Rob Brzezinski as Minnesota's own version of the Three Stooges. However, the truth about this year and last year lies somewhere in between idiocy and innocence.
You almost knew it was coming. The national media has weighed in and they’ve made the Vikings out the be the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight for Saturday’s first-round botching of a trade.
Were the Vikings wrong for letting the clock run out? Yes, especially when you consider that VU had heard from sources with both the Vikings and the Ravens that, if the draft fell right they would make a trade two weeks ago. As it turned out, the first five picks had gone as scripted. When Arizona was on the clock, the Vikings could have finalized a deal with the Ravens – instead of waiting so long.
But were the Vikings the buffoons everyone from Dennis Green on up was making them out to be? No. The first problem that so few seem to realize is when they say the Vikings screwed up two years in a row they’re not being accurate. In 2002, if you recall, the controversy surrounding the Vikings was at the exact opposite of the spectrum. Mike Tice in pre-draft interviews had been very straightforward about his desire to get Ryan Sims, so much so that the Chiefs and Cowboys both knew it and orchestrated a trade. At the time, the clock ran out on Dallas and the Vikings submitted a card with Sims' name on it. The controversy was that the league accepted the card when it was turned in, only to say moments later that the Cowboys-Chiefs trade had gone through. That is why the Vikings were upset, not because of any idiocy on their part, but because the player they got with the seventh pick – OT Bryant McKinnie – wasn’t the player they wanted at that pick or thought they had received.
When the gaffe that happened Saturday reared its ugly head, it was the other end of the spectrum. This time the Vikings ran out of time much like the Cowboys did the previous year. Unfortunately, the Vikings didn’t get the benefit of the doubt like Dallas did a year earlier. As Tice told VU, his end of the deal was completed with 32 seconds to play – although Scott Studwell said later that the team violated its own general policy on when to shut the door on making a trade (believed to be with one minute left on the clock). The fact that the Ravens didn’t get their side of the trade submitted in time was not apparent to anyone in the Vikings war room until Commissioner Paul Tagliabue came to the podium and said, “With the seventh pick, the JAGUARS take QB Byron Leftwich.” At that time, the Vikings sent word to immediately get their own pick in, but in the time it took to do that, Carolina jumped in and made their own first-round pick.
The result that followed became an instant draft-day classic that Tice, Studwell et al would like to forget. Both would spend much of the rest of the weekend poking fun at themselves with the media, like Tice saying he took Green’s advice on the second round and just wrote down a name, spelled it right and turned it in, and Studwell vowing things will change next year.
But, the bottom line is that the Vikings got the guy they wanted – albeit later than anticipated with no return picks – and the rest of the draft went off without a hitch. The egg on their faces is something that will be brought up again and again until on-field success shuts up their critics. VU has been critical of Tice’s clock management in the past, but didn’t think it would carry over to the draft clock instead of the game clock. But there was more to this story than some Red McCombs signing bonus conspiracy or just plain stupidity on the Vikings part. Was it wrong? Yes. Was it avoidable? Definitely. But did the Vikings deserve to take all the blame themselves and look like buffoons? We don’t think so.
* The Vikings made several free agent signings following the draft, including quarterback Juston Wood (Portland State), fullback James Lynch (Maryland), wide receivers Jermaine Mays (Minnesota) and Ben Nelson (St. Cloud State), tight ends Sean Berton (North Carolina State) and Steve Farmer (Tennessee State), offensive lineman Adam Goldberg (Wyoming), nosetackles Colin Cole (Iowa) and LaWaylon Brown (Williams teammate at Oklahoma State) and defensive backs Rushen Jones (Vanderbilt), Willie Miles (Tennessee) and Horace Willis (Auburn).
* Don't underestimate the power of the players who are brought in after the draft. Last year the Vikings found potential starters in safety Jack Brewer and WR Kelly Campbell, as well as promising prospects in QB Shaun Hill and return man Nick Davis.
* The Vikings have at least one fan of their draft – ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. He loved the Vikings' draft, and why not – he had Kevin Williams rated as one of his top defensive tackles, E.J. Henderson as his top inside linebacker, Onterrio Smith as the No. 2 RB in the draft and Mike Nattiel as the No. 2 outside linebacker available.
* While the Ravens are being praised for landing Terrell Suggs and Kyle Boller in this year’s draft, VU thinks Baltimore got screwed over by botching their end of the trade with the Vikings. Had the trade gone through, the Ravens wanted QB Byron Leftwich. They had made the decision after studying film and backgrounds on both players that Leftwich was their man. Instead, in order to get the QB they didn’t want in the first place, the Ravens had to give up their second-round pick this year and first-rounder next year to the Patriots to get Boller. While the first round may look good on paper for the Ravens, it will have long-term implications.
* The Vikings may have put some additional pressure on Williams when he was paraded at Winter Park and assigned jersey No. 93. The last Viking to make that jersey famous was John Randle, and the Vikings are expecting much of the same disruption and attention Randle created in the middle to be taken over by Williams.