Bill Murray as John Winger probably summed up the Vikings’ condition best in the classic film Stripes when uttered the oft-repeated phrase after the worst scenario possible had taken place, “And then depression set in.”
That’s where the Vikings are at right now. At 1-5, they’re hanging on the ledge by their fingertips to save the season, to save the jobs of their coaching staff. The 2013 season has been a roller coaster – if you consider cliff-diving to be a roller coaster. The only win of the season was followed by a bye week to give the fan base a chance to replenish their electrolytes with a heapin’ helpin’ of the purple Kool-Aid.
Since the bye, like so many of the team’s players during their mini-vacation, the team has gone south since. Their two most recent defeats have been their two most decisive losses to date. The quarterback turnstile seems to be coming full circle.
Like a soap opera narrator, it when go something like this:
“When last we saw our dashing hero Christian Ponder, he had suffered a (phantom?) rib injury. Nobody could hear his cries of pain because 60,000 people were alternately booing or chanting ‘Cassel! Cassel!’ The fans got their wish in the last time our purple warriors laid down and birthed a large egg against Carolina. As our Lavender Lads now look to vanquish the Evil Empire of green and gold, their will be yet another captain at the helm of the Vikings ship.”
If you can speak in a low radio-style gravelly voice with NFL Films music resonating in the background – the plaintiff lone fife tune will do – that monologue makes sense. The crowd that comes to the Metrodome Sunday night – those that don’t relent to scalp their tickets for fun and profit – that have been at the only two home games the Vikings have had this season, will witness a franchise rarity. In three games, three different starting quarterbacks.
Depending on how well Josh Freeman does, that trend may continue. That is, unless you follow the mantra of Andrew “Bundini” Brown.
History doesn’t remember Brown. But his role was critical in the history of sports. Brown was the consummate “yes man” in Muhammad Ali’s entourage. He was a “yes man” within a “yes man.” If Ali ever forgot how great he was, he had Bundini to remind him … again and again and again.
And one of Bundini’s favorite passages, spoken in duet with Ali, was “Rumble, young man, rumble!”
It served as inspiration to one of (if not the) greatest athlete of the last century – polarizing, but never boring – and helped push him to be someone intrinsically linked to the phrase “The Greatest.” It’s one thing to say you’re the greatest. It’s another thing when it is bestowed upon you by others. Ali achieved both – all the while with Bundini whispering in his ear just how great he was.
After watching Josh Freeman Monday night – a display best equated with a North Korean missile test that went everywhere but where it was intended – it might be time for Vikings fans to be the Bundini Brown in the ear of Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman and Zygi Wilf alike.
Rumble, young man, rumble.
From realistic purposes, the Vikings have nothing to lose by taking a radical approach – go old-school. The best way for Freeman to get accustomed to the complicated (yet so tiny on play card) playbook of the Vikings offense is to simplify things to its base level. Throw on third down.
If it was any other team than the Packers, Bundini wouldn’t be whispering in the champ’s ear. But it is the Packers.
How about this for a game plan? Give the ball to Adrian Peterson on every first down and every second down. If you reach third down, you throw. That playbook could be put on a gum wrapper. If they’re going to “put it on film” preparing for the future, put the offensive line under the microscope and the hot lights. If they know that they have to run block and run block only until that fails, so be it.
Last year, Peterson put the Vikings offense on his back when the blinders got taken off and shuttled the team to the playoffs. When you have a thoroughbred, he needs to get “lathered up” before you know what you have. So, lather him up.
If that means Freeman faces a third-and-9, he may have to chip in for the postage that is required for his too-frequent air-mail transactions. If he’s facing a third-and-2, do your job. Hit the hot read and move the chains. If he faces a third down in the seventh play of the drive, convert.
We saw the non-FAA sanctioned air show that Freeman brought to the table Monday night. How about Sunday night they let the real franchise player of the Vikings do what he does – for better or worse. Saddle up Secretariat and ride.
Peterson is the pre-eminent running back in a passing era of the NFL. His timing is a bit off in the history curve of the NFL. But the Vikings don’t have a dominant quarterback. They don’t have a dominant receiver. They have a dominant running back. With their season on the line, give A.D. the ball and see if he can go A.N (All Night) Sunday.
Last week, fans were saying, “What do we have to lose?” with Freeman’s hastily arranged debut. This week, what’s wrong with saying, “What do we have to lose?” with giving No. 28 a chance to carry the mail for the franchise?
Rumble, young man, rumble.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.