We addressed the curious coaching decision in the Vikings' 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions, so all that is left now is picking up the pieces. The loss was the third in a row that the team led at halftime and possessed a 10-point lead — Sunday, the Vikings led 20-0 at intermission — which is a trend that is absolutely maddening and devastating for a new regime. Now the question comes: How do the Vikings fix this? The answer is not simple.
The PFW Spin
The easy and clean solution is not so easy and clean. What happens as soon as disaster strikes a football team? Nine times out of 10, the suggestion is this: Change the quarterback. And though it might be painfully obvious that Donovan McNabb does not represent any kind of future for the team at the position, we also should note that there might be more pressing concerns right now, as subpar as McNabb's play has been.
Of course, therein lies an interesting element. Changing the quarterback is about the most dramatic thing this team could do, and perhaps a spark is what is needed now. Mixing up the offensive line or changing defensive schemes might be the more tangible solution, but it would not represent a culture change in the locker room.
So what does Leslie Frazier do?
Frazier appears to believe that McNabb is not the issue. So, look for a change on the offensive line — and it could come via free-agent help. OLT Charlie Johnson has struggled. ORT Phil Loadholt has struggled. The interior is inconsistent. But clearly they are doing something well up front because Adrian Peterson is having some strong first-half performances running the football.
We now come back to McNabb. With defenses creeping up extra defenders near the line of scrimmage, McNabb and the receivers must come up with ways to take advantage of that fact. Michael Jenkins is working well in a limited fashion. Percy Harvin, when he's on the field, is an exciting and dangerous weapon. The tight ends, Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph, are starting to assert themselves. After that, there is very little in the way of reliability, but that should be enough to have 60 minutes worth of passing plays to take advantage of single-high safeties.
The coaches are the only ones who know if Christian Ponder is ready to assume starting duties, and their support of McNabb suggests that the kid needs more seasoning. If the losing continues, the chance of something dramatic (drastic?) happening raises.
McNabb certainly is not the only problem, but he might be the only potential change that has any real chance of affecting the culture around the Vikings. And right now, the vibe is not good following three gut-punch losses to open the season.