I exchanged five questions with Gonzo from the Daily Norseman in anticipation of tomorrow's game between the Lions and Vikings. Below are his answers to my questions, and my answers to his questions can be found over at the Daily Norseman.
1. How has Minnesota's offense improved since Gus Frerotte took over as the starting quarterback? Do you see Frerotte as a long-term option for the Vikings or as someone that will simply finish the season until Minnesota can find another QB for next year?
Daily Norseman: I'm not sure if the offense has "improved" as much as it's opened up a bit with Frerotte under center. I joke that with Tarvaris Jackson under center, Brad Childress was running the "Tecmo Bowl" offense. . .approximately four different plays. With Frerotte under center, he's at least advanced to Super Tecmo Bowl level. I'm still not a big fan of how the change was handled, but I can't argue with the results at this point.
As far as the long-term future, it's almost impossible for me to see Frerotte as a long-term option. He's 37 years old and he's on a one-year contract with the Vikings. I'm not sure who the long-term answer is. . .whether it's Tarvaris Jackson or John David Booty or someone that's currently playing college ball, but I can't realistically term Gus Frerotte as the long-term solution. He's a good answer for this season, and possibly for 2009, but I can't go any further than that.
2. Has the defense lived up to your expectations so far this season?
DN: Well, the run defense has been every bit as good as it's been during the Brad Childress era. The pass defense, while not drastically improved, has gotten better than it was in previous seasons. There's been an increase in quarterback pressure, with Jared Allen leading the league in QB hurries, and the occasions where quarterbacks have had all day in the pocket to scan the defense has gone down. It's going to be interesting to see how the injury to E.J. Henderson affects the defense in the long-term. Henderson was having a monster season prior to getting injured, and though the defense looked good at times against the Saints, it's hard to lose a player of Henderson's ability without any long-term effects. Also, with as well as Tyrell Johnson has played thus far in his rookie season, I'd like to see Madieu Williams. . .who the Vikings paid a ton of money for this off-season. . .actually get out on to the field. He might be able to offset the loss of Henderson, if only a little bit. But, overall, the defense has almost gotten to what I expected them to be, and it will be interesting to see if they get there given the current circumstances.
3. This past Monday's game against the Saints was pretty crazy, to say the least. Minnesota survived a pair of Reggie Bush punt returns for touchdowns to pull off the surprising victory. What was the biggest factor in Minnesota's win, and how important was it in regards to the outlook for the rest of the season?
DN: The Vikings won on Monday night by simply showing more heart and more guts than I've seen them exhibit in the Brad Childress era. Yes, the offense spent most of the first half being terrible, and there were the two big punt returns from Bush in the second half. . .but rather than folding up the tents, the Vikings went out and fought and scrapped and got the tying touchdown and the (eventual) winning field goal. That's not the sort of resilience that we're used to seeing from the Vikings. Generally, in the kind of crazy game we saw on Monday night, the Vikings find a way to lose. Now, knowing that their season was probably over if they lost, even in this division, they pulled themselves up by the proverbial bootstraps and put their season back on track. I certainly hope that this carries over for the rest of the season.
4. You have been pretty upfront with your opinion of Brad Childress in the past. What makes you dislike his coaching decisions so much, and if the Vikings fail to make the playoffs, should he be replaced?
DN: I'm not a Childress fan, no. I'm not a fan of the way he handles a lot of things. I mentioned the quarterback situation earlier, and it's a prime example of his stubbornness and his inability to admit that he's wrong. He spent all off-season telling us about Tarvaris Jackson and how he's ready to lead and he's ready to take this team to the playoffs and this and that and the other thing. . .and then he goes out and puts together game plans that, basically, set Tarvaris Jackson up to fail. Incredibly conservative, totally unimaginative, and playing not to lose rather than playing to win. Even the dopes in the ESPN booth on Monday night questioned the offensive philosophy. This past week, he publicly threw punter Chris Kluwe under the bus for the Bush punt returns in the New Orleans game, and brought in four different punters to try out. Kluwe is a fine young punter, and to try to put the blame on his shoulders for what happened. . .particularly in the public manner that he did it. . .is totally unacceptable in my book. Childress is just a guy that rubs myself and other Viking fans completely the wrong way, and if he doesn't make the playoffs this year, then yes, he absolutely, positively should be fired.
5. How big of a role will Adrian Peterson play in Sunday's game? It is assumed that the Vikings offense as a whole will have little trouble since the Lions defense has been so bad this season, but should we expect a balanced attack or will Minnesota feed the ball to Peterson?
DN: At the risk of sounding arrogant, that is sort of the assumption, yes. With the Lion defense looking as poor as it has thus far, many people are under the assumption that if the Vikings want to run the ball, they'll run the ball, and if the Vikings want to throw the ball, they'll throw the ball. Now, we've both seen enough NFC North games over the years to know that that's not always the case. . .but if there was a game for the Vikings to get Adrian Peterson and/or Chester Taylor well and truly on track, this would probably be the game to do it, particularly with a tough road trip to Chicago coming up for the Vikings in Week 7. I would expect the Vikings to try to be more balanced, but if this turns out to be the type of game that you and I are both expecting it to be, there's going to be a healthy dose of the Vikings running game to be had in this one, particularly in the second half.