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Months before the Vikings lured Brett Favre to Minnesota … and weeks before Jay Cutler was ultimately traded from the Broncos to the Bears … there was a steady stream of reports and rumors that the Vikings — coming off a 10-6 playoff season but still with questions at quarterback — were interested in making a deal for the QB.
Did you forget about this? Never forget it. Because with each passing Cutler game, we still wonder about it.
How different would 2009 have been? How different would the five seasons and many QBs after that have been? Would it have been worth it, possibly, in some ways? Cutler in purple? Here’s what was being written in the Star Tribune back in March of 2009:
The Denver Post reported the Vikings are among the teams that
have expressed interest in Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, and
talks between the sides were believed to be ongoing Monday. It
remains unclear what the Vikings might be offering.
The news broke three days after the Vikings completed a trade
that sent a fourth-round draft pick to Houston for Sage Rosenfels.
He and Tarvaris Jackson are expected to compete for the starting
quarterback job, but neither is at the level of Cutler, a 2006
first-round pick who made his first Pro Bowl this past season. The
Vikings made inquiries about Cutler‘s availability at the NFL
scouting combine last month.
Vikings coach Brad Childress was elusive when asked at Rosenfels’
introductory news conference whether the team would add a top-tier
“Don’t know, I’m not clairvoyant,” Childress said.
Cutler is 44-37 with an 84.4 passer rating in his Bears career. He’s the NFL leader in bad body language. How would his tenure have played out here? We’ll never know, but it’s a question we still, for some reason, think about.
Flip Saunders took over as head coach of the Washington Wizards in 2009. Armed with a lineup featuring Gilbert Arenas and a cast of others, Washington had slumped in 2008-09 but had made the playoffs each of the previous four seasons. Thinking the Wizards were in prime contention for a rebound year, they swapped the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft with the Wolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.
The move backfired for Washington. A whole host of problems with Arenas and others led to an eventual youth movement — one that didn’t involve that No. 5 pick, who the Wolves turned into Ricky Rubio. Flip started the process of that youth movement, coaching John Wall and co. to 23 wins in 2010-11 before getting fired 17 games (2-15 record) into the 2011-12 season. Now, the Wizards are one of the best teams in the East with a 17-6 record heading into a game in Washington tonight against the Wolves.
It’s a reminder — the second reminder — that Saunders can head into a rebuild and his teams can come out on the other side looking pretty good. The first, of course, was his work with a young Kevin Garnett in the mid-1990s, helping take the Wolves from perennial lottery team to perennial playoff team. His third such effort, of course, is pretty much the same as his first: getting the Wolves from the lottery to the playoffs again. Time will tell how that plays out — and it does take time — but the track record is at least encouraging for Wolves fans.
We had a chance to chat with Flip Saunders about the rebuilding mentality last week:
“When I was in Washington, they made a decision where we traded Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas had the situation with the gun so he was gone, traded Caron Butler, Brendan Hayward, (DeShawn) Stevenson, we (lost) our whole starting five. We had like nine guys with two or fewer years of experience. So what was going to happen is that we were going to lose. It’s frustrating, it’s hard to go through, but if you’re committed to that and to development, by letting those guys play and play a lot of minutes, you facilitate their development,” Saunders said.
“I look at them and where they were four years ago, and now they’re one of the best teams in the East. John Wall developed. And if you look at the league, and you look at all these players … when we traded (Kevin) Love, we became in essence what I would call a lottery team. We traded our best player for the No. 1 pick in the draft. If Love wasn’t on our team a year ago, we probably would have struggled. if you look at teams that have been lottery teams and gotten the first pick, whether it’s Cleveland with (Kyrie) Irving and Anthony Bennett, New Orleans with (Anthony) Davis, Wall with Washington, they don’t even win 27 games. LeBron James, he won (35 games) his rookie year. So there’s a process you have to go through. But what you have to understand is that there’s a history and that it will pay off. (Kevin) Durant and Russell Westbrook were (2-24) at one point (in 2008-09). It would be easy for people to put their head in the sand and say, ‘That’s not going to happen,’ but it’s kind of the reality. People that are basketball people understand what we’re going through.”
Here’s an odd little story from the Wall Street Journal about Colts QB Andrew Luck. We’re not 100 percent sure why, but this makes us like him even more:
Luck has become famous for congratulating—sincerely and enthusiastically—any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as ”great job” or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.
When New England pass rusher Rob Ninkovich pulverized Luck last month in a Patriots’ 42-20 win, he got the customary congratulations. As Ninkovich tells it, he found himself paralyzed with confusion by the well-wishes, so he blurted out “Thanks for…uh…accepting that hit?” before running back to the huddle.
We probably like this equally from the sportsmanship angle and the angle of confusing people by yelling odd things in public. Because the latter is a game we’ve DEFINITELY played.
It will almost certainly push the team’s payroll above $100 million for the first time since 2011 — a season, of course, that proved via a 63-99 record that spending money does not always translate to victories.
The consensus, though, is that Hunter and Santana should — at the very least — make the Twins better. The question within that consensus is to what degree the Twins (70-92 last season) will be better, and that’s where things get a little more complicated.
If we look at Fan Graphs, we see that the Twins are still predicted to be the last-place team in the AL Central — Tigers first, Cleveland second, Kansas City third and the White Sox fourth.
Now, Fan Graphs win projections for 2015, as always, are a little more bunched together than the way things actually will shake out. The highest win total is 88; the lowest is 70. That’s a gap of 18 wins; last year, the gap between the best and worst teams was 34 wins.
The Twins are near the bottom, though, projected to win 76 games. Fan Graphs sees them much as they saw last year’s team: a good offense (projected to score the ninth-most runs in MLB in 2015 after scoring the seventh-most in 2014) with a poor pitching staff (slated to give up the third-most runs, even with the addition of Santana).
If you want to look at a national outside source, Jim Bowden from ESPN gives the Twins a B-minus grade for their offseason moves and says, “They’ve improved the team, though this is still a last-place club.”
Those are about as disparate of sources as you’re going to find — crunched numbers vs. a gut reaction, and both are saying the Twins are still the bottom-feeders in the Central.
Much of the problem, of course, is that even though the Twins are better, the rest of the division is pretty good. Detroit, even after trading Rick Porcello and likely losing Max Scherzer, has some dominant starting pitchers and a fearsome lineup. The Royals might have overachieved last year, but they overachieved all the way to the AL pennant. Cleveland quietly won 85 games last year after winning 92 the year before. And the White Sox have made the biggest splash of anyone in the division this offseason.
So what hope is there? Well, as we wrote today, there is at least hope that a rotation that hasn’t finished better than 26th in starters’ ERA any of the past four years could at least approach adequate in 2015 if Santana, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have average seasons.
There is the notion that the team was better last year than in the previous three, which was supported by the eye test, a few more wins and a simple stat: in games decided by 5 runs or more, the Twins were 21-26. That means they won their fair share of blowouts. From 2011-13, in games decided by five runs or more, they were 43-89.
And there is the notion that young players will continue to improve and perhaps get a boost of energy from a new managerial/coaching regime.
It’s reasonable to think the Twins will approach .500 next season. Where that puts them in a better AL Central? Well, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.
When it comes to locating the proper receiver, having good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and generally making good decisions with the football, Bridgewater is already in the top half of NFL starting QBs, maybe even the top 10. He knows how to run an offense. And this is very encouraging.
Those traits helped Bridgewater lead the Vikings on three drives that covered more than 75 yards against a very good Detroit defense. Two resulted in touchdowns; the other resulted in an inexplicably blocked field goal after 11 minutes of possession. If that kick goes through, perhaps we’re a little easier on Bridgewater today. But it didn’t, so it gave us another crucial look at a throw he simply can’t make right now with any consistency.
It was the same type of throw that resulted in the game-turning interception in the first half, after the Vikings had taken a 14-0 lead: a longer throw to one of the sidelines.
On those throws, Bridgewater — not gifted with a rocket for an arm — has a bad tendency to get underneath the ball to try to muster up strength. His elbow drops, and sometimes the ball sails. That happened on the INT, which was glaring. And it happened again in the final minute when he overthrew Jarius Wright on a pass that very well could have helped the Vikings get into more realistic field goal position.
We’re not sure to what extent arm strength can be “taught.” In baseball, you don’t “teach” a pitcher to throw harder. It’s one of those natural gifts that you either have or don’t have. Maybe because he’s so young his arm will get a little stronger. But we wouldn’t count on it.
So the question becomes: how do Bridgewater and the Vikings work around that? Can he at least improve technique enough to get on top of that throw and improve the timing? Do the Vikings not ask him to ever make that throw? (They rarely do now, and for good reason).
And to a larger extent, the question that will define Bridgewater as he continues to develop is how much all of those things he does well can or cannot cover up for what remains, at least for now and quite possibly forever, a significant deficiency?
|San Diego||14||3rd Qtr 4:45|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|San Antonio||88||4th Qtr 3:52|
|Indiana||51||3rd Qtr 0:56|
|Milwaukee||4||1st Qtr 9:42|
|Nashville||5||3rd Prd 5:14|
|Calgary||0||1st Prd 2:51|
|St. Louis||0||1st Prd 16:56|
|Mount St Marys||45||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||94|
|St Josephs (IN)||54||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||68|
|Miss Valley St||60|
|Sam Houston St||61|
|Central Conn St||76|
|Long Beach State||68||FINAL|
|SE Missouri St||67||FINAL|
|Lehigh||56||2nd Half 6:09|
|New Mexico||52||2nd Half 10:10|
|New Mexico St||35|
|Oklahoma||55||2nd Half 7:48|
|Utah Valley U||46||2nd Half 7:15|
|Jacksonville St||56||2nd Half 5:05|
|St Edwards||48||2nd Half 6:28|
|NC State||32||2nd Half|
|TX A&M-CC||16||1st Half 4:32|
|Cal Poly||20||1st Half 1:36|
|Fresno State||19||1st Half 0:52|
|Montana State||24||1st Half 3:35|
|Ball State||18||1st Half 6:18|
|San Diego St||29|
|South Dakota St||27||1st Half 2:44|
|South Alabama||7||2nd Qtr 4:55|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|East Tenn St||56||FINAL|
|(1) South Carolina||80|
|St Thomas Aquinas||45||FINAL|
|(22) West Virginia||69|
|(18) Michigan State||65||FINAL|
|San Jose St||62||FINAL|
|San Diego State||54|
|Stephen F Austin||72|
|New Mexico St||57|
|(16) Oregon State||73||FINAL|
|Utah Valley U||66|
|Long Beach St||53|
|Austin Peay||26||2nd Half|
|Lewis-Clark State||19||1st Half 0:12|
|(21) Miss State||8||1st Half 13:36|