MIN: The Drunken Vikings Chronicles - Week 5
A good writer never reveals their tricks, but I'll let you take a trip into my mind anyways.
WIth the Vikings' bye week being last Sunday, I didn't expect to write a version of The Drunken Vikings Chronicles. Then, Freemania rounded into form.
After trading some final fisticuffs with his former head coach Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was released and became Minnesota Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman late Sunday evening after signing a one-year contract.
I'll go deeper into the situation later, but it adds another interesting wrinkle into a season that just keeps getting more bizarre by the second.
It's starting to smell a lot like the 2011 season.
That October, the Vikings were desperate to find a spark to ignite their suddenly stagnant offense. Brett Favre was becoming useless outside of an early version of Snapchat and needed a target to replace the injured Sidney Rice.
Roughly 1,500 miles away, the New England Patriots were in a staring contest with Randy Moss. The disgruntled receiver wanted a new contract and wasn't going to play hard until the team relented and gave it to him.
The Patriots don't tolerate those games well, so they shipped the disgruntled receiver to the Vikings for a third-round pick.
Moss was greeted with a hero's welcome in Minnesota and caught Favre's 500th touchdown pass. However, things went South in a hurry and after a run-in with Tinucci's catering, he was released as the Vikings resumed their downward spiral en route to a 6-10 record.
The addition of Freeman looks eerily similar to that of Moss several seasons ago. While mid-season acquisitions rarely make an impact, the Vikings are going all-in so they don't waste another season in the prime of Adrian Peterson's career.
Hopefully this gamble pays off better than the one that team took three years ago.
The NFC North Has Come Back to the Vikings
The sky was falling as the Vikings fell to 0-3 with an embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. Talks of benching Ponder filled Mall of America Field and it seemed like a long season was about to take shape for a team expected to return to the playoffs.
A win in London and a bye week later, those Browns have won three straight games and the rest of the NFC North has started to get nasty enough to put the Vikings back into the division race.
After a pair of Week 5 losses, the Bears and Lions sit atop of the division with a 3-2 record. Meanwhile, the Packers beat those Lions in order to get back to even at 2-2.
Such a cluster gives the Vikings hope with two winnable games coming up on the schedule.
The Vikings will host the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field on Sunday and then head to Metlife Stadium to take on the currently winless New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
With the Panthers being rough around the edges on offense and a history full of success against Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the Vikings have a chance to win three straight games after dropping the first three.
A .500 record six games into the season would be huge with a showdown against the Packers looming. If they can accomplish that, it will give them a chance to compete for the division title and possibly a wild card berth as we head into the mid-way point of the season.
Should Josh Robinson Be Benched?
Through the first four games, I've concluded that we should start calling Robinson "The Drum" because of his performance.
"The Drum" has been beaten repeatedly by opposing opponents as he was targeted a league-leading 38 times heading into last week's games according to Pro Football Focus.
In those 38 targets, opposing quarterbacks have completed 35 of them. For those of you who aren't good at math, that's a 92 percent clip.
While those "A" grades are great in an advanced calculus class, they're not good for cornerbacks in the National Football League. Robinson's job should be in jeopardy because of this and that could begin upon Chris Cook's anticipated return this week.
A possible plan is throwing Cook back into his starting cornerback spot while moving Xavier Rhodes to the other starting spot. That leaves the issue of the nickel corner.
After his performances the past two weeks, I think that Marcus Sherels deserves that opportunity. He plays bigger than his 5-10, 175-pound frame suggests and has the quickness to keep up with the new breed of slot receivers that are popping up all over.
With those three, it should help the issues the Vikings have had protecting leads in the early part of the season and allow their offense to grind games out with their elite running game.
What's Next For Christian Ponder?
The future for Ponder was murky after Matt Cassel played well against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, but now it seems like it's being fitted for concrete shoes and being thrown into the middle of Lake Minnetonka.
We don't know whether Ponder really has broken ribs or if the Vikings are trying to soften the blow of a demotion, but we do know that he is not the starting quarterback at the moment and will not be in the foreseeable future.
At Monday's press conference, about 90 percent of reporter's questions for head coach Leslie Frazier had to do with the quarterback situation. Half of those also revolved around Ponder's situation with the team.
Out of that, there was one sequence of phrases that seemed to be the most telling about the former first-round pick's future:
I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team. It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional, he's going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back out on the field and help our team win. He's a pro.
"Christian is a professional..."
"He'll prepare to get back out on the field..."
"He's a pro..."
Those seem to be company lines that have been fed every time some other team has demoted their starting quarterback.
If there was anybody who still needed a shred of evidence that the Ponder Error in Minnesota has come to an end, I think we finally have that with these comments and the Freeman signing.
The Josh Freeman Experiment
It's time for a pop quiz, so get your pencils out and see if you can answer which quarterbacks I'm talking about.
Entering this season, Quarterback A went 24-32 as a starter for his team. During a four-season stretch to begin his career, he completed 58.8 percent of his passes while throwing for 12,963 yards, 78 touchdowns and 63 interceptions in 1,873 attempts. He also was able to engineer 10 fourth-quarter comebacks.
Quarterback B has a record of 17-28 in his four seasons prior to this year. He has completed 59.8 percent of his passes during that time while throwing for 12,807 yards, 80 touchdowns and 54 interceptions in 1863 attempts. He was able to engineer eight fourth-quarter comebacks.
Pencils down! If you guessed that Quarterback A was Josh Freeman, you're absolutely correct. If you guessed that Quarterback B was Matthew Stafford, you would be surprised...and absolutely correct.
Unlike most failed first-round picks that get dumped by their teams, Freeman is one that seems to have the talent to succeed in the NFL.
In 2010, Freeman had his best season to date by throwing for 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions for former head coach Raheem Morris. Those numbers went down to 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 2011. Despite that effort which got Morris canned, his future was still bright when Schiano came into the fold.
In his first 13 games a year ago, Freeman threw 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions while thriving in Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan's vertical offense.
That seems awfully impressive, especially when that included a five-game stretch where he threw two or more touchdowns without throwing a pick.
While that didn't prevent the wheels from falling off at the end of the season with nine interceptions in his final three games, there's enough to make the Vikings decide that it's worth the price to take a lottery ticket on Freeman's potential.
The Vikings are gambling that Freeman can revive his career after being freed from the toxic environment Schiano had created in Tampa Bay. If he's able to do that, the Vikings suddenly have a 25-year old quarterback that can carry the team into the future.
If Freeman is the quarterback that completed 45.7 percent of his passes in three games this season, the Vikings can comfortably let him walk and draft a quarterback next May.
Freeman is going to play whether it's fair to Cassel or not. The Vikings need to know what they have, and this move screams for a long-term, which is exactly what Cassel is not for the franchise.
With Ponder failing to take over that role for the Vikings, this is the right low-risk, high-reward move that could not only save the 2013 season, but save the next couple seasons at the quarterback position as well.
Chris Schad is a Minnesota Vikings Team Journalist for Pro Football Spot. His work has also been featured on Bleacher Report and the Yahoo Contributor Network. You can follow Chris on Twitter @crishad.