FITZ BEAT By Larry Fitzgerald—Cowboys spoil Vikings’ Dome return 23-17

Quarterback Donovan McNabb will make a difference for his team this season. -Photo by Steve Floyd

It’s easy to say it’s just the preseason, but the Dallas Cowboys, an NFC team, took advantage of two costly turnovers that led to touchdowns in beating the Vikings 23-17 in preseason game number three. It was the first game back at the renovated new roof-new turf Mall of America Field. The place looked good, clean and bright, and for the most part so did the Vikings.

But the game was really a mismatch. The Cowboys are the NFL’s number-one valued franchise at $1.5 billion — thanks to their new great dome home, the site of Super Bowl XLV. The Vikings are still the Vikings: the NFL’s Purple and Gold least valued franchise.

Leslie Frazier’s football team, however, has a big problem to overcome: They turn the football over too much. Teams that lose the turnover ratio lose 80 percent of the games, and that’s why the Vikings are 1-2. Quarterback Donovan McNabb again looked good; he played in to the third quarter, was 12-18 for 164 yards with one touchdown, a brilliant deep throw to Bernard Berrian for 49 yards.

Adrian Peterson ran hard: 14 carries for 81 yards. The offensive line got a shot in the arm with veteran Anthony Herrera back at right guard. He’s the emotional leader, and the Vikings established again that they can be physical. They ran the ball down the Cowboys’ throat for 175 yards and had 442 yards in total offense. They did a lot of good things, but the turnovers are fundamental. And that must be corrected if you’re going to be a good football team.

For the Vikings, they have improved throughout camp; they have a good chance to be relevant. They can be a good team in 2011. This is a talented group: Peterson, Percy Harvin, McNabb, Steve Hutchinson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway. They showed they have a vertical game. With one preseason game remaining, this Thursday vs. Houston, 7 pm at Mall of America Field, the Vikings need to clean up some things.

It’s important they stay injury free and come together as a team and develop some chemistry. Football is a week-to-week business; you can’t get too high, and you gotta keep your chin up and be willing to fight to be good. I like what Frazier is doing; he’s got good coaches and a plan — just find a way to hang on to that ball.

Fitz Notes & Quotes

The Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf were not at the Dome on Saturday. Apparently they stayed on the East Coast, close to their many real estate holdings in New York in view of the Hurricane Irene threat.

Since the Vikings were sold years ago by the original founder (locals Max Winter, Carl Pohlad and Irwin Jacobs), to Mr. Purple Pride (Red McCombs) and now the Wilf family, they have preached and campaigned and lobbied to the state and city how important it is to get a new stadium home for the Vikings. The roof collapsed, and these guys still have no sympathy for the Vikings. They even announced a deal with the city of Arden Hills. Then the state collapsed and went out of business. It’s still a long shot with no state or public money.
None of those guys, the Vikings owners, invested in a house here in Minnesota. Wilf does not live here — he does not even have a condo. If McCombs or Wilf lived here, would it make a difference?

Remember when the NBA Timberwolves used to play at the Dome? Then came Target Center giving life to downtown Minneapolis. Then the Wild was born, Xcel Center was built and the NHL was back. Gopher football got the U of M and state to build TCF Stadium, and the Twins got Target Field. Everybody has been able to get deals done except the Vikings. Why is that? I know most of the Vikings are Black, but that can’t be the reason. Is it? Lord, lets hope not. Minnesota Nice?
The value of the Vikings franchise still in the Metrodome: Once sold for $260 million in 1996 to McCombs, the Vikings were then sold to Wilf for $660 million in 2004. Now the team is now valued at $790 million. The NFL league average of value per franchise is $957 million. the Vikings are dead last in value.

For the life of me it’s clear: A new home for the Vikings in Minnesota is not going to happen. The Vikings have been trying to get a stadium since my son, Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. with the Arizona Cardinals, was a ball boy in high school. Now he’s the highest paid player in the league.

Without leadership (state or city and county support) — Governor Dayton is a Minneapolis guy really, and with all those Republicans and Tea Party folks in the state house and senate, let’s be real. The football Gophers have been terrible since 1962, shortly after the Vikings arrived. Minnesota is the land of old money; that means U of M Gophers.

If you look at the preseason college football top 25, not one of those teams shares a city with an NFL team. No Gopher glory since the Vikings. NFL communities that compete with major college football: Seattle Seahawks have University of Washington, Chicago Bears have Northwestern University, Miami Dolphins have U of Miami, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have the Pitt Panthers.

Call it a hunch: The old Gopher money wants the Vikings out of here. And apparently they push the buttons, because the Vikings have not gotten a sniff. So after 2011 the lease is officially up and Mike Lynn gets his last $250,000. It’s Los Angeles, and Los Angeles wants two teams. San Diego AFC will be one of them; the Vikings NFC will be the other.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.