GLENDALE, AZ — Every NFL team that fails this year to have a successful season has a built-in alibi. Blame it on the lockout — say it was because we just have not had enough time to work on this and that with our players.
It’s true that many of the younger players are behind and the teams don’t hit as much in practice with pads on because of the new CBA and the NFL’s concern for injuries. So it’s been tough developing a running game, because it takes time.
If you go back and read what I said before the season, assuming you did not use my column as a fish wrap, I told you what to anticipate. I told you that the teams with head coaches who were motivators and paid attention to detail would successfully navigate their teams through the season.
It takes strong leadership and commitment to one another to win, and it’s on the head coach to get his team up to speed. After all, there are 32 NFL teams, some in little communities like Green Bay, and the salary cap is the same for everybody.
Every game in the NFL has a dress rehearsal. You prepare all week mentally and physically around a game plan; then you go out on Sunday, shoot for the stars, and just do it.
Teams like Green Bay and Detroit, both 4-0 and the only unbeatens left and both in the NFC North, are heads-up on the field. The Packers are world champions averaging 37 points a game. Detroit, the new kids on the block, are averaging 33 points a game.
It’s all about producing points in the NFL. The rules are set up that way, and you’d better have a good quarterback. The Vikings are a mess at 0-4, one of four winless teams with Miami, St. Louis and Indianapolis. All four teams have not been able to produce offensively, averaging 19 points a game.
The Vikings just keep coming up short. They cannot sustain drives. They are awful, worst in the NFL on third down, and their defense gives up big plays on the back in. That is a recipe for failure, as is being dominated 80-16 in the second half of games and not giving the ball to Adrian Peterson, who you just gave $100 million to, once you get big leads.
Sunday at Kansas City was another example. The Vikings led 7-0 early and 10-9 in the third quarter, but when it comes down to taking control and imposing your will on your opponent, the Vikings fail time and again.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb is the person on the hot seat everyone is pointing at. The Vikings are being overwhelmed in certain important aspects of the game. Their opponents have far more first downs, total yards, and passing yards. It’s not a fair fight.
The Vikings are close, but winning and losing is the measuring stick. And the Vikings are not measuring up.
I remember when Dennis Green was head coach in Minnesota, eight years in the playoffs in 10 years. He changed offensive coordinators and quarterbacks if it was not working — he did something about it. He did not sit pat. Most of the media criticized him for it, and some fans bought into the negative hype.
My buddy, columnist Jason Whitlock of FOX.com, told me he was just joking when he tweeted last week that “Leslie Frazier should be fired after blowing a 20-0 third quarter” lead to Detroit, and yesterday he said, “Frazier is in over his head.”
I’m a firm believer that winning takes care of everything, and on the flip side so does losing. Frazier is 3-7 after 10 games. He has got to get this team up to speed in all areas. He has to make them believe in what it is he is trying to do.
If his coaches are not getting it done with their individual players, he has to fix it. You see, when you lose games it’s never the players’ fault if you believe the players. But it’s on the coaches to get the three or four plays out of their playmakers that make the difference in winning. Tony Dungy, when he was head coach at Tampa Bay, started out 0-5, but he built Tampa Bay into a playoff contender and Super Bowl champion.
One quarter of the season is lost; if Frazier benches McNabb now, all hell is going to break loose. Because you never know how your team responds. The future is now in the NFL — don’t believe in that tomorrow crap. If that were true, Brad Childress would still be head coach.
One thing is certain: Arizona is next. They are 1-3 with losses to Washington, Seattle and New York, 22-21, 13-10, and Sunday 31-27. They have blown second-half leads like the Vikings three weeks in a row.
They have their own former Philadelphia Eagle import they traded for in Kevin Kolb at quarterback, who they have committed to for $63 million over five years and who, like McNabb, is not getting it done. Sunday will tell us this who is moving in the right direction within the ex-Eagle QB Bowl. McNabb vs. Kolb, Adrian Peterson vs. Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. — oh my, it’s all-star wars. Get your tickets for 0-4 Vikings vs. 1-3 Cardinals. I can’t wait!
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 email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.