When it comes to the NFL, there are often alliterative comparisons made to warfare. There are aerial assaults. An elite quarterback is called a field general. Offenses line up in a shotgun formation. Adrian Peterson leads the Vikings' ground attack. Coaches try to find weaknesses in an opponent's defense. The annual draft is conducted in a war room. The Bears play at Soldier Field and the Eagles used to play at Veterans Stadium before naming rights became such a huge money-maker. The list goes on and on.
One of the critical aspects of war (and football) is to gain intelligence on the enemy. Spies, moles, snitches, code-breakers, informants and operatives are all aspects of warfare. With so many parallels to football, is the thought of getting "inside intel" from a sworn enemy far-fetched? When one looks at what the Vikings have done in the offseason, you have to wonder if that is a possibility heading into the 2013 season.
Of the different aspects that make an NFL team successful, one of those credited most is continuity. When a franchise has continuity in coaching and personnel, good things tend to happen. Green Bay is one of those franchises. Mike McCarthy and his staff have been as successful as any franchise in the league over the last several seasons. Players come and go, but the system remains the same and you tend to stick with what works.
There is no disputing that Green Bay is the class of the NFC North. They have been the top dog of the division since 2010 and are showing no signs of being on the decline. If the Vikings want to win the Super Bowl title that has eluded them for more than half a century, getting the upper hand on the Packers is a must – unless they expect to play four games on the road to get a ring. Wild card teams have won Super Bowls (Green Bay's last title came as a wild card playoff entrant), but the odds are stacked against them. More times than not, teams need home field in January to keep playing.
Over the years, Bill Belichick (the Joseph Stalin of the Patriots' evil empire) has routinely plucked away free agents or scooped up players who have been released from division rivals. They have an insight behind the enemy lines as to what the team does well, where they struggle and what their coded language on an audible means. With an evil cat-stroking genius like Belichick, such shenanigans are not only anticipated, they're expected. Could the Vikings be on a similar track with their own recent signings?
This offseason, the Vikings haven't added a lot of veteran free agents, but two they did acquire were wide receiver Greg Jennings and linebacker Desmond Bishop – both veteran members of the Packers. As an intelligent veteran wide receiver, Jennings knows all the ins and outs of the Packers pass offense. He can tell the coaching staff what a formation is indicative of for the routes being run. He can point out when the offense tries to clear out the defense for a check-down pass in the flat that could spring for a big gainer. As an inside linebacker, Bishop knows all the defensive calls for the Packers and the strengths and weaknesses of different formations.
While it may not have been an overriding factor in either signing, the fact remains that the Vikings have something in July 2013 that they didn't have when their 2012 season ended at Lambeau Field – an insight behind the curtain of the Packers from a couple of guys who have been in that system for a long time. They can be used in game-planning and preparation for Green Bay and help out the coaching staff on the other side of the ball – Jennings giving pointers to the defensive coaching staff and Bishop giving a heads-up to the offensive coaches.
Had Belichick and the Patriots made a similar move with an AFC East rival, the speculation that they were looking for insider secrets would be running rampant – probably because they would be. The Vikings have a golden opportunity to take advantage of their offseason signings that could have ramifications in the NFC North title race – they have two opposing officers in their custody that can explain a lot of the battle plans the Packers employ. It may seem a little covert, but this is the NFL and, whether they admit or not, the comparisons to war aren't just lip service.
If nothing else, the Vikings have given the Packers one more thing to think about (and potentially over-think) when they prepare to meet this season. It may not seem like much, but if Green Bay overreacts and changes its calls as a precaution, they've been putting in a lot of extra work with no guarantee of success – it might end up just being confusing for the less intelligent players. Whether Jennings or Bishop provide the Vikings with some tangible insight is speculation, but, in war, any advantage you have is vital to success and it looks like the Vikings have been provided with an advantage against their biggest enemy.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings' signings could further intelligence
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