There are several times of year when the radars should be going off in fans' minds as they process information. Perhaps no time is the sludge thicker than hip-high waders will handle than draft season. But right now is also a key time for Vikings fans.
The locker room feels like it's on the verge of transition time. We've seen it before, during 6-10 and 3-13 seasons in recent years. Players continue to believe they have a chance to turn things around, even if the playoffs are extremely unlikely at this point.
So what's the right approach to the second half of the season for the long-term future of the organization?
General manager Rick Spielman addressed several hot topics Friday afternoon. In some instances, he appeared to be refreshingly candid … or at least as candid as he could be. The two key takeaways: Leslie Frazier has complete control of which quarterback starts each game, although Spielman offers his input, and "Leslie Frazier is not going anywhere."
The first of those may have thrown the blame on Frazier for starting Josh Freeman against the New York Giants only two weeks after the quarterback's arrival in Minnesota, but if that was truly Frazier's decision – Frazier has contended the same thing – then it was good to hear it on the record from a second source who would know. Frazier has said in the past he believed Freeman was ready, and he re-affirmed last week that he doesn't regret that decision. The issues Freeman had didn't appear to stem from not knowing the offense. It was simply a problem with accuracy, which should be more concerning. He found and targeted open receivers but couldn't connect with them consistently enough.
From this view, after witnessing his one game and numerous shorter looks during the open-access period of practice, Freeman still feels like the best option. His accuracy remains a problem, but he simply looks the part more than Christian Ponder. He stands tall in the pocket, moves well to evade pressure and keeps his focus down the field.
Matt Cassel sure looks like the odd man out toward the end of the season, and that doesn't seem fair, either. He led the Vikings to their only win, so it's hard to comprehend how Frazier believes that Ponder gives them their best chance to win. At this point, it still is about trying to win for the Vikings, Frazier and Spielman both said, no matter how improbable that seems Sunday in Dallas.
Eventually, of course, they have to get a more extensive look at Freeman, which makes it sound silly that Spielman said Freeman wouldn't have to play another game this season to get a good evaluation on his potential future in Minnesota. That's hard to believe. Yes, they can get a feel for Freeman's personality and how it meshes in the locker room, along with how he studies film. But the biggest issue for him is how he can transfer all of that and whether the work they have done behind the scenes to try to improve his accuracy will transfer into game situations.
At least Spielman at one point in the 40-minute conversation admitted there could be a time later in the season that evaluating the quarterback position would take precedence over winning this year.
It should, for the long-term future of the team. That may be difficult for players like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams to swallow in what are likely their last seasons in purple, but Spielman admitted his job entails a balance of the short-term and long-term good of the team, which aren't always in sync.
As for Spielman's statement that "Leslie Frazier isn't going anywhere," that's probably true for the rest of this season. There is no quick fix in sight or on site in the coaching realm if Frazier is fired before the end of the season. There have to be changes in the coaching staff after this season, whether that's Frazier or with the coordinators and schemes that don't seem to be maximizing the talent.
It might take something extraordinary for Frazier to keep his job into the 2014 season, but for now at least I believe that "Frazier isn't going anywhere."
Ultimately, though, Spielman admitted that success is judged by wins, so Frazier might have to pull numerous upsets in the final nine games to keep his job beyond this season.
Check back at the end of December and we can try to decipher the tea leaves on quarterbacks and coaches once again.
"Floyd did not lift at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his lack of strength has shown," Brandt wrote. "The short-armed guy gets overpowered and has been relegated to backup status on a Vikings defensive line that is not very good."
"We'll see how everything is going. We're still evaluating," Childs said last week.
"I feel good. Just more work, more work. Just keep putting in the same work, day in, day out. Just try to keep getting better."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.