While Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has proclaimed that the feel-good story of Moritz Boehringer is over – subtlety isn’t always his long suit – the story is far from done from the media perspective.
The Boehringer story screams of something that head honchos at HBO would have jumped on a table to get for its “Hard Knocks” franchise. In fact, on Friday, they could have got plenty of solid hi-def footage of Mo vomiting on the sidelines and rubbing some of the residuals off his cleats in the grass leading up the same small hills Adrian Peterson ran on for photo-ops in his post-ACL career.
Boehringer remains a consistent subject of the daily national sports media news cycle as his story continues to fascinate and confuse those in the sporting world. The Vikings are still questioned by the move of using a sixth-round draft pick on him when many in the analyst community were convinced he would go undrafted or be a seventh-round choice at best. But, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman might end up being the smartest guy in the room when it came to selecting Boehringer where he did.
When looked at logistically and realistically, the Vikings more than likely got Boehringer on a redshirt contract – two years for the price of one.
It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to buy into this theory, because it makes too much sense to rational people to ignore.
For those who have seen the numerous interviews that have been conducted with Boehringer, it’s clear that he understands the English language pretty well, but it’s still a work in progress. He’s knows how to speak and understand English, but it remains clear that it is his second language and, when it comes to answering questions, there is typically a pause before an answer as he translates what has been asked him in English into German and then responds back in English again and the answers are typically short…very short.
His command of day-to-day English is sketchy at best, much less the pig-Latin sub-language that is part of NFL terminology. On any given play, a quarterback calls out a string on non-sequitur words that signifies the play call and the blocking scheme.
For those who have been raised in the United States with English as the first language, picking up on the jargon and terminology can be difficult. NFL careers are blown up because some players just can’t pick up and retain the required buzz phrases associated with calling plays.
Jon Gruden is famous for his man-love of the phrase “Green Right Strong Slot 2 Y Banana.” That was the call for a single play in a playbook that included about 200 other plays. Each of them have a long string of words, letters and numbers that have nothing to do with one another and no two teams have identical phrasing.
Some teams denote plays with colors. Some use animals. Some use the names of cities, nouns or proper names to call plays or audibles at the line of scrimmage. The idea is to make it so the players can read the hieroglyphics and make sense out of it and it is little more the genuine frontier gibberish to uninitiated.
It’s one thing to learn English. It’s another to learn the sub-culture language of the NFL. It takes time, even for those with a full command of the verbiage. It’s another for someone who is still relatively new to learning the Rosetta Stone version of English.
The good news for Spielman and the Vikings is that there is almost no way that Boehringer doesn’t end up on the team this year – even if he doesn’t win a roster spot on the final 53-man roster.
As things currently stand, Boehringer has four months to learn the play calls that he is going to hear in the huddle. He’s in the Playbook Immersion Program. You likely aren’t going to hear a lot of stories about Mo enjoying the nightlife in the Twin Cities. He’ll be burning the midnight oil trying to learn, perfect and recall the wording that will be associated with each play and what key words negate the call to a secondary option.
Where this evolves into the two-year Boehringer experiment is that the Vikings likely won’t have to worry about getting him through to the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.
The difficulty Boehringer is going to have learning the Vikings terminology is something he is going to have, at a minimum, four months to master. By August, he will likely know all of the nonsensical terminology of all the Vikings play-calls.
If he is cut, if anyone else wants to go American Sniper on the deal and sign him away from the Vikings, he will have to be placed on the 53-man roster. Vikings fans will remember when Brad Childress tried to get cute and slide quarterback Tyler Thigpen – the flavor of the month for August 2007 – to the practice squad. At that point, the Kansas City Chiefs said, “Not so fast, my friend” and snapped up Thigpen and made him their third QB.
That’s not going to happen with Boehringer. If another team claims him off waivers following the final cut-down, they will have to put him on their 53-man roster.
Along with that would come an introduction to the brand-spanking-new arcane terminology of another NFL team. Jargon and terminology with the 32 NFL teams are like snowflakes. They’re all unique. Nobody is going to give up a coveted roster spot to start from Square One and teach him yet another language. Throw in that the “earn while you learn” program would come with a hefty price, the odds are it won’t happen.
Every team frets letting go a player that they firmly believe, with some nurturing, could be something special. For any of the other 31 teams in the NFL, to land Boehringer would cost them a coveted front-end roster spot for a player that would likely take longer than most to learn the language of that coaching staff.
For that reason alone, 2016 is going to be a redshirt season for Boehringer.
Many thought that the selection of Boehringer in the sixth round was a tad premature. Those people underestimated Spielman’s understanding of the game. He got a rare hall pass from the other general managers in the league begrudgingly saying, “he’s yours” for at least 2016.