Fox Sports recently held its midseason NFL conference call. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of opinions on the Vikings' sub-.500 record.
Some of the best insight came from former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, who is an analyst on the network's No. 2 NFL team and has seen the Vikings twice.
"To me they are a football team that has become very accustomed to having success," said Aikman, who retired after 12 seasons and three Super Bowl titles following last season. "Then when you go out and don't have success early, which has happened in lot of their games, they are a team that has become extremely frustrated. I think over the years they have become an awfully good football team when they have been ahead and things are going well for them. Whenever they have had to face adversity they don't seem to come back from that very well.
"I think what has happened in their offensive line, obviously losing Korey Stringer and some other starters has had a definite impact on their performance … teams have been able to stop the run for the most part with seven guys. Losing Robert Smith and those players obviously has had an impact.
"Robert Griffith getting hurt hurt them defensively. But that's the NFL. It is how well teams are able to adjust (to injuries), and the Vikings, I think the problems they have are internally. I don't think there is anything any team is doing against them that hasn't been done in the past. They just somehow have to be able to overcome the adversity that seems to be affecting them within their own organization."
Not surprisingly, Aikman can sympathize with quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who at times this season has had to listen to receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss politic for the ball.
"From a quarterback's point of view, it would be tough for a guy like Daunte Culpepper, who in my opinion has tremendous, tremendous talent," Aikman said. "He's got two receivers coming over and telling him how to get him the football. I think he's under tremendous pressure to try to make these guys happy and try to get them the football.
"Because they have been unable to run the ball, teams have been able to play the cover-two and roll up on Randy Moss and then try to do things to stop Cris Carter as well. The quarterback has got to be able to go out and play, and you've got to throw the ball where the coverage dictates it. I think Daunte feels pressure to get the ball in (Carter and Moss') hands and therefore at times he makes a bad decision. I think it creates a very tough environment for a young quarterback."
Fox studio analyst Cris Collinsworth said the Vikings' lack of defense is the big problem.
"You give up 48 and 41 points in back-to-back games (as the Vikings did against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia) … it's an embarrassing situation right now for that defense," Collinsworth said. "I think it comes back to money a little bit. When you have got to pay a Randy Moss ($75 million) and you pay all the stars on that offense as much money as you've paid them, they continue to deny and deplete from the defensive side.
"You talk about Robert Griffith and you lose him to an injury, I think he's the best defensive player they have got. John Randle is off that defense, Dwayne Rudd is off that defense. They don't really go out and make a big effort to find players on the defensive side. They think they are going to win with their offense all the time.
"When their offense goes a little down for which whatever reason, their defense needs to start making plays. It's one thing to be bad, it's another thing to be awful. … There are some big, big major issues right now for that defense."
Losses are key
John Madden, Fox's top NFL analyst, also cites the losses the Vikings have suffered.
"You can't lose that many players and do it with mirrors," Madden said. "They used to be able to go to the thing where if you wanted to drop off and double and you wanted to play Moss and Carter, then they would run Robert Smith or throw to him. If you wanted to come up on that, then they would throw it to the receivers. I remember Denny Green used to say ‘Pick your poison.'
"Now, you take Robert Smith out of there, Korey Stringer, Todd Steussie. You say, ‘Why can't they do it?' Well, they don't have the players to do it. I think that's where it starts. I think it started there a year ago and started when Robert Smith got hurt. Remember, he hurt his knee and then he wasn't the same. They started to lose Robert Smith before they lost Robert Smith, and they never replaced that."
Fox Analysts Weigh In
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