Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett didn't have to become accustomed to a new offensive coordinator last season even though he switched from the Packers to the Vikings in 2000. Both Baggett and coordinator Sherman Lewis joined the Vikings staff during the 2000 offseason after coaching together in Green Bay in 1999. In fact, he and Lewis go way back. Baggett was recruited to Michigan State as a player by Lewis when the latter was an assistant coach there in the early 1970s.
Baggett has been coaching football in college and the pros since 1977. His college résumé includes Bowling Green (1977-80), Minnesota ('81-82) and Michigan State ('83-92, '95-98). In the NFL, he has coached at Houston (1993-94) and with the Packers in 1999. His core group of receivers with Houston was Webster Slaughter, Ernest Givins and Haywood Jeffires; with the Packers it was Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder. Now it is Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed.
Q: Can you assess the overall play of the receivers this season?
A: Obviously, at this point we would like to have a much better record. I think Randy (Moss) has caught 60-some balls, Cris (Carter) has caught 50-some and Jake (Reed) has caught in the 20s. I think we are distributing the ball around pretty good. I would like to have made a few more plays than what we have. But at times we have made plays. At times Daunte (Culpepper) has been able to get the ball to us when we've been open. The combination of things that have happened in the passing game we wish would have been a little better.
We have five more games left (entering the Tennessee game), so hopefully we'll improve even more. … But overall I think I'm pleased with what we've done. Obviously, I wish the results were better, and also you can always do better as a group. I think the guys realize there is a lot of room for improvement. I think what we are striving for now is to win these last five games and end up 9-7, which nobody believes we can do except us. So, if we concentrate and do the things we are supposed to do, I feel like our passing game is going to come along and I think we will continue to make some plays.
Q: But at times the passing game has been clicking this season?
A: But it has been so inconsistent, unlike a year ago where at times we would get on a roll and make some big plays. In a way, we feel like that's a little bit disappointing, that we haven't been able to do that on a consistent basis. But there are a lot of reasons for it. Every team is different. This team is different than a year ago's team. Last year's team was different than the '98 team that was very good. We realize that things are different. We have to do what we can do as a team. What we do well, we have to do. Those are the things I think we are starting to do. We are starting to pick up on some of the things that we are pretty good at. That Daunte is good at and that the receivers are good at, including Byron Chamberlain, who has done an excellent job along with A.J. (Andrew Jordan) at tight end. I think you will continue to see the passing game will get better.
Q: How much credit is this to your opponents? Have they figured out some things about the passing game?
A: They are doing some things to take away what we do well. Any time you play teams like Tampa Bay, Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago, who we play two times a year, they know us pretty well. And it works both ways. We do some things that affect them that are different for them, and they do some things that affect us that are different for us. I think the other teams that we only play once a year have tried to double- and triple-team Randy and Cris and take us away in that respect. At times it has hurt us, but I don't think it is anything drastically different than people have done to take things away from us in the past.
Q: With a receiving threat such as Chamberlain at tight end, is it a surprise the wide receivers haven't had more success?
A: I think they have (had success) to a certain extent. Any time you distribute the ball around, and then we are not throwing it at certain times, we are not getting it off certain other times, so, no, I don't think that's disappointing. Obviously, we would like to have more production out of Jake, but Jake hasn't had that many opportunities. We haven't thrown the ball to him that much. I think the guys have gotten the ball enough to make big plays, and at times we have.
Q: How pleased have you been with Moss' play?
A: Everybody talks about Randy loafing and Randy dropping passes and Randy not hustling 100 percent. But I look at film and we grade film every Monday and give the players grades on every play. Any time those things occur, I think we have pointed them out to Randy that maybe he can run faster. But I don't see him loafing. I've seen him drop a few passes, but not as many as the press says. I'm pleased with the way Randy has played. Obviously, he gets frustrated at times when they do double- and triple-team him and we can't get the ball to him. The thing we have to do is get Randy involved in the offense early, and when he does he ends up having a pretty good game most of the time.
Q: What are the best ways to get Moss involved?
A: It's hard when he's getting tripled and doubled, but a lot of times you just have to be creative. I think you've seen us the last few weeks do some different things on some short passes with him, move him around a little bit. Those are the kind of things you have to do. We have started to do that with Randy.
Q: How about Carter's season?
A: Cris is just an unusual athlete. What he has done is take care of his body really well so he doesn't get hurt. He has continued to perform at a level that we think is good enough for us to win. He's just a crafty veteran who does a lot of things well on the football team.
Q: How is the development of some of the young receivers going?
A: We've got a few young kids on the team. Kenny Clark, who is on the (practice squad), is coming along well. It's great with these guys being around guys like Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Jake Reed, Chris Walsh — guys who have been around for a long time. These guys get to learn from them. It makes a difference. Cedric James is another rookie who is on the (injured reserve) and hasn't been able to practice. We see some of the good things in him. Those are the main two that we are developing right now. VU
Q&A: With WRs coach Baggett
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