Lurtsema's Reaction: Learning Curve

Fans seem to want to jump the coaches for every loss, but there are plenty of things out of the coaches' control. Against Seattle, there were a number of times that the players simply didn't make the plays, either because of bad decisions or not trusting their instincts.

I sure am glad that I'm not a coach in the National Football League, especially a Minnesota Vikings coach. This game ended in a Vikings loss, which could have just as easily been a win, and it was decided on the last play of the game. It was bad enough that Jermaine Wiggins didn't make a spectacular catch on a deflected pass in the end zone, but the officials had a number of questionable calls on that final play. They allowed play to continue when Daunte Culpepper made a great second effort to slip out of a would-be sack, but the officials said after the game that the play would have been reviewed and Culpepper would have been ruled down. But they missed the Seattle coaches and players flooding the field when Culpepper escaped and threw to Wiggins. What would the call have been then? That demonstrates how much is out of the coaches' control on just one very important play. And we don't even want to discuss the four turnovers last week in Chicago, none of them made by a coach.

Also, take the controversial play call late in the fourth quarter when Randy Moss rolled to his right on a reverse and threw an interception on a pass intended for Marcus Robinson. It was a percentage play — with the percentages in the Vikings' favor when it was called. Like most good decisions in football, they had the percentages in their favor and they played them. Yet the second-guessing that continues with this play call will keep the radio stations buzzing for weeks. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis threw the option pass for a touchdown Sunday against the Jets, and the play was reviewed as "near-genius" by the media. The only negative thing about this play for the Vikings obviously was the fact that the pass should have been thrown out of bounds, as the Seahawks changed up their defensive coverage from what they had shown previously. I've watched Moss in practice, and this guy is a great athlete, which we all know, but fans don't know about his tremendous degree of accuracy when he passes.

As for coaching on the defensive side, it's so frustrating at times to see so many basic mistakes being made — from wrong alignments to misreading their responsibilities to blown coverages. This definitely is a young defensive team, and since I've lived what I'm about to say, there is some credence behind it: As rookies, players are trying to improve constantly, and at certain times throughout that growth process they try to learn as much as a 10-year veteran. When doing that, it actually slows down their God-given talent. When that happens, they often start to guess what particular play is coming and not react to what they actually see in front of them. An easy example is the young linebackers dropping back into a zone defense and, once there, not reacting fast enough to what they see developing in front of them. A defensive end might fly down the line of scrimmage rather than maintaining his outside responsibility or pursuing the play away from him running at an angle as deep as the deepest back. It also becomes frustrating for coaches when the defensive players are still looking around as the ball is being snapped.

Each athlete learns and develops at a different pace, and coaches at times think certain things that are so simple should be grasped quicker by NFL players. These Vikings defenders are young, but they are very, very close to overcoming this mental bump in the road. I truly feel they'll make that transition before it's too late.

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