Lurtsema's Reaction: Leftover stew

Bob Lurtsema had a week to hide out in the sticks and stew on the Vikings' NFC Championship Game performance. He knows how the players will feel about this years down the road. Plus, Lurtsema talks about his feelings on what happened with Bryant McKinnie being dismissed from the Pro Bowl team.

VU: Since we haven't talked since the NFC Championship Game and you've had a week to stew about it, what is your reaction to how things played out at the end of the NFC Championship?

BL: I'm absolutely sick about the whole situation, from the poor officiating calls to having 12 men in the huddle. As a player, I know they'll never, ever get over it. They'll be scarred for life. People can say whatever they want, but I've been involved in a couple of Super Bowl losses. When you're blown out, it's one thing. But when you literally gave the game up on a platter, it'll stick with you. With 12 men in the huddle, they can say whatever they want, but it comes down to coaching. I've said it so many times that coaching is 60 to 65 percent of the game and that one particular mistake cost the Vikings the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. You can look back at other plays and things like that, but this is something that they had total control over. That was a mistake made mentally, not physically. When you give yourself a tremendous opportunity like that and you blow it, I'm sorry, that makes it hard and a lot harder on the players.

VU: Here is the biggest question I still have left: After the game, Brett Favre said it was the exact same play that was called before and after the timeout, so how do you get that confused?

BL: It couldn't be because Naufahu Tahi was going to go in there and it was supposed to be a running play, I thought. But, you know, Tahi never answered the question about how he ended up in the game. He just said that the media should talk to the coaches for the answer because all the coaches were talking to their players. If it was the same play, meaning it was a passing play before the penalty, I think it should have been a run called because when your kicker is Ryan Longwell and you have the best long snapper in the league with Cullen Loeffler and you're inside a dome, it would have been an automatic to call a run. Vince Lombardi always said only three things can happen on a pass play and two of them are negative. It was a no-brainer to run before the penalty to put it in the middle of the field for the kicking opportunity.

VU: Do you think they may have shied away from a running play because of the fumbles they had earlier?

BL: They shouldn't because of the fumbles, because if you are anticipating every time you call a play that something negative is going to happen, then you're playing not to win. I think that's one thing the Saints' philosophy has been all year – no matter where they are at, they are probably one of the top teams in going for it on fourth downs. Sean Payton always says, "We play to win." That's a contagious attitude for any team and you can instill that, just like you can instill a negative and that can be the start of a big-time cancer.

VU: So they are at the 33-yard line and looking at a 51-yard field goal, and Longwell said before the game he was hitting with seven or yards to spare from 53 yards. Now that they are backed up to the 38-yard line, do you have to force a pass to get that additional yardage or are you OK with Favre trying to run for a few yards to get it back into the low 50s for the field goal?

BL: In that situation, I really feel like the running game is good enough to pick up a couple of yards. When you are in that field goal area, you've got to know your players and what they feel comfortable with. I know Ryan Longwell very well and I just know his attitude and approach to everything. There was no doubt in his mind that he was within his distance and felt very comfortable.

VU: Enough on that loss. What do you think about what happened with Bryant McKinnie at the Pro Bowl?

BL: I like Bryant McKinnie. I think this is a case where money really distorts somebody's perception. You're looking at $22,500 for the losers of the Pro Bowl and $45,000 if you win – to me, that's quite a bit of money. At $22,500, it took me two years to even make that in the league and that's the losers' share. There is no awareness about the bigger picture and I think these young guys get so much money that they lose perspective of that old-school attitude and you stray from where your focus should be the majority of the time. We all make mistakes – Lord know I made a bundle – but the majority of the time I knew when I was wrong and that I had to respect certain things. To be voted to the Pro Bowl is quite an honor, especially when he had 400,000 fans vote for him. You didn't just let down yourself and your family, you let down your profession and the people that backed you in your profession and the people that are paying your bills.

VU: Do you think he will get voted to the Pro Bowl again after this happened?

BL: No. He'll never get in the Pro Bowl again, no matter how good he plays. This will stay with him forever. At the Pro Bowl, you're only looking at 45-minute meetings. It's not like you're going to kill yourself out there. The fans like to see the person they voted for represent them. He'll never be in another Pro Bowl and you can almost take that to the bank.

VU: What were your impressions of the Pro Bowl format right now, being between the conference championships and then being in Miami vs. Hawaii?

BL: I think the players would rather go to Hawaii and would rather do it the week afterwards. A lot of players pulled out and need more than a week to heal their bodies from the aches and pains. I think people had a really negative feel for the Pro Bowl game because they saw some great playoff football – Brett Favre going through a physical beating that I don't know many quarterbacks could take – and then you go out and watch this game before the biggest game of the year next week and they're just out there patty-caking and hugging. I think it had a tremendous negative impact with the fans.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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