Rebuilding through the draft a cop-outThis NFL offseason has had a multitude of exciting stories and headlines. Peyton answered John Elway’s prayers by going to Denver. Tim Tebow got exiled to New York. The Redskins traded three first-round picks to get the No. 2 pick in the draft from the Rams.
By: Casey Johnson, The Jamestown Sun
This NFL offseason has had a multitude of exciting stories and headlines.
Peyton answered John Elway’s prayers by going to Denver. Tim Tebow got exiled to New York. The Redskins traded three first-round picks to get the No. 2 pick in the draft from the Rams.
The Saints’ have virtually imploded with their bounty scandal and eavesdropping allegations. There was even audio released of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams telling his players to go after the heads, ankles, and ACLs of 49ers players before their playoff matchup last season.
These stories have literally been heard loud and clear this offseason, and there was no escaping them as a sports fan.
In stark contrast, however, the Vikings have remained questionably quiet. A team that was a dismal 3-13 last season has pretty much chosen to fly under the radar.
The team that finished 28th in the NFL in passing yards per game last season passed on top available wide receivers such as Vincent Jackson, Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Pierre Garcon. And, the team that finished 26th in the NFL in opponents’ passing yards per game also decided to stay away from talented cornerbacks such as Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan, Terence Newman, and Tracy Porter.
Sure, the Vikings have made some acquisitions. But of the “notable” free-agent signings that the Vikings made this offseason, such as John Carlson (TE), Zach Bowman (CB), Chris Carr (CB), and Geoff Schwartz (OG), none were starters last season.
Furthermore, Carlson and Schwartz didn’t play at all last season due to injuries, and Carr also missed significant time.
Time and again this offseason, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has explained the team’s lack of significant free agent signings by saying that the Vikings are “rebuilding through the draft.”
But what kind of a philosophy is that?
“Rebuilding through the draft,” though a delightful goal, is more of a cop-out than a rebuilding philosophy. It is a saying that is so much easier said than done. Doesn’t every team go into the draft with the same hopes? Doesn’t every team want to select the players that best suit their needs and that will help them best succeed? Whether or not you sign notable free agents, your goal should always be to “rebuild” or reload through the draft.
Rebuilding through the draft shouldn’t be considered a legitimate strategy for rebuilding a franchise. Drafting good players should just be business as usual. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, and furthermore, attempting to “rebuild through the draft” doesn’t guarantee that your team will automatically get better.
To be clear, I also understand that a successful offseason doesn’t just mean throwing money at players who don’t deserve it, a la Bernard Berrian. Signing big-money players does not guarantee success either.
But if you don’t attempt to address some legitimate needs through free agency, you’re putting all of your eggs in the draft basket. And, if you’re the Vikings and you swing and miss through the draft, you’re going to be right back where you ended the previous season — near the bottom of the NFL’s standings.
Even if one or two of the Vikings’ picks (perhaps Matt Kalil) were to immediately develop into legitimate NFL starters, the team would still be in trouble because they would still have holes to fill. Why couldn’t the Vikings have taken a more dualistic approach to rebuilding this offseason?
With their current stadium situation, the Vikings aren’t generating the same type of revenue as most NFL teams. That is clear. But they can’t afford to stop spending money, now of all times.
Let’s think critically for a moment. Now is not the time to try to slowly rebuild the franchise through the draft. The Vikings are in the middle of trying to gain support for a new stadium. They need to be trying to galvanize their fan base. They need to win back the hearts of both Minnesota fans and Minnesota politicians alike.
This is a pivotal time in the franchise’s history, and if the right people’s minds aren’t changed quickly, if the Vikings don’t remind us all what we would be losing if they left, the state of Minnesota might be left without a professional football team.
With the possibility of a stadium bill being passed this legislative session still very much up in the air, hope for landing a new stadium might possibly rest on a deal being struck during a potential special legislative session next fall. So what is the best way for the Vikings to re-energize their fans and gain support for their new stadium if that scenario plays out?
They need to win football games. It’s as simple as that. Winning isn’t going to guarantee a new stadium by any means, but it will certainly do a lot more good than another season filled with losses and ineptitude. That is for sure.
And right now, the Vikings need all the help they can get, both on the field and to secure a new one.
Johnson is a 2007 graduate of Jamestown High School. He lives and works in the Twin Cities. Read his blog at www.http://caseyjohnson.wordpress.com/