I was able to persist through the excruciatingly dull (yet painful) preseason football game (or at least 3/4 of it) in the name of Tony Kornheiser (a big fan). With my handy-dandy notebook and a #2 pencil in hand, I set out to recap all of the meaningful events of the Vikings-Raiders Monday Night Football game.
Randy Moss was back in town for the first time since being traded to Oakland prior to the 2005 season. The big question leading up to the Monday game was how Minnesota fans would treat Moss upon his return. I have had some discussions with a few friends of mine that are Viking fans. The intelligible fan (whom I will just designate Fan A) felt that Moss’s accomplishments needed to be recognized and applauded (calling him a good yet misunderstood guy). The unintelligible fan (whom I will designate Psycho) sad Moss is gay and “sucks.”
Needless to say, the majority of Viking Nation were intelligible fans. Some even sported signs welcoming him home; “MN=Moss Country.” Randy Moss was given the respect he deserved for being a spectacular players for several years. There is nothing scarier than a deep ball thrown in his direction.
As for the on field play, this game was really a match of quarterbacks; the good and bad. Starting the game for the Raiders was Aaron Brooks. He didn’t throw the ball behind him in this game, but that doesn’t mean he was good. In fact, Aaron’s 1-7 performance was so hideous I am dropping him in my fantasy football league as I write this sentence (Brooks is now 2-10 during the preseason). You know things aren’t going well when your superstar wide receiver (that would be the aforementioned Randy Moss) publically endorses the second stringer Andrew Walter (more on him later). All told, it was a forgettable day for Aaron Brooks.
Coming in to spell Aaron Brooks was second year player Andrew Walter. He was injured for most of last season, but was highly touted by Raider management coming in to last season (they felt he was the #1 QB prospect in the 2005 draft). He started off very well when he threw a very nice touchdown pass. Unfortunately, it was almost all down hill from there. Walter was picked off by Cedric Griffin on an under thrown pass. When the Raiders got the ball back, Andrew Walter turned the ball over yet again on an arrant pass. Nevertheless, he showed he has the ability to take the starting job away from Aaron Brooks.
Now, rewind back to that fact that Randy Moss is publically endorsing Andrew Walter. In an interview with Suzy Kolber, he stated that Andrew Walter was a very good quarterback right now. Moss liked the fact that Walter can throw the deep ball. My favorite tidbit was when Tony Kornheiser pointed out what “I wouldn’t mind having [Andrew Walter] as my QB” means for Aaron Brooks. Start the quarterback controversy now. I will bet that Brooks will be benched by the end of the season.
As for the Minnesota quarterbacks, the boys in the booth let it be known that Brad Johnson is one of the few players currently in the NFL that led his team to a Super Bowl win. Couple that with the fact that Johnson was the 39th highest paid quarterback (now 40th since that pretty boy Matt Leinart finally got a contract signed), it seemed that the announcers were becoming Johnson’s agents (except one bearded fellow who pointed out that Brad is old... really, really, really old). His actual play was nothing spectacular, but was exactly what you expect out of him; solid.
The real show stopper for the Vikings at the quarterback position was their second round pick out of Alabama State. Tarvaris Jackson was exactly what Johnson isn’t; spectacular (but not yet solid). He was Michael Vick-esque but with passing ability. I was as dazzled by the touch he shows as I was by his moves in the open field. Tarvaris played exactly like he did in the game I caught on ESPN last season. He is the real deal as the quarterback of the future for Minnesota.
Like all exhibition football games, the score doesn’t matter. From what I saw, the NFC North is really going to be tight between the Bears and the Vikings. You always here the analysts saying the valuable running backs are the ones that can make a play that would go for a loss into a run for a minimal gain. Chester Taylor will be that running back for the Vikings. The previously mentioned Brad Johnson will be the leader Brad Childress is looking for (more on that later). The receiving corps, although missing the stand out player, is going to be well off with Troy Williamson and Koren Robinson (whom I would like to happily announce have moved to numbers in the 80s) with Marcus Robinson as a veteran.
The biggest strength I see for the Vikings is the defensive line. Kenechi Udeze made Robert Gallery look like a fool (that’s coming from an Iowan). Erasmus James was able to put pressure on the QB at the opposite end. And the meat of the line, the interior with Pat and Kevin Williams, was spectacular. These four will be like hell for opposing lineman this season. Really, the Vikings will win games in the offensive and defensive trenches this season. Not much more can be said about the offensive line (assuming Matt Birk is healthy the entire season).
One of the interesting pieces of information we were provided with was from a conversation with Brad Childress. In it he says he traded Culpepper because of differences in opinion, and their inability to see eye to eye. What I found interesting was the fact that Childress specifically said he traded Culpepper. If he is unsucessful, I could see Viking fans turning on him quick, especially due to the fact that he traded their star quarterback. I don’t see that being a huge problem (I think Childress is going to be a great fit in Minnesota).
My prediction for the Vikings is 10-6 with a playoff birth.
As for the Raiders, I like the way they are rebuilding the franchise, but the results just won’t be there. Their offensive line performed on a Houston-Texans-in-their-inaugural-season level. Robert Gallery wasn’t there only problem; they basically all sucked. The quarterbacks weren’t able to get the ball in the hands of Randy Moss. The defensive wasn’t able to stay on sides. The only real players that stood out in a positive light were LaMont Jordan on a few runs and Stanford Routt in coverage (but there are 22 players on a field at a time; I can’t see them all). As for the Raiders’ record, I would say that, at best, a 6-10 record is achievable.
As for some bad news regarding a former Iowa football standout, Chad Greenway was forced to leave the game with a knee injury he received on a special teams play. He made on tackle in the game before bowing out of the game. Really, if you were tuning in to this game to catch some of your former Iowa Hawkeye stand outs player (like me), it was a terrible day between Greenway’s injury and Gallery sucking it up. There is good new; Abdul Hodge got a shout out from Mike Tirico for his great showing in Green Bay’s training back (letting A.J. Hawk see who should have been the first rounder).
For me, the real reason to tune in to a meaningless preseason game between two teams I couldn’t really care less about was Tony Kornheiser. The most knowledgeable announcer he is not, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do a good job. I loved the fact that he would make some funny comments with some intelligence behind it. It seemed like I would be thinking about the exact same things as he would (like when he pointed out that Ryan Longwell didn’t even try making a tackle on a give off, instead just doing a typical kicker jab step towards the ball carrier and then shying away from contact). Here were some of his best quips during the three quarters in which I watched.
No less than two minutes in to the show, the boys in the booth are talking about being the announcer for Monday Night Football. Tony pokes fun at himself, asking, “I made it to it, can I make it through it?” (I liked this once since he is often times placed on “vacation” by ESPN whenever he bad mouths the network.)
Mike Tirico talked about Minnesota being the land of 10,000 lakes when Tony said, “Won’t see any Viking players on ‘em this year, will ya?”
Mike Tirico sets Tony up by saying, “In comes Andrew Walter, the quarterback some thought could challenge Aaron Brooks.” Tony responses with a “And wouldn’t they say even more now.”
Yet again, Mike Tirico sets Tony up saying Aaron Brooks signed with the Raiders for only $8 million over two years, leaving Tony asking if that is a little much (didn’t get the exact quote, I know, I’m a failure).
My favorite was when Tony got into an argument with Joe Theismann regarding the Raiders’ offensive coordinator. Apparently, he has been out of the NFL for a while now, and he was running a bed and breakfast in Idaho as well as the town as mayor. Joe said that the coordinator was more ready to make an NFL comeback than Joe Gibbs. Tony was besides himself with the fact the guy ran a B&B while being the mayor as well as the fact that Joe was saying Coach Gibbs wasn’t as ready.
But really, some of the most priceless comedy was from Vikings corner back Fred Smoot. He was interviewed on the sideline and was asked about the love boat incident. Smoot hit the ridiculously stupid athlete trifecta. He started out by thanking God for the fact that he was in the best shape of his life. Smoot declined to elaborate on a legal matter. And, most importantly, he spoke in the third person. Someone needs to get tape of it, and put the interview on the Internet.
As for Monday Night Football; it is in capable hands with Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann, and Mike Tirico. If only the NFL could get a handle on the ref uniforms.