Vikes/Lions Square off in Battle of Lame Duck Coaches and Stadium
This Sunday, the football seasons of the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions come to a merciful end. It also marks the final clumsy bow of that great deflated, snow-leaking sandwich bag known as The Metrodome. The question is this, will this also be the last game for head coaches Leslie Frazier and Jim Schwartz?
Let’s start with Frazier. He took over the head coaching position from the hilariously inept Brad Childress 10 games into the 2010 season and finished that year with a 3-3 record. In 2011, his first full year as coach, the Vikings finished an abysmal 3-13. The team bounced back last year with an unlikely late-season run that saw them finish 10-6 and in the playoffs. This season, however, has been a return to sub-mediocrity with Minnesota losing in just about every excruciating way possible, many of their losses coming in their games’ waning seconds.
Whether the Vikes win or lose to Detroit on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine Frazier’s job is safe, especially with him laying some of the blame of last week’s 42-14 blowout loss at Cincinnati on players losing focus due to his uncertain job status. Even if that were the case, a coach admitting that he lost his team in that fashion is not a smart move. Frazier is apparently well-liked by his players including Adrian Peterson who reportedly will go to bat for his coach with team ownership. But, when it comes to NFL owners, most would prefer miserable winning players to happy losing ones. My guess is the Wilfs make a change.
Now, let’s focus on the train wreck that is the Detroit Lions. One month ago this team looked like it had a stranglehold on the NFC North after they beat Chicago for the second time to move to 6-3. Even after a strange second-half collapse at Pittsburgh and a horrific home loss to the woeful Bucs, Detroit still seemed in control after beating holy hell out of Green Bay on Thanksgiving. After all, both Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were on the shelf and Minnesota was going nowhere.
Still, Detroit managed to piss it all away in spectacular fashion losing its last three games (two of them at home) including the final nail in the coffin OT loss to the New York Giants, a team the Lions should have beat by 20 or so. It’s not just tough luck that’s beating Detroit. They are beating themselves. Penalties, turnovers, and poor play calling have basically killed a team that was as healthy as any other in their division. It’s one day after Christmas so does that make it ok to say that Jim Schwartz has to go? Because he does.
As he finishes up his fifth season in the Motor City, the Lions are 29-50 with one playoff appearance in 2011. His arc is similar to Frazier’s in that both their teams showed mild promise only to take a giant step backwards. Among the problems is that someone needs to teach Matt Stafford how to play quarterback. He has a strong arm but his mechanics are a mess and decision-making questionable at best. Schwartz has also shown no inclination to inspire his players to cut down on the stupid penalties. He’ll get work elsewhere as an assistant but he needs to go.
Finally I’d like to take a moment to bid a fond adieu to The Metrodome. Before this monstrosity opened in 1982 the Vikings played football outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium, the way God intended, and had one of the best home field advantages in football. During the 1970s, teams like the Los Angeles Rams used to attempt to win games in Bloomington in December only to be spotted pouring hot soup on their feet to stay warm, while Bud Grant’s Vikings didn’t even bother to wear gloves. The games were practically won when the opposing team got off the airplane. Minny also managed to make to four Super Bowls.
Since then, the Vikes have played indoors and not been to a single Super Bowl. Granted, the Minnesota Twins won two World Series playing in this environment, but I’m glad to see it go. The next couple of years will be outdoor football again for the Vikings as they will play at the University of Minnesota’s stadium. Then in two years it will be back inside. It’s a shame when comfort wins out over competitive advantage. Oh well, it will be the end of an era one way or another for a stadium and maybe two coaches this Sunday in Minnesota.