Archive for Jacob Wandersee

Back on Their Feet Again

The 2018 season has not gone exactly as the Minnesota Vikings had planned. Coming off a 13-3 season with a backup QB and a Minneapolis Miracle in the playoffs, expectations were high. Add in an $84 million quarterback to the mix and a Super Bowl seemed to be more of a demand than a hope.

Coming into Sunday’s game with a record of 3-2-1, the Vikings have rebounded from a shaky start. We can’t ignore the difficulty of their schedule. After opening against a weak but pesky 49’ers team, having away games against the Packers, Rams, and Eagles is no walk in the park. Even the Bills, who we thought were the laughing stock of the NFL, have proven to be better than we thought (Not 27-6 better, but I’m trying to be positive here).

The New York Jets provide another manageable challenge this Sunday, much like the rest of the Vikings schedule which features plenty of games that Minnesota should be favored in.

Traveling to the East Coast is never easy, but this Jets squad isn’t particularly strong at any phase of the game. They rank in the bottom half of the league in pass offense, pass defense, and run defense. As long as we can control their 7th best in the league running game, the Vikings should be able to scrape out a win.

The rest of the schedule is as follows: Saints, Lions, @ Bears, Packers, @ Patriots, @ Seahawks, Dolphins, @ Lions, Bears.

If the Vikings are able to take care of business in the division, they should be looking strong going into the week 17 matchup with the Bears that could potentially decide the division. Doing a quick glance at the rest of the season, I would guess we would win against the Jets, Lions, Packers, Dolphins and Lions again. I would mark at the Patriots as a loss and I would classify at the Bears, at the Seahawks, and home against the Saints as toss ups.

That would put the Vikings at a potential 9-5-1 going into week 17.

The Bears are 3-2 and their remaining schedule is: Patriots, Jets, @ Bills, Lions, Vikings, @ Lions, @ Giants, Rams, Packers, @ 49’ers, @ Vikings.

A quick analyzation would say wins against the Jets, Bills, Lions, Giants and 49’ers. I would mark down losses against the Patriots and Rams. I would say they will split between their games in Detroit and against the Packers and Vikings. This would put the Bears at a potential 10-5 record going into the week 17 matchup with the Vikings with the NFC North Division on the line. I like the Vikings’ chances at home here.

Now, this is all of course very hypothetical and the wins and losses could shake out very different. The Bears are relying on a shaky 2nd year quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky and the Vikings still seem to be improving week by week. I could see a world where the Bears offense can’t do enough to support their great defense and they finish 8-8 or 7-9.

I also can see a world where the Vikings really start to hit their stride and go on a run like last year to finish 11-4-1. This whole column was just a means to say this: The Vikings did not start out the season very well. However, there is a lot of football to be played and they have looked stronger week by week. The Bears are certainly not a powerhouse and the division is entirely up for grabs. The Packers aren’t even worth mentioning.

After starting 1-2-1, it is safe to say that the Vikings are back on their feet again.

 

A Straight Up Disaster

As a basketball fan, this has been potentially the most embarrassing couple of weeks for the Timberwolves. That is saying something considering this franchise has seen incidents like the Joe Smith fiasco and Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio being drafted ahead of someone named Stephen Curry. However, this week it all culminated in Jimmy Butler showing up to practice on Wednesday in a firestorm putting everyone in the organization on their head.

There are plenty of people to blame for this disaster of a situation. We could focus on Glen Taylor, the owner. In his time owning the franchise, it has been virtually nothing but controversial and/or bad decisions. The fact that he has let Butler, coach Tom Thibodeau, and this entire situation escalate this far can entirely be traced back to Glen.

Another party to blame is Thibs. According to Jimmy, he let Thibs and the franchise know how he felt as soon as 4 days after the end of the season last year. It appears Thibs had all summer to work through Butler’s trade demand and simply ignored it, hoping it would work itself out. This ignorance is laughable. What is even more laughable is the fact that Thibs is still letting this happen. Thibs, a grown man and someone in a position of power, is begging Butler to stay while Butler does his best to burn this franchise to the ground.

Lastly, and most importantly, we can blame the direct source Jimmy Butler. This is what I want to focus on. Jimmy Butler showed up to practice infuriated and was extremely disruptive. He cussed out Thibs, General Manager Scott Layden, Karl Anthony-Towns, Wiggins, and probably even the sales staff for the Timberwolves.

After practice, he did a pre-planned interview with ESPN to explain his actions. The first question by Rachel Nichols asked him about his actions. His response paraphrased was that he hadn’t played basketball in so long and he can’t control his emotions when he is competing. Personally I find it odd that there aren’t players on every team who return from the offseason and act like this if it is as normal as Butler insinuates.

He then talked about honesty and said that he was the only one being honest on the team… You mean like having a planned outburst at practice and then doing a pre-planned “tell all” interview where you go behind everyone on your team’s back? Sounds honest to me.

I do understand Jimmy’s frustration. He demanded a trade, was ignored for 3 months and seems to be no closer to a resolution. He called out Towns and Wiggins for not wanting to win badly enough which probably has lines of truth in it.

However, Butler is a fraud. His entire montra is winning trumps everything… Which is why he demanded to leave a team worthy of a 3-5 seed in the playoffs with young talent for teams that are much worse but can offer him a maximum contract.

Jimmy Butler is egotistical, immature, destructive, embarrassing, dishonest, unprofessional and in general a terrible role model as an athlete. Nobody would dispute how hard he has worked to achieve what he has in his career, but there comes a point where being a decent human being should take precedent.  Jimmy is now the most hated athlete in recent history in Minnesota and for good reason. The guy is simply the worst.

Trade Butler, fire Thibs and Layden, and sell the team Glen – all of Minnesota begs you to.

We need a fresh start.

Mental Health Matters

I was contemplating a lot of different topics to write about this week. The truth is, it was a tough weekend if you are a fan of Minnesota sports (what’s new?). The Golden Gopher football team got destroyed by an unimpressive Maryland squad. The Minnesota Timberwolves office is in shambles trying to figure out how to best remedy this Jimmy Butler situation. Lastly, the Minnesota Vikings got wiped up and down the field by the Buffalo Bills, the biggest upset in the NFL in 23 years according to Las Vegas.

But none of this really matters.

Vikings fans were disappointed to hear that defensive end Everson Griffen was listed as out due to a knee injury for Sunday’s affair. Fans were then perplexed as to why Griffen wasn’t even found on the sideline of the game.

Since then, details have come streaming in regarding Griffen’s situation – some true and some false or exaggerated. Other stories will be able to explain the details better than I am able to in a short column, but here is the simplified story based on information from the Minnetrista police report.

Griffen had reportedly not been himself for a couple weeks. So much so that on Thursday the Vikings and Zimmer allegedly asked Griffen to not return to the team until he received a mental health evaluation. He returned to practice on Saturday and was sent away to hopefully allow him to clear his head.

Saturday evening, he caused a disturbance at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis and was threatening employees (he does not own any weapons). After a chaotic evening, he was finally contained and was being escorted to a local hospital for evaluation. When the ambulance slowed down for a deer, Griffen escaped and was reportedly worried that someone was trying to shoot him.

This was not the only time in the past few weeks where Griffen wasn’t making sense. His wife told police that he got up in the middle of the night on September 16th to deal with some “demons”, returned on September 19th, only to leave and not return until September 22nd. He stayed at the Hotel Ivy all week.

There are more details, but they are somewhat of a moot point. The point is that this man is not okay. The point is that this man is facing some demons and he does not know what to do about them.

Mental illness can affect anyone at anytime. It is too easy to fall into the stereotype-trap thinking that just because someone is rich and famous their life is perfect.  From all accounts, Griffen is a leader, a loving father, and would never be the kind of person who you would expect this to happen to.

But this can happen to anyone. Mental illness is such a difficult thing to talk about. When you break your leg, everyone in the world can look at your leg and understand what the problem is. When there is a chemical imbalance in your brain or you are suffering from a mental illness, it is extremely difficult to observe it and understand what is happening.

I hope and pray that Everson gets the help that he needs. I pray that his wife and family with have strength to help Everson become himself again. I pray that we all can have a better understanding of what mental illness is and that we can have an open dialogue about the stigmas surrounding it.

In a perfect world, everyone is 100% healthy and happy and the Vikings win the Super Bowl. But we live in a far from perfect world and we have to remember that there are way more important things in life than football.

Minnesota Sports Are Frustrating

There is so much happening in the world of  Minnesota sports right now that I couldn’t pick just one topic to focus on. There are 3 things that I want to share some thoughts on: the NFL tackling rules, the Vikings kicking situation, and Jimmy Butler.

First, we need to talk about the NFL tackling rules. This is exactly what I was worried about when I wrote a few months ago about the NFL losing it’s fan-base.

The Vikings and Packers played an incredibly exciting game that miraculously ended in a tie.

It should not have been a tie, as Kirk Cousins lofted an interception on the final drive the Vikings would have in regulation in an attempt to make up an 8 point lead. Clay Matthews made a textbook tackle – he kept his head up, put his shoulder into the QB’s midsection (avoiding the legs and head), and brought him to the ground.

He was flagged for roughing the passer and the Vikings were able to keep the ball and end up tying the game. The NFL has since stood firm with the call, and even went as far as to include it in their video for officials clarifying what a good roughing the passer call is.

If this is going to continue, a lot of fans (and players and coaches) will be increasingly frustrated with the league. Safety is important, but it is a physical game. This call was ludicrous.

Second, the Vikings were given this gift and were able to sneak into overtime. Rookie kicker Daniel Carlson missed a 49-yarder on the first drive. Thankfully, the Vikings defense held firm and Minnesota was able to drive down the field and milk the clock. With under a minute left, the Vikings started slowing up their play-calling to set up a field goal.

We all were thinking the same thing: Are we sure we don’t want to try to get the shortest field goal possible for our shaken rookie kicker? We settled on a 35-yarder and he of course missed it.

Carlson has since been replaced by the 2nd most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey. The takeaway here is that with a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, it was incredibly stupid to trust the kicking game to unproven rookie.

We should be thankful that these missed kicks cost the Vikings a win in week 2 so that they could fix it before it cost them everything in the playoffs.

Lastly, I have to talk about my Minnesota Timberwolves. Jimmy Butler met with management this week to announce that he is demanding a trade a week before the season starts. He wants to be traded to the Knicks, Clippers, or Nets – places that he can sign the 5 year maximum extension.

Now, Jimmy arrived to Minnesota and preached that he was only concerned with winning. He endlessly got on his teammates about their effort, attitude, and clearly his brash personality created a schism in the locker room and organization.

In case you were wondering, the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers had a combined win percentage of 40% last season and are much further from winning than the Timberwolves are.

Butler has been full of drama ever since he arrived to Minnesota and it really is unfortunate that he doesn’t care about winning, his teammates, or his coach. Jimmy Butler cares about his money and playing in a big market. Anything else he says is a lie.

I looking forward to trading Butler for Tobias Harris, Lou Williams, and a protected 1st round pick and letting Thibs go. Let’s continue with Towns, Wiggins, and a fresh positive-minded coach and move on.

 

Worth the Risk?

It goes without saying how intense the rivalry is between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are 53-60-2 all time against the Packers, but have won 4 of the last 5 games. In the last 11 seasons, the Vikings or Packers have won the NFC North Division 10 times, with the Chicago Bears somehow winning one division title in that span. The Vikings have won the division 2 of the last 3 seasons and are favored to win it again this year.

All this is to say that Sunday’s matchup between the Vikings and the Packers carries significant meaning. Both teams come into the game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay 1-0 looking to get a leg up in the race for yet another NFC North title (Sorry Bears, you need another year of development. Sorry Lions, you need….. A lot of help).

If you examine the rosters and compare them, you will find some unflattering data if you are a fan of the Packers. The Vikings have an edge in talent in every position group except for offensive line and the big one – quarterback.

As exciting as Kirk Cousins is, Aaron Rodgers is legitimately in the conversation as the best quarterback in NFL history. Another example of Rodgers being…. Rodgers: This past Sunday, he was be carted off in the 1st half down 20-0, and he came back in the 2nd half on one knee to beat the Bears 24-23.

However, we need to talk about this knee. The Packers are saying that he has a knee sprain. The good news is that the fear of any ligament damage like an ACL tear is gone. Rodgers, though, is working out with the training staff  rehabbing all week and will not practice.

To be fair, if there are any quarterback’s that don’t need to practice, Rodgers is definitely at the top of the list. However, this should scare Packer fans a little bit.

Rodgers is at his best when he is scrambling out of the pocket and making plays happen. This is very difficult to do with one knee. In addition to that, he is going up against the best defense in the NFL. A defense that definitely takes pride in trying to put Rodgers in his place (but not injure him, we aren’t savages. Well, most of us aren’t).

On a side note, we know that the refs will be watching Rodgers with a magnifying glass, making sure that if he is touched at all, a flag will be thrown. Be ready to accept these ridiculous roughing the passer penalties Vikings fans.

Now, we know that Rodgers is going to play – nothing could keep him from trying to destroy the Vikings (except for a broken collarbone. Cue drum hit cymbal crash). But is this the best decision for the Packers long term?

I know that it is pivotal to get a win at home against the hated division favorite. However, what if his knee gets a set back in this game? What if he has to sit out a few weeks after being in a dogfight against a hungry Vikings defense?

Next on the docket for the Packers are: Redskins, Bills and Lions, games they might be okay without Rodgers. However, they follow that up with match ups against the 49’ers, Rams and Patriots, games they definitely need a healthy Rodgers to win.

Rodgers is going to have a gritty performance this Sunday against the Vikings. He might even lead the Packers to a victory, although I certainly don’t think that will be the case. But the real question is: at what cost? Is beating the Vikings in one game worth risking the health for the rest of the season of your $100 million quarterback?

One Thing Unites Vikings Fans

It is no question that Vikings fans are some of the most passionate sports fans in the United States; however, there seems to be quite the variance in terms of the highs and lows among fans.

There is the #Faith group – who believe that every year is finally the year that the Vikings win the Super Bowl. They believe that the defense will be the best in the NFL (which to be fair, they probably will be). They believe that Kirk Cousins is a top 10 QB. They believe that the O-Line will be serviceable this season (I will refrain from commenting on this one).

Then there is the other side of the audience. The realists. The experienced ones. The ones who have seen time and time again how things turn out for Minnesota. From 41 doughnut to Wide Left to Gary Anderson to the Cross Body Throw to the Philly Folly. This group wants members of the Vikings to be pallbearers at their funeral so that they can be let down one last time by their favorite team.

I am somewhere in the middle. A realist with a tinge of hope.

Regardless of your stance, this Vikings team seems to be different. The defense is the most talented in the NFL, the offense has pieces that could make it a top 10 offense, and the oldest player on the team is only 31 years old. This team has a window to be Super Bowl relevant for the next few years and that is something that all Vikings fans should be excited about.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Vikings will finally deliver that Super Bowl we have all been waiting for. After all, only 1 team out of 32 gets to end their season as champions. No matter how good the odds may seem, the odds are still not in our favor.

I have one serious question for you to answer. What would happen if Minnesota finally delivered that elusive title? How would you react? How would your fandom change?

I would argue that one thing that ties us all together as Vikings fans is disappointment. It is lamenting to each other about how they screwed it up last time. It is pining for a title while fully expecting no title to come.

Part of what makes us Vikings fans is the longing for more. If we ever won a Super Bowl, then what? Is part of our identity gone? Can we still talk about all the NFC Championship and Super Bowl failures with the same fervor?

Obviously, we all hope that this is finally the year that Vikings finally deliver a championship to the state of Minnesota. We have Cousins, Cook, Diggs, Thielen, Rhodes, Griffin, Barr, Kendricks, Hunter and one of the best coaching staffs in the league.

What could go wrong? As Vikings fans, we are far too familiar with the answer to this question. But maybe our luck will change. Maybe this is the year that identifying yourself as a Vikings fan does not mean you expect failure, but rather you have been to the top of the mountain and can finally say with confidence:

“Packers suck.”