Jim Souhan — Vikings finally land an impact defensive end
By Jim Souhan
Minneapolis Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — Discussion surrounding the Minnesota Vikings trade for Jared Allen has centered on his drinking, his assertion that he’s quit drinking, the team’s background checks, the price the team paid for him, and the team’s decision to upgrade at defensive end but not starting quarterback.
Let’s dispense with the tangents and details and take a look through the big picture window:
This is the most impressive move the Vikings have made under the direction of Zygi Wilf. This is the best of the possible moves this team could have made during an already impressive offseason. This move gives the Vikings their best chance of not only making the playoffs, but becoming a dangerous playoff team.
Here are the seven reasons the Vikings should be lauded, even if they did just invest $74 million in a guy who kills wild boars with knives:
1. The Vikings desperately needed help at defensive end, and the draft was not going to provide anyone nearly as good as Allen. The Vikings held the 17th pick in a weak draft, and haven’t landed an elite defensive end through the draft since picking linebacker Chris Doleman in 1985 and moving him to end the next year.
It hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Here are the defensive ends the Vikings have drafted in the first three rounds since they took Doleman: Gerald Robinson, Al Noga, Marion Hobby, Robert Harris, Fernando Smith, Derrick Alexander, Stalin Colinet, Dimitrius Underwood, Michael Boireau, Darrion Scott, Kenechi Udeze, Erasmus James.
Between Doleman and Carl Eller in 1964, the Vikings took these defensive ends in the first round: Doug Martin, Randy Holloway, Mark Mullaney.
Not only are you unlikely to land a star with the 17th pick, you are likely to be embarrassed by your pick. Given this list of names, Allen would have been worth a handful of first-round picks.
2. Trading a bunch of draft picks isn’t as debilitating as you might think. Vikings fans bemoaned the Herschel Walker trade of ‘89, but by ‘92 the Vikings had a home playoff game they probably would have won if Dennis Green had started Rich Gannon instead of Sean Salisbury.
3. We just watched the Giants, whose best players were defensive linemen, win the Super Bowl. Eli Manning made a few big plays, but his greatest strength was avoiding mistakes and letting the running game and defense win games, which is Vikings coach Brad Childress’ plan for Tarvaris Jackson.
4. This move should make Jackson more effective. If Allen makes as big an impact as expected, Jackson will need to produce fewer points and will be forced to lead fewer comebacks to win games.
5. This reduces the risk of Vikings executive Rick Spielman screwing up the draft. Spielman did fine last year, taking Adrian Peterson when anyone would have drafted him and making a few insightful picks (such as Sidney Rice over USC star Dwayne Jarrett). But he’s still the guy whose drafts turned the Dolphins into a laughingstock. And his mathematical formulas using thousandths of percentage points are silly.
6. The structure of this team and this league, and the ongoing stadium pursuit, demand that the Vikings try to win now.
Many of the Vikings’ best players — Matt Birk, Pat Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Darren Sharper, Antoine Winfield — are in or approaching the end of their primes, and there is no assurance that Peterson will have a long, healthy career.
Childress needs to win to keep his job. The Wilfs need a winning season to pump life into their stadium pursuit, as doomed as it seems. This is no time to sit around waiting for (current defensive end)Brian Robison to develop.
7. Concerns about Allen’s drinking are legitimate, but are highlighted only because of the Wilf’s ill-advised Code of Conduct.
This is the way all NFL decisions are made, and should be made — making character and off-field problems a factor, but not the only factor, in every personnel decision.
You want nice guys with clean slates? You stick with Robison. You want to win? You take a calculated and worthwhile gamble on an immense talent such as Jared Allen.
Jim Souhan writes for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.