Friday, September 21, 2007

Sleeping With the Enemy: Week Three, Vikings @ Chiefs

Welcome back for another installment of "Sleeping With the Enemy," where us HoG staffers chit-chat with a fan of our teams' opponents. This week, Old No. 7 is certain to deliver a knockout interview of a hard-core Jacksonville Jaguars fan as that team visits InVesCap for a dual with the Donkeys. The Chiefs, on the other hand, finally get their home opener and host the Minnesota Vikings in doing so. Allow me to voice my displeasure, just as Carl Peterson did to the league office when the schedule was announced, of being a fan of the only team in the league that opens and closes the season with back-to-back road games. What a crock. For real. We so would've called time-out just before Devin Hester ran back that kickoff return to the hizzy, and therefore won, last week had that game been at Arrowhead.

But oh, well. That only sounds absurd and reeks of jealousy, right?

This week, your SWTE expert is none other than danzinski. He's the head norseman over yonder at
The Viking Age. He also lives in enemy territory and happens to be one heck of a nice guy. (Update: No he's not. After spotting this, I've changed my mind.) Either way, here's what the Zinskmeister and I discussed with regards to week three. (Editor's Note: SWTE Week One can be found here, Week Two here.)

Bankmeister: Your bio on The Viking Age declares you to be a long-time Vikings fan that resides in Wisconsin. Tell me about your history as a fan of the purple people-eaters, and what it's like, for you -- I spent six-plus years in Colorado where Chiefs fans like myself never hear the end of it -- living in enemy territory.

danzinski: I've always lived in Wisconsin so I was programmed at a young age to be a Packer fan. I have hazy memories of watching Lynn Dickey and James Lofton back in the early '80s. To be honest, I can't remember when I switched over to the Vikings. I think it was just because we got Minnesota TV stations and they were on every week. Anyway, at some point, I just became a fan. As time went on I realized how much fun it was to sort of be the enemy. All my pals were Packer fans so we would rib each other. It was way more fun being the one Viking fan in a sea of green and gold than just going along with the pack (pun intended). You do sort of get jabbed a bit by random people when you've got your Viking gear on and you go to the grocery store and stuff, i.e. old men telling me I'm going to get beat up. It's sort of great though when things happens like the playoff game a couple years ago when we went into Lambeau and smashed them. You hold your head up a little higher, and of course no one says a thing. Packer fans get real quiet when they lose.


So give me some background on yourself. How did the bankmeister come to be a Chiefs fan? And what the heck is a "bankmeister" anyway? Also, I saw a pic of Tom Waits on your site (Note: Cecil requested the photo be added to the HoG, but I consider the good idea to be my own, seeing as how Cecil doesn't really like Tom Waits. He likes Little Feat. And he thinks the Stones are better than Zeppelin. Yes. You're right. He's a crackhead. Anyhoo..). Are you the Tom Waits fan and if so what is your favorite Tom Waits song (mine's "Jersey Girl")?

B: Awesome. I love the duality of that story. It's definitely a hardening experience being surrounded by fans of your team's rival. Though I was born in the deep south, I definitely came out of the womb a Chiefs fan. Both sides of my family are from Kansas City and my folks lived in South Carolina for a short spell, but quickly returned. My father's favorite Chiefs story to tell actually involves the Vikings: The pub he bartended at for 22 years was secretly known for its underground gambling ring, and right around the time of Super Bowl IV, they were under a bit of scrutiny. He placed a $250 bet with a customer, nevertheless, on the Chiefs final regular-season game (against Oakland), which not surprisingly infuriated my mom. Whether she was more angry about the principle of wagering their hard-earned money or that he would do so against the Raiders, I'm not sure.

When they lost, she was really pissed, but again, not near as furious as she was when, two weeks later, he went double or nothing with that same customer on their playoff game against the defending-champion Jets. Double or nothing again ensued when the Chiefs faced Oakland in the AFL Championship, and one final time for the 23-7 Super Bowl victory over the Vikings, netting my old man the better part of two grand. (Note: Please pause 5-500 minutes to allow my HoG colleagues to chime in with the token "It wasn't even called the Super Bowl then" and "That was before World War I" -type commentary.)

My own first real Chiefs memories, however, fall somewhere in the abyss of the 1980 season; my first Super Bowl memory being XV of that year, wherein Dick Vermeil's Eagles lost to those pesky Raiders. The rest, as they don't say, is a lot of pain and suffering, something I know I share with Vikings fans, haven never seen my club hoist the Lombardi. Having said that, our clubs do have a lot in common, in that they typically scrimmage each other each year during training camp, almost always have lopsided outcomes to their games against one another, and have had some really good teams, but never quite good enough to win the only merchandise that matters. Given that all that is true, I really don't know a whole lot about the Vikes, as they really haven't been in the spotlight that much since the end of the Moss/Carter/Culpepper era. I mean, Red Coombs' name is in the paper now and again, and the words "Denny" and "Green" always remind me of Minnesota.

Of course, there are Vikings stories, such as the infamous boat party, and the re-surgence of Brad Johnson last year, and now again with Adrian Peterson toting the rock, but what, exactly, are the nuts and bolts of this squad? Do you feel good about the direction in which they are headed? Is Brad Childress a good head coach? Clearly, his offenses in Philly were tight. And given his offensive "nature," I find it peculiar that, in only his second year, his team is recognized as one with a fierce defense. Do you think Tarvaris Jackson starts under center all season? I always thought Kelly Holcomb was better than decent, and therefore, was surprised to see both Cleveland and Buffalo let him go. Given the youth movement that's sweeping the league, though, I guess that's what you do.

Bankmeister, by the way, is a modified version of a nickname (Banky) an ex-girlfriend gave me years ago. And, yes, I am indeed a Tom Waits fan. I don't know that I could ever select one favorite Waits track; his records have been so stylistically different throughout the years. I will say that Swordfishtrombones, Frank's Wild Years, Rain Dogs, Bone Machine and The Black Rider are among my favorite albums of his.

d: I was hoping you wouldn't bring up the Viking loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Actually, that happened before I was born so I guess I don't mind much. I've experienced enough bitter disappointment that I feel no need to dwell on stuff that happened when I wasn't even here.

I'm still sort of mixed on what Brad Childress's regime is doing with the team. I do like the fact that, from the start, he placed a lot of emphasis on building up the defense and the offensive line. They got aggressive in locking up guys like Kevin Williams and Bryant McKinnie to long-term extensions, and chasing down Steve Hutchinson. They've also been smart in picking their defensive coordinators, with Mike Tomlin and now Leslie Frazier, who the players rave about. I credit Childress for not being this kind of "offense is everything" guy even though his background is on that side of the ball. Denny Green always got ripped for neglecting the defense, which he deserved, since by the end of his tenure it was a total joke. Childress so far isn't falling into that trap. That being said, I sort of wish they'd done more the last couple of off-seasons to address the receiver issue. They sort of got burned by counting on Koren Robinson last year, a guy with obvious off-the-field issues. This year, they passed on some guys like Eric Moulds and Keenan McCardell - and of course Randy Moss - and settled for second-tier guys like Robert Ferguson and Bobby Wade. You can argue that some of those bigger-name guys like Moulds and McCardell are washed-up, but still, given the inexperience of our receivers, it seems like you have to gamble some. Especially when you have a young QB like Jackson who you're trying to develop. His progress ain't gonna be helped if he never has anyone open to throw to.

As far as Jackson being the man all year - I feel like, unless he plays abyssmally bad, like sub-Joey Harrington level, Childress will stick with him. Childress seems to think that he can do for Jackson what he did for Donovan McNabb. It's like his big chance to prove that he's a QB guru. I agree with you that Kelly Holcomb had some nice moments at some of his other stops, and I was definitely in favor of them picking him up. You have to have somebody with at least a little track-record behind a guy as green as Tarvaris. The only thing I worry about with Tarvaris is that, though he has a strong arm, he isn't particularly good at throwing the deep ball. One thing we have at receiver is speed, but that does you no good if the QB misses them every time. I don't like the idea of a dink-and-dunk style of offense all the time, cause it makes it real easy for teams to play up and crowd everything, which closes down those chances for Adrian Peterson to break big runs.

As for Childress being a good coach, I think the jury's still out. He did some stuff last year that rubbed people the wrong way. He seemed arrogant, and he directly blamed the offense's struggles on players not executing, saying he knew his offense was "kick-ass" if run right. Plus a lot of players got mad when he cut Marcus Robinson and basically said he was washed-up. This year, Childress is trying a lot harder to be Mr. Sunshine, which may or may not work. I give him credit for this though - he handed over play-calling duties to the offensive coordinator. That was something I always thought he would be too stubborn to do.

I agree with you that the Vikes and Chiefs have a lot in common, the biggest thing being a very uncertain QB situation. What did you think of everything that went down with the Chiefs in that regard? Did you like them dumping Trent Green (a guy I advocated the Vikings at least taking a look at)? Did they make the right decision by going with Huard to start the season? When will Brodie Croyle become the starter and what kind of future do you think that guy has? Also, do you think the Chiefs still have Steve DeBerg's number stashed somewhere just in case? I mean, he's only about sixty - he should still have something in the tank you'd think.

B: Excellent analyses. The one thing I know about the Chiefs right now -- I'll take the liberty of adding it to the list of commonalities with the Vikes -- is that the man in charge of them is stubborn, too. Of course, that could apply to either the GM or the coach, but for this instance, I mean the coach. The QB situation here has been a very delicate one in that, since DeBerg, the Chiefs had one relatively long-term quarterback (in Green) that I really respected as an athlete and a leader. Our world was rocked pretty hard last year to watch him motionless on the turf like that for 11 minutes. From there, as a fan, you wish the best for him health-wise and hope your number two guy doesn't stink up the joint, and clearly Huard did not, so much so, that when it appeared they'd be giving Trent the Green light, I was begging for Herm Edwards to keep Huard in the lineup as the starter. I'm convinced that the fact that he did not was a major contributor to that playoff debacle in Indianapolis.

Ultimately, his game, Cleveland performance excepted, was affected by the concussion, and, as hard as it was, I was ready to let him go. It was too bad that the scenario got so much press and forced folks on both sides to say things they probably preferred not to, but se la vie, right? Beyond that, there was no way in hell anyone could convince me that Croyle would be the guy for opening day. I don't think he'll be ready to start at all this year, in fact. Next year, assuming he gets more than mop-up duty under his belt, is a different story. I think, with a great O-line and a better-than-decent receiving corps, he has a good future in him. Speaking of route runners, I share your pain. That's an area we've been shy on for decades, it feels like. I'm hoping Dwayne Bowe doesn't turn out to be another Sylvester Morris or Marvin Minnis. And I know he won't, but sheesh. Sometimes you start to believe in a jinx. I'm also excited about Bobby Sippio. I know he's got great hands, but his speed is still a question.

And yeah, if all else fails, I've got no problem calling up the King of Play-Action. That guy was awesome.

So, what's a realistic expectation for the Vikes this year? Your division seems to be threatening to wake up this year. The Bears could lose a few more than they did last year; Green Bay already snuck away with a win over Philly; your team appears to be on the rise; and of course there's Jon 10-win Kitna over in the Motor City. How many Ws will your boys notch this year? Will they wrestle with Chicago for a crack at the North? How soon until Childress' squad takes the field in January? Two thousand eight?

d: I had the Vikes pegged for a 7-9 year at best going into the season, and that week 1 win didn't really change much for me. It would take a miracle for them to peek over .500 and make the post-season. And I'm saying this despite the fact that I think both their defense and running game are better than they were last year. I just have no faith in their pass offense. And yeah, the Packers and Lions do both look better, plus I think the Bears are going to come to their senses soon and bench Grossman for Griese, which will get them going. It's starting to look like a genuinely tough division now. If Detroit and Green Bay keep playing well I might have to downgrade the Vikes to something more like 6-10. That being said, I'm certain Childress will be back next year. The owner Zygi Wilf understood all along that it was a three year plan and next year will be Chilly's third. If he doesn't make the playoffs next season, with all the money that's been spent on players, Childress will be gone.

I have to ask about the Larry Johnson situation. The hold-out, and now this crazy stuff with the rap where he supposedly went after Carl Peterson and Priest Holmes (which I guess has now been revealed to be a fake). Larry didn't do a whole lot in that playoff game last year, against what was supposedly one of the worst run defenses ever, and he pretty much laid an egg in week 1 this year. I'm wondering if there's any sentiment among the Chiefs' faithful that the team would've been better off trading this guy. Also, with or without Johnson playing well, does the team have any chance of making it back to the post-season this year?

B: My take on LJ is this: When properly used (and paid), Johnson possessess almost all of the assets to be as successful as Priest Holmes in terms of offensive scheming. Now, I'm also of the opinion that you must have a head coach and offensive coordinator that are intelligent/on the same page when it comes to crafting said schemes, and every game-time minute that ticks away under this regime convinces me that we do not. Take Sunday's game against the Bears for example. Johnson nets 55 yards on 16 carries. Sixteen carries! Problem one: The offensive play calling is trying not to seem predictable and the situation you run into there is in the trying. Just don't be predictable. We're running draws on third and long and passing downfield on third and one. We could've kept at least two drives alive (and maybe scored) if we give it to LJ on those third-and-short situations.

I don't blame his lack of production thus far, or in the playoff game for that matter, on him. Sure, you have to take into consideration that he missed camp and might not've been in top game shape last week when he laid said egg, but he's a 27-year-old, $45-million star. Give the man the ball. Regarding the rapping: It's an unnecessary distraction; it's taken enough time and energy to adapt to LJ the person as opposed to Priest the person that I don't really care anymore as long as he produces -- or is given the means by which to produce -- he can say or rap whatever he wants. And, no. I never wanted to trade him. Not even for a second.

I could say that, based on last year, we had a shot at making the post-season after starting 0-2, but that would be preposterous. This Chiefs team has a good defense, a fledgling special teams unit, minimal offense, beyond-questionable coaching and no identity. At this point, I'll be surprised if we even win our home opener against your Vikings. Add to that that the first simmerings of a quarterback controversy are bubbling, and who knows where we're headed. Speaking of controversy, what happened to Mr. Jackson on Sunday versus Detroit? I suppose four picks can be chalked up to growing pains for the youngster, but pulling him? How do you feel about that move? As we look ahead to Sunday's matchup at Arrowhead, what are your thoughts?

d: Well bankmeister, I have to say, I'm lower on Jackson after that mess yesterday than I have been at any point since they made him the starter. It wasn't just that he got picked four times, it was the nature of the picks -- trying to make impossible plays, throwing across his body, chucking balls up to covered receivers in desperation. Sometimes stuff happens and you turn the ball over, but there's no excuse for being that careless (unless your name is Favre). And no, I didn't want to see him pulled, but he hurt his groin and apparently it got aggravated there in OT, and he had to come out.

I think this game against the Chiefs has a chance to be brutal, given the way each team has started. I don't think the Viking defense is a good one for LJ to try and get started against, first of all, so I'm skeptical that KC will be able to mount much of an offense. That being said, I don't think the Viking offense can move the ball consistently against anyone at this point, so I'm thinking this one could be a 10-6 type of game, where you're hoping for the D to pick one and take it in. I'm not too optimistic about the Vikes' chances this week, given that Tarvaris is hurt, Brooks Bollinger is awful and Kelly Holcomb is still apparently learning the offense (even though, being a Philly guy, he was already supposed to know the offense pretty well when he got here). I was taken aback by how critical you were of the Chiefs coaching staff in your remarks. Those of us who don't follow the team closely perceive Herm Edwards as a top-notch coach, but you used terms like "beyond-questionable" to describe the job he's doing. Are Chiefs fans really that disillusioned with Edwards? Also, I thought it was funny that you ripped into the play calling, and specifically the non-use of Mr. Johnson on short third downs -- ‘cause that's exactly what Viking fans are saying about our non-use of Mr. Peterson yesterday in similar situations. Sounds like these two franchises are sort of in the same boat -- mediocre talent in a lot of places, lack of leadership, inability to properly use the good players they do have.

B: Sounds like your week two was about as rough as mine. Regarding the upcoming matchup, though: a) I don't think I could stomach a 10-6 dog fight. I mean, of course I'd watch, but my health would probably suffer for it. b) LJ has to get going against someone. After the Vikes come here, the Chiefs go to San Diego, then host the Jaguars (two pretty good Ds), followed by a home game against the Bengals. Based on the shootout with the Browns, we know they don't play D, but we'll have to if we're going to match their O, which means using LJ; and then we travel to Oakland. That's half of the season. Week three, in my mind, is already too late to get him going.

Regarding your team's approach to an Arrowhead visit, one would think that yes, they'll struggle to move the ball. That said, one would think that, regardless of the already-knowing-the-offense point that you mentioned, that Holcomb would be your number two over Bollinger, hands down.

And here's the skinny (mine anyway) on the Chiefs coaching staff: The jury's still out on whether or not Herm's a good coach (Note: The jury is also still out on whether or not he's a) a bold-faced liar, b) really, really dumb, or c) both of the above). He had some successes and some failures in New York. Ultimately, they washed their hands of him in what seemed a let's-not-waste-any-time-here approach. Herm takes a lot of credit for the good late 90s/turn-of-the-century Tampa Bay Cover Two defense. This insults my intelligence. For four years, Herm was a defensive backs/assistant head coach for Tony Dungy. Lovie Smith was Dungy's linebackers coach. When Herm says (and he says it a lot) "what we did in Tampa," or some other phrasing meant to mean the same, he (obviously) includes himself in that.

My problem with that is that Herm went directly into a head coaching position with the Jets. Lovie, on the other hand, took the next logical step, that of somebody's coordinator, and went to the Super Bowl with Mike Martz. So he gets promoted, and guess what? He takes his team to the Super Bowl. Herm did none of that, yet he's in his second head-coaching stint. Note that in his first stint, he once clobbered Dungy's Colts in the playoffs, yet in two years in his second stint, both Dungy and Smith have easily handled his Chiefs teams. Add to that that Herm promoted Mike Solari (a long-time offensive line coach) to offensive coordinator, and he hired former Giants Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer to man his special teams unit in KC. Solari's and Priefer's respective units haven't been bad, but they haven't been great either. Ultimately, they're responsible for running those units in a way that mirrors how the head football coach wants the entire team run, so I hold Herm accountable for their successes, should they have any, and their failures, which they've certainly had.

I got no problem with the D. Gunther Cunningham is a proven DC, and Herm's a defensive-minded coach, so how do you not succeed there? As far as the play calling, I see signs of progression on the part of Solari. This is only his second year doing it. I will, nevertheless, echo your assertion of these two teams being in the same boat.

All of that said, after Arrowhead, the Vikes host the Pack, have a week off, travel to Soldier Field, then Dallas, followed by a visit from the troubled Eagles. Even with the bye week, that's a tough second quarter. Will Childress get his club in gear? What will be the three crucial points in doing so?

d: That's a pretty rough stretch, as you say. The main thing is getting the QB situation sorted. If Jackson's healthy, then I guess it will be Jackson. He needs to play a ton better. If it's not him, then hopefully it will be Holcomb. Bollinger has proven to me that he has nothing. The second thing is getting Chester Taylor healthy so they can get back to their original plan of platooning him and Adrian Peterson. I love Peterson but I don't want to see him get over-worked. Plus Chester ran for over a thousand yards last year so you know he can do it. Thirdly, I think the whole team just needs to tighten things up in terms of concentration and discipline on the field. It's gotten to be an old complaint around here, the dumb penalties, silly turnovers, guys whiffing on tackles. You can't expect to beat teams like Chicago and Dallas, and even the Packers who I'm sad to say look pretty good, if you can't keep your head in the game.

Same question back at you - tell me three things the Chiefs need to do to get their ship righted.

B: I made mention of our two teams having a lot in common at the beginning of this exchange. Little did I know I'd discover so much more by the end of it.

But those things are these: 1) Use LJ. A lot. He's shown he can handle the workload, and he's improved his pass-catching skills. The amount of carries he's had thus far is ridiculous in comparison with the other key backs in the league that aren't sharing carries. The Chiefs need to get him on a 30-touch-per-game pace. Period. 2) Establish a pecking order amongst the receivers. If Eddie Kennison's going to be out much longer, it's imperative that Dwayne Bowe, Samie Parker and Jeff Webb (Gonzalez is always Gonzalez) figure out who's the one, the two, the three, and act it out on every single route. 3) The right side of the offensive line is our Achilles' heel. Kyle Turley and John Welbourn have got to be better, at the very least, as good as MacIntosh and Waters on the left. Obviously, those things are all offense-related, Herm's weakest spot. We've run out of time for weak spots, though. It's do or die.

Finally, you threw out the 10-6, ballpark-type prediction for the contest. Let's have a precise (as precise as predictions can be) guess as to the score of this game, and who comes out on top.

danzinski: It's at Arrowhead, our QB situation is a mess, the Chiefs have their backs to the wall. The Chiefs win this one; the score a bit less ugly than I originally said: Chiefs 21, Vikings 17.

Bankmeister: I still have little faith in our offense, but I'm hoping they'll get up for the home opener. If the Chiefs coaching staff can put together some semblance of intelligence and Kelly Holcomb holds the clipboard all afternoon, I'll say Chiefs 20, Vikings 14. If either of those factors changes, Minnesota takes the contest by 10.

11 comments:

The Lone Reader said...

A Vikings fan from Sconi?

What kinda ship you runnin' here, Bankmeister?

-- TLR

The Lone Reader said...

Danzinski,

As a strong and lifelong KC fan, I must apologize for my fellow fan's inexplicable inability to acknowledge the fact that our "Offensive Coordinator" is likely the league's worst. While my colleague makes interesting, and even amusing, attempts to blame Herm Edwards for this, it is still Solari's inability to run an offense that is the real problem. His unit has been nothing short of awful for his short career. Last week he ran one play worth mentioning (flea flicker) that his offense blew with a penalty. Other than that, he continued to make the wrong call at the wrong time. It's actually physically painful to watch. I expect that he will be fired or will resign before the close of the season.

Just wanted to get ya on the straight and narrow, yo.

Good luck this weekend.

Cheers,

TLR

The Lone Reader said...

Gentlemen,

This rivalry is about history. The parallels between the Chiefs and Vikings through NFL history are really remarkable.

I can read about a damn mathcup on ESPN ... where's the history, men.

I LOVE Vikes/Chiefs games, and love 'em for the history.

Cheers,

TLR

bankmeister said...

Good point. Here's an interesting bit of history.

Lone Reader: blah, blah, blah, Mike Solari. blah, blu-blah-blah-blah, Mike Solari. blah, Mike Solari, flea-flicker's are the only important thing in football, blah, blah, blah, Solari, blah, blah fired, blah blah resign, blah blah.

Cecil said...

PWNED

Cecil said...

Oh, and don't even attempt to bogart my Waits request. I was listenin' to Rain Dogs when you were cranking up Out Of The Cellar.

The Lone Reader said...

Ah yes, the sincerest form of flattery. I thank you, my esteemed colleague.

Cheers,

TLR

The Lone Reader said...

Gentlemen,

Nice to see the NFL destroying evidence of their commissioner's short-comings. The owners have finally found the man they've all wanted.

When do you suppose they'll drop revenue sharing and salary caps? As sad day, boyz, a sad day.

Cheers,

TLR

old no. 7 said...

What the fuck is wrong with Out Of The Cellar? Ratt is totally underrated, and I think the've been kept out of Cleveland way too long. I don't even care about their alleged use of performance-debilitating drugs.

And Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, akin to Cooperstown and Canton and...oh never mind.

Cecil said...

Dude, if you could grow a haystack metal 'do, you totally would. I bet you've got a closet full of stonewashed denim.

I'll ask your wife. She'll spill your dirty secret. And Ratt simply can't compare to Hanoi Rocks or early Crue.

bankmeister said...

No idea what PWNED is supposed to mean. I do, however, know that a)it's sad you know the name of Ratt's album, b) I was already replacing my cassette copy of The Heart of Saturday Night while you were rubbing 'em out to "Voices" after bedtime, and c) your cock had zipper cuts from doing so, compliments of the fly of your own stonewashed.