Lead announcer Mike Goldberg ham-handed his way through Sunday’s Vikings-Lions broadcast on FOX, then sparred with fans on Twitter afterward.
Goldberg was scheduled to call the Vikings-Bills game this Sunday in Buffalo, but has been removed from the crew. Tim Brando will replace him. Brendon Ayanbadejo, who also worked with Goldberg for the Vikings-Lions game, remains the analyst.
Ayanbadejo was certainly no wordsmith at Sunday’s game, but it’s likely that Goldberg’s crime, in Fox’s eyes, was his unprofessional behavior on Twitter.
Goldberg is the former TV play-by-play guy for the Wild, and made his name nationally calling UFC.
It’s not hard to listen to comments from Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter in two different venues — a recent conference call with season ticket holders, and again in interviews with the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller — and reach this conclusion: 2015 will be more of the same from the Twins, by design.
Or, in perhaps more flattering terms: the Twins are going to hope that 2015 is the kind of year they had hoped 2014 would be, and they are a year behind schedule in their rebuild because of injuries to key minor league players and the underperformance of players on the major league club.
How else would one react to quotes from Ryan such as these?
“I don’t want to punt on 2015, but it’s still going to be a struggle.”
“Sometimes you make decisions that ultimately are going to benefit you down the line that don’t look exactly like what you want right now.”
The Twins have decided they aren’t going to budge much on payroll from 2014 to 2015, meaning it again will be around $85 million and that almost all of it is already tied up in existing players. We don’t necessarily think this is a bad idea, but let’s be clear: this is a choice, and an artificial spending cap. If the Twins wanted to spend more, they certainly could (remember, 2014 was the start of a major bump in national TV revenue for all MLB clubs).
Ryan is right when he says spending foolishly could set the club back even further (at least if they guessed wrong on big-ticket, long-term deals). He is also right when he notes that teams can be competitive with payrolls comparable to what the Twins project to have next season.
But what it adds up to is a season of hoping, not realistically expecting, that things will not devolve into a fifth consecutive 90-loss season. There were good signs last season, particularly with young hitters and Phil Hughes, but without the influx of more established players via free agency, Minnesota will be banking on two guys who will make up between 40-45 percent of the payroll combined (Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco) to live up to their contracts and for other young players to make meaningful contributions (while the ones who made strides this year avoid a step back, which is easier said than done).
Before Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others essentially lost the 2014 season, we imagine the Twins’ blueprint was something like this: ride improved pitching and young hitting to a .500 record in 2014, get onto the fringe of contention in 2015 and then really make a run in 2016 and beyond. Now we have to imagine .500 is the goal next year, and we can clearly see the Twins don’t intend to try to spend their way to a few more victories.
It’s not right or wrong, but it is the choice they have made.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
14 — sacks allowed by the Vikings in their past two games.
I think most of our readers are aware that the Vikings have allowed 14 sacks the past two weeks, with eight of them coming in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But that point is really hammered home when you consider that it is more sacks over the past two games than it is Vikings points (13). The play of the offensive line has a lot to do with that, but other factors, such as running backs in pass protection and receivers not getting open, have contributed to it. There is no debating, though, that pass protection is a major issue. With 22 sacks allowed, the Vikings trail only the Jaguars (27).
Five — straight games in which the Vikings allowed a TD on one of their first two drives.
Another negative trend continued Sunday when the Lions marched 80 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive. That makes it five straight games in which the Vikings allowed a TD on one of their opponent’s first two drives. The trend started with Patriots running back Steven Ridley’s 1-yard run in Week 2, which wasn’t much of a drive. The Saints scored touchdowns on their first two drives. The Falcons and Packers went three-and-out on their first drives and scored touchdowns on their second. This team isn’t built to play from behind, so the early scores have been huge.
Three — passing touchdowns for the Vikings’ quarterbacks this season.
In the first five quarters of 2014, one-time starting quarterback Matt Cassel tossed three touchdown passes. He connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Kyle Rudolph in the opener and hit running back Matt Asiata on the first drive of the Patriots game. Since then, the Vikings have used three starting quarterbacks, and none of them have thrown a touchdown pass. Bridgewater has zero touchdown passes in his first two NFL starts and Christian Ponder had none in his one start (though each has rushed for one). The Vikings now rank last in the NFL in this stat.
Negative-5 — turnover differential for the Vikings through six games.
On the next column over in the passing ledger, the Vikings have thrown nine interceptions, which is the most in the NFL. Interestingly, those nine interceptions came in three games and the Vikings didn’t toss any interceptions in their other three games, two of them victories. Throw in Asiata’s Week 5 fumble, and the Vikings have 10 total turnovers. On the flip side, they have forced just five turnovers, which is tied for 23rd in the league. Overall, the Vikings ranked 27th in the NFL with a negative-five turnover differential. Only the Saints, Jets, Jaguars and Redskins have been worse.
40.7 — passer rating of Vikings quarterbacks when targeting Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson has just two catches in each of the past three games. The coaching staff has talked about trying to get the ball into Patterson’s hands more, but when it comes to throwing the ball to him, it has not gone so well. Vikings quarterbacks have thrown four interceptions when targeting Patterson, including two of Bridgewater’s picks on Sunday. And with 17 catches for 204 yards and no touchdowns to go with those four picks on 29 targets, they have a 40.7 passer rating when targeting him. That ranks 84th out of 85 qualifying NFL wide-outs, according to Pro Football Focus.
Mike Goldberg, who normally calls UFC events for Fox, made his NFL debut Sunday for the Vikings/Lions game.
It did not go well. At all. Like, we really mean it.
Goldberg butchered plenty of plays, at one point confusing Golden Tate and Greg Jennings (who are both wide receivers and who both wear No. 15, but do not happen to play for the same team).
Fans took him to task on Twitter — many of them not as politely as the ones we highlighted above. Instead of turning the other cheek, Goldberg unloaded on them in a series of (since-deleted) tweets that included high volumes of profanity, as noted by Pro Football Talk.
The real fun, though? Goldberg is slated to again be the lead guy when the Vikings play the Bills on Sunday. We look forward to many TD passes from Kyle Orton to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer backtracked on Monday from some of his critical statements made after the 17-3 loss to the Lions on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“It’s not the first year I’ve flown off the handle,” said Zimmer, who has been known to speak his mind during his time as an NFL assistant coach.
The biggest issue he addressed in his opening statement was player fines, which Zimmer said after the game more players were late last week than usual. Zimmer corrected his initial comment, noting that two practice squad players missed a lifting session on Saturday and it lingered in his mind.
“I know one of the hot topics was this fine thing,” Zimmer said. “That was probably Zimmer being Zimmer. I was not in the best frame of mind at the time. The team has not had an issue, continually an issue, of being late.”
Zimmer also called the Vikings undisciplined after the game, which he rephrased on Monday. He noted the tardiness and some of the mistakes on the field for his reasoning.
“I don’t think that we’re undisciplined,” Zimmer said. “I think we can be more disciplined than we are.”
He still remained bothered by players jarring at the officials, though. Zimmer said he’s warned players since the first preseason game not to speak the officials. Wide receiver Adam Thielen received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty two weeks ago against the Packers to arguing with an official, and Zimmer felt there were more people on the sideline talking to the official against the Lions.
“They don’t need to do that,” Zimmer said. “They need to concentrate on playing football. And that includes coaches, so I addressed it again this morning.”
Zimmer said he won’t change his mentality despite recanting some comments made after the game. He said he plans to remain honest when speaking about his team even with more eyes and microphones on the first-year head coach.
“Maybe do a better job of trying not to let some things bother me as much,” Zimmer said. “I am learning, trying to be a good head coach. I am trying to learn. I’m trying to do a better job every day, every game. I’m not perfect, just like the players aren’t.
“I want them to understand that it’s not OK to lose. That’s what I want them to understand.”
After quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked eight times in Sunday’s 17-3 loss to the Lions, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said today the team is considering changes on the offensive line.
“We are evaluating all that and I’m not opposed to it,” Zimmer said at his Monday news conference.
Zimmer, who didn’t want to speak specifically about any one lineman, said that a variety of factors led to the Lions spending so much time in the backfield, including Bridgewater being indecisive at times. According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie QB was pressured on 24 of his 47 dropbacks.
“One time we held the ball too long. One time we got the protection the wrong way. There were some times we got beat. One time a guy tripped on another guy and fell backwards and the guy sacked him. It was a number of different things. One time we got stuck on a game. Some of it was guys not getting open,” Zimmer said. “It’s easy to rush the passer when you’re down, 17-3.”
Zimmer, who said he stands behind coordinator Norv Turner and his staff “100 percent,” expected the offensive line to be a strength this season. But the Vikings have allowed 22 sacks in six games.
“I feel like we have the ability and the talent to play better than what we have,” Zimmer said, later adding, “The guys overall are not bad football players. They’re just not playing real good right now.”