The Wild’s struggles and Mike Yeo’s meltdown Wednesday continue to fuel speculation that the head coach’s job is in jeopardy. This is a yearly tradition — even if our guy Russo, who is as plugged in as anyone, says that as of Wednesday (pre-meltdown) he believed Yeo’s job was “completely safe.” Goaltending is clearly the team’s No. 1 problem, and it’s not even close.
So don’t take this post as an indication of what we think is going to happen with Yeo.
Rather, it’s a reminder that just because the Wild and Yeo had their best season together a year ago — winning a playoff series and earning the coach a contract extension — it by no means guarantees his job security. For examples, we only need to look at Minnesota coaching history.
The 2000 Vikings made the NFC title game; in 2001, Denny Green was fired before the season was over.
The 2003-04 Timberwolves made the Western Conference finals. In the middle of the next season, Flip Saunders was fired.
In 2009, the Vikings again made the NFC title game. Before 2010 was over, Brad Childress was fired.
And in 2012-13, Tubby Smith led the Gophers men’s basketball team to an NCAA tournament victory. Shortly after that, he was fired.
It’s a cliche to say sports are a “what have you done for me lately” business, but it’s undeniably true. The good vibes from the Wild’s playoff run a year ago are quickly fading. A lot of it isn’t Yeo’s fault, and again — we’re not saying he’s in trouble. But if you think he’s safe just because of the recent past, we’d say you should think again.
Remember a long time ago (OK, a few months ago), when the NFL had former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III conduct an investigation into how it handled the Ray Rice situation?
Remember how Muller’s law firm has strong connections to the NFL, making many question whether this investigation would be truly “independent?”
Well, the report came out today — strange timing in the midst of the NFL playoffs, but hey at least it’s not another 4:45 p.m. Friday news dump. The report sought to answer these two questions:
Did the NFL possess or view the in-elevator video of Mr. Rice and Ms. Palmer from the Revel Casino before it was publicly released?
What information was obtained by, provided or available to the NFL during its investigation of the Rice incident.
The conclusions were, well, predictable.
“We found no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown,” Mueller said in the summary. “We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014. We concluded there was substantial information about the incident – even without the in-elevator video – indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident.”
So basically it was critical in a way that the NFL has already it was culpable: in not doing more with the information it had. But it denied what many people believe to be key truths: that someone with power in the NFL had seen the elevator video of Rice and that someone at the NFL confirmed getting the video.
In other words, it’s a pretty convenient conclusion that the NFL will hope supports its claims but that those who are skeptical will continue to question. Which is pretty much what was, sadly, to be expected all along.
If you want to read the full report, it’s right here.
Duron Carter, the son of former Vikings wide receiver and Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter, is scheduled to work out for the Vikings at Winter Park tomorrow. He is expected to arrive in the Twin Cities today.
You may recall that two years ago the Vikings invited Duron Carter, who went undrafted after finishing his collegiate career at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, to their rookie minicamp.
But Carter, who had just turned 22, was too raw of a prospect for the Vikings to keep around.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound wide receiver ended up taking his talents north of the border, and he blossomed while playing in the Canadian Football League. After catching five touchdown passes in his first season, he was a CFL All-Star in 2014 with 75 catches for 1,030 yards and seven scores.
Carter has since drawn interest from several NFL teams. According to his father, Duron worked out for the Colts and Chiefs this week and has visits scheduled with the 49ers and Browns next week.
Of course, the Vikings — assuming they like what they see from Carter this time around — can keep him from making those upcoming visits with a strong contract offer and a chance to compete.
The fact that the Vikings have a poised young QB in Teddy Bridgewater and that Charles Johnson, a little-known receiver when the Vikings nabbed him from the Browns’ practice squad, became their top playmaker down the stretch may help their case should they try to convince Carter to sign here.
Jasper Brinkley did everything the Vikings asked him to do this past season, though it wasn’t a ton.
Brinkley was the starting middle linebacker in the team’s base defense, but while he played in all 16 games, he only played 42.5 percent of the defensive snaps. Third cornerback Josh Robinson and reserve linebacker Gerald Hodges, who ended up starting seven games due to injury, played more.
“I was happy with the opportunities I was given,” Brinkley said last week. “It’s all I could ask for.”
Brinkley got the job done as a run stuffer on early downs. He made 75 tackles and forced a fumble while finishing the season as Pro Football Focus’ eighth-ranked middle linebacker against the run.
For what the Vikings paid him — $830,000 total in salary and bonuses — Brinkley was a bargain.
But at the same time, the Vikings could be looking to upgrade at the position. Brinkley is one of only two starters who are slated to become free agents (fullback Jerome Felton will be the other once he opts out of his contract). And with veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway possibly on the way out of town depending on how things go this offseason, linebacker will again be an area of need.
Brinkley came off the field in passing situations when the Vikings trotted out their nickel personnel. Greenway and top 2014 draft pick Anthony Barr were the two linebackers in that package.
But if the Vikings can find a three-down middle linebacker who can cover, something they didn’t trust Brinkley to do, they could take care of two birds with one stone. That player could be in the middle on early downs and then stay on the field with Barr in the nickel package when teams have to pass.
Of course, finding the next Navorro Bowman, Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly won’t be easy.
While Brinkley said as he cleaned out his locker that “everybody wants to be an every-down guy,” he is also a team player who is aware of his limitations (and will continue to work hard to try to keep them from being limitations in the future). And even if the Vikings decide to replace Brinkley as a starter, there may still be a role for him as a reserve here, where he started his career in 2009.
“[We’ll] just see where it goes, man,” Brinkley, who turns 30 this summer, said when asked about his future. “See where the wind blows. Hopefully it’s back here again, because I have a lot of ties to this place. It’s where I was drafted as a rookie. I’ve played a fair amount of football here.”