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Vikings: Little time for lament

                                                      Images courtesy of SOMWiki, shgmom56, xoque  

How's your gut a few days after "The Big Queasy"?  Yeah, mine too . . .

But if you found Sunday night stressful, stock up on the Maalox -- this Purple offseason will offer all the comforts of shopping for rare vases with Adrian Peterson.  The NFL presents more season-to-season changes than any other sport, and while the Vikings will enter 2010 with a deep cache of talent and back-to-back NFC North titles -- the Libra in me views those positives measured with a frightening degree of both doubt and concern for the team's future.

The checklist:

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Stadium:


This list isn't laid out in order of gravity, but it's kinda important for an NFL team to actually have a place to play their games.  The Vikings lease with their Metrodome landlords expires after next season and the now-contentious relationship between the team and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission suggests the two parties aren't going out for a malt with two straws any time soon.

In November, the Commission voted to present their last remaining tenant a two-year lease extension that would reinstate a $4 million annual rent for the Vikings, but also gives the team revenue gained from any postseason games.  The team has played at the Dome rent free since 2002. 

The organization was none-too-demure in its dissatisfaction with the proposal, as evidenced by their absence at the Commission's December meeting to unveil options for building a new stadium with a retractable roof on the Metrodome site.  The cost for that venture was estimated at $870 million, and it's said a new stadium could be completed by 2013.

While it appears that the team remains a long-shot to move to developer Ed Roski's planned stadium for City of Industry, Calif. outside of Los Angeles, the Vikings continue to aggressively pursue non-Metrodome options past next season.  As reported last week, Purple stadium point man Lester Bagley said the team is now looking at federal stimulus money and/or a seven-county hospitality tax to help the Vikings build a stadium in the 'burbs.  It's been proposed that, in the interim period between leaving the Dome and playing in a new location, the Vikings could play at the University of Minnesota's new TCF Bank Stadium.

One further facet worthy of note is the move that former Senate minority leader Dick Day made from the Legislature to the gaming lobby, Racino Now.  The new nonprofit, according to Day, could generate $125 million annually for the state.  In early December, Day was quoted in the Star Tribune as saying:

"Could a portion of it be used for stadiums?  Definitely. We got money for stadiums, education, health care, transportation. You could take $125 million a year and move it around however you want."
 
While the Vikings have been reluctant to affiliate themselves with gaming revenues, Bagley told the STrib in the same article that, "We welcome any and all viable proposals."

Stay tuned.  

Politics:


The Wilf family is reportedly willing to invest $250 million of their own cash toward a new stadium, meaning a healthy portion of the funding would come via public dollars.  Governor Tim Pawlenty isn't a proponent of using tax money for a stadium with the state facing a potentially $1 billion deficit but, of course, Pawlenty won't be our Governor a year from now-- so his stance could perhaps be influenced in part by his rumored Presidential run as a fiscal conservative.  Minnesota lawmakers convene of February 4th.

Of the 20+ gubernatorial candidates for November, it's likely that a slew of them will run a pro-stadium campaign.  Last week, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis), herself a candidate, was quoted in the Pi Press as saying:

"I want to make sure the Vikings remain the 'Minnesota' Vikings and would be supportive of a plan that puts most of the financing on the private sector with the public investing in the infrastructure around a new facility."

This position could prove influential in the race.  In early December, a study out of St. Cloud State University revealed a strong correlation between the Vikings' success and public support for a new stadium -- although the connection weakened when talk of tax dollars came into play.  From Mike Kaszuba's 12/8/09 Star Trib piece:

"A St. Cloud State Survey of 550 Minnesotans, conducted in late October and early November when the team's record was 6-1, showed that 67 percent of respondents felt it was important to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. Two years ago, when the survey was taken and the team's record was 3-6, only 40 percent felt that way. Six years ago, when the team was 6-2 at the time of the survey, 71 percent felt it was important to keep the team in the state."

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And regarding actually paying from a stadium, Kaszuba's piece continued:

". . . those who feel that a combination of public and private money should be used to build a stadium also is basically unchanged. This year, the figure is 34 percent. That figure was 32 percent in 2007 and 36 percent in 2003."  

Favre:


The juice was worth the squeeze for the 3-time MVP, as Favre's performance this season made it easy to forget all the drama fans endured in getting the NFL's all-time leading passer to Minnesota.  The Purple had their most successful season in 11 years and the graybeard claimed career-bests in passer rating (107.2) and completion percentage (68.4) while tossing the fewest picks (7) of his storied, 19-year career.

Without him, the Vikings would not have gotten to the cusp of their first Super Bowl in over 30 years.

But despite the success -- don't expect to know if Favre will don purple again next season. Some words of advice: Do Not Listen to Any Favre-Related Report Coming out of ESPN until August. Favre is signed for $13 million for '10, but that's no guarantee he'll be back.

Although we should collectively hope he does return.  With a thin QB free agent market and sans a top draft selection, the Vikings currently hold backups Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels as alternate quarterbacking options. It's conceivable to think that T-Jack learned a thing or two working with Favre, but his contractual status is in potential limbo (see "Lockout" below).  Rosenfels is signed through next year, but he's a measured replacement at best, bringing just 6 career wins to the table.  Rumors have begun to swirl connecting Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Purple -- but Favre is still out top option for '10.

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But at present: our moments thinking of Favre are most constructively spent enjoying the memories of his fine '09 and not troubling our brains about what the luminary talent (and disorganized narcissist) might do next.  


Schedule:

In a word: tough.  Here's how the opposition lays out for next season:

Home:  Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Dallas, New York Giants; Buffalo, Miami, Arizona.

Away: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, New England, New York Jets, New Orleans

Asterisk Peterson:

That's my new pet name for "All Day."  In three oft-stunning NFL seasons, Peterson has rushed for 4,484 yards and 40 touchdowns -- he's also fumbled 19 times, including 15 in the last two regular seasons.  The problem was overtly evidenced in his two fumble performance on Sunday -- with the teeter undoubtedly tottered by the back's 122 ground yards and three touchdowns.

This dichotomy is well known.  What's not yet realized is exactly how Peterson will reverse the disturbing trend after fumbling on an acceptable four occasions in his rookie season of '07.  Part of A.P.'s legend is his frightening ability to pummel and grind for extra yardage at the closure of his violent carries -- but that same style is what has oft-balanced his greatness, with learned defenders pounding the rock before Peterson hits the turf or the sideline.

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It seems the immediate remedy may be found in the back coming to the realization that sometimes, one just has to get what the defense gives and get the hell down -- such an approach carried the great (albiet smaller) Emmitt Smith to over 4,400 carries in 226 regular season games.  Of course: that's just not the DNA of A.P., is it?  Telling him to not bulldoze for extra yardage is like telling water not to be wet.

Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy best not be investing copious amounts of time in playing XBox or working on his sand save percentage this offseason -- somebody has to find a way to fix this.  The alternative finds a continually compromised career for one of the great runners in the history of the NFL.  

Lockout/Revenue Sharing:


Should you not follow the business of sport: the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and players expires in March of this year.  With playing time missed in 1982 and '87, the precedent is set for a lockout to be a very real possibility after this year.  What's different from those stoppages of yore is the obscene pile of money that's now before the owners and players -- about $6.5 dollars.  The issues at stake are myriad, but namely revolve around the owner's discontent with the players receiving about 60 percent of the league revenue stream.

Should the parties not come to agreement before the ensuing season, 2010 will be an uncapped year and the immediate on-field implications of such a scenario may prove disturbing -- time, and the owner's degree of competitive spending will spell that out.  In reference to the afore-noted T-Jack notation, among the fallouts will be players in his spikes (with four years in the league) who would be unrestricted free agent, finding themselves requiring six years to be unrestricted.

While it was more fun to talk about actual football in recent weeks, the NFL Players Association was on Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers for help in the matter, seeking Congressional assistance in avoiding a lockout.  The players informed lawmakers about their concern that a broad Supreme Court ruling in an ongoing case between the league and apparel maker American Needle could have vast antitrust implications in the future of free agency.  The NFL contends that case is more about merchandise than labor.  For a more detailed review of the player's visit to Washington, please click here.

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Sticking with money: also at issue for the Vikings is a potential loss in the existing pool (at least $100 million) of revenue-sharing dollars that have been passed from the league's "haves" to lesser-earning teams like the Purple.  The NFLPA is appealing that action at present, but don't be surprised if the Vikings -- ranked as second-to-last in NFL revenue by Forbes -- ultimately find those dollars stripped.  The loss in that cash could have a real impact in the team's off-field operations.