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Updated: January 3rd, 2011 1:15am
Pelissero: Boldness needed to bring Vikings back from rock bottom

Pelissero: Boldness needed to bring Vikings back from rock bottom

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

DETROIT -- The Minnesota Vikings' season from hell ended exactly where it belonged, and exactly where it needed to be.

Rock bottom in the standings. Rock bottom, period.

Only from there, with an upward view of the Detroit Lions in the NFC North Division, is the depth of the Vikings' dilemma evident.

Only from there can a major decision that smells faintly of status quo have a chance to yield the metamorphosis the Vikings need to undergo.

Leslie Frazier's first task once he signs on as the Vikings' head coach-for-real is making sure everyone -- from ownership on down -- understands this was a bad team.

Not a good team that underachieved. Not a good team that was a victim of circumstance.

A bad team, period, that finished the season exactly how it started: offensively inept, defensively inconsistent and seemingly lifeless for much of Sunday's 20-13 loss to the division's perennial doormat at Ford Field.

"It's not an enviable position at all," Frazier said of the Vikings' first last-place finish since 1990.

"It's a position that -- I don't know when the last time the Vikings were in this position. But the one thing you have to do is step back, take a look at it and say, 'What do we have to do to not be in this position again?'

"This is the reality of the situation. This is where our season finished. So, now, what do you do about it?"

Start with eliminating the drama that damaged coach Brad Childress' credibility and ultimately cost him his job.

There's no way to stop allergic reactions to medication, collapsing roofs or snow emergencies. But gag orders, covert missions to Mississippi, trades for known locker-room losers, heated spats with star players -- that junk has to stop.

Start with hammering out a cogent plan for managing the personnel operation so nobody's blindsided or bypassed by big decisions.

Hiring a coach suggests ownership has no intention of hiring what the Vikings really need -- a football-minded monarch to oversee all aspects of player procurement and development. But that doesn't mean Frazier, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and others can't play nice and establish a path to oligarchic harmony.

Start with taking a hard look at the entire coaching staff to determine if it's the proper personality and schematic fit for what the Vikings hope to accomplish.

Darrell Bevell's West Coast offense is a derivative of Childress' scheme, which at times proved rigid and frustrating for a team with elite talent at the skill positions. And the Vikings had their best defensive performance in Tuesday's stunner at Philadelphia with a zone-pressure scheme directed by linebackers coach Fred Pagac, not Frazier's preferred Cover-2.

Perhaps most important, start with a top-to-bottom roster analysis that considers nothing sacred in light of a 6-10 finish that suggested -- if not proved -- the Vikings weren't nearly as stacked as they wanted to believe entering the season.

Rookie Joe Webb crashed back to earth in Sunday's short-week slaying, reiterating the need to draft and develop another quarterback on top of finding a veteran stopgap who will play for less than $1 million a game.

The depleted offensive line couldn't clear any space for All-Pro halfback Adrian Peterson (2.2 average on 14 carries), reiterating the need to find legitimate long-term alternatives at every position except perhaps right tackle.

Jared Allen's 36-yard interception return was one of few highlights for a defense that missed tackle after tackle and got shredded for drives of 74, 94, 47 and 77 yards by a Lions offense without its quarterback and top receiver -- reiterating the Vikings' No. 8 ranking was not without weaknesses.

And the secondary was downright awful as backup quarterback Shaun Hill threw for 258 yards and a touchdown, reiterating the Vikings' only legitimate options besides Antoine Winfield at cornerback both will be coming off knee injuries next fall.

Yet postgame locker-room talk continued to focus on the idea of recharging, refocusing and returning next season with high hopes for a group that was a field goal away from the Super Bowl less than one year ago.

"When we lost the NFC championship game, it was devastating," Allen said. "You're that close to winning. This -- you've got months upon months now to stew and get mad and use this as motivation, not to mention that so many guys got left off the Pro Bowl ballot that had good enough seasons. But you look at how bad our team did at times, and so I think it's going to fuel motivation, and I would expect nothing but for us to come back next year and be contenders."

Until then, the Vikings only are contenders for most disappointing team in the NFL, and their trip to hell only will be worth it if they take the boldest steps possible to make it back.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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