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Updated: December 18th, 2011 8:54pm
Pelissero: Ineptitude reaching point Vikings must evaluate everything

Pelissero: Ineptitude reaching point Vikings must evaluate everything

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- It doesn't matter anymore.

That's the best the Minnesota Vikings can say for themselves after the latest embarrassment in a season full of them.

It doesn't matter they took a 42-20 toasting on Sunday at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, who destroyed the Vikings in every phase of a game that could have been twice that lopsided.

It doesn't matter they finished with virtually inconceivable deficits in net yards (573-207), first downs (36-12) and time of possession (38:49-21:11) that were even worse before the Saints called off the dogs.

It doesn't matter an announced crowd of 62,263 had whittled to a few thousand by the time 2-11 officially became 2-12 and the soaring Saints (11-3) laughed their way through the silence to the Metrodome's visiting locker room.

"I don't know what to tell you," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "You can write articles and do whatever you want. You can break down every player -- good, bad or ugly -- but we just aren't good enough as a team, as a group. Offensively, defensively and special teams, from the number one on the roster to the last man on the roster, we just aren't good enough. It's as simple as that."

When your season has fallen apart to this degree, nothing matters really. Nothing but draft position that can only improve with each defeat.

Players mostly know where they stand. Coaches and scouts know the changes they want to enact. Ownership has a good idea about the direction of the program, though all Zygi Wilf would say about coach Leslie Frazier's job security or anything else on Sunday was, "We'll wait until the end of the season to comment."

Where it could matter, though, is when a team looks so woefully inept and ill-prepared there's talk in the locker room about teammates playing scared and a first-year coach who has enjoyed unwavering support stands at the podium and takes another fall.

"This is one for sure that I really have to take full responsibility for," Frazier said, "because I think our guys really wanted to get this win, really prepared that way, and I don't think I did a good job of getting them prepared for a good football team."

It could matter that one star player (Jared Allen) was upset with being removed from the game in the final minutes and another (Adrian Peterson) was upset with his role, questioned the effort level and agreed players seemed deflated from the get-go.

"Yeah, just look," Peterson said. "Nothing was going right."

It could matter the Vikings managed to have zero net passing yards at one point in the fourth quarter and rookie Christian Ponder appears to be regressing, to the point Frazier faced repeated questions about his commitment to the first-round draft pick.

"I don't want to measure purely on the last two weeks," Frazier said. "I want to see what happens the next two weeks."

Others surely do, too, from the Wilfs on down. Why wouldn't they?

The feeling has been and remains that Frazier is safe. That rebuilding was inevitable, even if he wouldn't admit it. That a remodeled coaching staff that lost its offseason to the NFL lockout is going through its growing pains right along with Ponder.

But what happens if the Vikings are just as flat on Christmas Eve at Washington, and again on New Year's Day against Chicago? What happens if players check out more than they have already, and the worst record in the Vikings' 51-year history is coupled with a closing string of blowouts, ending under a course of boos inside the 'Dome on Jan. 1?

"At some point," Allen said, "you just have to say, 'What the heck? We're 2-12, what do we have to lose? Try to make every play.' A lot of people are probably going to get fired at this point anyways. What are you going to lose? Go out, make plays and try to put your best effort out there and win games.

"Sometimes, we get in a backpedal mode and just try to maintain so we don't get beat too bad. Screw that. Let's just go win."

The Vikings haven't done that since Oct. 30, when Carolina kicker Olindo Mare shanked a 31-yard field goal that could have sent the game to overtime.

Six losses later, the Vikings have an outside shot at the worst record in the NFL, thanks to the previously winless Indianapolis Colts' surprising 27-13 upset of Tennessee.

"The losses, they weigh on you for sure," Frazier said. "No question. But as far as thinking about anything beyond these next two ballgames, no. No, no, no. (Sunday) makes you think a whole lot about how can we avoid (doing it again) this next week on the road against an NFC East opponent."

The smart money remains on scapegoating injuries, an aging roster and a defensive coaching staff that has been disrespected and disobeyed from the start.

The smart money is on the sorts of changes that don't involve paying another person not to coach, overhauling the oligarchic football operation and/or drafting another quarterback to replace a guy who's just getting started.

But it should matter Drew Brees had one of the greatest statistical passing days of all-time -- 32-of-40 for 412 yards and five touchdowns -- against a Vikings defense that set an NFL record by going a ninth straight game without an interception.

It should matter the only things standing between the Vikings and perhaps the worst home loss in team history were two Saints turnovers, an ego-driven onside kick and Sean Payton's decision to yank Brees and a bunch of other starters with a 29-point lead and about 11 minutes to go.

None of it matters anymore, not this far down the road to 2-14. But these Vikings have spoken so long about being in every game and fighting to the end it appears they're finally out of things to say for themselves.

"We can't go out there and say we should have won the game," Greenway said. "We shouldn't have. We are just not good enough."

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.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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