Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the State Capitol last Friday to meet with Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders about a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Many have interpreted Goodell’s message as meaning decide now (by the end of the current session) if there is going to be a stadium plan or not. If there is no vote taken or if a stadium is voted down, the team will be leaving Minnesota. Do you think the NFL would OK moving the Vikings elsewhere?
-Dorr: The league might eventually approve such a move but I doubt if it would right now. It’s been a good market for the league and there are the natural rivalries with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago that the league probably likes. But I think things have gotten to the point, like it or not, that such a move would become reality if nothing is done about a stadium in Minnesota. And you would hope the powers-that-be in Minnesota would have learned their lesson by now.
-Marxhausen: Roger Goodell has made numerous statements that he does not want the Vikings to leave Minnesota. My feeling about the subject is that the NFL doesn’t want to start moving the teams to big market towns (Los Angeles) and lose out on the fans that live in the Midwest. As much money as Los Angeles is throwing at the situation, I think the NFL wouldn’t like losing more presence in the middle of the United States. I think the NFL would approve a move if the team cannot find resolution on an agreement for a new stadium. As a businessman, Wilf only cares about making more money and he could do that with a move to Los Angeles. And he will want to do that as soon as possible.
-Larson: Let’s look at “new stadium history.” Few in Cleveland thought the Browns would move to Cincinnati. They did, where they became the Bengals. Few thought the Colts would leave Baltimore. They did and became the Indianapolis Colts. Few thought the St. Louis Cardinals would move. They did and became the Arizona Cardinals. Most recently, few thought the Houston Oilers would move. They did and became the Tennessee Titans.
Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Houston all received NFL teams a few years later, with St. Louis welcoming the old Rams team from Los Angeles. All had to build new stadiums at a much greater cost than if they would’ve constructed stadiums to retain their original teams.
Anyone who thinks the NFL is bluffing about the Vikings moving to a new home isn’t paying attention. Goodell’s visit to Minnesota and the fact that the Wilfs weren’t present Friday showed that the decision to leave isn’t in the Wilfs’ hands, anymore. The NFL will make that decision. Some have stated that the logistics of moving a team to one of two new stadiums set to be built in Los Angeles would keep the Vikings in Minnesota through at least the 2013 season. And, offer more time to decide the Minnesota stadium issue. Don’t kid yourself. The team could leave next January if it wanted to – the Los Angeles Coliseum or the Rose Bowl would be adequate temporary homes until the team opts for one of the new LA stadiums. The LA team would be put into the West Division and St. Louis would slide into the North Division.
Some at the State Capitol apparently took heed of Goodell’s remarks and on Monday there was a push to get a stadium bill on the senate and house floors.
I can see the issue coming to a vote before this session ends. But, I’d be shocked if a new stadium is approved.
•Question: The National Football League college draft begins tonight (Thursday) and the Vikings have the No. 3 pick. Let’s assume that, as predicted, quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor are the first two players taken and the Vikings do not trade their pick. You’re in the Vikings draft room and it’s up to you to make the pick. Who do you take and why?
-Dorr: I’ve not seen the offensive tackle from USC play but it seems he’s the one everybody thinks the team should take. So I guess he would be a good fit. The Vikings need help at a lot of positions but the needs might be greatest on the offensive line.
-Marxhausen: The prospects right now if the Vikings were to draft are tackle Matt Kalil from USC, wide-receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State and corner back Morris Claiborne from LSU. In all honesty, the Vikings need talent at all three of these positions. As much as I want to take Kalil because the Vikings have a terrible offensive line, the pass defense and pass offense is much worse. On the offensive side the only weapon is Percy Harvin and on the defensive side we have Antoine Winfield (35-years-old) and Chris Cook, who has had off-field issues. If the Vikings don’t decide to trade the pick, then I feel that Claiborne would be the wisest decision. If the Vikings can limit passes from Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler with Claiborne on the main wide-receiver, then the defense might be able to more effective at causing turnovers and rushing the quarterback.
-Larson: Peter King of Sports Illustrated says the Vikings will select Kalil, the USC offensive tackle, but should take Claiborne, the LSU corner back. ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay say the pick will be Kalil.
My friend Jeff, a Vikings fan who now resides in Texas, spends hours and hours from January through April analyzing each year’s college draft. He subscribes to several services that provide detailed profiles of college players and rate hundreds of college players by position and also by overall ability. He then combines the rankings of these service into one overall ranking. Here are his conclusions:
-This year’s draft is very weak. Players who would usually be taken in the second round will be taken in the first round. Players who would be taken in the third and even fourth rounds in years past will be showing up in the second round.
-After the third round there is no advantage in trading picks to get more picks. More isn’t going to be better this year.
-There are just three “blue chip” players who are going to be impact players right away. Quarterbacks Luck and Griffin are the first two. The third is running back Trent Richardson of Alabama. But, do the Vikings have the luxury of taking Richardson when they have so many other needs? Probably not, even though Adrian Peterson is coming back from a severe knee injury.
-While Kalil is ranked as the best offensive lineman, he doesn’t rate as high as the top players at that position the past several years.
I agree with Logan – the player who would help Minnesota the most is Claiborne of LSU.
•Question: Who do you like better, Luck or Griffin?
-Dorr: I have never seen Griffin play so I’ll have to pass on that one. Luck looked good in the games I saw him play.
-Marxhausen: These two quarterbacks are quite talented and both have qualities that stand out for them. I would go with Luck because of his size. Griffin is capable of running a 4.41 40-yard dash, just like Michael Vick, but only with better long distance accuracy. Luck can work the short and intermediate game better than Griffin and ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at the combine. The final deciding vote comes down to the size of the quarterback. Luck is 6-4 240 pounds whereas Griffin is 6-2 and 220 pounds.
-Larson: Indianapolis is a good fit for the steady, traditional Luck, who will be taking over for the steady, traditional Peyton Manning, now with Denver. The dynamic Griffin appears to be a perfect fit for Washington, a team hoping to get its fans excited. I would favor Luck but would love to have Griffin if Luck wasn’t available.
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