The Case for Bill Musgrave

Message boards are not kind to Bill Musgrave. He is the e-piñata for the Vikings offensive struggles, second in the firing line of frustrated fans, placing just behind Christian “Maybe your wife can teach you how to throw”* Ponder. Is the former Oregon Duck standout really to blame for Team Purple’s offensive blues?

Let’s look at what he has to work with. It seems to be accepted at this point that the Vikings have the NFL’s shoddiest group of wide receivers. Michael Jenkins has been gritty, but any speed and suddenness he once had is long gone. Jerome Simpson. Enough said. Devin Aromashodu demonstrated his ball skills or lack thereof in the second quarter of last Sunday’s game, and to add insult to injury only really ever looked legitimate when he was torching the Vikes on Monday night in 2009. Jarius Wright has shown some skill but is very raw. Even when Percy Harvin was breaking tackles for fun, he is not a conventional set-up shop by the sideline and run the entire route-tree kind of guy. This is not intended as a slight against #12, because he is capable of playing flanker, but he is not the game changer there that he is when lined up nearer to the core of the formation. This is how Musgrave was using him.  Indeed, Percy Harvin was on pace for his best season as a pro until that nasty ankle sprain.

As for the tight ends, we have not seen the dynamic duo imagined when the GM would literally not let John Carlson out of the state of Minnesota. While the 25 million dollar man has not held up his end of the bargain, Kyle Rudolph has been a bright spot. 8 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at. The red zone reindeer is no Gronkowski, however. It does not seem he has the fluidity or speed to be an elite tight end, and would prosper if Minnesota could plausibly spread the field.

Despite all this, and a quarterback who does his best Bill Bojangles Robinson imitation in the pocket, Musgrave has made lemonade from lemons. The minimal success the passing game has experience is based on scheming. Take the game at Solider Field. Rudolph had one of his better days. Just about every ball he caught saw him as wide open as a Chinese restaurant on Christmas eve. This was not #82 making killer cuts, but flat routes that saw yeoman Rhett Ellison repeatedly blow up the defender assigned to Rudolph. How about the next game? The wheel route ran by Adrian Peterson 20+ yards downfield was a stroke of genius. The QB couldn’t connect. Putting the under-utilized Jerome Felton in pattern worked like a charm. As recently as last week, he drew up that brilliantly executed pass to Wright coming out of the backfield.

As for the running game, it seems pretty clear that that baby is rolling on all cylinders. Credit a Canton-bound halfback, and an organizational decision to emphasize heavy sets (see acquisitions of Carlson, John Felton, Jerome and Ellison, Rhett). Do also credit Musgrave, who has utilized said heavies in a variety of formations.

I won’t ignore the flaws. The play calls are often frustrating – especially when the result is hair-brained. Yes, you may ask yourself why is Christian Ponder taking to the air on first down in the red zone, but remember he had never thrown an interception in said zone during meaningful game time. Moreover, the coaching staff has been given direction to take the temperature of this quarterback, to assess what he can and cannot do. Often, that may conflict with winning. Just don’t blame Musgrave.

*Jimmy Johnson’s harsh words, not my own. I do really hope QB7 breaks out of this mire and shows all those haters. It has not looked forthcoming though.
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7 Responses to “The Case for Bill Musgrave”

  1. Peter says:

    How can Rudolph put up Gronkian numbers when CP can’t get the ball anywhere close to him/kills drives/throws the ball to the other team, etc etc etc?

    Using hindsight, imagine Rudolph paired with 2009′s version of the Purple Old Man.

  2. chris says:

    No, you are far too light on your criticism of Musgrave. The play calling is horrible, and wooden. He doesn’t have a feel for flow the game, and it is still amazing to me that no matter how bad of qb you have, a DIV III qb should be able to find holes a couple of yards past the line of scrimmage when you have a running back absolutely embarrassing defenses into 9 guys in the box. A OC that can’t scheme even a high school passing game given that set of circumstances deserves more blame than you tried to place here. If its the qb that is that bad, then he deserves some criticism for not making that clear he is a complete bust. Although he has been better the last several weeks, there was way too many games where he deserted the running game. I am not a fan.

  3. will says:

    You have to blame Musgrave.We only threw 5 passes Sunday on 1st&10,that won’t cut it in the nfl.When you run too much,even with an AP,and rely on trying to throw only on 3rd & long,you will see failure from Ponder,or any other qb put in this scheme for that matter.

    • dynalee10 says:

      I agree we need to change up the run run pass at least a little , the first quarter AD has an amazing 106 yards the next three quarters 50 ? That tells me that once the defense realized the Vikes can’t throw then they just decided to stop Adrian at any cost and it might have worked without the picks by Cutler and some dropped passes late in the game . I think any decent OC should be able to pass against 8-9 in the box and if the QB can’t make the plays then he needs to sit for awhile .

  4. purplereign57 says:

    Up until this season, I’ve not been able to view any pressers with the coaches, and although I’ve seen several with Musgrave, i have yet to see any with the Vikings QB coach. Doesn’t he have anything to say? Is he COMPLETELY embarrassed…so much so that he can’t even come to the podium? I would be. As far as Musgrave goes, he strikes me as a guy with no desire, no fire or enthusiasm, and someone that doesn’t even care whether the team wins or loses. Most, if not all of the time at the podium, he acts like he is ready to go to sleep. What is he on? He has no creativity when it comes to playcalling, is not willing to take any chances (although I wouldn’t either with Ponder at the helm), has used the same old plays for the entire season, and can’t even come up with anything new for the rest of the offense now that Percy is out of the lineup. Musgrave needs to go, and the GM and Zygi need to get together and hire an offensive coordinator with some fire in his gut, and a huge desire to win. Someone with some creativity and enthusiasm so that there is some positive changes made with the offense that can get them more than mediocre results, especially in the red zone.
    As far as Ponder is concerned, I can’t help but like the kid, he has a very likeable personality, but I feel sorry for him. He just doesn’t seem to possess the talent necessary to succeed in the NFL. But i keep hoping I’m wrong. I’d love to see the guy make it. But I hate to watch his press conferences now because he sounds like a broken record. “Obviously, that’s on me, I shouldn’t have done that and I have to keep working harder to get better”. Obviously, his work ethic doesn’t seem to be working. I hate to say this, but it seems as though what we have here is another Ryan Leaf or Todd Marinovich. A complete and utter bust. But there is this…after approximately the same number of starts, Drew Brees, John Elway, Dan Marino and Troy Aikman had similar numbers…ratings, completions, interceptions, etc. That fact CAN give Viking fans hope…hope that Ponder comes around and gets his mistakes fixed. And even though that looks unlikely at the present time, ANYTHING is possible. Look back…Minnesota has a history of employing quarterbacks that really didn’t possess all the tools necessary to take the team all the way to a Super Bowl victory, except maybe Fran Tarkenton. Think about it. It’s hard to even remember any of the QB’s that the Vikings have had. Maybe a few, but not many. That’s not a legacy that you want to have for your team. I’m not saying that the Vikings need a famous quarterback, just one with all the tools,charisma, abilites, leadership, confidence, guidance…you get the idea. Someone like a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or even Aaron Rodgers. I think that is the only way Minnesota might be able to finally hoist the Lombardi trophy. God knows it’s been way too long of a wait for it. SKOL VIKINGS!!

  5. kenny scott says:

    the pinata analogy is misplaced. One strikes a pinata expecting something good to come out. Musgrave is just being hit in the hopes that he will be GONE. Please Mr. Musgrave, do something good for the Vikings,… retire.

  6. Musgrave is great. He does a great job of mixing plays up but our talent level at the skill positions has been shallow. That will change this year. Ponder is coming into his 3rd year with weapons to utilize. The offense will open up this year. BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

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