Any website can post "offseason grades" for NFL teams, mixing the draft and free agency into transaction soup, then straining it through the mind of some sportswriter who doesn't know who half the players are. Only the Shutdown 50 has the resources to get actual players, coaches, and executives from each team to evaluate their own offseasons! That's right: over the next few weeks, you will get transaction evaluations straight from the horse's mouths: straight talk about who was signed, who was lost, who was drafted, and why.
(For the satirically challenged: all player, coach, and executive remarks are made by an impersonator).
In this segment, Vikings Vice President of Public Relations and Stadium Development Lester Bagley talks about his team's offseason moves.
LESTER BAGLEY: Please kill me.
Find me, slip quietly behind me, and strangle me with an extension cord. Finding me will be the hard part: I am trapped in some government council committee meeting, trying to convince politicians to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to constructing a facility that will be used ten times per year. I haven't seen daylight in months, and somebody just took my stapler.
I agreed to do the Shutdown Corner team needs, even though I am not in the personnel department, because I desperately want to talk about anything except cost-benefit analyses of downtown stadium construction, liquor tax proposals, or anything that has to do with the community of Arden Hills. But I also hope to send the message that I no longer fear death but welcome it, because the stadium approval process is far worse.
Let's see. The Vikings allowed 34 touchdown passes and recorded just eight interceptions last year, so the secondary was one of our top priorities. Our offensive line gave up 50 sacks, which was another area of need. That is why we drafted USC tackle Matt Kalil and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith in the first round instead of players we could build a marketing or stadium-referendum campaign around. Kalil and Smith are fine prospects, but you cannot exactly put them on a billboard and expect fans to rush to the firehouse basement and vote "Yes" on Column One.
By the way, did you notice that my title is Vice President of Public Relations and Stadium Development? That's like being Vice President of Company Morale and Firing People on Christmas Eve. Or Vice President of Environmental Awareness and Dumping Medical Waste in Snugglebunny Creek. My life has become an oxymoron.
We also signed cornerback Chris Carr from the Ravens, and drafted Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton in later rounds, so the pass defense will be much improved. That means scores will be low. Great. "Vote for our stadium proposal, and not only will your taxes go up, but you can enjoy 16-13 defensive duels as Christian Ponder slugs it out with whoever replaces Aaron Rodgers after Jared Allen knocks him out in the first quarter!"
Did we draft a running back to fill in for Adrian Peterson while he is recovering from knee surgery? Nope, but we did sign two fullbacks. Seriously: we drafted Rhett Ellison in the fourth round and signed Jerome Felton from the Colts. Who knew the Colts even had a fullback? Ellison plays tight end, too, and we can never have too many tight ends. Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Mickey Shuler, Ellison … wait, we have too many tight ends. Meanwhile, our top receiving acquisition, Jerome Simpson, is serving a 15-day prison term for felony drug charges.
That will galvanize the voters.
The Vikings may be slightly better this year, but they are a long way from competing with the leaders of the NFC North. But that doesn't mean that they should not have a great place to play. Hear me out. Do you live in a community that has some abandoned factories, or a grungy strip mall, or just some national forest that isn't doing anyone any good except some endangered wildlife and a few oxygen breathers? Well, if you commit $150 million in local money and $398 million in state money — merely the cost to construct and staff about a dozen public schools, or one or two state-of-the-art medical centers — the Vikings will foot the bill for the other $427 million. Then, you can enjoy eight regular season Sunday afternoons with Ponder and Allen, plus the traffic and parking nightmares, noise and garbage issues, and the knowledge that the roof might collapse, sending us back into your pockets, just 30 years from now. What do you say?
Then please, put me out of my misery.