Have at it: Skills vs. Team

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

We stirred up parallel debates in this week’s edition of “Have at It.” We’re apt to do that on occasion. Brett Favre suggested that Minnesota’s 2009 team is the best he has played for, and so we asked you to compare it to the 1996 Green Bay squad that Favre led to a Super Bowl championship.

Favre qualified his assessment -- “physically and from a talent level” -- but many of you broadened the discussion past the skills of the individual players and into the “best overall team” zone. On that level, very few of you were willing to project championship-level success for the Vikings after five games.

Wrote Robbiemustgo32: “I don't need to look at the rosters, the comparisons ended for me when I read ‘1996 Packers CHAMPIONSHIP group’.”

Adambballn wants “to see the Vikings play somebody” before drawing any conclusions. (Indeed, three of their victories have come against Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis -- combined records of 2-13.)

A few of you attempted some roster analysis. After all, as Cmwernick3201 noted: “Saying the ‘96 Packer team is better simply because they won the SB is invalid to the discussion.”

I thought pchrisb3443 had one of the less emotionally-charged evaluations:

Overall I'd go with the 1996 Packers and not just because I'm a Packer fan. This year's Vikings have the edge as far as running back and maybe offensive line but that's about it. As good as Jared Allen is, he's no Reggie White even at that point in Reggie's career. And to have Sean Jones at the other end just made Reggie even more effective. Percy Harvin's got one special team TD but he needs a few more to compare to the season [Desmond] Howard had. Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson at TE? No comparison there. The wideouts are close as are the defensive backs. I'd also take the '96 version of Favre over the '09 version but not by too terribly much. Let's not forget the coaching staffs. You've got to go with [Mike] Holmgren and his staff.

EXIT_HERE concluded there is no debate after breaking it down this way:

  • QB: '96 Packers

  • RB: '09 Vikes

  • FB: '96 Packers

  • TE: '96 Packers

  • WR: '96 Packers

  • Oline: Even

  • Dline: Even

  • LB: Even

  • CB: '96 Packers

  • Safety: '96 Packers

  • Special Teams: '96 Packers

  • Coaching Staff: '96 Packers

My take? I’m with those who don’t think it’s worth our time to debate whether Minnesota can match the accomplishments of the 1996 team. It’s way too early in the season, and even Favre circled back this week and admitted he “caught a lot of heat” for even hinting at the suggestion. He emphasized that “we’ve got a long way to go to reach that team.”

As we noted in the original post, the 1996 Packers are the only team in the past 36 years to lead the NFL in most points scored and fewest points allowed. That’s a tremendous illustration of balance at a high level, something the Vikings have the potential to approach but probably won’t achieve. Through five weeks, the Vikings rank No. 3 in points per game (31.2) and are tied for No. 9 in points allowed (18) per game.

As for the rosters themselves, the ’96 Packers had five Pro Bowl players: Safety LeRoy Butler, tight end Keith Jackson, defensive end Reggie White, center Frank Winters and Favre. Based on how Pro Bowl voting works these days, I would suggest the Vikings have five near-locks for that honor: tailback Adrian Peterson, left guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield.

But when judging the rosters by position, as EXIT_HERE and others did, it’s hard to give this year’s Vikings group more than two advantages. I’ll grant them running back and linebacker, but I’m feeling a bit shaky on the latter. Luckily I’m not a personnel evaluator. Just a two-bit blogger hack who enjoys a good debate.