While we have a moment to catch our breath, I want to circle back on an underplayed moment of the Minnesota Vikings' media availability Tuesday. The promotion of general manager Rick Spielman drew most of the attention, of course, but reporters also had an opportunity to speak with coach Leslie Frazier and get his early thoughts on the 2012 season.
I asked Frazier directly if he thought it was viable to shift to a 3-4 defense, as the Vikings reportedly are contemplating. His answer was revealing on a day when the team elevated Spielman's authority above his own.
"I don't want to eliminate any possibilities at this point, but my background is 4-3," Frazier said. "I want to do what's best for our team. You do take a look at your personnel, and you determine what you do based on your personnel. You don't want to jump on the bandwagon purely because it's popular in some other city and they've had success. If it doesn't fit what you do, you better do what fits you."
Frazier can be difficult to read at times, but that sure reads like a case for the schematic status quo despite heavy scrutiny within the organization. I understand where the discussion is coming from. The Vikings finished this season with the second-highest defensive passer rating (107.6) in NFL history, and all options should be considered. But at the outset, I wonder how smart the 3-4 would be, at least for 2012 season.
Atop any list of concerns would be the impact on Jared Allen, a classic 4-3 defensive end who is already on record saying he wants no part of a 3-4. Playing outside linebacker might provide Allen some better matchups in the pass rush, but he would also have at least some coverage responsibilities and would be starting his rush from a much different angle.
Allen was the Vikings' best player in 2011 and nearly broke the NFL record for sacks in a season. Would you move your top player, and one of the league's best overall in 2011, out of position for the sake of a scheme change? I'm not sure about that.
Allen will be 30 in a few months, and you could argue that no team's long-term direction should be driven by concern for a player more than halfway through his career. If that's the case, though, the Vikings would be better off trading Allen to a 4-3 team than schematically limiting his effectiveness.
Veteran defensive lineman Kevin Williams is best suited to be an under tackle in the 4-3, but could conceivably play end in a 3-4. And it's possible that the speedy Chad Greenway could make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker. But unless I'm missing something, there is little about the Vikings' current personnel that makes them an obvious candidate to switch.
Asked if he thinks his current personnel makes the 3-4 viable, Frazier shrugged and said: "Maybe." There wasn't a lot of conviction in his voice. Stay tuned.