The Minnesota Vikings’ slim playoff chances were dashed Saturday when they lost to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
But rather than talk about what the Vikings will do to improve in the offseason — or how they’re going to handle the aging Adrian Peterson — the focus has been on how the Minnesota defensive backs defended Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
We learned quickly after Saturday’s game that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wanted cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shadow Nelson throughout the game. However, we now know that both Rhodes and cornerback Terrence Newman covered Nelson. This wasn’t Zimmer’s plan and was actually a plan devised by Newman.
Early in the game, though, veteran cornerback Terence Newman told Rhodes that he could also cover Nelson, suggesting the two defenders simply stay on their respective sides of the field.
Pressured by the 38-year-old Newman, Rhodes, in his fourth season, allowed the veteran to do as he pleased, Rapoport was told.
When Rhodes was eventually confronted by Zimmer on the sideline, he explained the difficult decision he faced: Listen to his coach or Newman, a respected leader of Minnesota’s defense.
Newman’s on-the-fly game plan only lasted two series — Rhodes began flipping sides to cover Nelson on the third Green Bay possession, with Newman on the sideline — but Nelson had already done plenty of damage en route to a seven-catch, 145-yard, two-touchdown first half. With Rhodes shadowing the wideout over the final two quarters, Nelson caught just two passes for nine yards.
As you can tell, Newman’s plan was a disaster and didn’t make any sense. Part of the reason Minnesota won the first meeting against Green Bay was due to the defense holding down Nelson. Why would you mess with that?
Newman himself claims there are no issues between himself and the Vikings coaching staff.
“There were and are no issues with anything between player and coach. The whole thing was blown out of proportion.”
In hindsight, Rhodes should’ve told Newman to take a hike. He’s the best cornerback in that defense and has been defending teams’ top wideouts throughout this season. He’s held down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Why change now?
The biggest irony in this situation has to be the fact that Newman was brought in because of his experience with Zimmer’s scheme. The two had worked together in Dallas and Cincinnati. It was put out by the team that Newman was partly there to help the young guys with Zimmer’s scheme. It’s odd that now he decides to go against the head coach.
With this news coming out, it’s hard to imagine Newman being back in purple next season. He is 38 years old, which was probably going to be his demise before this incident. This now seems like a good time for the Vikings to transition to some younger corners.