The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Warning signs were there for Vikes, 'Boys

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After nearly 40 years covering the National Football League, not much surprises me, least of all the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings now at 0-2 for the 2010 season.

Why should anyone be surprised that the Vikings haven't won yet, starting a 40-year-old quarterback with a sore ankle who hardly played in the preseason after ending his non-retirement three weeks into training camp.

Brett Favre is a first ballot Hall of Fame selection without any doubt. And I suspect that it won't take him very long to get back on track, providing his surgically repaired ankle (not to mention his offensive line) can hold up. Still, I don't care how many years you've played, how many MVP awards you've collected or how many Super Bowl rings you own, there's no substitute for going through all the mini-camps, OTAs and a full training camp, particularly for a quarterback.

That's where you get to know where your receiver is going before he even makes his first move to get free. That's where your linemen figure out where you like to roam when the pocket breaks down, the better to help out and throw an extra block. That's where you get used to the concept of hitting and being hit. Favre missed virtually all of that team work, and perhaps that's why he and his offense have been struggling.

If this goes on for another three games, if the Vikings are 0-5 or 1-4, that might be a bit of surprise, considering all the talented players who returned from last year's playoff team. But I believe Favre will start righting the Vikings ship with a home game against the Lions Sunday, followed by a bye week. Then it's on to a Monday night game in New York, a national stage where Favre has always been a smashing success. It says here the Vikings will be 2-2 after that game in the Meadowlands, and right back in the division race.

As for the Cowboys, I've already gone on record wondering how Wade Phillips remains employed as a head coach. Let me also add that Tony Romo has yet to show any reason why he ought to be included among the elite quarterbacks in the game. He's been brutal in crunch time far too often, and until he starts winning big games with fourth quarter heroics, the Cowboys will be 9-7 or 10-6 -- decent, but hardly good enough to justify any talk of hosting a home game Super Bowl in February.

Surprised that the Chiefs, Bucs and Bears are all 2-0? Not really. All three teams improved themselves in the offseason, though cynics might suggest they couldn't get much worse. Still, let's talk after five games, when you really can get a far better fix on a professional football team than anything you might surmise in September.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  September 21, 2010; 5:11 PM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Leonard Shapiro , Minnesota Vikings , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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