Vikings

It's Time For the Justin Jefferson Ratio

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

When Mike Tice took over the Minnesota Vikings, it was like Montgomery Burns hiring Homer Simpson to run the Springfield Nuclear Plant. With Red McCombs looking to fund the organization with a used car lot budget, Tice was an affordable option to keep the franchise afloat.

A lifelong offensive line coach, Tice needed to find a way to survive. While the Vikings had plenty of talented playmakers, only one approach made sense: Get the ball to Randy Moss.

Almost two decades later, Mike Zimmer finds himself in a similar situation. The Vikings are a much more stable franchise now, and Zimmer has more talent than Tice ever had. But the Vikings’ offense has been stagnant, and there’s only one way for Zimmer to survive.

It’s time for Justin Jefferson to get ratioed.

We’re not talking about his Instagram. Before his first full season on the job in 2002, Tice introduced the world to “The Randy Ratio.” The concept was to throw the ball to Moss at least 40% of the time to keep the Vikings moving — and to keep defensive coordinators up at night. While it seemed crazy to tell the NFL what his team was going to do offensively, it wasn’t like anyone could stop it.

Moss received a career-high 185 targets in 2002, which accounted for roughly 33% of Minnesota’s attempts. The result was ho-hum numbers by Moss’ standards: 1,347 yards, seven TDs. But it resulted in keeping the Vikings competitive even though teams took advantage of their shoddy defense.

However, the Randy Ratio turned things up a notch the following season. The Vikings’ defense didn’t take a step forward, but Moss put the team on his back to lead them to a 6-0 start. Thanks to his career-high 1,632 receiving yards, the Vikings became one of the most explosive offenses in the league and would have made the playoffs if not for Nathan Poole.

The Randy Ratio was derailed by Moss’s hamstring injury in 2004. But the concept was simple: Good things will happen if you throw the ball to your top playmaker.

The Vikings had the same philosophy last season, it just wasn’t focused on a receiver. Kirk Cousins was leading the league in interceptions, so Zimmer knew he needed to fixate on the running game to dig himself out of a 1-5 hole.

When the Vikings came out of their bye week, they made Dalvin Cook the top option on offense. The result? Minnesota made its way back to .500. They lost three of their final four games, but it shows that Zimmer and his staff know how to get the ball in the hands of their best players.

Going run-heavy isn’t the best strategy in today’s NFL. With teams looking to score as much as possible and the Vikings’ defense not as stout as it was in 2017, throwing the ball more and running up the score seems like a much easier path to winning games.

The Vikings found this out on Sunday as they were looking to secure a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite having a 10-point lead with just under five minutes to play, the offense appeared ready to reenact the script they had followed through the first eight games.

They had a first-and-long after Brian O’Neill was called for a holding penalty. After a Cousins incompletion, there was a draw play on second-and-long. With the game on the line, the Vikings needed to move the chains to kill the clock and keep the game going. That’s when Cousins found Jefferson for a leaping 27-yard grab.

The video above was just one example of Jefferson being the focal point of the offense. He was targeted 11 times on the day, hauling in nine passes for 143 yards. While the stats are nice, so was the way the Vikings had him make plays all over the field.

This was refreshing when looking at how Jefferson was used in a Week 4 loss to the Cleveland Browns:

Or and last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

It’s the type of decision that helped Jefferson take the league by storm during his rookie season. The Vikings can keep opposing defenses guessing and even open up opportunities for his teammates by getting him the ball in all situations.

Jefferson is surrounded by players who can make plays, but he is the guy who can carry the offense. If Zimmer and his staff are smart, he’ll continue to utilize Jefferson in the same way they did on Sunday. Otherwise, the Vikings’ playoff chances will disappear.

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