Monday, October 20, 2008

On the Viking Quarterbacks

Gus Frerotte is what we thought he was. He gives the Vikings a legitimate passing threat. He's a chucker that has been getting more yards than any QB in the Childress era, a chucker that has helped Bernard Berrian perform very well at wide receiver. But he's also a mediocre 37 year old journeyman that throws interceptions in bunches. He is what we think he is, and it's not going to get better. But he's the Vikings' best QB for 2008.

And that's depressing. Tarvaris Jackson mostly stunk in his 16 career starts. He showed little pocket presence, made some wacky decisions, and most telling, frequently threw wildly inaccurate passes. But he occasionally made some athletic plays, some good throws. He had a few efficient, effective games. He did enough to make us sometimes believe he was a young division 1AA QB that lacked experience and could improve. We could at least believe in potential, even if it was impossible.

And so here we are: a young inaccurate QB that got benched because he was afraid to make mistakes and the offense was severely limited with him in there, and a 37 year old average QB that can make throws and opens up the offense but also makes his share of mistakes and isn't ever going to be better than he is.

A team like that can win 9-10 games, can make the playoffs, can win a division. Teams have made the playoffs with lesser QBs than Gus Frerotte. But...that's it. They don't usually get further without quality QB play.

So we can watch the 2008 Vikings, hope the passing game does just enough, hope Adrian Peterson can do some crazy running, hope the defense comes through to bail this team out of close games again and again, and just maybe make the playoffs. I'll even go wacko and say I think that it will happen.

But that's it--that's really our best hope for the 2008 Vikings. Are you satisfied watching a team struggle to try make the playoffs knowing that when they get there they'll just get whipped by a team with a real quarterback? I'm not. The Vikings have done everything in their history except win a Super Bowl--eking their way toward the playoffs isn't quite enough. Not with Adrian Peterson. Not with Kevin Williams. Not with Jared Allen.

But this team just doesn't have a quarterback to do better. That's why three different times this season when the Vikes had the ball in the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown to win or tie, the Viking QB threw an interception. That's what this team is--they might win 9-10 games, but they're stuck with lousy QBs and aren't going to go any further.

(Oh, I'll watch and root and totally invest my emotional and psychological energy into it. I'll never quite give up my hope that the Vikings can win the Super Bowl this year until they are mathematically eliminated. That's my curse: hope. I always hope that it can happen, and even as I write this I foolishly do believe it can happen. When it comes to the Vikes, I don't entirely have the faculty of reason, and I don't believe what I'm writing on a deep level, because I have this stupid hope. But pay no attention to the man behind the parentheses).

It's all coming back to what it's always come back to. The Vikings don't have a quarterback. No matter what they do this year, they're looking for a quarterback for next year. Whether an experienced veteran, an inexperienced young QB, even a rookie, the Vikes will continue to look for the QB that can actually take them to that Super Bowl. It's the most important position in the game, and it's the Vikings' biggest weakness. Enjoy 2008 for what you can; starting in the 2009 off-season our primary attention is going to be on where the Vikings find a new starting quarterback.


  1. Anonymous10:00 PM

    The Vikes are going to need to demonstrate some slick evaluation skills here in the next year or so. Productive, household-name QBs aren't typically available via free agency or trade. Meaning they're either going to need to unearth a diamond-in-the-rough to acquire off someone's depth chart, or hit a home run/get lucky in the draft.

    I'm not that confident they have it in them, but that's what we need to hope for. Years and years of 7-to-9 win teams led by an ever-changing carousel of band-aid QBs sounds awful. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

  2. A homerun like Tim Tebow perhaps?

  3. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Tebow? Maybe. Sure. Missouri's Chase Daniel reminds some of Drew Brees. K-State's Josh Freeman reminds some of Daunte Culpepper. Texas's Colt McCoy and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford are putting up numbers worthy of Tecmo Bowl.

    If some of these underclassmen declare, the Vikings should have some intriguing options to choose from, if they want to. But again, it will all come down to their ability to evaluate, pick the right one, and develop him. *Gulp*

    Incidentally, anyone else think Tarvaris Jackson has the profile that Dennis Green had so much success utilizing when he was here? He has the arm to go vertical, but not the pocket poise and toughness to stand in and let things develop downfield; he has the scrambling/roll-out ability that many Bill Walsh disciples like from their QBs in a quick-passing/precision attack, but isn't the type who can hit receivers in stride on the short and intermediate routes.

    I'm by no means putting Jackson in Cunningham's or Culpepper's leagues. I have strong doubts he's even (or ever will be) an NFL-calibur QB, even by today's standards. But if anyone could have maybe gotten something out of him, I'll bet Dennis Green could have.


  4. You summed up my feelings just about perfectly. I can't quite give up on this team entirely, but I realize they're a 9-7, "lose in the first round" squad at best.

  5. Anonymous7:00 PM

    If the Giants and Falcons have something to play for in the last two weeks, I think the Vikings are unlikely to win eight games. Frankly, if the Vikings are eliminated after their thirteenth game, I hope Wilf goes ahead and fires Childress then, so as to have a chance to observe Frazier in the top spot for a few weeks. Ol' Chilly has made the following moves in regards to the qb position: traded for Brooks Bollinger, traded for Kelly Holcomb, traded up to draft Tavaris Jackson in the 2nd round, drafted Booty on the 2nd day, signed Gus Frerotte. Given the importance of the qb position, that is simply unacceptable, especially for a head coach with a background in offense.

    I think the odds of Colt McCoy being a good NFL qb are pretty good. I think the chances of the Viking being bad enough to have shot at him are pretty bad.

  6. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Good summarization of the team's/Childress' QB personnel decisions. It's almost bordered on reckless.

    I remember thinking that Childress/Bevell were going back to their roots and attempting the Wisconsin Badgers approach to offense building when they first got here: concentrate on getting a lot of beef on the line of scrimmage, then just fill in the skill positions with underrecruited guys/walk ons. It's worked (maybe not this year, but in the past) at the NCAA level because most college teams simply can't withstand 4 quarters of being manhandled physically upfront; it doesn't seem to work so well at the NFL level.

    Either that, or he had such faith in his offensive scheme that he thought it didn't matter who he had at the skill positions. If they executed, it would work. I don't know.

    I agree McCoy's unlikely to sport purple. By my reckoning, if he declares, he's a top 5 pick. They need to hope for a deep class. If the McCoy/Tebow/Bradford underclassman group stays in school (and they might, since they all play for contenders), then it looks like pretty slim pickings in 2009.


  7. Anonymous11:55 AM

    What's the word on Booty? If we're eliminated early, Tjack isn't capable, what's the problem with giving the ball to the former USC QB. I didn't see him a lot in college, and I know he struggled a little in the preseason, but you guys talk about finding that "diamond-in-the-rough". What if we have one sitting 3rd on the depth chart right now?

  8. Anonymous9:50 AM

    I'm not a fan of ESPN the Mag in general, but as luck would have it, they feature an article this issue on the difficulty of prospecting for pro QBs, looking to the University of Missouri for an example of a college superstar, whom most suspect isn't NFL calibur, and his backup, suggesting the backup may have a better chance at succeeding at the next level.

    It basically suggests how much randomness there is to QB prospects. And points throughout the league at either undrafted guys or late round picks currently starting in the NFL.

    Now, I also need to point out this piece of research:

    This one suggests that despite the exceptions we all know of--Brady in the 6th round; Ryan Leaf 2nd overall--historically, if you want a franchise QB, your best chance of landing one is to draft the first QB on the board, or maybe the 2nd. Historically, the 3rd QB on down in your typical draft is very much a crapshoot.

    This makes sense. Yeah, the Patriots got Brady in the 6th round, but the vast majority of 6th round QBs are practice squad fodder. Planning on finding a QB for the future in the late rounds is like an unemployed person saying, "I saw that guy on TV last night who won the powerball; instead of applying for jobs, I think I'll just play powerball." Could it work? Well, maybe. But it's not likely.

    As for the numerous Kurt Warner workman type QBs that are currently leading NFL teams, I suspect the league has become so scheme-oriented that a GOOD coach is able to find a limited guy but one with the requisite skillset to run the show. Mike Martz, for instance, knows what he needs in a QB and is able to bring in a Kurt Warner or a JT O'Sullivan and put him in a position to succeed.

    Anyway, Colt McCoy announced today he's staying in college for his senior year...


  9. Anonymous11:57 AM

    PV, that was a great blog. I too have the hope of being a life long Vikings fan and it is always quite rational.

    Pointing out the QB decisions are not quite the best. I still think however that TJack has the elements to make a good NFL QB, but I'm in the minority with that one.

    jianfu is correct that there are good coaches that know what to look for in a QB and mekes them successful with it like Enny Green and the Mad Scientist [Martz].

    Talk about a coaching option, being here in the St Louis area, I would seriously consider Martz as an option, but like Green, he is a bit of his own diva.

    jianfu, I am impressed with your thinking and writing. Keep it up, and if you want a place to express your Vikings views, I'll give you one.