Friday, February 13, 2009

Vikings and QB

Matt Cassel may just be Scott Mitchell: a good backup quarterback that was helped by great coaching and good teammates to a good but brief run, which was enough to make him appeal to teams desperate for a quarterback.

But the Vikings must take a risk at the quarterback position--it has been a mess for Brad Childress's reign. After trading Daunte Culpepper, Childress has started the backup-level QB he inherited (Brad Johnson), the D 1-AA project he drafted (Tarvaris Jackson), and a series of cheap, bad backups (Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte). The Vikings have just scraped by at quarterback without making a serious move to improve the position. The result: in 49 games in 06, 07, and 08, the Vikings have thrown for 47 touchdowns, 52 interceptions, and 183 yards per game. They've lacked the ability to sustain drives with the passing game, they've lacked a two minute offense, and they've lacked the ability to come from behind. You can (and should) put some blame on the Childress/Bevell offense, and you can (and should) put some blame on the quality of receivers. But a big reason the Viking passing game has been terrible is that they haven't had a good quarterback in three seasons.

It didn't have to be that way. In 2006, there were rumors they could have traded for Matt Schaub, but the price was too high. Schaub has dealt with injuries since joining the Texans, but in 2008 he averaged 276.6 yards per game, 8.0 yards per attempt, and posted a 92.7 rating. It would have been a risk. But quarterback is such an important position that a team can't compete for a championship by scraping around at backups that are barely replacement level.

I don't know if the Vikings should pursue Matt Cassel. But I know they have to do something significant. If they maintain the status quo, if they again acquire cheap, mostly undesirable quarterbacks and are forced to start them, they might compete for a division title. But we can't seriously expect the Vikings to compete for the Super Bowl if they don't make a major attempt to acquire a quality quarterback, whomever that might be. If the roster is full of backup quarterbacks that the team is forced to start, the team isn't going farther than it did last season.

There is a risk in acquiring a player like Cassel, just as there was a risk in acquiring a player like Schaub. But those are risks a team has to take to compete for a championship. If they take the risk, it might fail; if they don't do anything, they maintain the status quo, and I think that ceiling is 10-11 wins and a playoff loss.


  1. Joe: (feels funny to write that)

    The dilemma for the Vikings is how much do they risk? They've been down this road before with Jared Allen. In that case the risk was whether Allen could stay out of trouble and avoid a year-long suspension. There was never any question about his ability. At the time I felt they had taken an appropriate risk in trading away three draft picks for him because they were getting an elite player at a position where they had a great need.

    The Vikings also have a great need at quarterback. But with Cassel, his true ability remains a huge question mark. If the Vikings could get Cassel for a second rounder, you make the deal. If the Patriots are asking for this year's first rounder, I swallow hard and probably make the deal. But I'll feel pretty nervous about it. The thing is, the Patriots are not going to settle for just one draft pick, they are going to want multiple draft picks. That's an appropriate risk if you're getting Donovan McNabb or Peyton Manning, but not if you're getting Matt Cassel.

    Sign Jeff Garcia and use the draft picks you would have traded away to get Cassel to draft a right tackle or cornerback, plus a quarterback you can groom to replace Garcia. It's not sexy but it's a much more appropriate risk.

    Or offer a first rounder to the Eagles for McNabb. Maybe they will listen.

  2. DC, I agree the price on Cassel will be too high. If it's a choice between doing nothing or trading for Cassel, I'd trade for Cassel--but only after it's certain that's the binary choice. I would like to see Jeff Garcia as a Viking, but if that's the case I'd also like to see another QB come in, too (Garcia will be 39 next season, and old QBs can fall off quickly).

    I'm still in love with the idea of Matt Hasselbeck--he'll be 33 at the start of 2009, and if he's available for a 2nd rounder, that's certainly worth it. Garcia MAY have another year left, but Hasselbeck should have 3-5 years left. But Garcia may be available, and Hasselbeck might not.

  3. Once again, why is Booty such a bad option? Because he was taken in the 6th round?

  4. Because starting Booty means starting an unknown--we have no idea whether he'll be average, be a star, or completely suck. The rest of the team is good enough that the Vikings should not put themselves into that position at quarterback (again). If they can get a player that has proven himself in some way at the pro level, they should.

  5. Anonymous4:26 PM

    cassel for the 22nd do that all day

  6. The report on Booty is that he's looked bad in practices, scrimmages, and pre-season games. There's things coaches can observe about a player that can help them determine if they will be successful in an NFL game, they use this when drafting. Sometimes they are wrong, but you have to realize that these men are professionals and have spent most of their lives studying the game of football. If they haven't thrown John David Booty to the line, there's probably good reason.

    I'm with the Garcia option. The man can play, and let's face it, in this age (steriods or not) players are able to play longer into their middle age. Favre was pretty solid until he had the injury, Kurt Warner just barely missed winning another superbowl. I think age is a factor, but I don't think it should be weighed as heavily as it has in the past.

    Keep the picks, sign Garcia.

  7. Garcia would be fine, if the head coach knew what he was doing.

    I'd totally agree with you, Cdub, if this braintrust hadn't decided that Tyler Thigpen wasn't worth giving a shot either.

  8. It's obvious that Childress isn't going anywhere and will be leading the Vikings in 2009. But I'd still like to think we still have a shot despite what Childress has proven. Who knows, maybe the guy will actually make some real changes and adjustments to his strategy and allow himself to lead this team to the promised land.

  9. Anonymous11:34 AM

    I guess I'm reticent to give a first for Cassell, he had a very good year, yes, but the coaching and surrounding cast were important to his success. While I think the vikes have the surrounding cast, I don't have confidence in our coaches ability to bring him along in the system. Of course any new qb will have to learn the system, but I'm not convinced that cassel is the guy; mostly, I suppose, because of the limited experience he has as a starter.

    What are your thoughts about Leftwich? I'm intrigued. Winter posted a blog that furthered that interest:


  10. Anonymous11:36 AM

    Ahh Joe! Just read the comments over at defensive indifference and you gave your thoughts on Leftwich!


  11. Anonymous8:19 PM

    What about Rosenfels? He might be useful, but he's not really a starting QB. He's a back-up QB who's just as skilled an Frerotte. T'Jack is probebly going to get the starting spot. Booty might even get a his turn this season.