Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quarterback Decision Almost Certain to Burn Vikings

In 2006, the Minnesota Vikings traded up in the NFL entry draft to select quarterback Tarvaris Jackson out of I-A Alabama State. That move came just minutes after moving up in the draft to take center Ryan Cook.

Two years later, the Vikings moved up in the draft to select USC quarterback John David Booty. That move came one year before the Vikings traded for Houston Texans' backup quarterback, Sage Rosenfels, and signed free-agent Brett Favre for $12 million in guaranteed money.

Clearly, the Vikings have been pre-occupied with the quarterback position since cutting ties with the rehabilitating Daunte Culpepper. Also clear, however, is that the organization has no evident long-term plan for how to address the team's most pressing concern.

While the signing of Favre was a good first step in the team's acknowledgment of the reality that who plays quarterback means something in the NFL, the team ought already to be looking beyond Favre's time with the Vikings, as it is certain to be short even barring injury. That, for the Vikings, means assessing what the team has and what it is likely to be able to obtain at the position in the future.

After another pre-season game thankfully has been left by the wayside, the Vikings find themselves already at cross-roads with their new corps of quarterbacks. Favre appeared immobile and rusty in a very brief stint at quarterback, and, while he looked far better than he had the previous week against the Colts, Tarvaris Jackson showed only a bit more upside than did Booty--not accounting for the disparate experience of the two quarterbacks.

Following Friday's performance against Kansas City, it is fair to wonder whether the Viking would be better served using an extra roster spot on a fourth quarterback, rather than searching for a suitor for Jackson, Rosenfels, or Booty. If Favre's immobility and Bryant McKinnie's persistent beatability continue into the regular season, there is every likelihood that the Vikings will have more than one starting quarterback in 2009. And that would give the Vikings more time to assess what they have at the position.

The difficulty for the Vikings is that Jackson is in the final year of his rookie deal and is unlikely to re-sign with the team without some assurance of having an opportunity to play. The Vikings, meanwhile, are unlikely to tag Jackson after this season or even consider re-signing him without greater evidence that Jackson can play at a consistently high level in the NFL.

Friday's numbers were promising for Jackson, but some of his flaws--an egregious miscalculation of the line of scrimmage, difficulty on sideline passes, and downward aim on several of his short passes, continued to plague the fourth-year player. Those would seem to be easy problems to correct, but that's been the thought for four years now and the problems persist.

With Booty putting up some acceptable numbers of his own, the Vikings will be hard-pressed to decide whether to keep a second-round pick for whom they traded up in the draft and who has yet to put it all together after three plus years or a fifth-round pick for whom they traded up in the draft and who has yet to have an opportunity to put it all together but has shown some small glimpses of promise in his short time in Minnesota.

The two certainties for the Vikings' quarterback position this year are that, barring injury, Favre and Rosenfels will make the team. Favre will make the team because he's the starter, he's making loads of guaranteed money and he's the most consistent quarterback on the roster. Rosenfels will make the team because, while he will not carry the team, neither is he likely to implode. That leaves Jackson and Booty.

If the Vikings were to trade Jackson, now would be as good of a time as any since the quarterback joined the team. Though every team in the NFL is aware that the Vikings would not mind moving Jackson, after Friday's performance, there at least is some doubt as to whether the Vikings will cut Jackson. That means that Jackson now actually has some trade value outside of Canada.

The sticking point for the Vikings, however, remains the fact that Jackson is of no value to the team if he is not going to start a significant number of games in 2009. With Rosenfels the most sensible option at backup, that suggests that the Vikings must trade Jackson in 2009 or risk the loss of another useful position player owing to the retention of four quarterbacks. The only alternative is to cut Booty, which is an even worse option as it likely would leave the team with only Rosenfels at quarterback following the 2009 season. And that would put the Vikings right back where they were at the position heading into Childress' first season as coach of the team.

Up Next: Stadium Pabulum. Plus, concerns on defense.


Bruce said...

I always enjoy your essays. I've been reading a couple years now.

Goch432 said...

I have lost track, how many draft picks has Childress used for the QB slot? He traded picks for Bollinger and Holcomb I think, plus the picks he traded to trade up for booty and jackson, then the pick for Sage. That what, at least 7 picks I think?

Nat said...

I think that he traded a pick for McMahon, too...