Prior to the 2009 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings signed Sage Rosenfels to serve as their starting quarterback. That signing, of course, came before the Vikings inked Brett Favre. With Favre in the fold, the presumption was that Rosenfels would serve as the backup and that Tarvaris Jackson either would be the third-string quarterback or the odd man out. That presumption proved incorrect.
Instead of using Rosenfels as the backup, Vikings' head coach Brad Childress opted to use Jackson in that role. While that meant limited touches for Jackson behind the hardy Favre, it meant zero touches for Rosenfels in 2009.
Clearly, there was a disconnect between player personnel director Rick Spielman and Childress. While Spielman unquestionably favored Favre over Rosenfels, he also quite clearly preferred Rosenfels over Jackson. Had he not, he would not have inked the quarterback to a two-year, $9 million deal.
This year, the Vikings entered the off-season reasonably confident that Favre would return as starting quarterback in 2010. That still appears likely, but Favre's decision to remain not only away from training camp but also away from the team as the team has begun pre-season games portends an ominous start to the season, at best. Combined with Childress' handling of the quarterback situation during his tenure in Minnesota, any misstep involving Favre could be disastrous for the Vikings.
For obvious reasons, the Vikings are hopeful that Favre returns this season, ready to play in game one. Chief among those reasons are Favre's career numbers: 62% completion percentage, 69,329 passing yards, 497 touchdowns against 317 interceptions, and a 181-104 record. Favre's numbers are far more impressive, if that is possible, when juxtaposed against those of the Vikings' other roster options at the quarterback position--a trio that offers a combined total of 51 NFL touchdowns against 47 interceptions and approximately 7,800 passing yards in 10 combined NFL seasons.
Most alarming about the Vikings' quarterback situation--aside from Favre's now overly long absence--is the fact that, with Favre, the Vikings have four quarterbacks on roster. With two kickers already set to be on the roster for the regular season and E.J. Henderson and Cedric Benson questionable early but still locks to make the roster, the Vikings can ill afford to carry four quarterbacks this season. That means that one of the quarterbacks currently on the Vikings' roster probably will not be with the team in 2010. And, right now, the Vikings appear to be weighing whether to try to get Joe Webb onto the practice squad without being claimed or to release Rosenfels.
Webb, with 8 touchdowns and 21 interceptions against predominantly weak opposition last year, should not be considered over Rosenfels as a quarterback this season. That could mean using a practice squad spot on him, but to what end? A second, more logical possibility, however, would be to retain the strong-armed, soft-touch, hard-running player, cutting Jackson.
If the Vikings at least make the proper decision in keeping Rosenfels, there is still reason to believe that they, or at least Childress, will make the wrong decision in keeping and seeding Jackson over Rosenfels on the depth chart. While Rosenfels and Jackson have similar career numbers, Rosenfels' more recent history strongly bolsters the case for using Rosenfels in the backup role and getting Rosenfels some meaningful snaps in the regular season.
In his three seasons in Houston prior to joining Minnesota, Rosenfels had a 65.6 completion percentage and passed for 3,380 yards. The completion percentage alone--nearly 8 points higher than Jackson's three-year figure, ought to matter greatly for the tightly controlled passing game that the Vikings employ.
Probably because he traded up to take an unheralded, small college quarterback, Childress is eschewing the numbers and what his and the eyes of others tell him and them in favor of yet proving that he was not wrong on Jackson. Unfortunately, he already has proven wrong on Jackson. At this point, all that Childress can do is mitigate the error. This year, the best way to mitigate is to position Rosenfels above Jackson (or, preferably, Webb) on the depth chart. Barring that decision, Childress' continued misreading of the position, a misreading that had the Vikings selecting in this year's draft a quarterback who likely will never play quarterback in the NFL and who may never play any position in the NFL rather than a quarterback who, despite personality issues, has demonstrated ability, could cost the team.
How the Vikings handle the quarterback position this year will go a long way toward deciding the Vikings' 2010 fate. Much of the decision, all elements related to Favre's role, is largely out of the Vikings' control. But for the element that the Vikings do control, that of who serves as Favre's backup and who serves as starter in Favre's absence, the Vikings' hold all the cards. And seemingly by all but the head coach's measure, Rosenfels ought to be the backup.
Up Next: Antics a Consequence of Favre's Lingering Decision and Vikings' Kid Gloves.