In Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Donovan McNabb went 7 for 15 for 39 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The woeful numbers speak volumes on their own, ranking McNabb dead last by a wide margin in any meaningful quarterback statistic.
Although it has only been one game, one game in the NFL is akin to ten games in MLB at 1/16th of the season. One more game like Sunday's and fans will be left pondering whether the Vikings can climb out of their 0-2 hole and finish strong over the final 7/8ths of their schedule. In short, while one game does not a season make, there is little time to remedy a poor start when the season is as short as is the NFL's.
While McNabb's performance was poor on Sunday, a great deal of his struggles were other than self-inflicted. In addition to playing on a team that confoundingly continues to view Bernard Berrian as a legitimate deep threat, McNabb finds himself mired in a system that requires nimbleness in the pocket and elusiveness for escaping the ever collapsing pocket. And all of those problems are dwarfed by the threat that is the reinvention of the Childress Coast Offense to an impossibly more offensive degree.
Given that the Vikings' offensive line is terrible and the offensive play-calling is fathoms below NFL grade, there already appears to be no point in retaining McNabb as the starting quarterback. Despite having the strongest arm on the team, McNabb is too slow to escape trouble, too errant on his throws, and too late on some of his reads to any longer support the claim that he is the Vikings' best quarterback under the circumstances.
Were McNabb playing behind the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line of the late 80s and early 90s, he would have the luxury of surveying the field and waiting for receivers to get open. This Vikings' offensive scheme, mired in the notion that a ten-yard play is an "explosive" one, and fixated on encouraging opposing defenses to stuff the box, thus creating more readily disguised blitz schemes, works against everything that ever made McNabb a success early in his career--particularly when McNabb appears to be in late-in-his-career running condition.
Both Joe Webb and rookie Christian Ponder offer greater elusiveness than McNabb and both appear to make good reads and have good releases out of the pocket. The great irony, in fact, is that both Ponder and Webb need to improve their pocket play. Given that the Vikings rarely have a pocket in which to play, Ponder's and Webb's greatest and similar weakness is essentially irrelevant and their abilities outside the pocket become all the more meaningful.
If the Vikings insist on playing Musgrave Coast Offense (MCO), there simply is no point and no value to having McNabb in the game getting pummeled and making bad plays. The wiser option would be to insert either Webb or Ponder. And given that Webb has more experience than Ponder and is more elusive, Webb is the better choice.
Switching to Webb not only would allow the Vikings to spread the defense horizontally, it should free up the middle of the field for one of the team's three tight ends as the middle linebacker would have to stay home to cover Webb.
Although it is early in the season, there is reason to worry about where this Vikings' team is going, both this year and beyond. Bill Musgrave appears to be about the same guy that was relegated to career quarterbacks coach before the Vikings--in another move wreaking of misguided ownership support--came to the rescue, Leslie Frazier appears unaware of the magnitude of the situation, and the Vikings' $100 million signee is stuck in a system that leads to him finishing in the middle of the pack or worse, week after week. It's beginning to resemble a house of cards at Winter Park with the builders having failed to recognize the need to establish a proper foundation. Only a dramatic change in philosophy now can salvage this season and give hope for the future.
Up Next: Musgrave Showing to Form.