Jason’s Blog: More Vikes QB ??
Posted By: Jason Iacovino
It’s been a Minnesota sports August tradition since 2011–Twins irrelevance and Vikings quarterback controversy.
Tonight we will get a classic double header, starting with the latest version of the Vikes QB carousel when Minnesota hosts Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium in their first preseason game of the season at 7 pm. That will be followed by more Bay Area carnage as the Oakland baseball team, led by Scott Kazmir, will continue its playoff push while the Twins continue to go quietly into that deep night.
You would hope that when both the Twins and Vikings play in early August it would be the baseball game that has relevance, but lately that hasn’t been the case. It’s their own fault, but the Twins’ season once again was washed away early by Wild playoff hockey and will be washed away late by the most important question in American sports:
Who is going to play quarterback?
In 2011, it appeared Leslie Frazier was going to roll the dice with rookie first-round draft pick Christian Ponder right off the bat, but he either saw something early in training camp that worried him or he simply wanted insurance, so the Vikes signed veteran Donovan McNabb. The McNabb experience was an utter failure and before long Ponder had full control of the reigns at QB–but that didn’t go so well, either.
Ponder started 10 games in 2011 and guided the Purple to a 2-8 record with a quarterback rating of 70.1. Still, he was a rookie, and this early baptism was enough to enstill the trust of coach and general manager that Ponder would be the guy in 2012.
Ponder’s second season is what has put the Vikings in the deep hole they find themselves in now. There were some who saw what Joe Webb could do with his legs early in the year as Ponder struggled and were already calling for a change, but Christian managed to guide Minnesota to some late season victories and the Vikes finished the year 10-6 and earned an NFC Wild Card berth.
Wait, let me re-phrase that–Adrian Peterson managed to run Minnesota to some late season victories. It was truly a miracle of the modern NFL. The Vikings were building early leads with the running game and some opportunisitc defense and were winning in spite of what was clearly mediocre-to-bad quarterback play.
The combination of Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier didn’t see it that way, however. They saw hope that their guy, Ponder, had a chance to be great. As an insurance policy, Minnesota signed veteran Matt Cassell in the offseason. Reasonable football minds could tell in preseason 2013 that Cassell was a better option than Ponder. This became even more apparent as Ponder struggled through the early part of the regular season.
Management stuck to their guns–Ponder started the majority of 2013 which saw the Vikes finish 5-11-1. Then came the aftermath–Frazier was fired, Cassell was signed to a contract extension, and Teddy Bridgewater was drafted in the first round last May.
Which brings us to tonight.
The bottom line here is if your NFL team has a quarterback controversy, that means it’s not very good. To be sure, quarterback changes–even midseason changes–have led to success in the NFL and has saved seasons at times. But the fact is Vikings fans haven’t felt good about their quarterback situation since 2010, when Brett Favre tried to repeat the magic of 2009.
Cassell will start at quarterback for the Vikings tonight, but Bridgewater will be featured prominently, including with the first team offense. Every offensive snap will be dissected as the debate rages on about whether the rookie should be given the keys to the car in week one.
My take is simple–I believe the Vikings would have made the playoffs in what turned out to be a weak NFC North last year had they pulled the plug on Ponder early and stuck with Cassell. I think Cassell will win football games. I don’t know a thing about what Bridgewater can do with an NFL offense.
With this in mind, I would go with Cassell until it becomes clear the season is lost. Vegas has Minnesota with an over / under of 6 wins in 2014. That’s hardly encouraging. I would be tempted to bet the over on that, but Vegas is usually right. If this is true, there will be plenty of opportunity for Bridgewater to see action once the season begins to slip away.
The Vikings added a lot of new pieces this year–a new coach, offensive coordinator, defensive line, etc. They have good receivers for the first time since 2009. Peterson says he’s ready to dominate again at running back and wants to get involved in the passing game. This is a team that can win–let the veteran see if he can do it.
If not, then Teddy can show us if Spielman’s quarterback mulligan was roped down the fairway.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.