Of all the potential draft questions facing the Vikings in the coming days and weeks leading up to the draft, one of them won't be what they do with the quarterback spot. Barring something extremely unforeseen, the Vikings' only question at QB is going to be who stays and who goes.
The quarterback position has been one of constant change over the last several years. Few can forget Brad Childress fawning over the selection of Tarvaris Jackson and the claims that T-Jack would be the next Donovan McNabb. But when Jackson got benched two games into the 2008 season in favor of Gus Frerotte, the annual questions at quarterback became major issues.
In 2009, there was going to be a competition between Jackson and Sage Rosenfels – a battle the got short-circuited when Brett Favre arrived on the scene. In 2010, Favre returned, but the Vikings were so impressed with rookie Joe Webb, who was drafted to be a developmental wide receiver, that Rosenfels was traded to clear room for Webb on the roster.
When the Old Gunslinger rode off into the sunset following the 2010 season, the Vikings went for a long-term solution – drafting Christian Ponder and ending any doubt as to T-Jack's role in the offense by giving his No. 7 to Ponder before any decisions had "officially" been made concerning Jackson's future.
With Jackson out and the only QBs on the roster at the time being Ponder and Webb, the Vikings signed McNabb to be the bridge for the franchise to turning the offense over to Ponder. When that bridge collapsed under McNabb, he wasn't just demoted, he was cut. In a well-orchestrated move between the Vikings and Dolphins, Miami timed the release of Rosenfels to coincide with that of McNabb, allowing the Vikings to make a waiver claim and re-acquire the veteran backup.
The Rosenfels era didn't last long the second time around either, as the new flavor of the month last season became undrafted rookie McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Brought in as the proverbial "camp body," MBT impressed the coaching staff with his strong arm and, when the time came, the Vikings opted to go with Ponder, Webb and Bethel-Thompson –combined, they had less than one season of playing time under their collective belts.
That won't be the case in 2013. The Vikings are convinced Ponder can be the man leading the offense forward over the next several years. But the team did learn from its mistake of not having a veteran backup and quickly made a deal to land Matt Cassel earlier this month when he was released by the Chiefs following the trade for Alex Smith. Two pieces of the puzzle are now in place – Ponder as the starter and Cassel as the veteran backup waiting in the wings. The question now is who will land the third QB spot.
As an organization, the Vikings have always kept three quarterbacks. In an era when some teams have saved a roster spot by keeping just two QBs, the Vikings haven't followed their lead. They've had three on the roster every season and that shouldn't change this year.
Webb's dismal performance against Green Bay in the playoffs in January sent the clear message to the organization that it needed an upgrade to the backup quarterback position. The signing of Cassel was the direct result of Webb's horrible showing and has moved him from the clear-cut backup to a potential roster casualty.
It would seem as though every year for the past several seasons, the Vikings have entered the draft process with some question at quarterback. This year is no exception, but it's coming from a completely different angle. It isn't about who will lead the team during the season. This time around, the questions center on who will make the roster. It would seem clear that Ponder and Cassel have two of the spots reserved. That only leaves one more spot at most, which will make the draft a moot point as it pertains to the QB position and will set up training camp as a battleground between Webb and Bethel-Thompson. To the winner goes the No. 3 spot on the roster. To the loser goes a pink slip and the likely end of his Vikings career.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.