Sunday slant: Injuries force the right choice

Leslie Frazier would like to be playing Brett Favre, but Favre's shoulder injury is forcing Frazier into the right decision for the future of the team. Plus, Frazier reflects on the advantage cold weather used to give the Vikings and his former Bears team in the 1970s and ‘80s.

For all the ways in which injuries have hurt the Vikings this year, there is one benefit: Leslie Frazier is being forced to give rookie quarterback Joe Webb his first start on Monday night.

The interim Vikings coach continues to say that a healthy Brett Favre gives the Vikings the best chance to win, and that's probably the case – despite his relatively poor showing this year and despite the fact that Favre is nowhere near the gritty player he once was in the cold. The days of Favre standing up to frigid temperatures at Lambeau Field have long since passed. He has looked colder and more miserable than any player on the field the last three or four years in cold-weather games.

Favre's shoulder injury won't allow him to play on Monday, but this is the first game that it would have been the right decision to cut the cord with Favre anyway. The Vikings have officially been eliminated from the playoffs and it's time to give the fans something new to analyze. The analysis of the failed 2010 is just too disgusting to stomach anymore.

Monday's contest might not be a fair fight for Webb, but it's time to start testing him. He'll likely look like an overmatched rookie, despite Frazier's public confidence.

"He's not running away from it. We have confidence that he can get it done," Frazier said last week. "We've got other players around him. That's one thing that I told Joe and told our team – we've got a lot of good players on this team. It's not like it's going to be all Joe Webb."

But that's what fans are looking forward to seeing most. They've seen enough of Favre this year to know he's done. They've seen enough of Jackson over the last four years to know he can't stay healthy enough to develop.

Now Favre's injury is forcing Frazier into developing for future, even if Frazier has no guarantees that he will be part of a Vikings future that may or may not see Webb playing a role in it. Owner Zygi Wilf will have to make a determination on Frazier's future in the coming weeks, and therefore Frazier had self-preservation as a reason to want to play Favre. Playing a No. 3 quarterback, especially a sixth-round rookie with no previous starts, isn't exactly giving the interim coach the best chance to shed the first part of his title and make his gig permanent, but who knows? Maybe Webb's legs will give the Vikings the best chance to compete with Chicago considering the shaky offensive line trying to protect the quarterback.

"I just tell him to do what he do. You can't worry about it. This is going to be his first start," receiver Percy Harvin said. "He's going to have a lot of jitters. Of course a lot is going to be on his plate. I told him to go out there and do what God gave you the ability to do."

At least Webb's skill-position teammates should be up to full strength. Webb will have Adrian Peterson to hand it off to, he'll have Sidney Rice on the perimeter and Harvin in the slot.

It will be the coldest game in Webb's life, but maybe he can light a fire back under a fan base looking for hope for the future.


Frazier knows all about a home-field advantage. He felt it during his Super Bowl-winning season as a starting cornerback with the 1985 Chicago Bears. He also knows that the Vikings held a big home-field advantage during their heyday in the 1970s when he was a kid.

"Look at these banners. That's a testament to home-field advantage," Frazier said while looking at championship banners hanging around the team's Winter Park fieldhouse. "Teams from the West having to come here, whether it was (the Los Angeles Rams) or it was Dallas, they are part of why those banners are up here. It's a home-field advantage. When we played the Rams in that championship game, I can remember Jackie Slater coming up to me before the game and saying, 'Man, you guys need to get a dome over this place.' Immediately I knew in pregame, he ain't thinking about winning no football game, he's thinking about the cold. It was a cold, cold day in Chicago. So yes, home-field advantage."

When Frazier's former team comes to TCF Bank Stadium on Monday, the Vikings will have the home crowd, but the Bears will have the familiarity with the elements.

Eventually, it's possible Frazier is standing on the sidelines directing the Vikings in their own open-air stadium. He doesn't have any control over what type of stadium the Vikings are working toward in the future, but he's OK with the idea of being the head coach all bundled up on the sidelines during a freezing Minnesota home game.

"I wouldn't complain. I would not complain. We've won a lot of games in December outdoors," he said, referring his to Bears. "I would not complain at all."

As for Monday night, Frazier admitted it might be hard to tell who is under all the layers of clothing.

"If you guys can recognize me, you're doing pretty good," he said. "We won't be Bud Grant out there. I love Bud.

"We're looking forward to it though. It will be great, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the football team, being outdoors again. Who knows when that will happen again in Minnesota? It should be an exciting time."


  • When Percy Harvin last played for the Vikings, Brett Favre was starting. Harvin wasn't around for Tarvaris Jackson's quick entry and exit as the starter, and now that Harvin has returned, rookie Joe Webb will be throwing passes his way. So what did Harvin see out of Webb last week?

    "He looks very mature out there. You don't see the nervousness now," Harvin said. "Of course it will come closer to the game. But he's handling it very well. He's been coming to the receivers telling us things that he's been looking at. It's kind of good to see him mature like that. I think he's going to be ready. I'm excited to watch him play."

  • No one is expecting Webb to look like Favre at the line of scrimmage, and Frazier admits the playbook will be scaled back.

    "There are some things that we might not do with Joe that we wouldn't have done with Brett or Tarvaris for sure. But we're going to do some things with his skill set that really allows him to be most effective," Frazier said. "That's the way it is. He has a different skill set than the other two guys."

  • The Vikings are in unfamiliar territory. A disappointing first half of the season has them already eliminated from the playoff with three games to go. For veterans in search of a championship, their motivation has to be found in something other than their Super Bowl desires.

    "This is our job. They pay us to play football. Everyone loves to go out there and play. We're in the NFL. This is everyone's dream," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "I still have fun going out there, so I don't think it matters that our record isn't what it is or that we aren't going to the playoffs. It is a game we have to go out there and play.

    "A lot of guys play for different reason. A lot of guys are in a contract year. We don't know what's going to happen with the coaches – they might be interviewing with new coaches – so we all have our different motivations. But for me, I've been in this league for a long time. I know the importance of every game. You want to put good stuff on tape. This is what other guys are going to watch so we're just going to go out there and play hard."

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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