Sunday slant: QB is Frazier's conundrum

Leslie Frazier is assembling his coaching staff, but the quarterback position will provide him an opportunity to put his early mark on the franchise. Brad Childress never addressed the position long term, leaving Frazier a two-pronged approach to get by. We look at the three most bandied-about options.

Leslie Frazier is answering questions each week, even if he isn't saying a thing.

Frazier held the obligatory press conference after being named head coach and has done a number of radio interviews since then that have basically recounted his thoughts on key subjects from last Monday's presser. But, as we found out with Brad Childress, actions speak louder than words when assessing a coach's true feelings.

Childress drafted Tarvaris Jackson in the second round in 2006 and continued to say he had confidence in him. But when Jackson should have been breaking out of his NFL infancy and ready to push out of the nest, Childress didn't have enough confidence in him or Sage Rosenfels to be the quarterback for the 2009 or 2010 Vikings. Childress reverted to the Vikings' way of the past decade – patching the position. At least the Wilf ownership signed off on the best (and most expensive) option available in 2009.

But once again the Vikings are left wondering about the most important position on the field. Finally, Frazier appears to be taking the right approach. He indicated the desire to fix the situation now and into the future.

"That's one of the things that we're going to have to determine in the weeks to come – can we develop a young guy and get what we want, because we don't want to be a team that's hovering around 4-12, 3-13? You don't want to be that," Frazier said. "At the same time, you don't want to bring in a stop-gap guy and not develop a young quarterback for the future. So we've got to sit down and go through all that and make a determination of whether or not to go with a veteran guy, or do we need to bring in a young guy? I think we all want a young quarterback that we can develop and build our franchise around. That would be ideal, to find the next Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco."

The quarterback question is by far the Vikings' biggest and most important decision on the personnel front. It also fit in with the biggest question I had about Frazier – could he make the tough decisions? For the final grueling six weeks of the 2010 season, Frazier maintained that Brett Favre gave the Vikings the best chance to win. That might have been the case, but once they were out of the playoffs it was more important to see if they had a quarterback to develop, whether that was Tarvaris Jackson (whose season quickly ended with a foot injury), Joe Webb or even Rhett Bomar. Eventually, Frazier's had was forced to Webb. It was hardly surprising to see Webb show his immense athleticism and it was only natural that a fan base desperate for a quarterback of the future would catch Webb mania. But Webb also showed he probably isn't ready for the consistency of being an every-game starter. That day may come, but Frazier can't afford to bank on it in 2011.

Since Frazier is mercifully shutting the door on the drama that is Favre and has admitted the two-pronged approach (rookie and veteran acquisitions) is the likely course of offseason action, it's led to speculation on three natural trade options – Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton. Each of them would make some sense under various circumstances.

McNabb would truly be a one- or two-year patch, but there are a couple reasons that is the most unlikely of the three options at this time. For starters, if Frazier was seriously considering McNabb for the future, he probably wouldn't have gotten rid of Kevin Rogers, McNabb's quarterbacks coach from Syracuse and the Vikings' quarterbacks coach under Childress. And the salary ramifications are often eschewed in the court of public but they are an important factor in front offices across the league. McNabb is scheduled to make $17.5 million in base salary – more base salary than even Favre in 2010, even after a salary bump. But McNabb does offer one advantage Kolb and Orton don't – he is already signed years into the future (until 2015).

Kolb is an interesting candidate because he is younger and, if he can fulfill the promise that the Philadelphia Eagles once had in him, he has 10 years of productivity left in the league. What he doesn't have is a ton of starting experience. As a second-round pick in 2007, he has only seven starts and has only one more touchdown in the last two years than interceptions. Like McNabb, Kolb would come with a hefty base salary in a trade – $13.92 million, but 2011 is the final year on his current deal.

McNabb and Kolb were both shoved aside as starters at different points in the 2010 season and it's possible that their salaries would simply cause their team to release them, but the Vikings can't afford to wait until the preseason for such a possibility. Their fit with the Vikings would likely be tied to Minnesota sticking with its West Coast offense, and the interview of Josh McDaniels for the offensive coordinator position says that Frazier isn't married to the offense.

Denver is searching for a replacement at head coach and that new coach may choose to go with 2010 first-round draft pick Tim Tebow at quarterback, opening up the possibility that the Broncos would be willing to part with Kyle Orton, their starter under McDaniels.

It could the perfect fit for the Vikings – a guy with experience in McDaniels' system and a more reasonable salary than McNabb and Kolb. Orton is entering the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $6.879 million in base salary. That's a reasonable amount for the Vikings to adequately patch the position while developing a player or two (Webb and a draft pick) for the future.

Frazier has options for the future with his quarterback. His ability to choose wisely, something that Childress did for only one of his five years, will speak volumes to his success as a head coach.

So far, Frazier has already made some difficult and correct choices – parting ways with the offensive line coaches for starters. Choosing the right quarterback won't have the same personal ramifications, but it is could be the single most important professional decision Frazier makes in the next year … and for years to come.

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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