While uncertainty reigns with a number of Vikings topics, one thing has been made clear in the last month: Leslie Frazier knows the importance of a good quarterback and consistency at the position.
Frazier has maintained since taking over as head coach that one of his most important tasks is to solidify the quarterback position, and his hiring of Bill Musgrave as the offensive coordinator points to the development of a young quarterback.
"That was extremely important. The success that he's had in doing (developing quarterbacks), whether it be working with Matt Schaub or most recently with Matt Ryan – that was important," Frazier said Thursday while talking publicly for the first time about his nearly complete coaching staff. "Knowing our situation, knowing how important this draft is going to be in our being able to hopefully develop a young quarterback, our goal is to secure that position and find a guy, hopefully, that we can build our organization around. So, with that being the case, why not go after the guy who has a proven track record and had a success in doing that? It played a major factor."
Musgrave's most recent experience comes from five years with the Atlanta Falcons, where he was their quarterbacks coach.
In 2008, the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup. In his rookie year, Ryan experienced early success, producing a quarterback rating of 87.7, higher than Brett Favre had in his 20th season in the league. With the Vikings in 2010, Favre had a 69.9 rating while Ryan has never dipped below 80 in any of his three seasons in the league. In 2010, Ryan produced 28 touchdowns and only nine interceptions, leading to 3,705 yards and a 91.0 passer rating.
His experience with Ryan and the Vikings' inability to find a definitive quarterback for the future during the Brad Childress era has Musgrave and the Vikings promoting the idea of developing a young signal-caller.
"Ideally, you would like to find a young guy that has a bunch of promise and potential and you would hand him the keys and let him make his mistakes and learn, but also know that he would be there for you in the long term," Musgrave said. "That's ideal. Those scenarios are rare, but of course they happen each and every year. I believe that will be one of our goals to identify any candidates that can fit that role but at the same time be ready to find some other fellows that may have some experience, that can come in and be effective and also have some upside to them as well."
Numerous times in the last month Frazier has referenced Ryan and Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco's ability to develop and lead from the outset of their NFL careers. Frazier seems to be taking the approach that there is no time like the present.
"We're in a position where we're going to have to do something similar, at least we expect to," he said. "We're going to need to develop a young quarterback, whether it be Joe Webb or whoever it is over the course of this next week. Bill has proven that he's more than capable of helping to get that done."
In addition to Ryan, Musgrave helped develop Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in his final season in Atlanta. Schaub started only two games during his three seasons while backing up Michael Vick in Atlanta, but he did enough for the Texans to be willing to give up two second-round picks and move down two slots in the first round to make the trade about a month before the 2007 NFL Draft.
Coming to the Vikings could be one more opportunity for Musgrave to put those developmental skills to work, along with new quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson.
"I definitely look forward to that challenge. It's a challenging task, but it won't be the first time that I've attacked that type of a challenge, so I'm looking forward to that challenge for sure," Musgrave said.
The Vikings don't have much veteran support at the position right now. Brett Favre filed his retirement papers, and Tarvaris Jackson and Patrick Ramsey are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents that aren't likely to return. That leaves Frazier with a decision to make – move forward pinning his hopes that a rookie can develop quickly or bring in a veteran to bridge the gap.
"We'll get together and begin to talk about what steps need to be taken for the quarterback position. Is it a veteran guy to bridge the gap as you're developing a young guy? Or do you get a young guy and say, 'Take it and run with it,'" Frazier said. "We've got to go through that and talk about it. As a matter of fact, our scouts are at the East-West Shrine game taking a look at players, so we've got to make that determination. We'll get that done."
The scouts will be joined by the coaching staff next week in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl to assess six quarterbacks entering the draft. Musgrave takes some comfort in the fact that the Vikings have solid talent at the skill positions surrounding the quarterback, including Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.
"We've got fantastic personnel already and I think we'll find, whether it's a veteran or a young guy or one of each, we'll find those guys that can be effective in the scheme that we put them in where they can distribute the ball to our playmakers and let those guys do their thing," he said.
"I think a veteran guy helps. It's not necessarily a prerequisite. The more help, the more support that a young guy has, the better off he usually is when he faces those times of adversity, which are inevitable."
For now, the Vikings are hoping to get out of adverse quarterback times and move forward with a long-range plan at the position.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Musgrave's record with QBs helps
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