Leslie Frazier says the Vikings have to have an open mind about their quarterback of the future. Rick Spielman said the evaluation of draft prospects has been more detailed this year with all the quarterback workouts and visits conducted by the team.
As the Vikings prepared to host more than two dozen draft prospects for a predraft visit to Winter Park, the future quarterback of the team has been the all-consuming talk among Vikings fans and draftniks. Even the top decision-makers – Frazier as the head coach and Spielman as the vice president of player personnel – admit that evaluating all the quarterback options in the draft class of 2011 can be time-consuming.
"It seems like that has definitely dominated the conversation, and for good reason – because of our situation," Frazier said. "We have other needs other than quarterback, but that is the most glaring one, because when you look at teams that played in the Super Bowl and the teams that were in the playoffs, they had quality quarterbacks, guys they can hang their hats on for years to come, and we want to get to that point as well."
The Green Bay Packers spent three years developing Aaron Rodgers before finally cutting ties with Brett Favre in 2008 and allowing Rodgers to be the starter. In his third season starting, the Packers won the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh took a different approach with Ben Roethlisberger, starting him right away in his rookie season and he won the Super Bowl following the 2005 season, his second year in the league, and brought them back there two months ago.
But there is another Super Bowl-winning team with which Frazier is very familiar. He was an assistant to head coach Tony Dungy in Indianapolis in 2006, the year quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts won the Super Bowl. Before Dungy spoke to a group supporting Athletes in Action at Winter Park on Tuesday, Frazier said he, Dungy and other former Colts coaches have talked about the importance of Manning before.
"We've had that conversation a few times, coaching with Peyton. I can remember [offensive coordinator] Tom Moore and [offensive line coach] Howard Mudd just talking about the luxury of having a guy like Peyton. So, yeah, we've reminisced and I understand the importance of having a guy like that. Peyton is, of course unique, but [getting] someone similar .. it's critical."
"I always had an idea of the importance of the position, but being there and just seeing some of things that Peyton did where you always felt like you had a chance to win – I don't care who you were playing, what the situation was. I just always felt like you had a chance to win."
Frazier said even the defensive players on the Colts understood they were never out of the game if they could give Manning a realistic chance to rally the offense late in the game. He remembers defensive end Robert Mathis coming off the field and saying all he wanted to do in the final minutes of a close game was give Manning another opportunity.
Manning, of course, didn't disappoint in that game and it left an impression with Frazier.
"That time there really solidified in my mind the importance of that position," he said.
The top-rated quarterback prospects in the 2011 draft all offer something different and come from different experiences. Frazier said the intangibles are what can separate them in the draft evaluations of teams. Intangibles can come in many different forms as well, as Frazier has gathered from his different experiences as a player with Jim McMahon at the Chicago Bears, and as a coach with Manning and the Colts and Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles.
"[McMahon] was not a guy who had all the prototypical things that you would look for in quarterback. But the intangibles from a leadership standpoint and the respect of his teammates – that was huge," Frazier said. "So I kind of always understood the importance of the other parts of being a quarterback. Not just being able to throw an out route or a post route, but what does he bring to the locker room? What does he bring to the football team? How does he influence the coaching staff even in game planning? So it's much more than just being able to throw certain routes. If that were just the case, there are a lot of other guys who would have made it that were No. 1 picks in the draft that haven't made it.
"… You're seeing the success that we have with Jim. You've seen the success we had with Donovan McNabb, and then with Peyton Manning. It's different styles, but the thing that those guys had in common was their leadership. The players rallied behind them and supported them and expected to win when they were under center. That can raise a player's level of play. I saw the same thing with Brett here. Guys just sensed that they have a chance to win, because that person was in the huddle. It kind of energizes the entire team, not just one side of the ball. There are some other factors involved when you're talking about determining who's going to be your quarterback, other than just how good his arm is."
With the quarterback prospects possessing many different traits – from the strong arms of Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton to the combination of arms and athleticism that Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker possess – the Vikings have had a challenge breaking down all the information gathered at college games, all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days, private workouts and visits.
"It's been a lot more detailed. You're trying to do all the intangible things. You're trying to do all the objective things you possibly can to make a subjective decision," Spielman said. "So going out and doing a lot of this private workouts and things like that is something we felt was extremely important to make the right decisions when we come up in this draft."
In just over three weeks, the draft will be here and the Vikings will put all that homework, and their background experiences, into action.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings looking for intangibles in next QB
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