Donovan McNabb has only been in Minnesota for a week, but already he's apparently more influential in shaping this year's Vikings offense than any other quarterback during the Brad Childress era.
Many of the Vikings' receivers have raved about coordinator Bill Musgrave's new offense, feeling like it tailors plays to their strengths instead of pigeonholing players into a system whether they fit it or not. Musgrave revealed this week that McNabb will also have a sizable influence on the offense.
"Donovan has a lot of experience. I told him from the get-go that we have a system that we intend to teach to him, the quarterbacks and all the players. But it's really his system," Musgrave said. "It's Donovan's system, so if something happens here in the month of August that he would like to tweak, maybe call something differently in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage, maybe want to teach differently, to definitely come and talk to us about it because we're open-minded about it."
Musgrave realizes that McNabb is not Brett Favre. Each quarterback has plays he feels most comfortable running, but after four days of learning Musgrave's system – McNabb's third offense in as many years after 11 years of stability in Philadelphia – the quarterback is intrigued.
"Bill Musgrave's bringing in a mentality that he's willing to do whatever it takes in order for the team to be successful," McNabb said. "That's what you ask of a coach. You want a coach that you can build a relationship where you're finding ways to get guys the ball – a different type of leverage against
a defender or a mismatch or whatever it may be – not just dialing in plays. Bill has done it and been successful and we want to make sure we continue that."
The initial results were signal success. In his first practice with the Vikings, McNabb started out targeting his tight ends. His first five throws went to tight ends, connecting on four of those five tosses – four of them intended for Visanthe Shiancoe. Eventually, though, the quarterback opened it up, hitting Bernard Berrian on a pass deep down the left sideline on his first snap of full-team work against the defense.
Before Favre slipped into a Vikings uniform in 2009, Childress was notorious for not giving his quarterbacks much freedom in a regimented offense, one that Childress infamously called "kick ass." McNabb said the relationship he and the other quarterbacks have with Musgrave is unique.
"It's truly unique. As we know, some coaches can be stubborn. Some coaches say it's my way or no way," McNabb said. "You become robotic. That's when you pull away from your style of play and the things that made you successful. But when you're on the same page with the guy or with the group or whatever, then everybody has a better understanding of each other. When things don't go as well as you want them to, you find out what the mistake was, you correct it and you go right back out there."
Of course, McNabb is looking for a fresh start after a tense season with the Washington Redskins, where he had issues with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. This time around, it appears the quarterback has found a coordinator that is much in tune with individualism in quarterbacks.
"We like to tailor-make or customize our system to fit our players," Musgrave said. "It's not a system where we're going to sit here and say, `Donovan didn't fit or another player didn't fit.' We're going to customize our system to really play to their strengths. I think you do that not only with a veteran guy, but also with a young guy. Whether it be Donovan or Christian, we want to identify their traits that can help us win and play to their strengths."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
McNabb finding freedoms in offense already
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