Alumni mostly agree on current Vikings

Some of the best Vikings from the past 30 years agreed on a few points when it comes to the current version of Vikings, starting with the quarterback position.

Vikings alumni maintain their passion for the team, so seeing the current version of Vikings go through a losing season in 2013 hurt some of the members of the All-Metrodome team honored in December.

But when talking about the current group of players, three assessments from some of the alumni were common regarding the 2013 Vikings – they are going through a transition phase, injuries played a role and they need to solve the quarterback situation.

"They've got to have more consistent play at the quarterback position to be a successful football team, first and foremost," said tackle Tim Irwin, who played with the Vikings from 1981-93. "I just know you've got to have good quarterback play to win in the National Football League. I think that one of these guys will emerge. I don't think they're bad, but I don't think they're there yet."

The Vikings had three different starting quarterbacks during the course of the 2013 season. Christian Ponder started nine games, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 77.9 passer rating.

Matt Cassel finished the season there, starting six games and relieving Ponder because of injury or ineffectiveness in three others. Cassel completed 60.2 percent of his passes for a 7.1-yard average per attempt, 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and an 81.6 passer rating.

In between, the Vikings tried to get Josh Freeman some exposure, much to the detriment of the team and to Freeman's free agent prospects. He completed only 37.7 percent of his passes for 3.6 yards per attempt, no touchdowns, one interception and a paltry 40.6 rating.

Former safety Robert Griffith, who spent the first eight seasons of his 13-year with the Vikings, beginning in 1994, was blunt when asked his opinion of the team.

"You've got to solve the quarterback situation. You have to. Ponder is not the answer. Sorry. Freeman, ohhh, is he the answer? Maybe with a full offseason, I don't know. It hasn't been proven yet," Griffith said. "He had a really good year in Tampa and then last year he goes back. What do you do now?"

Freeman is a free agent that is unlikely to be re-signed. Ponder is under control through 2014 but following the season wasn't sure what his role would be or if he would ask to be traded. Cassel is also under contract through 2014, but he has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out of his final year in 2014 by Feb. 7.

Like Griffith, receiver Chris Walsh was with the Vikings during their best stretch of the last 30 years – the late 1990s to the early 2000s and is one of those that believes the team is in a transition phase.

"I grew up as a Vikings fan when I was a little kid. I wore No. 10 for Fran Tarkenton when I was growing up. So I've always been a Vikings fan. So to play for them was amazing," Walsh said. "They're kind of in a transition thing right now it seems like. You've got some older guys, got some younger guys. But not really meshing it seems like."

Walsh met Adrian Peterson for the first time in December and called him a "class act."

"You want him to have a chance to win a championship because he's one of the great ones to ever play the game. I don't know where they're at," Walsh said. "It seems like there are a lot of missing pieces right now, but I'm not in the inside."

John Randle, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who played with both Walsh and Griffith, agreed with the transition theory. But he also believes some of the current players might still be suffering from the effects of the 2009 season, when the team went to the NFC Championship Game with Brett Favre playing the role of rent-a-quarterback and came up just short.

Randle can relate. His 1998 Vikings were heavily favored in the NFC Championship Game and lost to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

"I think we're kind of a team in transition. I think what we went through in '98 these guys are going through with Brett Favre not going to the Super Bowl. I think some guys are still shocked by that," Randle said. "From what I've seen looking at them, they look like a fun team, but injuries have kind of depleted us a little bit."

Irwin agreed that injuries have limited what the team was able to accomplish, but he still watches every game, he said.

That repeated viewing from his home in Tennessee led him to the conclusion there are still some exciting players to keep on the radar.

"(Cordarrelle Patterson) looked like he was the only guy that had ever played in the snow (against Baltimore). It was amazing," Irwin said. "You take a kid out of the deep south that played college ball at Tennessee. He goes up to the game, a snow bowl at Baltimore, he's the only guy that can cut and move and he's running over people. … I think there was some bright spots, some things to build on."


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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