Offensive coordinator Norv Turner came to Minnesota with a reputation for developing quarterbacks. It's a trait that will play a major role in determining Turner's success with the Vikings, and the Vikings' success on the field in the coming years.
On the surface, the Vikings have an incredibly uncertain situation at quarterback. Matt Cassel, the team's most effective quarterback in 2013, opted out of his contract for 2014. Christian Ponder, who entered 2013 as the starter but lost that designation twice during the season, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. And Josh Freeman is likely done after only a half a season in Minnesota.
But, despite Cassel opting out of his contract, apparently to secure more money, or at least more guaranteed money, Turner isn't convince the 10-year veteran quarterback is done with the Vikings.
"I think Matt is interested and he liked his experience here. I think he's excited about the things we're doing, the things we've done," Turner said. "I've known him for quite a while. We've talked football. So, I don't think I'm surprised by him opting out. … But I'm excited to work with Matt.
"I worked for John Robinson for a lot of years and he always did a great job of talking to the team and players about there's a business side and a players' side. There's a business side and there's a reason things get done."
If Cassel hadn't opted out of his contract, he would have been guaranteed $500,000 if the Vikings decided to pay him a roster bonus in March. But with a new coaching staff in place and the old coaching staff never really committing to Cassel last year, it makes sense that Cassel might want a few more guarantees – or at least more guaranteed money – and head into free agency with his own options.
Right now, the Vikings hold the cards with Christian Ponder's situation. It was clear at the end of 2013 that Ponder wasn't happy with the way the season went and indicated he might even consider asking for a trade. Turner and the coaching staff have been going through their player evaluations over the last month.
"It's a process. It's something you do when you come in," Turner said. "(Head coach Mike) Zimmer is working on it, obviously Rick Spielman, and we're evaluating the players that are here and it's a process we go through. We'll see where it takes us."
Turner's comments on Ponder, however, would indicate that he has already made some assessments there.
"The hard thing in this league is you can be playing good and you can do a lot of good things and then at that position if you have a negative play or a sack-fumble, an interception, a play like that, at the wrong time it takes away all the good things you've done," Turner said. "I've been impressed with Christian and the things he does in terms of his movement. He throws extremely well on the run. He's made a lot of big plays. The starting point with any quarterback with me is eliminating negative plays and that would be one of our starting points."
Still, Turner didn't seem the least bit surprised when questioned about the Vikings not having a franchise quarterback. Even if Cassel and Ponder are both on the roster in March, the Vikings will surely look to acquire a young quarterback, likely in the early stages of the draft.
Turner has worked with Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers, among others, and gained a reputation for developing quarterbacks. There are no guarantees for the Vikings, but there is certainly an opportunity for a quarterback to grab hold of the position.
"The guys I've been around that are so-called franchise quarterbacks weren't considered franchise quarterbacks until they started winning, so you've got to get a guy in that everyone believes and you start out and put good people around them and find out how far you can go," Turner said. "I was with Brad Johnson in Washington when we went to the playoffs and won the division and the owner was convinced he couldn't win a Super Bowl, so we let him go and he went to Tampa and the next year he won a Super Bowl. I think you get a really good player and you get him with a really good team and you find out how far you can go."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Turner key in Vikings' quarterback decision
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