The Vikings fully own up to their situation. Despite the tendency to use double-talk and smokescreens, there is no need to bother here when it comes to the team's quarterback situation. They need to draft one, they know it, and they admit it.
Only this time general manager Rick Spielman will have a person of experience and great influence swaying his pick, likely even shaping his evaluation. Spielman has been responsible for the selection of Christian Ponder for the Vikings and trading a second-round pick for A.J. Feely. This time, offensive coordinator Norv Turner will be a heavily influencing factor in the Vikings' next swing at the most important position.
"I saw what Norv had done down with Jay Fiedler in Miami, what he did with Alex Smith up there in a year with San Francisco, what he did with (Brian) Hoyer and Jason Campbell last year and how well they performed," Spielman said. "He has a history of getting quarterbacks that you may think aren't very good to play beyond what you thought. But also to have his input when we're going out there and looking at these quarterbacks in the draft, there's a lot of different flavors out there. There's movement guys, there's pocket guys, short guys, tall guys, all kinds. What is he identifying and looking at as a potential franchise quarterback? Ultimately that will be my call and my responsibility, but you hire people that are experts in their areas to give a strong opinion on that."
Not only did the Vikings interview every quarterback at the Senior Bowl, they are expected to use several of their allotted 60 formal interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine on quarterbacks. That list is likely to include Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater.
In reality, they might not have a shot at any of the top three quarterbacks with their eighth overall pick and have to settle for either trading down in the first round, making their selection on another position at No. 8 and trading back into the first round, or simply waiting for their second-round pick in order to get their next "franchise quarterback." Their last early-round attempt is the only quarterback left on the roster but unlikely to enter the season competing for a starting spot.
"We'll look at this quarterback class. I know Norv has been working extremely hard on it, doing a lot of group studying on these guys," Spielman said. "I think there's going to be a lot of depth in this quarterback class where you don't have to take one at 8. We're not going to force the issue, I can tell you that. We're going to take the best player available."
The Vikings won't just settle for watching players practice at the Senior Bowl, work out at the Combine or perform at their pro days. They already plan to make eight or nine trips for personal workouts with a good portion of the viable available quarterback options.
Although there will be plenty of scrutiny about their selection, their effort and preparation is hard to question. And this time they have an experienced quarterback whisperer to quietly and calmly guide that decision.
"He's an expert in that area," Spielman said of Turner. "… He'll have a huge influence on what direction this quarterback goes. Ultimately, I'm the one that's going to get the final say on it. But, no, that's why you hire people who are experts in their area, to get advice."
Spielman also consults others outside the organization for what may be the biggest decision of his time as a general manager in the NFL.
Spielman says "you always feel pressure," but he continued to reference pockets of time in which Christian Ponder played well enough to at least have him considered a potential starter. Still, there appears to be no plans to have him as a legitimate contender for the starting role, and Spielman also knows his last first-round quarterback just hasn't shown the ability to turn short-term success into anything remotely resembling consistency.
Head coach Mike Zimmer says the quarterback decision will be a collective one, referencing his time as a respected defensive coordinator that was consulted on defensive draft prospects but not being the final decision-maker.
"I think it's important that the same thing (happens) with Norv. I think he's evaluated quarterbacks a lot longer than I have," Zimmer said. "I've played against them a lot longer than he has. I think it's part of the process, too."
The ideal scenario is that the Vikings sign a veteran quarterback – the preference should be re-signing Matt Cassel from the thin free-agent crop – and draft a rookie to compete with Ponder for the No. 2 spot. If the rookie blows them out of the water in training camp and preseason, run with it and hope there isn't a Ponder rerun. If not, send the veteran in and, as Spielman puts it, create a big advantage for the rookie by allowing some value developmental time.
While Zimmer is a defensive guy, he knows the quarterback position is "very important" and is looking forward to being involved in a pivotal decision for the future of the franchise.
"It's going to be fun, really. I get to look at some of the best guys and try to figure it out," he said. "Let's hit on the right one and let's go to work.
"I have the utmost confidence in the scouts and the front office people. I feel really good about it. If I didn't, I'd be worried – but I'm not."
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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