So who exactly is going to be the Vikings' starting quarterback when the 2014 season starts? If you believe what head coach Mike Zimmer and Vikings brass have said over the last couple of weeks, a case could be made for Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and/or Christian Ponder.
The Vikings have claimed that all three could get the starting job – at least to the extent of saying that all three are going to get first-team reps. If true, that's not good news for the first-team offensive line.
Competition at any position is good, but at quarterback, history has told us the easiest way to break a locker room (create a schism, if you will) is to have a quarterback controversy.
The reason coaches fear QB controversies isn't because the media latches on to it like a Lyme's Disease-infected tick, but it can create an in-house divide. In the NFL, a house divided falls.
Zimmer's message to his quarterbacks is simple – win the job. Make it so we can't bench you in good conscience because you were that good. But that isn't what the organized team activities starting this week will be about. It's what the preseason will be about.
You can do league-wide research to prove your point, but, if you're a Vikings fan, do the math. This is pretty simple math.
Since this millennium began (which we all know started in 2001), the Vikings have made the playoffs four times. In those four years, the quarterback situation has never been in question. In the other nine, it has been in question and the results speak for themselves – no playoff appearances.
Let's focus on the four playoff seasons:
2004 – As a team, the Vikings threw 552 passes. Daunte Culpepper threw 548 of them. Both of Randy Moss' passes were caught – one for a 37-yard gain and one for an interception. Backup Gus Frerotte and running back Mewelde Moore tied that year with a passer rating of 39.6 – each throwing a non-intercepted incompletion. The Vikings made the playoffs and Moss performed a semi-"disgusting" act in the end zone when the Vikings beat the Packers at Lambeau Field.
2008 – After starting 0-2, head coach Brad Childress not only benched Tarvaris Jackson, but anointed Frerotte the starter for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, time and the inability to take heinous beatings from younger, stronger, faster men pushed Frerotte to the sidelines. But his contribution was pivotal to the Vikings' playoff run. However, as immortalized in Silver Linings Playbook, the Vikings hosted Philadelphia in the playoffs. Frerotte was healthy and thought he should get his job back as the anointed end-of-season starter. He didn't. What happened? Hmmm. But they made the playoffs.
2009 – Who can forget? The stars aligned and Planet Brett came into view. Brett Favre shattered his career high with a passer rating of 107.2. He was so good that he finished second on the team behind T-Jack and his mop-up rating of 113.4 when nobody was expecting a pass. Those were the days.
2012 – Say what you want to about Ponder, but he had one season in which he took every snap. That team finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. To put that in perspective, the last time it happened was in 1979. Tommy Kramer did it the year after Fran Tarkenton retired and the Vikings needed to convince his teammates that they had a quarterback worthy of rallying behind. Neither of them came out of the game for any reason, until the playoffs. Ponder's team made the playoffs. The first pass anyone other than Ponder threw in 2012 was Joe Webb at Lambeau Field on Jan. 5, 2013.
While we're still in May, the chatter of three Vikings quarterbacks getting first-team reps is newsworthy. The job is open. But in the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Vikings need to pick a starter and stick with him. When that has happened, success has followed. When it hasn't, the playoffs were only for other teams.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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