Vikings have a different breed of backup

The Vikings are going with a different kind of backup this year, one that isn’t in contention for the starting job.

There may be no more important insurance-policy player on the Vikings roster than quarterback Shaun Hill. The Vikings have never gone into a season with more questions after the starter at quarterback than they are this year.

Hill is a 13-year veteran, but that is in name only. He spent four years with the Vikings and all he had to show for it is two kneel-downs in the only game he played.

Since then, he’s been mostly a backup who earned his stripes by being a guy who doesn’t ruin a game for his team. He’s a game manager, not a game-changer.

In 34 career starts with the 49ers, Lions and Rams, he won 16 and lost 18. Not great, but not brutal. He has earned his spot as being a No. 2 quarterback, but the Vikings haven’t leaned as heavily on a guy who has never had a serious run as a starter in a long, long time.

Don’t be mistaken. Most of the Vikings’ No. 2 quarterbacks in recent years have undeniably been viewed by outsiders as No. 2 quarterbacks. But they were No. 2 with the intention of not being a big step down if the starter goes down.

When Christian Ponder replaced Donovan McNabb, Vikings fans were thrilled. The same applied when Cassel replaced Ponder. The same was true when Bridgewater got thrust into action.

If Hill sees the field as a Viking in any form other than his previous Minnesota résumé – taking a knee in mop-up duty, it won’t engender excitement among Vikings fans. His historical record shows that he will hold down the fort until the starter (Bridgewater) comes back if his injury is short-term in terms of healing time, but, outside of his immediate family, there isn’t going to be a bar argument anywhere in Vikings Country that turns into a full-blown dustup because one of the combatants is trying to make a persuasive case that Hill should be the starter.

Anti-McNabb types a month into the 2011 season (translation: anyone with the benefit of sight) wanted Ponder – or anyone else – to step in. When Ponder’s make-or-break year became his break year, Cassel apologists were everywhere. From the day Teddy was drafted – months before preseason crowds at TCF Bank Stadium were chanting his name and booing Cassel and Ponder – it wasn’t a matter of if he was going to be the starter. It was a matter of when he was going to be the starter.

Clearly, Hill is a hired gun and one that doesn’t inspire a legitimate quarterback controversy.

As far as Vikings fans are concerned, the best thing Hill can do is man the sideline tablet and point things out to Teddy. Ideally, he doesn’t put on a helmet in a game that matters.

If Teddy goes down to injury, the Hill Era will begin. Few non-relatives will be donning their Hill jerseys at The Outgoing Bank.

With the legitimate battles that will play themselves out during training camp during the Fab Five preseason games, the one that won’t even come to a bubble, much less a boil, is at quarterback.

From the looks of things, fans of the Vikings are hoping Bridgewater has a prolific season. If he doesn’t, the Hill Era will be short, but, with crossed fingers, won’t be fatal.

  • The Lions continue the decade-long trend of picking up other teams’ outcast defensive backs. Whether it be giving a seven-figure contract to a free agent nickel back or claiming veterans off waivers, the Lions have a long, sad history of missing more than hitting on their signings. That trend seems to have continued this weekend when they signed Taylor Mays, a safety brought in by Mike Zimmer with hopes of being able to help bring along younger safeties in Zim’s defense. To release Mays before the team’s minicamp spoke volumes about the feeling that Mays wasn’t bringing anything to the table. But for Detroit? That’s another story.

  • Charles Johnson had an interesting Father’s Day. Unable to get a Vikings jersey with his own name on the back of his No. 12 jersey, he resorted to buying old Percy Harvin jerseys for his family, having Harvin’s name removed from it and pay for lettering to put his own name on the back, according to the Pioneer Press.

  • Whether it’s one man’s opinion or a potential theme to come, reported over the weekend that not only might Cassel no longer be the frontrunner to start for the Buffalo Bills, but he may not even make the roster. The Bills traded for Cassel in the offseason with the Vikings, taking on his $4.1 million contract.

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