Backups Track Records Are Shaky

The Vikings' faith in Brad Johnson's ability to run the West Coast offense with aplomb may be justified, but if Johnson succumbs to injury in 2006, there are still some serious questions about the track records of the backups.

The Vikings are putting a lot – and we mean a whole lot – of faith in Brad Johnson staying healthy this season. When the team jettisoned Daunte Culpepper, it left Johnson as the unquestioned starter, but left a ton of questions as to who would be serving as his backups.

In the event Johnson would get injured, his starting job would fall to Mike McMahon. While McMahon is well-versed in the West Coast Offense – he ran varied forms of the WCO at Rutgers, Detroit and Philadelphia – his biggest issue as a pro is the same one he had coming out of college. In his last six seasons (with Rutgers, with Detroit and one with the Eagles), he has completed 50 percent of his passes or more only once. And that really doesn't count, since it came in 2004 when he threw just 15 passes.

Other than that, in his NFL career, he has thrown 515 passes and completed just 229 of them. He also has 15 touchdowns as opposed to 21 interceptions in his career – numbers that don't put fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Despite having a familiarity with the kind of system Brad Childress plans to install, McMahon's completion percentages other than 2004 have been 46.1, 42.2, 29.0 and 45.4 percent.

The other options don't look all that promising either. J.T. O'Sullivan has been in the league since 2002, playing for the Saints, Packers and Vikings. In those four seasons, his regular-season NFL experience has consisted of not throwing any passes and taking two kneel-downs in 2004 at the end of a game to run out the clock.

O'Sullivan's roster spot with the Vikings is likely in jeopardy due to the investment the Vikings made to move on draft day to take Tarvaris Jackson. He's almost assured of a roster spot, but, by the admission of just about everybody associated with the team, he is at least a year or two away from being the starter.

The Vikings have a lot of reasons to be upbeat heading into the 2006 season. But if anything happens to Brad Johnson, they could find themselves in a world of hurt. They need Johnson to be healthy and playing at top efficiency all season because, unlike last year where the Vikings had every right to be confident in the backup QB, the same may not be true this season – making Johnson's health the top priority for the Vikings this season.


* The Vikings wanted to clarify that there was not a change in policy regarding the first four practices of training camp being open to the public, but there was some internal miscommunication. The first four practices with rookies and select veterans will be open to the public starting July 27, but those players won't be practicing in pads and the supporting amenities like concessions and the Viking Village will not be available until the first "official" day of camp on Aug. 1. That's when the full team will start practicing in Mankato.

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