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The Eagles were behind the Vikings in the wild card chase at midseason. Without Donovan McNabb, they looked dead in the water. But, running the same system the Vikings have implemented in Minnesota, Garcia has led the Eagles on an impressive playoff run that has earned the notice of the league -- and perhaps even the Vikings top brass.

The Vikings might want to pay close attention to today's Eagles-Giants game. Since he grew up a Giants fan, you know Zygi Wilf will be paying close attention, which could be the best thing for Vikings fans. Despite what Brad Childress said about the Vikings quarterback situation, the answer to their short-term quarterback problems may not currently be on the roster.

Childress may want to cast an eye back to his former Eagles team, where Jeff Garcia is in the midst of a career revival. When Donovan McNabb went down at midseason, many believed the Eagles' hopes for a playoff berth went down with him. However, bolstered by a strong performance by Garcia that included an unprecedented three consecutive road wins against division opponents, the Eagles not only made the NFC playoffs, but won the always-tough NFC East Division. Much of the credit belongs with Garcia.

Many thought Garcia's career was dead when he floundered with the Lions and the Browns for two years, but, when surrounded and protected by an offensive line that can keep a pass rush off him, Garcia has shown the poise that made him a Pro Bowl quarterback with the 49ers. Like Brad Johnson, Garcia can throw darts inside 20 yards that are on target and with enough touch that they are very catchable passes. Unlike Johnson, Garcia has the quick the feet to slide in and out of the pocket to buy time and complete passes instead of taking sacks, getting hit in the process of throwing or forcing passes into coverage to avoid sacks.

While Childress professed publicly that he isn't looking to upgrade at the quarterback position, the truth is much more stark. Coaches are no longer given the five-year plan that used to be the norm just a few years ago. Look at the Cardinals as the blueprint. They haven't had a coach with a winning record in decades, yet when Dennis Green, a coach with experience and a track record of taking teams to the playoffs, didn't get the job done in three years, he was greased. The window for success, it would seem, has dropped from a five-year plan to a three-year plan. Coaches who used the five-year plan typically had a five-year contract, so it made sense. But, with the Vikings being built to win now with veteran players as their components, having inexperience at quarterback at this point not only doesn't make sense, it seems like a doomsday proposal.

It is difficult enough for teams to succeed with any first-time quarterback. The Cards didn't exactly light up the town with Matt Leinart. The Broncos went with Jay Cutler at midseason and his multiple turnovers were likely a primary reason why they missed the playoffs. Vince Young came on strong late, but a look at his passing numbers showed that he had one of the lowest passer ratings in the league. Young quarterbacks struggle. It is the function of a team that has hit bottom and is in a rebuilding mode. The Vikings have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. They are not a "rebuilding" team. Their biggest weaknesses are the lack a game-changing wide receiver and a quarterback trio that at best could be described as pedestrian.

Childress can claim that he helped develop McNabb into a Pro Bowl quarterback, but the difference with McNabb is that he was taken at the top of the first round in the 1999 draft. He wasn't a "project" like Jackson, whom many believe was taken too early at the end of the second round of the 2006 draft. Even the Vikings personnel people (including Childress) saw Jackson's timetable as being in the neighborhood of two years of learning before taking over. He was pressed into service not because of any learning curve achievements, but because Johnson played so horribly that he was yanked in three games before finally being benched.

As for Bollinger, he has been afforded his opportunities in brief spots. When pushed into service with the Jets due to injuries to Chad Pennington in 2005, Bollinger went 2-7 as a starter and had a passer rating of 73.0 – throwing seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He, as much as anyone, led to the discord that infiltrated the Jets locker room and led to the firing of head coach Herm Edwards. He was sacked four or more times in four of his nine starts and held on to the ball too long. Vikings fans saw the same in 2006. While he only threw 18 passes as a backup, he was sacked six times – the last of which shelved him with a shoulder sprain.

In a sport with a very short memory, the only number that matters is wins. By winning seven of nine games he started in 2005, Johnson earned his shot to keep the job. Nothing has changed that would make Jackson ready to be a full-time quarterback in 2007 and Bollinger, like Mike McMahon before him, look much more like stop-gap backups than quarterbacks that can lift a team up and make them better. Whether it's the University of Wisconsin connection that has Childress so confident in Bollinger or not, there aren't many others around the league that share his enthusiasm – including some within the team and the organization.

As you watch today's game with the Giants and Eagles, keep a close eye on Garcia. He's running the offense that Childress has employed with the Vikings and, since taking over for McNabb, has run it very well. He's not a custodian of the West Coast Offense, he runs it and he runs it well. When the Eagles end their 2006 season, Garcia will become an unrestricted free agent with the chance to become a starter somewhere else.

One thing is certain. With his strong finish, Garcia has made himself a lot of money – whether with the Eagles or someone else. With each win from here on through, that price tag will continue to rise. Whether for a one-year fix or a two- to three-year deal, the longer Jackson can have to pick the nuances and the speed of the NFL game, the better it will be for the Vikings organization. If Childress is serious about going in with Jackson and Bollinger as his quarterbacks for 2007 with a late-round developmental project at No. 3, the Vikings offense may again be doomed to being one of the more boring, vanilla offenses in the league. Seeing as the Vikings needed to have Jackson available because of poor play by Johnson and an injury to Bollinger, that "developmental guy" may have to see playing time.

Childress made a big mistake in not adequately having a bona fide backup after he cut ties with Daunte Culpepper. It's time he owns up to that mistake and move forward. Garcia would be an ideal candidate to enter training camp as the No. 1 quarterback. He knows the system like the back of his hand having played in the Steve Mariucci version of it with both the Niners and Lions, he has experience in the Eagles variation of the West Coast Offense, he knows all the terminology and he has a track record of success. He could hit the ground running and be a difference-maker on a team that needs an offensive boost that Bollinger can't provide and Jackson isn't ready to provide.

Maybe Childress needs to take a step back and let the others in the organization assess the quarterback position. His first attempt at filling the position with "his guys" failed. If he fails again next year, his coaching rope will tighten to the point that this decision could end up curtailing his head coaching future. It's hard to get fans energized when your QB centerpieces are an admitted project player and a player who has fallen flat whenever given an opportunity. A veteran like Garcia would infuse new life into a listless offense and he's available. Will the Vikings move in that direction? Tune back in March when free agency begins.

* The Pittsburgh Steelers were given permission Saturday to interview Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. This comes despite having one of the hottest head coaching prospect in offensive coordinator Ken Whistenhunt in-house.
* The Minnesota State Legislature opened its 2007 session, but there will be no immediate discussion about a new Vikings stadium, primarily because the Vikings aren't 100 percent certain on the new downtown east location for a stadium. The study of the land in question was temporarily put on hold while the Star-Tribune newspaper was in the process of being sold.

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