The Mighty Quinn?

The prospect of Brady Quinn falling to the Vikings is a distinct possibility. If that happens, Vikings fans might get a glimpse into who has the final say in the Vikings war room. If enough people believe Quinn could be a difference-maker, the pick would make sense. But Brad Childress may not be afforded the time to see whether the decision was wise or not on his watch.

In his final press conference following the 2006 season, Brad Childress said that no position in the first round of the 2007 would be immune from selection. He followed that up seconds later by saying that quarterback would not be one of them.

In terms of coach-speak, that should have been a red flag that, if a quarterback Childress was convinced would fall into his lap, he wouldn't be averse to taking one. For Vikings fans, that decision is a double-edged sword. In the 1999 draft, the Vikings were coming off a 15-1 season in which they became the first team in league history with so gaudy a record that didn't at least reach the Super Bowl, much less win it. What many fans may not have remembered from that loss to the Falcons was that the Vikings were effectively forced to play a 4-2-5 defense in the second half because of injuries to John Randle and Ed McDaniel – neither of whom would have been available to be pummeled by John Elway and the Broncos. Dennis Green was there and knew the ramifications.

So it was in the 1999 draft that Daunte Culpepper, who Green claimed he had rated higher than top picks Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb, was still available when the Vikings hit the clock on a pick received from the Redskins in exchange for trading them Brad Johnson. The times have changed considerably since then, but the fact remains that a difference-making quarterback has value in the NFL. According to people that were inside the Vikings "war room" that day, essentially everyone except Green said the Vikings should take Jevon Kearse. Green would not be dissuaded. Despite having veterans Randall Cunningham and Jeff George on the roster, Green pulled the trigger on drafting Culpepper. For five years, he was a franchise quarterback. While in the short term, taking Kearse could have potentially kept the Vikings at the top of the NFC, it was the right decision for the long-term future of the team.

Green wouldn't be around long enough to see Culpepper have his finest seasons. He was fired at the end of the 2001 season, Culpepper's second as a pro. So it was last April when Matt Leinart fell to Green on draft day. Viewed as a gift, Green opted away from more pressing immediate needs and drafted a franchise quarterback that could bring out the best in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Once again, Green wasn't around the Cards long enough to see the seeds bear fruit.

Childress faces a similar quandary and, depending whether he or Rick Spielman have the final word on draft day, the Vikings could face an "on the clock" question that twice turned out to be the beginning of the end for Green – take a player that can help now or do what could be best for the team. Personally, I'm not a big Quinn fan. Because he played for Notre Dame, every game he played was nationally broadcast so you got see plenty of him. In the two years he spent with Charlie Weis, he threw 69 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions – gaudy numbers indeed. But, I wasn't watching when he blew out the military academies. I watched when he played "real" college teams and, from what I saw, I didn't think he was at his best against top competition – a death knell for draft-eligible QBs.

Still, a lot of scouts believe Quinn is the real deal. While the Vikings-Quinn debate could be made moot if the Lions, Browns or Buccaneers believe he could be the next Joe Montana, if he makes it past No. 4 on draft day, there is growing speculation that he could take the same ride that Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers took – a long, precipitous slide in which they're still sitting in the green room and janitors are turning over chairs onto empty tables. Some speculate he could fall into the final third of the first round.

The Vikings made a modest investment into Tarvaris Jackson. Two third-round picks aren't exactly franchise-breaking concessions to move up. The Vikings gave up more than that to get Jim Kleinsasser. If Jackson blossoms into a tremendous pro, Quinn could be an expensive Lloyd's of London insurance policy. If Quinn dons purple and lives up to the hype, history will remember the Vikings taking him at No. 7 as one of the great moves in recent draft history.

Childress maintains that the Vikings won't go for a quarterback on the first day of April's draft. At this point, we can only hold him at his word. If, however, Quinn drops out of the top four and starts his free-fall, he will pose a problem for the Vikings brass – especially if there is a camp that believes he can excel at the next level. With any luck, the point will be made moot and someone in front of the Vikings take Quinn. Barring that, let the second-guessing begin. Green equipped two franchises with potential franchise quarterbacks. For his trouble, he got two pink slips. Childress' leash got a lot shorter after finishing 2-8 in the final 10 games last year. Taking another quarterback with what is viewed as a premium pick may ultimately result in his demise, but, for the purposes of the franchise, it could turn out to be the best decision.


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