Back in the early 1990s, Minnesota Vikings football could be classified as such: all quarterback controversy, all the time. The supporting camps were split. Should it be Wade Wilson? Sean Salisbury? Rich Gannon?
Eventually, in 1993, head coach Dennis Green brought in Jim McMahon, who took the snaps when he wasn't concussed into submission, and then the Vikings charted a new course with Warren Moon over the next two years before Brad Johnson's emergence once Moon was injured in 1996. Johnson lasted about the same amount of time before his own injuries allowed Randall Cunningham to kick open the door in a starting role in 1998. When Johnson was traded following the highly entertaining and nearly highly successful 1998 season, Cunningham's ineffectiveness led to Jeff George's arrival on the scene for all of one year.
By the 2000 season, Daunte Culpepper was starting and learning the ropes of the Vikings offense, which would eventually lead to his three Pro Bowl elections in 2000, 2003 and 2004. But scattered throughout those Pro Bowl years were public Daunte doubters.
Now, 15 years after the Gannon-Whiskey-Steak discussion, a new quarterback mayhem has ensued. The trading of Culpepper last March ignited another round of split loyalties, and the nerves that were exposed by that move are still very raw and painful for some of the Purple Faithful.
While the Vikings looked like they got fleeced in "only" getting a second-round pick for a quarterback whose Pro Bowl days were only one year in the rear-view mirror, the Vikings' value in that trade is looking better with each passing month and each new report out of Miami. Now it is the Dolphins who are left to wonder if Culpepper's knee and mind can be trusted heading into offseason workouts.
Their assessment so far indicates they are not comfortable at all with the prospects of him returning to a respectable form for the 2007 season. In fact, it's possible the Dolphins will simply cut Culpepper – a notion that would have brought far more contempt down on the Vikings' decision-makers 13 months ago. The fact that they only got a second-round draft pick for him seemed implausible enough at the time (though it was clear that was the ceiling of his value around the league last March), and then to draft Ryan Cook with what most draft experts termed a "reach" with the second-round pick obtained in the Culpepper move brought more fire and brimstone reaction from the crowd.
Ultimately, Brad Johnson – who won a Super Bowl running Tampa Bay's West Coast offense – struggled under the weight of Childress' scheme with a flock of receivers that left the offense flying on a clipped wing and not much of a prayer.
Johnson was pulled at the end of the season for an equally ineffective rookie, Tarvaris Jackson, which brings us to this year's March Madness of Clouded Speculation.
Three hypotheses were at various stages of inexact, unscientific guessing this month:
Guess 1: The Vikings should swing a deal with the Atlanta Falcons to acquire Matt Schaub. While only having started two games in three seasons behind Michael Vick, Schaub is considered a backup with considerable potential if given the chance to start. With a sign-and-trade of Schaub now completed between the Falcons and Houston Texans, that door is closed to the Vikings. In fact, it doesn't seem like they were all that interested in parting with one first-round draft pick to acquire Schaub last year, not to mention a swapping of first-round picks and handing over two second-round picks like the Texans did this week.
Guess 2: The Vikings are interested in trading for Kansas City quarterback Trent Green. Quite simply, I just don't buy this speculation that was started locally. But it does have a local twist. Green likely will be traded, but it is widely thought that Miami will end up with him as a replacement for Culpepper. It's anyone's guess what the Dolphins would do with Culpepper then, as his unceremonious fall from grace has been rapid and public.
The sticking point in the Green-to-Dolphins deal is the fact that the final three years of Green's contract call for base salary payments of $7.2 million, $7.7 million and $9.2 million. If he refuses to restructure, he could remain in Kansas City or potentially eventually be released if he doesn't win back the starting job in a competition with Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle.
If the Dolphins, who are looking more anxious to acquire a veteran quarterback, don't want to take on Green's hefty contract and are unable to restructure it, why would the financially cautious Vikings? They have spent for players they targeted in free agency, but they have also placed values on each player they have pursued, and it is unfathomable that they view Green as a $7 million player when he will turn 37 years old in July while they want Jackson to develop. This guess smells of unsubstantiated speculation.
Guess 3: With Schaub traded to the Texans, their longtime starter, David Carr, should become available on the cheap anytime soon and the Vikings should go after him. I say: "Thank you so much, Brad Childress, for kicking the transmission out of the Carr speculation."
While Carr's $6.75 and $6 million base salary payments over the final two years of his contract would be easier to digest for a quarterback that will turn 27 in July, a trade for Carr would mean the delayed development of Jackson, and it doesn't look like the Vikings have any interest in acquiring a starter in front of Jackson. Childress has said he believes he has a veteran in place with Brooks Bollinger and he is on the record anticipating a competition between Bollinger and Jackson at training camp. On this front, I believe Childress' conviction, so I don't believe the Vikings are itching to acquire to Carr either despite NFL Network's Adam Schefter reporting on Thursday that the Vikings are interested in acquiring Carr.
It was Thursday when Childress finally delivered a public blow that should once and for all tell the fans and the rest of the media how slim the chances are that they will go after Carr.
"I always struggled with where his release came from," Childress said of Carr Thursday in a radio interview on KFAN. "It's kind of a drop-down, three-quarter, not overhand, over-the-top release. Just in the tape I've watched in the four years he's been in the league, he can make some of the throws; he can't make all the throws. He gets some balls batted at the line of scrimmage just because of where that ball comes from. A little more difficulty throwing the seam throws because it doesn't come from over the top. He can't get a ball to get out of his hand, get up and get down.
"He's a smart guy, he's a decent athlete, but when you're buying a quarterback at this level and you kick the tires, there shouldn't be a lot of things that you're trying to straighten out. You pick a car, you pick a quarterback because you like all the things about it. When you're picking him that high, you don't want to feel like there are any perceived flaws."
From the Vikings' perch, the Schaub speculation is already down the drain, and now the Green and Carr speculation is ready to be flushed away – thankfully. No doubt that Carr is on the trading block – Texans general manager Rick Smith said Carr will be traded soon, but that won't include the Vikings after Childress' comments on the matter.
Come Green Bay or high water, the Vikings are intent on forging forward with Jackson. Here's hoping that a quarterback whose first name the majority of people – including many in the media – mispronounce will be the one to put all the quarterback fuss behind the Vikings for at least another five years.
Commentary: Put the QB Speculation to Rest
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