After three years trying to develop Tarvaris Jackson and supplement that with journeymen veterans, the quarterback position still remains the most important offseason issue facing the Vikings.
The Vikings won their first-ever NFC North title this season and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They also finally got over the .500 mark (10-6) after going 6-10 and 8-8 in Brad Childress' first two seasons.
Despite that success, the Vikings will enter the offseason with a big question mark. Who is going to be this team's quarterback in 2009?
's play Sunday in a 26-14 wild-card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles did little to inspire confidence that he should be the guy. Jackson completed 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns, an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a way-below-average 45.4 passer rating.
This was the type of play that got Jackson benched after the first two regular-season games in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte
. Jackson only got back on the field late in the season because Frerotte was injured.
While Jackson helped the Vikings rally to beat Detroit and then threw four touchdown passes the following week in Arizona, he eventually reverted to his old form.
After Sunday's loss, coach Brad Childress refused to speculate on Jackson's future.
"We sure don't make any of those kind of pronouncements after the game but those are the kind of things we go through here this whole week," Childress said. "We pull apart the roster and look and see where we're at."
What the Vikings are likely to find is that they need to go out and get a quarterback. Frerotte wasn't happy about losing his job to Jackson because of injury and at 37 years old he may decide he has had enough. John David Booty
, a fifth-round pick out of Southern California, spent his rookie season watching and learning but he's going to be far too raw to consider a starter.
Jackson, meanwhile, has to be running out of chances. He will be entering his fourth season and has yet to show any consistency.
Coach Brad Childress on Sunday's playoff loss to Philadelphia: "The finality is they're staring it right in the face. It ends fast. But they want to hang their hat on the good things and just appreciate this team and the way they went about their business this year. I told you guys, it was a fun team to coach. I thought that they played with great resolve. They didn't lose sight of the big picture. But at the same time, I thought from early on that they came back and focused on that one-game-at-a-time mentality."
Defensive end Jared Allen was obtained from Kansas City last offseason for three draft picks and then signed to a six-year, $74.5 million deal that included $31 million guaranteed. Allen did not disappoint, getting 14.5 sacks during the regular season and two more in the playoffs. He's confident the Vikings are headed in the right direction. "We have the talent," he said. "It is here (and) you can see it when we are firing on all cylinders. The problem is we had peaks and valleys throughout the game (Sunday against Philadelphia) and the season. The talent is here. I came here to win a division first and we accomplished that and then make a run into the playoffs. Unfortunately the latter didn't happen, we (have) got to deal with that. ... Hopefully for the guys that are here next year it is motivation, now that they got a taste of it, that they strive to get back."
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, in his 10th season, knows his chances to get to a Super Bowl are running out. "This is only my third appearance in the playoffs in 10 years," he said. "Who knows when that opportunity will come again? It's another missed opportunity."
DE Jared Allen had two sacks in the Vikings' playoff loss to the Eagles. Including those two, Allen had 16.5 sacks in his first season with the Vikings. He had an NFL-high 15.5 sacks last season with Kansas City.
WR Bernard Berrian appeared to be slowed Sunday by a sprained ankle he suffered two weeks ago against Atlanta. Berrian struggled to get separation against Eagles defenders. Berrian also was bothered by an injury to his big toe at the outset of the season. He finished Sunday with only two catches for 36 yards.
DE Ray Edwards missed Sunday's game because of an undisclosed injury to his left knee suffered in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants. It's not clear if Edwards will have arthroscopic surgery this offseason to clean up his knee.
DT Kevin Williams finished with 8.5 sacks on the season but did not have any in his final six games, including the playoffs. Williams' sack total tied Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth for the most among NFL defensive tackles.
NT Pat Williams missed the final three games of the season because of a broken right shoulder blade. Williams was expected to be able to play after missing a month but the Vikings failed to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. That would have allowed Williams to return.