Former Vikings coach Dennis Green used to emphasize that his offensive scheme allowed numerous quarterbacks to thrive in "the system."
After three years and numerous attempts to find their starting quarterback in Brad Childress' West Coast system, the Vikings hope that experience will be a saving factor for Sage Rosenfels, the former Houston Texan who spent the last three seasons with Gary Kubiak's version of the West Coast offense.
"There's a lot of similarities to this system and what I had with Coach Kubiak the last few years in Houston," Rosenfels said. "There's probably 10 forms of the West Coast offense. The most important thing about it is that a lot of the verbiage is the same. There are a lot of differences in, ‘How are we going to read this play versus this play,' but there are a lot of similarities and that is a definite advantage."
Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said that Rosenfels' experience in the West Coast offense was one factor in convincing team personnel that trading a fourth-round pick for a quarterback who had been mostly a backup was the right thing to do.
"I don't think it can hurt at all," Childress said of Rosenfels' West Coast experience. "There will be nuances, there already are. Just a couple minutes ago we were talking about different idiosyncrasies about the reads and formations. There will be enough there that he will have a pretty good understanding as we start."
Former Viking Gus Frerotte, who was released on Friday after the Rosenfels trade was finalized, had more experience in the league but less with the West Coast offense.
Rosenfels and Childress were clear that this would be a competition for the starting job between Rosenfels, Iowa State alum, and Tarvaris Jackson, the Alabama State alum. Childress said he hasn't figured out exactly how he would split the snaps in preseason, but he wanted to be sure each quarterback got an equal amount of practice time with the first-team offense during the early portions of the Vikings' organized team activities.
Childress also didn't rule out bringing in another quarterback, saying they usually go to training camp with four.
"That's not set in stone, but it's a good start. If all of a sudden one guy's arm goes dead or gets sore, then you've got an issue when you only have two. It might not be over yet," he said.
Spielman and Childress have both been familiar with Rosenfels for quite some time. Childress said he could remember Rosenfels from his high school days in Iowa, when Childress was an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. Spielman has been following the quarterback since college when he remembers seeing Rosenfels as a member of the Cyclones playing against Nebraska in a wind storm.
Spielman also remembers watching him play against the Pittsburgh Steelers as a member of the Washington Redskins, a game that helped convince Spielman, who was with the Miami Dolphins at the time, that he was worth trading for.
"Just like any quarterback, the more they play and the more they progress, the game slows down to them," Spielman said. "… Just his ability to move the secondary with his eyes, to know where he's going with the ball, to be familiar with the system. – all those things come into play where they don't have to think the play. Just like a running back or anything else. They go out there and kind of just go ahead and play without having to think or hesitate on what they're doing."
Spielman indicated that part of the reason Rosenfels didn't have great success in Miami was because of the coaching turnover there at the time. He had three coaches (Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saba and Cam Cameron) in four seasons with the Dolphins.
"He had the opportunity to go to Houston where it was a little bit more of a stable situation at the time. But, again, quarterbacks, as you know, some continue to evolve, and continue to evolve as they get older as well. And when you watch game tape and watch him from year to year to year, is this guy leveled off or does he continue to improve and improve in his play?" Spielman said. "I think just watching what he did down in Houston those (three) years, you can see the jump in his game from where he was in Miami. And that's coming from a totally different system to a West Coast-type system."
Childress said there is a "good deal of similarity" between the Texans' offensive system and the Vikings' and said he didn't think it would take Rosenfels long to become rote with the offense.
It also was the physical characteristics that the Vikings saw in Rosenfels that has spurred their attempts to trade for him for over a year.
"His height, his ability to get the ball out of his hands, his ability to make quick decisions, his accuracy when he throws the ball – all those things you look for. And I know what Brad and (offensive coordinator Darrell) Bevell and (QBs coach) Kevin Rogers look for in a quarterback is what he kind of fit," Spielman said. "So that's when you have an opportunity. Plus, a familiarity with the system, where it's not such a big learning curve to come in, which will give him ability to compete with Tarvaris."
Experience in system should help Sage
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