Lurtsema's Reaction: Losing Birk, Cutler

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema weighs in on the Vikings losing Matt Birk to the Baltimore Ravens and the rumors of the team pursuing QB Jay Cutler. Will Birk's loss devastate the offensive line? And why would Cutler have been a risky proposition? Lurtsema addresses those issues inside.

VU: What's your reaction to losing Matt Birk?

BL: The center is probably the most stable part of the offensive line. When you a lose a Pro Bowler that is not only a great, but he's so bright – and by bright I don't mean the Ivy League aspect of it, which would obviously back me up, but more importantly reading out all of the defenses and making all the line calls at the line of scrimmage. He's the one that controls that. He knows the system. He understands playing next to the other offensive linemen, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera at guard. I think that's a huge area to fill on your offense. Are they moving Ryan Cook over? It would be an absolute shame if they let Birk go because of money. I think there has to be more than money issues here for him to leave the state that he's grown up in.

VU: Whether it was on the field or off the field, what did you appreciate about him the most?

BL: The consistency that he had. He was a lot like Mick Tingelhoff. Mick was there 17 years. Defensive players have to be a little more extroverted, where offensive players need a little more introverts as far as the linemen go. He had the consistency, that no matter if it was a key point of the game or the opening kickoff. He was as predictable as the day is long. Very, very predictable and that's what you have to have from your center. If you think it doesn't affect your entire offensive line, you're crazy. Just take Jeff Saturday over there with the Indianapolis Colts. When he got hurt, the entire offensive line was almost devastated, or at least that's what it seemed like when you watched their games and the mistakes that were made and the consistency of the players saying how much they missed Jeff Saturday. It's just the temperament. It takes a special player to play center.

VU: With the sports hernia issues Birk had and getting banged around for 11 years in the league, did you think that he was starting to decline in his skills? What's your assessment of where he's at in his career?

BL: I thought when he had that sports hernia that his play did take a little dip. I didn't think he was pulling as fast, getting outside, leading that sweep that he did so well before the injury. Now that he's back to his health – I think he's 100 percent now basically – I can see the difference in him as far as being a little more fluid when he turns the corner. But I did notice a little bit of a dip as far as his Pro Bowl productivity.

VU: I want to get your take on what you'd think about in-house replacements – John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera moving over or Ryan Cook moving over?

BL: I didn't see that much of Sullivan. Being from Notre Dame, it's not that he can't handle it mentally, but you just don't come in and take over that position. You need somebody that's played that for awhile. How much Herrera has played it, I don't know, but then you need to fill in at right guard. Everybody is complaining about how Ryan Cook played at right tackle and he was a center to start with, and with the Vikings not coming up with the right amount of money for Matt, I would think that they are going to move Ryan Cook inside and look for another right tackle. That would give you some consistency at center.

VU: What about all the Jay Cutler talk? After signing Sage Rosenfels, how legitimate do you think the Cutler talks might have been and what do you think he would have brought to the team?

BL: I think there can't be any talk whatsoever. How many quarterbacks are you going to bring in before you find out who you really like, especially with Coach Childress and his background of being the quarterback guru, that being his strength? With Cutler being kind of a whiner, I heard on the ‘Dan Patrick Show' that one of the announcers (former NBA player Scott Hastings, now a Nuggets commentator) called him a ‘bitch.' He said he whines all the time and after a loss he doesn't show up at the microphone. After a win, he's there. Dan Patrick said, ‘Tell me how you really feel.' And then the commentator came back and said, ‘He's nothing but a bitch.'

With Cutler, I really feel our quarterback has to be a standup person. You take a Gus Frerotte, now there is a standup person. We all know the Vikings right now are looking for receivers. Why? Because their receivers don't get separation and because the receivers run a lot of wrong routes. You've got somebody like Gus Frerotte, who throws a lot of interceptions that aren't his fault and he's not blaming anybody. He's a standup guy and this Cutler doesn't seem to be a standup person. You like his youth and he's got a lot of growing to do, but you're playing a man's game and the quarterback position is paid a lot of money to be a man. When an announcer comes out on a national show and rips him that bad – you know there are issues. He also said he threw seven interceptions last year in the red zone and the players said he was a drive-killer.

But you know that the Vikings don't have a quarterback-receiver combination that's successful to complement the running game right now. That's what they're going over. When you get someone like T.J. Houshmandzadeh coming out on a radio station and says the reason that he picked Seattle and not Minnesota was because of the quarterback situation in Minnesota, that's telling you the real problem that the Vikings have. Players don't go out and make a statement like that on a national network without there being something there. It's not easy winning in the National Football League – I understand that – but you have to address the real problems.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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