In Minnesota, they claim that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. While the latter isn't necessarily true, it would seem this year that the month of July will start with a QB controversy and end with a future Hall of Famer in the fold.
For those who have wondered why Brad Childress has broken form so dramatically in chasing after Favre, it is now clear that the discussions between the veteran QB and the Vikings have been ongoing and that Favre had surgery with the full intention of ending his brief second retirement to coming to Minnesota.
But why the infatuation by the Vikings? Perhaps they see the writing on the wall that they are one of seven teams that enter the month of July with a quarterback controversy. Some are going to be honest battles, while others are position battles that will have to be lost, not won.
We know about the current competition being waged by Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson. But what may be the answer to the Favre mystery is the QB situations with the other six teams. Take a look at them and see what they have in common.
Detroit Lions – The battle here is between Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford. Pepp is said to be in the best shape he's been in since the 2000 season and Stafford is the No. 1 overall draft choice being paid a king's ransom. The early betting line has Culpepper starting the season, but once the Lions are out of contention (as in like Week 8 or 9), Stafford will begin his reign as the main man in Motown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This is a three-way dance for the starting job. Luke McCown is the last man standing among the glut of QBs the Bucs have brought in over the last couple of years. Byron Leftwich is injury prone and on his fourth team in four years. Josh Freeman is viewed as the golden child who can save the franchise. At some point this season, all three could line up as the starter.
San Francisco 49ers – Shaun Hill couldn't cut it with the Vikings and only got the invite to the Niners because he was familiar with Mike Martz's insanely complicated offense. Alex Smith is a former first overall pick who has switched offensive coordinators annually and hasn't excelled with any of them. Whoever wins this may be the guy who screws up less.
New York Jets – With the Brett Favre Show moving out of NYC, the door is wide open for rookie Mark Sanchez to step in immediately. Given the success of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last year, new head coach Rex Ryan – who saw Flacco up close and personal as the defensive coordinator for the Ravens – might feel more inclined to give the toast of the town his shot right out of the gate. Kellen Clemens might try to stake a claim to the job, but it's only temporarily if it comes at all.
Cleveland Browns – This one has gone back and forth over the last two years with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Anderson was supposed to merely keep the starting role warm until Quinn was ready. But he led the Browns to a 10-6 season and an eyelash of the playoffs. He was rewarded with a three-year, $24 million contract that anointed him as the starter. He promptly stunk up the joint and Quinn got his chance. He didn't last three games before breaking a bone in his hand. It would appear as though Quinn may get the first chance, but how long that lasts is up for debate.
Denver Broncos – Chris Simms may still have a chance if he wows the coaching staff during the preseason, but when the Broncos traded Jay Cutler and insisted that Orton be part of the deal, it seemed, much like the trade for Rosenfels, that he was being brought in with the intention of starting. How he adapts to his new surroundings is far from certain, but it would appear as though Orton has the upper hand.
So what it is about these six teams that doesn't seem right? Why are the Vikings the seventh team in this equation? What doesn't match up?
The first and most obvious answer is that, of the seven teams, the Vikings are the only playoff team of the group. While the Jets and Bucs faltered late, the rest of the teams weren't in serious playoff contention all season. The only team that showed any upside late was San Francisco and their QB situation looks as grim as any of the Not-So-Magnificent Seven.
But perhaps the telling commonality between the Vikings and the rest is that all of the other six teams have a different head coach than the one that started the 2008 season. The only coach that won't be coaching his first game with his team in September is Mike Singletary, who was elevated to the job late in the season and was named permanent head coach shortly after the season ended. Brad Childress is in his fourth year as head coach. In his first three years, he had never settled on a starting QB. It was supposed to be Jackson, but his up-and-down performance from game to game and even series to series has been inconsistent – but consistently troubling. Rosenfels is hoped to be the answer in terms of being efficient with the offense. If he is the starter in the future, he won't be asked to carry the team. He'll be asked to manage the offense and not make critical errors.
For the other six teams, the promise of the future is in the future. Three of the teams took quarterbacks in the first round of the draft to carry their franchise. Eric Mangini is going to bring a new spin to the Quinn-Anderson duel. Orton and Simms will try to energize their careers in a new location. Alex Smith likely will face his last chance to live up to his pre-draft hype and prove he can be a solid NFL QB. The promised land for these teams is a couple of years down the line, if then. The Vikings have the opportunity to make a Super Bowl run this year. They aren't looking at the three-year plan of a new head coach. They're in the fourth year of a five-year plan and close to being on target.
Perhaps taking a look around at the other teams in the same boat as the Vikings prompted the full-court pressing interest in bringing in Favre and getting their names off this dubious list.
Common theme among QB-starved teams
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