While there remains a chance quarterback Todd Bouman will return as Daunte Culpepper's backup next season, the Vikings have made it clear they would like to get a veteran to serve in the No. 2 role.
The team's top choice was Neil O'Donnell, but he is expected to return to the Tennessee Titans. Free agents Gus Frerotte and Shane Matthews also have been at Winter Park for workouts.
Why the likely change?
In addition to the fact Bouman is due a $1 million roster bonus next month, the Vikings would like to have an experienced QB to aid in Culpepper's progress.
"We are looking for a guy that maybe is at the point of his career where he understands his role as the No. 2 and can be a mentor to a young quarterback like Daunte," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told VU. "You are not always going to have that, but in a perfect world that is how it works out. Unfortunately, a lot of guys you want to be number twos are guys who want to be starters."
Last season, Culpepper threw an NFL-high 23 interceptions and 18 touchdown passes. Compare that to Culpepper's first season as a starter when he had 33 TD passes and 16 picks in 2000. During that season, Culpepper had veteran Bubby Brister tutoring him on the sidelines. In 2001, Culpepper had 14 scoring strikes and 13 interceptions.
Linehan, who has added the title of quarterbacks coach for 2003, knows that competition can be good, but in this case the Vikings aren't looking for someone who wants Culpepper's job.
"If you give a person that (backup) role and your starter understands that is his role they develop a relationship that way," Linehan said. "A lot of times if you don't establish roles for your starters and backups they tend to not mesh well together. One guy is looking over his shoulder and another guy is trying to get in the game. Those kinds of relationships are good when you are trying to create a lot of competition. In some sense, it can be a detrimental type of a situation."
While Linehan and the Vikings wanted the 36-year-old O'Donnell, they understand his desire to stay in Tennessee.
"It's a tough one because I really believe he's a guy towards the end of his career that would like not to have to move," Linehan said. "That's a no-brainer and we understood that going into it. It's not like he sprung that on us or anything. We just did our best job of recruiting him, and I think we made it difficult for him, that's for sure."
Frerotte, 31, spent his first five seasons in Washington before moving to Detroit (1999), Denver (2000-2001) and Cincinnati (2002). He started three games last season for the Bengals.
"Gus definitely is a guy that has the arm strength to play in our system and has played in a number of places as a starter," Linehan said. "He gives us a guy that if something were to ever happen to our starter he could step in and do the job."
But if the Vikings don't get O'Donnell, Frerotte or Matthews, there still is a possibility they could bring in another veteran.
"We are not going to turn our back on other options," Linehan said. "We are going to be a little bit patient with it because we know there could be some movement with some other guys in the same boat as Gus. But I'm really impressed with Gus. Gus is the type of guy that is at the point in his career that he understands he would be the number two for us and mentor our quarterback. But we would want to able to win with him if called upon."
Working with Culpepper
Culpepper was at Winter Park last week to work with Linehan.
"He spent a bunch of time with me on his own and we evaluated the season, watched some film, went through changes in our playbook," Linehan said. "It's been good.
"Last year at this time we were introducing ourselves and trying to figure out where we were coming from. Now it's time to tweak the offense and make adjustments on the little things, which is a great thing. With me carrying two roles as a coordinator and quarterback coach we obviously have to be hitting on all cylinders, being on the same page in our relationship. That's a lot easier to do now that we know each other."
Culpepper's family lives in Orlando, Fla., but Linehan expects the quarterback will spend a good portion of this offseason at Winter Park.
"He has made a commitment to come for a week at a time," Linehan said. "He will be here for all the non-mandatory workouts. Our development camp stuff, our team stuff, he won't miss any of those days. He will be here this week and then he will be here for a week in April to do some of the same type of things."
Linehan has not done much work with Randy Moss this offseason, but said the receiver is working out on a regular basis. "His schedule is a little bit different because I'm not spending any time individually with him," Linehan said. "But Randy is around here all the time. He's got his regiment that he follows and stays in great shape."
Backup QB Search Continues
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