The Vikings Quarterback Odyssey

jim-mcmahon

Being born in 1986 and a Vikings fan my entire life, my oldest clear memory as a fan is watching Jim McMahon hitting Cris Carter for a touchdown.

That was 1993.

Since, the Vikings have trotted out 18 different starting quarterbacks. It’s not quite the same as Cleveland starting 21 since coming back into existence in 1999, but it is dubious nonetheless. The Vikings’ struggles to discover and develop a long-term franchise quarterback are well-known, but I have decided to delve more deeply into the various reasons why we Vikings fans have been waiting for a stable QB for so long.

So, back to 1993…

Jim McMahon was just one of many veteran, stop-gap quarterbacks the Vikes have employed in my lifetime. After he left, we had Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Brett Favre and now Matt Cassel, or as I like to call him, the Bridge to Bridgewater.  I actually believe one of the reasons for this has been the level of success the team has had for the better part of that time frame. Going back to 1992, the Vikings have made the postseason 12 times out of 23 chances. Looking back at the Vikings first round draft picks of this 1990s, it seems as though the plan was to fortify the existing team as best as they could to make a run at the Super Bowl as opposed to taking the quarterback of the future. That wouldn’t change until the Vikings took Daunte Culpepper in 1999. This plan more or less worked (except for the continual evasiveness of a Super Bowl ring), as they were able to cobble together good quarterback play from many different players.

It is fair in retrospect to wonder if taking a franchise quarterback towards the start of that run may have pushed our beloved Purple over the top. However, there are a couple issues with this argument. First, being a playoff team most seasons also meant that the Vikings were not picking towards the top of the first round where the majority of those franchise quarterbacks are taken (other than hopefully Teddy). The other problem is nearly every QB taken towards the top of the draft after Drew Bledsoe and until Peyton Manning was mediocre, awful or tremendously awful. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

Once Daunte came to town, it appeared this trend had finally ended. Although his play was up and down at times, it certainly looked like the Vikings finally had “The Guy”. In an alternate universe, he might still be the Vikings signal caller. Once he was handed the reins in 2000 he led the Vikings to the NFC Championship in his first year at the helm. For some reason, the NFL inexplicably cancelled the rest of the season after the win over the Saints. A curious decision to be sure, but it was still a good start for ‘Pep.

A couple of less than stellar seasons followed, but in 2004, Culpepper had one of the greatest statistical seasons a quarterback had ever played. Making it even more impressive was the fact that Randy Moss missed much of that season injured. Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last. Daunte shredded his knee, demanded more money or a trade, and wound up in football Siberia.

Because of this, it was time to start over. The problem was, the 2006 NFL Draft started a disturbing trend; the Vikings taking QBs high in the draft whom I knew nothing about. Tarvaris Jackson was the first one. The night he was taken I looked up some grainy YouTube footage of him at Alabama State and immediately bought in. He spent most of the next five seasons make me regret that belief. In the 2011 draft, it was Christian Ponder. I am a college football fan, but Florida State was unusually mediocre at the time, so I knew nothing about Ponder. The night he was taken I looked up some reasonably high quality highlights on YouTube and immediately bought in. He has spent most of the past three seasons proving me wrong for my purple shaded belief once again. So, for the past decade, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying, it has been from choosing the wrong signal callers.

This all has brought us to today. I’m not sure if Cassel or Bridgewater will start this season. What seems certain though is that Teddy will eventually get his chance to end the uncertainty surrounding the Vikings quarterback position, and hopefully finally be the one to bring the Lombardi to Minnesota.

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