At the beginning of this decade, when Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won Super Bowls within two years of each other, it was one of the worst things that could have ever happened to the NFL.
Why you ask?
Because, it created the illusion that, even with a mediocre quarterback, teams can compete at the highest level.
Whenever someone questions an NFL team’s Super Bowl readiness because of the lack of an elite quarterback, someone invariably refers back to when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV with Trent Dilfer or two years later, in 2003, when Brad Johnson was the starter for the XXXVII champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
These examples are, by far, the exception, not the rule, and can be attributed to even worse play by the opposing quarterback in the Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl XXXV, Kerry Collins, Trent Dilfer’s opposing quarterback, threw a then-Super-Bowl-record four interceptions, only to have this surpassed by the five interceptions thrown by Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII against, you guessed it, Brad Johnson.
Out of the 43 Super Bowls played, only three have been won by non-Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Jim Plunkett (who won it twice with the Raiders) and Doug Williams are the only two men to win an NFL championship as a starting quarterback, but never got invited to Hawaii as a Pro Bowler.
Not only have almost all Super Bowl winners had a Pro Bowler under center, 32 of the 43 Super Bowls, almost 75%, have been won by teams with Hall of Fame signal-callers (including sure things, Brady and Manning). Not to mention Ben Roethlisberger, who has two rings, including one of the biggest crunchtime drives in Super Bowl history, and Kurt Warner who has three Super Bowl appearances, the three biggest single-game passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history, and a ring of his own.
Now that the Denver Broncos have officially decided to trade Jay Cutler, the Vikings must trade for him if they want to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season.
A team with elite players such as Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Steve Hutchinson, and Antoine Winfield in the NFC North—one of the weakest divisions in the NFL last year—should do better than 10-6 with an embarrassing first-round exit.
The glaring weakness in talent is at the quarterback position. Sage or Tarvaris just won’t cut it if you want to win the Super Bowl, which should be the goal for such a talented team.
Before taking over for an injured Matt Schaub last year and single-handedly fumbling away a sure win versus the Colts, Mr. Rosenfels had spent six years in both Houston and Miami sitting on the bench as journeymen such as Gus Frerotte, David Carr, A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler, Brian Griese, and Ray Lucas started in front of him. What does that say about his competence?
As for Tarvaris, it is time for the experiment to end.
Jay Cutler was an elite Pro Bowl quarterback last year with far less talent around him, especially at the running back position. Put him in a West Coast offensive system that he is familiar with, containing the big play threats of Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian with Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson protecting his blind side, he could make an average offensive an elite one.
As for compensation, a first-round pick is a fair price that the Vikings should pay.
Instead of drafting an unproven, young, inexperienced commodity, you receive a young, proven, experienced quarterback who has shown he has what it takes to compete at a Pro Bowl level in the NFL.
In the NFL you have a limited window of opportunity with a certain core group of players. Who knows how long Adrian Peterson will hold up. The Williams Wall and Antoine Winfield are aging on the defensive side of the ball.
The Vikings need to push all their chips in now. They have every card they need for a royal flush, except one.