Assessing the Backup QB Options for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013
As successful as the Minnesota Vikings were this past season, the lack of a serviceable backup quarterback ended the their season on a sour note. Christian Ponder led the Vikings to a seven-game improvement over 2011.
His personal record as a starter improved from 2-8 in 2011 to 10-6 in 2012, but unfortunately bruised triceps in his throwing arm prevented him making his first start in the playoffs against the Packers.
Backup Joe Webb started in his place. Webb's performance against the Packers indicated why the Vikings were hesitant to play him during the regular season. He completed 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception—resulting in a 54.9 passer rating.
In his defense, Webb had not thrown a pass during the regular season, and throwing him out there in the team's first playoff game since 2009 may have been asking a bit too much.
However, the question remains—who will be his backup?
Here's a look at five possible options that could be in place for 2013.
Joe Webb has been more effective as a runner than a passer.
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Let's start with Joe Webb. The Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft as a wide receiver, even though he played his entire college career at quarterback.
During training camp that season, they decided to move him back to quarterback. He had shown enough promise that the Vikings felt it was worth the risk. With the signing of Brett Favre, it looked like Webb would be the odd man out with Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson competing as the backup.
Then, Roesenfels was traded to the Giants, and Webb made the roster as a quarterback.
In his three years with the Vikings, Webb has made only three regular-season starts. His biggest game came on a Tuesday night in Philadelphia when the Vikings upset the Eagles, winning 24-14. Webb scored a touchdown on a nine-yard scramble in the third quarter.
As a quarterback, Webb has not been an effective passer. He is 88-of-152 for 853 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating is an evil 66.6.
If Webb was capable of playing quarterback in the NFL, we would have most likely seen him this past season when Christian Ponder was struggling. There were plenty of opportunities where Leslie Frazier could have justified pulling Ponder and throwing Webb out there.
With his poor playoff appearance against the Packers, Webb pretty much sealed his fate for 2013. He will have to make this team as receiver or end up looking for employment elsewhere.
You got to wonder if it was McLeod Bethel-Thompson's choice to wear No. 4.
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Like Joe Webb, the Vikings must have seen something in McLeod Bethel-Thompson that prompted them to sign him to a two-year contract in January 2012.
The extent of Bethel-Thompson's professional experience has been with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL. He made, and lost, two starts for the 1-3 Mountain Lions in 2011.
In January 2012, the Vikings signed him to a two-year contract worth $875,000.
During the preseason, he completed 18 of 36 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating was an unimpressive 57.9.
It will take an awful lot of improvement for Bethel-Thompson to get promoted to Christian Ponder's backup. The best-case scenario is another season as the No. 3 quarterback. Most likely, he will wind up on a practice squad somewhere.
Of course, I never thought he would make the roster this past season.
Since 2009, Tyler Thigpen has played in 12 games with one start.
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The Minnesota Vikings drafted Tyler Thigpen the same year they selected Adrian Peterson. While AP was selected seventh overall in the first round, Thigpen was selected 200 picks later in the seventh round.
Thigpen never played a game for the Vikings. He is, however, one of only four players the Vikings drafted in 2007 who is still in the league. The other two, along with Peterson, are Sidney Rice and Brian Robison.
Thigpen spent the last two seasons in Buffalo, backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick.
His most extensive action came in 2008 when he started 11 games for the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished 1-10 on a team that only won two games. For his career, he is 1-11 with 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and a 72.5 quarterback rating.
The Vikings saw something in the Coastal Carolina product, and they drafted him. He won't command a huge contract and could provide enough veteran experience to be effective if needed.
The same number, but the third team for Tarvaris Jackson, the Vikings second-round draft pick in 2006.
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A second round draft choice in 2006, Tarvaris Jackson replaced Brad Johnson as the Vikings' starting quarterback in 2007. He made 12 starts that season and finished 8-4. Unfortunately, his backups, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger, combined to go 0-4, dropping the Vikings to 8-8.
The following season, he was benched after two games in favor of Gus Frerrotte. He regained the starting job in Week 15 and finished with a 2-3 record. The Vikings finished 10-6, winning the NFC North, earning the right to host a playoff game.
Jackson got the nod, but was outplayed by Donovan McNabb who threw for 300 yards, leading the Eagles to a 26-14 win.
In 2009, he was battling, and losing, to Sage Rosenfels for the starting-quarterback role when the Vikings lured Brett Favre out of retirement.
He would only make one more start for the Vikings in 2010. His start ended Favre's streak of 298 consecutive starts. Jackson and the Vikings lost the game 21-3 to the Giants at the Metrodome.
Following the 2009 season, Jackson left Minnesota and signed a free-agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks in hopes of turning his career around. He only lasted one season in Seattle, starting 14 games and finishing 7-7.
The Seahawks traded him to Buffalo before the 2012 season. He fell to third on the Bills' depth chart behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen. Like Joe Webb this season, he did not throw a pass in the regular season.
In his five seasons with the Vikings, he has a 10-10 record with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and a 76.6 passer rating.
At the right price, Jackson could wind up in Minnesota backing up Christian Ponder. One problem is he will turn 30 before next season and may not fit into the Vikings' youth movement.
As a career backup, it's fitting that Sage Rosenfels wore No. 2 in his first stint with the Vikings.
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Sage Rosenfels has been with the Vikings for two preseasons, and in both of those years, he played well enough to make the team only to be traded or released before the regular season started.
In 2009, after the Vikings acquired Rosenfels for a fourth-round pick from the Houston Texans, he was battling with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting quarterback role.
Then, the Vikings signed Brett Favre, and Rosenfels was traded to the Giants.
He made his return to the Vikings in 2011 when the Vikings claimed him off waivers in December. He took Donovan McNabb's spot on the roster after the team released McNabb.
In the preseason, he outplayed Christian Ponder, Joe Webb and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns. His passer rating was 122.9, almost twice that of Webb's and 36 points higher than Ponder's.
Yet, in the end, the Vikings chose to release him and give a roster position to Bethel-Thompson.
Perhaps, the third time will be the charm, if he gets another shot.
Other Free-Agent Quarterbacks Available...
Jason Campbell has played with the Redskins, Raiders and Bears.
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The Vikings have a history of signing veteran quarterbacks like Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Gus Frerotte and Brett Favre who have provided varying results.
While there may not be much quality in this year's free-agent market for quarterbacks, there is quantity.
Former first-round draft picks who are available include Jason Campbell, David Carr, Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn.
The Vikings would be wise to add some experience to the quarterback position, just in case they ever need it.