Coming off a 10-6 season that included an NFC North title, the Minnesota Vikings will need a franchise quarterback to succeed in the 2009-10 season.
It remains the organization's biggest question mark and hottest topic in the media since Brett Favre was released by the New York Jets and went back into retirement. Unnamed sources say the Vikings have been talking with Favre with the hopes of signing him, but it's nothing other than speculation right now.
The Vikings signed free agent Sage Rosenfels in the off-season to back up Tarvaris Jackson, who was less than stellar as the team's quarterback last year. Jackson passed for 1,056 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions last season, but was benched after the team got off to a slow start.
Gus Frerotte went 8-3 as a starter before being sidelined with an injury. Rosenfels has never been more than a back-up quarterback, but did show signs of his potential with the Houston Texans last season.
Rosenfels is expected to compete with Jackson for the starting quarterback job this summer, but if the Vikings sign Favre, the future Hall of Fame quarterback will be the starter. Favre got off to a hot start with the Jets last year before fading down the stretch while playing through an injured biceps tendon in his throwing shoulder.
Vikings' coach Brad Childress was schedule to meet with Favre last week, but the meeting never happened. Favre faxed X-rays of his throwing arm to the Vikings' practice facilities at Winter Park, and the thought is that if he doesn't need major surgery, he will sign with the Vikings.
The Vikings have enough talent and athleticism on both sides of the ball to be a championship-caliber team. The inconsistency at quarterback has been the Achilles heal of the i.
They got hot late in the 2008 season and needed a Ryan Longwell field goal against the New York Giants in the final game of the regular season to win the NFC North title with a 10-6 record. With a good quarterback, the team would've been, at worst, 12-4.
Favre gives the Vikings' legitimacy at the position, and with him, they go no worse than 13-3 in the upcoming year if he stays healthy and plays well. With Bernard Berrian and newly drafted Percy Harvin, there's enough depth at the receiver positions to give a good quarterback somebody to throw to.
Opposing defenses can't sit on a passing play with the ability of All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and back-up Chester Taylor. But if Favre doesn't play for the Vikings, they could finish anywhere between 8-8 and 12-4 and there's no guarantee of making the playoffs.
Defensively, the Vikings either seem to play stellar or awful, there's no middle ground. Jared Allen needs to hit double figures in sacks. Chad Greenway needs to be a mainstay at middle linebacker, and having E.J. Henderson back from injury will help.
The team also needs to figure out what it will do if Pat and Kevin Williams, who went to court on a possible doping allegation, aren't available for the first four games of the season.
In the secondary, Madieu Williams and Antoine Winfield need to have great years for the Vikings to succeed this year. With the departure of Darren Sharper, there's a lot more pressure on a secondary unit that has largely underperformed the last couple seasons.
But for the Vikings, it all comes back to the quarterback. If they can find a franchise quarterback or sign Favre, 2009 will be a success. If they have to rely on Rosenfels or Jackson, it's anyone's guess as to how the team will end up and if they will make the playoffs.