So it comes down to this.
In a move that probably says more about his job status than anything else, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has benched starter Tarvaris Jackson in favor of backup and more “experienced” Gus Frerotte.
No, that’s not a typo; I’m talking about THE Gus Frerotte.
As in the guy whose claim to fame is injuring himself by headbutting the padded wall behind the end zone in 1997 during a Monday Night Football contest against the New York Giants.
Yes Vikings’ fans, this is the guy who is supposed to resurrect the struggling passing offense in Minnesota and restore the hopes of a franchise who had visions of a playoff berth.
Don’t worry Vikings faithful, if you’re thinking what I’m sure you are, be confident in the knowledge that no one else thinks this is going to work.
Which of course begs the question, is Gus “Headbutt” Frerotte the best the Vikings can do?
A team with playoff and possible Super Bowl aspirations can’t honestly believe they can reach those goals with Gus at the helm. Thankfully, there are other options available to the team however.
They could work out a trade for Chad Pennington, whom I thought they should have landed in the offseason, and who, talk has it, may be benched in favor of Chad Henne in Miami.
Or perhaps they could really make a splash by trading for Jeff Garcia, who as we all know is having issues with Coach Jon Gruden down in Tampa Bay.
Both quarterbacks would provide good leadership and would complement a dynamic Vikings running game with very solid play behind the center. Unfortunately, the knock on both Pennington and Garcia is their limited arm strength. This would be a big problem considering the money the Vikings spent on deep threat Bernard Berrian during free agency.
Money that so far has gone to waste, as Berrian has only caught three passes for 38 yards and zero touchdowns through the first two games, as the Vikings' passing game has struggled to find it’s rhythm with Jackson at the helm. And while Frerotte has enough arm strength to get the ball downfield, his lack of accuracy would be a liability in the end.
This is why I believe the Vikings should go in a completely different direction by reaching into their past to save their present and bringing back the one quarterback that can get them where they want to go.
Yes, I know he’s retired. No, I haven’t gone crazy. But hear me out, and I think you’ll see why it’s clear that Culpepper is the most logical answer to the Vikings' quarterback conundrum.
He brings experience to the table, knows how to lead a team, and more importantly, he has the most valuable kind of experience, the playoff kind. Considering the Vikings' goals, having a quarterback that has won a playoff game in Green Bay is never a bad thing.
Culpepper’s familiarity in playing against the NFC North and the pressure that comes with divisional contests would give the team a huge boost, as they still have seven divisional games whose outcome may decide the division.
His arm strength and accuracy on deep throws would allow the Vikings’ offense to stretch the field, with Berrian and Sidney Rice making Adrian Peterson even more dangerous, as opposing defenses won’t be able to stack the line of scrimmage without fear of getting burned deep.
His biggest help to the team may be the role of mentor he can provide to Tarvaris Jackson, whom I still believe is the future of the franchise, but he needs more time to hone his still-raw talent. An opportunity to sit and learn from Culpepper, who himself sat for a year before becoming a starter, would give Jackson the time he needs to do that.
Of course, there are questions that would come with a Culpepper return.
The first one, of course: Can he still play?
During the offseason, Culpepper worked out with the Steelers, who were looking for a backup to Ben Roethlisberger. All reports from that workout indicate that Culpepper was in top form, and there was some surprise that a team in need of a starter had not gone after him.
He obviously had a rough time in Oakland and Miami, but in all fairness, any quarterback would have had a hard time playing on those teams. Culpepper, when surrounded by adequate talent, has proven he can be a top quarterback in the league. If Kurt Warner can look like the Warner of old in Arizona, then there is no reason to think Culpepper can’t do the same.
The other, and biggest, question facing a Culpepper comeback to Minnesota is the hardest to answer.
Would he do it?
In John Clayton’s latest mailbag article on ESPN, Clayton wrote that, when Tom Brady went down, he tried to no avail to contact Culpepper. What makes Minnesota so different then?
I think Culpepper realized that playing for New England was a no-win situation with the fans and the media, because anything less than a Super Bowl would not be tolerated. In Minnesota, Culpepper would not be asked to win a title this season. He would just need to right the ship.
Plus, playing for the Vikings would give him a chance to end his career on a high note by coming back to where he started his career and getting his team back to the playoffs.
From the Vikings' perspective, you bring back a fan favorite and what could be the feel-good story of the NFL season, all while hopefully making it to the playoffs.
That sounds like a win-win to me.
In the end, the Vikings could offer the one thing Culpepper would be willing to come back for.
A shot at redemption.