Entering the 2008 season, the Vikings were tabled by many experts as being a consistent quarterback away from seriously contending for a Super Bowl Championship.
And for good reason.
The Vikings were loaded with talent on the offensive line and had the most explosive young player in the game in Adrian Peterson. They had just added speedy Bernard Berrian and a raw but talented playmaker to play alongside him in Sidney Rice.
Couple this with a good defense with easily one of the best defensive lines in football, and you could see why the Vikings were liked by all the so called pundits.
However, they could not fill the one position that they absolutely needed to take the leap from average playoff team to bonafide championship contender. They desperately needed a quarterback, and it would be shoddy play from this position that would wind up ending the Vikings season prematurely come January.
This would become clear from the early point of the season when Tarvaris Jackson played miserable in the first two contests, but the Vikings still barely lost the games. Out of the gate they were 0-2 but they felt like they should have had that record reversed. Coach Brad Childress decided to make a change.
Out was Tarvaris Jackson, in was journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte. And while the experiment to sit down a young quarterback in development for the veteran quarterback paid off huge dividends in Arizona, it didn't fare out as well in Minnesota.
Initially when Frerotte was named the starter, the Vikings split their next two games and subsequently fell to a 1-3 start. The call for Brad Childress' job grew louder and louder. It was only one month into the season and the media darlings to make a run at the Super Bowl were only a game ahead of the worst team in professional football in the standings.
This would set up a very pivotal Monday Night matchup with the New Orleans Saints. If the Vikings lost, they would drop to 1-4 and have a long path just to get back to .500, but if they won suddenly they are 2-3 with the Lions awaiting them the following week.
And despite Reggie Bush returning two kicks for touchdowns and Drew Brees throwing for 330 yards—the Vikings somehow won. They did this by scoring 30 points, which would be a number that almost equaled Adrian Peterson's rushing production on the night.
Instead the Saints beat themselves with two fatal mistakes on special teams, and a bad call that helped keep a fumble ruled as a fumble led to the Vikings saving their season.
From there, the Vikings picked up momentum. The Vikings would rattle off wins in seven of their next nine games. Adrian Peterson would punish defenses on a weekly basis, and despite the average quarterback play they were getting from Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson—they were winning ballgames.
But despite all of this, the slow start nearly cost the Vikings the division title. The Chicago Bears were still hanging around and with a win and Vikings loss to the New York Giants in Week 17—they would start the postseason on the road in Chicago.
Ultimately, the Bears would lose on the road to a hot Houston team, rendering the performance in Week 17 moot. But in the finale, played primarily against the Giants backups, the Vikings looked anything but like a playoff contender.
And like Bill Parcells famously said, "You are what you are." The Vikings struggled with the 2nd and 3rd stringers from the Giants, and really struggled with the Philadelphia Eagles first teamers in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Eagles would finish off the Vikings season by the count of 26-14, leaving Brad Childress to wonder how the season would have gone had they had a playmaker at their most important position.
After the Jets would wind up free falling, the door was now open for Brad Childress to get his man, and all signs are pointing to a former Vikings killer becoming the new starting quarterback in 2009.
1-22. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida 2-54. Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma 3-86. Asher Allen, CB, Georgia 5-150. Jasper Brinkley, ILB, South Carolina 7-231. Jamarca Sanford, S, Ole Miss
That black cloud that is coming to the Twin Cities is none other than the Brett Favre attention circus. Favre has resumed his quest to become a Minnesota Viking, a quest he could not fulfill a season ago and instead wound up playing as a member of the New York Jets where he would wind up imploding down the stretch and almost single handily cost the Jets a playoff spot.
But when put like that, it's no wonder Brad Childress wants Favre.. after all Tarvaris Jackson has done that his entire career.
All jokes aside, it appears much of 2009 will circle around Favre. Even if he doesn't come back and wind up playing in Minnesota, the questions will still be asked about how the season would have gone with No. 4 at the helm.
Should Favre decide to comeback, he would become the starting quarterback almost by default and offseason acquisition Sage Rosenfels would be regulated back to clipboard duty. This would give the Vikings four quarterbacks, likely leaving Tarvaris Jackson as the odd man out as John David Booty is younger and cheaper than Jackson.
Whoever is at quarterback for opening day against the Browns in Cleveland will have the luxury of handing the ball off to the reigning rushing champion and best overall back in the game now Adrian Peterson.
Peterson has been nothing short of phenomenal in his first two seasons as a Viking, and should pick up right where he left off a year ago—especially if Favre or Rosenfels can make defenses have to think about the passing game.
Chester Taylor will once again be Peterson's backup, and he is also capable of lighting up a defense given the appropriate amount of touches.
At wide receiver, the Vikings will add first round pick Percy Harvin to their wide receiving corps, giving the Vikings another very fast playmaker on the outside. Bernard Berrian will again be the top wide receiver in Minnesota and is one of the best deep threats in the division, and Sidney Rice continues to develop into a good wide receiver and could start opposite Berrian with a solid camp.
The Vikings offensive line will remain strong with Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson blocking on the left side of the line. Center Matt Birk left free agency to join the Ravens and will be replaced by John Sullivan in the starting lineup. On the right side of the line, Anthony Herrera will remain at right guard and second round pick Phil Loadholt should start at right tackle for the Vikings.
Defensively, the Vikings front four is as good as it gets in football. Kevin and Pat Williams will anchor the middle of the defense which was the best in the league a season ago at stopping the run.
On the outside Jared Allen will return for a second season in Minnesota, Allen had a great 2008 year in the purple attire as he registered 14.5 sacks in his inaugural season as a Viking. Ray Edwards will start opposite Allen and is an underrated pass rusher in his own right.
The Vikings linebacking corps is also a solid unit, headlined by inside linebacker E.J. Henderson. Henderson will be flanked by outside linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, and looks to bounce back after missing most of last season due to injuries.
In the Viking secondary, Antoine Winfield returns at left corner. Playing alongside him will be Cedric Griffin and free agent addition Karl Paymah. At safety, the Vikings will deploy the same starters as they did a season ago when Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson take the field.
2009 Prediction: On paper the Vikings undoubtedly have a wealth at talent on their roster. They have the leagues best running back in Adrian Peterson, game breaking type receivers in Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, and some of the best defensive players in football on their defensive line.
But the black hole sized void at quarterback cannot be ignored. Even if the Vikings sign future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to a one year deal, or just start Sage Rosenfels, I still think the Vikings have many question marks surrounding this key position.
Favre's health is unclear, and he will turn 40 in October making him the oldest starting quarterback in the league. Sage Rosenfels career is best known at this point for his late game choke job in Indianapolis as a member of the Texans a season ago, and really doesn't look like someone that will be exceptionally better than Gus Frerotte or Tarvaris Jackson.
With that said, the NFC North has greatly improved from a season ago. The Packers are loaded on offense and are slowly retooling a defense that constantly let them down in 2008. The Bears made the most talked about move of the offseason when they traded for disgruntled Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, and should be healthier in 2009 than they were a year ago.
All these moves or a lack thereof from the Vikings point of view, are catching up to them. They had the luxury of a soft schedule and soft division in 2008, they won't have that in 2009.