NFC North: John Beck

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

October, 10, 2011
After the Minnesota Vikings' 34-10 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings take a seat in the examination room.

  1. I honestly don't get what people expected from quarterback Donovan McNabb this season. He is generally a well-respected NFL citizen. So when the Vikings acquired him this summer from the Washington Redskins, no football person was going to come out and say how far his career had plummeted. But the evidence was all there for the taking. The Washington Redskins were willing to give him away for a sixth-round draft pick and take their chances with Rex Grossman and John Beck. The Vikings were able to leverage McNabb into a contract worth $5.05 million, one that befits a top backup. And that's the way he has played so far this season: Like a veteran seat-warmer. McNabb has been inaccurate on short and deep passes and has mustered one victory in five games. None of this should be a big surprise, nor should coach Leslie Frazier's decision to retain him as his starter. Frazier wanted a veteran to start ahead of a rookie he didn't think would be ready to play. The NFL doesn't have enough good quarterbacks for a team to find a high-functioning one who can fit that description. Frazier got a seat-warmer who is playing like one.
  2. Let's give defensive end Brian Robison some credit. A few of us wondered if the Vikings had made the right decision by allowing starter Ray Edwards to depart via free agency and inserting Robison into the starting lineup. Robison had been a backup for four seasons, and usually you are what you are by that point. But Robison's two-sack day Sunday brought his season total to 4.5, tying his career high. (It's also three more sacks than Edwards has for the Atlanta Falcons, but that's an apples-to-oranges comparison.) The Cardinals couldn't single-block Robison on Sunday, and his forced fumble on quarterback Kevin Kolb in the first quarter was one of the key plays in springing the Vikings to a 28-0 lead.
  3. I didn't think it was possible, but tailback Adrian Peterson ran with more purpose than I've seen him with the possible exception of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. That's not to say there are games that he doesn't run hard in. But you could just see in Peterson's eyes and movement that he wasn't going to be denied. The most impressive of his three touchdown runs was the last one. I doubt that rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson will forget coming in high and taking a 5-yard ride into the end zone. It's difficult for a non-quarterback to accomplish, but all superstars at times need to will their team to scores. Peterson did that Sunday.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
This is truly a question I don't know the answer to: How does the Vikings' mostly veteran roster truly feel about McNabb? Most veterans want an experienced quarterback to avoid the roller coaster performances of a rookie. They want someone who knows where to throw it, gets them the ball on time and mostly on target. McNabb has done those things only sporadically this season. Are players OK with what they've seen? Or are their eyes starting to wander toward rookie Christian Ponder? Of course, players would know better than us if Ponder has a chance to be any better at this point.
On Monday, I laid out why I thought the Minnesota Vikings wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- pursue a starting-caliber quarterback.

On Tuesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Vikings were among the teams talking to the Washington Redskins about a possible trade for Donovan McNabb.

OK then.

According to Schefter, the Vikings need McNabb to restructure his contract before they're willing to make a deal. Under the terms of his current contract, McNabb is due to make $12.5 million plus other incentives. If other teams are also involved in talks, they haven't been identified.

You know where I stand on this. The Vikings made Christian Ponder the No. 12 overall pick in the draft in part because he was considered the most pro-ready quarterback available. It's true that he hasn't had the benefit of offseason workouts with the team, but is it really worth the forfeiture of a draft pick and salary cap space for what could be a half-season stint as the Vikings' starter?

Here's what coach Leslie Frazier said along those lines Monday: "We're going to do from a roster standpoint what's best for our football team and our organization long term, not in the short term. We're just going to try to make decisions that in the long term are going to be best for our football team and not get caught up in some of the scenarios ... . We're just going to try to do the best for our team long term."

So what is best for the long term? Many people would tell you it is getting a young quarterback on the field as quickly as possible. With all due respect to what the Green Bay Packers did with Aaron Rodgers, quarterback development doesn't typically happen on the sideline anymore.

I'm not saying the Vikings should sacrifice their short-term competitiveness. But if Ponder isn't ready in Week 1, you wonder if someone like Joe Webb or Tyler Thigpen couldn't hold down the fort until he is. Isn't that a smarter long-term move than trading for a declining player who can't start for a team that plans to have Rex Grossman and John Beck compete for the job this summer? The Vikings drafted Ponder to end their cycle of Band-Aid solutions at quarterback, not to extend it.

We all know that McNabb struggled badly with the Redskins last season. If his career has diminished to the point where he would accept a backup job behind a rookie, then perhaps this makes sense. But if McNabb comes to Minnesota with the understanding he is the 2011 starter, then I don't get it.
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

Were it not for the (manufactured?) news of Brett Favre seeking his release from the New York Jets, this would be a pretty quiet week in the NFC North. Teams are decompressing from the draft and preparing for rookie minicamps this weekend.

Yes, all four Black and Blue teams will hold some form of a rookie camp starting Friday. I'll be at Minnesota's to check out new receiver Percy Harvin. My sources tell me Favre won't be there.

I'm not sure what to make of the latest twist in Favre's post-retirement career, and I don't know where the Vikings stand internally on his status. The biggest question to be answered is actually a physical one: Favre said in February that he needs surgery to repair a torn biceps in his right arm. Assuming that remains the case and assuming he hasn't had it yet, time would be running out for such a significant procedure if he really wants to be ready to participate in a training camp.

But as the world turns, we have no true indication that Favre has any plans to play again. Like sand in the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.

Popping around the NFC North:

  • Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune on Favre's Vikings connection: "The Green Bay Packers made sure Brett Favre didn't get his wish last year when the future Hall of Fame quarterback decided he didn't want to retire after all and attempted to force his way to the archrival Vikings. But this year there will be nothing to stop Favre from wearing purple -- if that's what he truly wants."
  • Dave Hutchinson of the Newark Star-Ledger reports there is NFL "chatter" about Favre wanting to play again. Chatter schmatter.
  • Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs brushed off the cut on his right hand in an interview with Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. With sarcasm, Briggs said: "I'm definitely not going to miss the season. I'm not the first person to cut themselves with a grooming mechanism."
  • Bears tight end Desmond Clark believes receiver Juaquin Iglesias, one of the Bears' third-round draft pick, is a "perfect" fit for the team's offense. Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago has details.
  • Detroit had an opportunity to claim quarterback John Beck on waivers Tuesday but did not, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Former Lions quarterback Drew Henson, released Tuesday, isn't ready to retire from football. He told John Niyo of the Detroit News: "I'm not going to sit around and bang my head against the door. Right now, though, I just want to look around and see what opportunities might be out there."