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Thursday, October 24, 2013
The jokes on them

By David Fleming
ESPN.com

Near the end of Minnesota's miserable performance in New York on Monday night, a perplexed Jon Gruden tried, as best he could, to sum up the hopeless Vikings' increasingly bizarre situation under center:

"Here comes Joe Webb, the ex-quarterback -- I saw Joe Webb play quarterback in the playoffs last year for the Vikings. They got Webb here. They got (Matt) Cassel here. They got (Christian) Ponder here. And now they got Josh Freeman. They have all four of the quarterbacks that they've used in their last seven games -- I'm confused."

Confused? Oh come on, Jon, it's not that bad.

In fact, I can sum up the Minnesota Vikings' recent string of quarterback quandaries in one simple sentence.

Now, you might think that a logical place to start with this list would be in 1992 with Rich Gannon, a future NFL MVP (2002) whom the Vikes, in their infinite QB wisdom, decided to dump in favor of some guy named Sean Salisbury (six career wins), who, in turn, was then replaced by the punky QB himself, Jim McMahon, the signal-caller who famously mooned a TV helicopter at the Super Bowl when he was with the Bears and, I guess, wasn't quite bad enough to discourage Minnesota from signing what has to be the longest list of rejects, retreads and rehabbed former franchise QBs in NFL history -- no, instead let's skip over McMahon as well as Warren Moon's run in Minnie and start where it all begins to end (you'll see, stay with me): in 1999, with the toxic mixture of ego, doughy physique and squandered God-given talent that is Jeff George, the No. 1 pick overall in 1990 who was actually brought back this summer by the Vikes to tutor Christian Ponder (you can't make this stuff up, people, there are, like, laws and stuff ...) even though George is the guy who
Brett Favre
The QB carousel landed on Brett Favre in '09, producing a run to the NFC title game before his ill-advised INT ended the Vikings' season.
once suggested leadership by the quarterback is overrated, which is probably why, even though he took the team to the playoffs in 1999 after replacing a struggling Randall Cunningham, the next spring the Vikes decided to promote the No. 11 pick overall in 1999, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarter(line)backer Daunte Culpepper, who was absolutely-positively going to be their franchise quarterback for the next 15 years, a prescient move, especially after his performance in 2000 when Culpepper started all 16 games, won 11 and, while passing for almost 4,000 yards -- most of them to a wide-open freak of nature Randy Moss (yes, he belongs on this list: he was 4-of-8 passing in his career) -- led Minnie to the NFC Championship Game where the Vikes lost a nail-biter to the Giants (41-0), a harbinger of things to come, starting with Culpepper, who would never have a winning record again as a starting quarterback, including a 4-7 record in 2001 and knee problems that forced the Vikes to go with Todd Bouman for three games until he hurt his thumb and was replaced by former Amsterdam Admiral Spergon Wynn, one of my personal faves on this list, who (A) was taken 16 spots before Tom Brady in the draft; (B) was later traded by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for a safety; and (C) was 11-of-30 against the Packers, after which he returned to backing up Culpepper, who would start 53 of Minnesota's next 55 games -- the other two were played by Gus Frerotte, the guy who once injured his neck head-butting a wall during a game in Washington -- a stretch by Culpepper that included the high of 2004 (NFL record 5,123 total yards and a third Pro Bowl bid), the low of 2005 (a grotesque knee blowout in Week 7) and the super duper extra low (the infamous Love Boat scandal on Lake Minnetonka) followed by a 2006 trade to Miami that opened the door for the real, true, honest-to-goodness QB weirdness to begin in 2006 with journeyman Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson, a Division I-AA QB project Brad Childress traded up to take in the second round who started 12 games in 2007 (spelled by Middle Tennessee State's Kelly Holcomb and future Florida Tusker great Brooks Bollinger) and was on the verge of becoming a right-handed Michael Vick until, that is, Jackson started 2008 0-2 and was benched in Week 3 (right after Childress pledged he will "definitely start") in favor of Gus Frerotte -- the personification of the notion that the backup QB is always the most popular guy in town -- who, God love him, went 8-3 and was preparing for a deep playoff run with a loaded Vikings roster only to hurt his back and step aside for Jackson, who completed 42 percent of his passes in a playoff loss to the Eagles, forcing Childress, in 2009, to do the unthinkable (think: Fran Tarkenton in a Green Bay uniform; OK, stop, that's enough) and sign former Packers great and three-time MVP Brett Favre, who struggled with the idea of retirement (to say nothing of proper cell phone etiquette) and, at 40, threw for 4,202 yards and 33 TDs until the horrific return, in the closing moments of the NFC Championship Game against the Saints, of his uncanny propensity to throw ill-advised passes with his team on the doorstep of the Super Bowl (which, if you think about it, is exactly why the Packers dumped him in the first place in favor of Aaron Rodgers) -- a problem, I guess, that didn't seem quite as bad in the summer of 2010 when, faced with Jackson or sixth-round draft pick WR/QB hybrid Joe Webb as their starter, a group of Vikings players jetted to Mississippi to beg Favre to stop making Wrangler commercials (love the SNL spoof, though) and come back and play quarterback for the Vikings, which he did, just not anywhere as well as the year before (19 picks and 11 TDs) until an injury ended his rather amazing NFL record for consecutive starts at 297 in Week 14, meaning Favre pocketed $29 million for one whole playoff win before stepping aside for a one-game comeback by Jackson, two more starts by Webb and then yet another (by my count that's nine in the past 20 years) deal for yet another way-past-his-prime QB, this time former Eagles great
Josh Freeman
Is Josh Freeman Minnesota's future at QB? After an uninspiring performance on "Monday Night Football," the answer remains unclear.
Donovan McNabb, who went 1-5 with four TDs and was discarded when rookie Christian Ponder was able to get up to speed quicker than anticipated, and by that I mean he was able, by 2012, to properly hand the ball off to MVP Adrian Peterson, who single-handedly led the Vikings back to the playoffs with a yards-per-carry average (6.0) almost as high as Ponder's yards-per-attempt average (6.1) only to see those postseason hopes dashed when, after a dozen warm-up throws in Green Bay, Ponder re-aggravated what had been a top-secret triceps injury, leaving Webb as the only option for the Vikes even though he was the first player in NFL history to start (and, subsequently, get blown out of) a playoff game without ever throwing a pass in the regular-season -- a new, incredible low point in the Vikes' never-ending QB carousel topped (lowered?) only by the sad on-going saga of the 2013 season: 0-3 under Ponder, a switch to one-time Chiefs savior and now trade-bait Matt Cassel overseas, then on to troubled former Bucs QB Josh Freeman who, upon arrival up north, said he "just wants to be great" right before throwing 33 incomplete passes (including 16 overthrows) in a 23-7 loss to the winless Giants that forced Minnesota head coach (not for long, at this rate) Leslie Frazier to reluctantly stand behind his new, ill-prepared QB for almost a full day before revealing that Freeman was suffering from concussion-like symptoms, thus making Ponder his man (again, again), unless, of course, the Vikes decide to go back to Webb or Cassel or Spergon Wynn or Brett Favre or Jeff George or Jeff Garcia -- I mean, these are the Vikings, after all, and it is only Thursday.