Last night the Minnesota Vikings made one of the more surprising picks of the Draft when they selected QB Chris Ponder #12 overall. Unless the Donavon McNabb rumors come true, this shows they are ready to move in a new direction for QB, and not just this season, but from the past 25 years.
The past 25 years, the primary way Minnesota has found it’s starting quarterback is by finding a player who is past their prime and hope he can resurrect his career. As much as division rival Chicago is mocked for its inability to find a quarterback, the Vikings have had just as many problems finding some to replace Fran Tarkenton (3 Supersbowls, 9 Pro Bowls, 1975 MVP, Primary starting QB from 1961-1978 with a 4 year hitatus play for the Giants).
Here’s a look back at the primary starting quarterbacks who have been used for Minnesota the past 25 years starting with the most recent.
2009-2010: Bret Favre
Age 40 when he started playing for the Vikings and had already been in football for 18 seasons. Won a Super Bowl in Green Bay and played in another one. Was able to lead team to 2009 NFC Championship game before getting hurt his second year.
2008: Gus Frerotte
Age 38 when he started playing for the Vikings, had been in the NFL for 14 seasons and had primarily been a back up for the past 8 seasons for Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, St Louis and Minnesota. Went to a Pro Bowl as a member of the Washington Redskins. He Led Vikings to 8-3 record before getting hurt.
2007: Tavaris Jackson
Tavaris was drafted by the Vikings with the last pick of the 2nd round the previous year. He drafted to be the Quaterback of the future, but never panned out.
2005-2006: Brad Johnson
Age 37 when he started playing for the Vikings again and had been in the NFL for 13 seasons. Won a Super Bowl in Tampa and went to 2 Pro Bowls with Tampa and Washington. Went 7-2 in 2005 missing the playoffs by 1 game. Midway through the 2006 season, he had already set an NFL record for passes completed short of a first down on third down in a season.
2001-2005: Daunte Culpepper
Culpepper is the one success story for the Vikings. They drafted him 11th in 1999 and by 2001 he was starting. He was a 3 time pro-bolwer and graced the cover of Madden 2002. His stint with the Vikings didn’t end well with the boat cruise dilemma
1999: Jeff George
Age 32 when he started playing for the Vikings and this was already his 4th team in 9 Season. He was the 1st overall pick in 1990 and had medicore success with each of his first three stops Indy, Atlanta and Oakland. In 10 games as a starter went 8-2 and put up excellent numbers (23 touchdowns, 8.6 yards per attempt, a 94.2 rating) in leading Minnesota to the playoffs and a round 1 victory of the Giants. After the season, Minnesota did not resign him
1997-1999: Randall Cunningham
Age 35 when he started play for the Vikings and coming off 1 full season of retirement. Was a three time pro-bowler with Philadelphia. In 1997 he came in to replace Brad Johnson and led the Vikings to the 2nd round of the playoffs. In 1998 he guided the Vikings to a 15–1 regular season record with 34 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions and took them to the NFC title game where the heavily favored Vikings were upset in Overtime by the Atlanta Falcons. After playing 6 games in 1999 he was benched due to poor performance
1996-1998: Brad Johnson
Johnson was taken in the 9th round in the 1992 draft and was primarily used as a back-up. He started only limited time in 1996 and had injury shortened 1997 and 1998 seasons.
1994-1996: Warren Moon
Age 38 when he started playing for the Vikings and had already been in football for 15 seasons. He was a 5 time Grey Cup Champions (CFL Title) 6 time pro bowl QB for Houston. Moon passed for 4,200+ yard in his first two seasons, but was injured and not resigned in 1996.
1993: Jim McMahon
Age 32 when he started playing for the Vikings and had already been in football for 11 seasons. He had won a Super Bowl with Chicago and went to one pro-bowl. He then bounced around 2 more teams before landing on the Vikings in 1993 and led them to the playoffs before being replaced by Warren Moon
1990-1992: Rich Gannon
1986-1989: Wade Wilson
Both of these two quarterbacks were late round draft picks that didn’t have much potential. They both had some success but were unable to sustain it for the Vikings
So that’s the past 25 years of quarterbacks for the Vikings. Four draft picks that didn’t pan out (3 of which were taken past the 4th round (4, 8 and 9) and were never expected to be good) 7 quarterbacks who were past their prime but were able to have one last good season for the Vikings and Daunte Culpepper.
So now we can ask the question, what does this all mean? Well as you can see, the Vikings did have some success with their old QBs, but none of them could sustain it for more than 3 seasons. They have been competitive using the model so why not look to sign Donvan McNabb for a year or two? It’s worked before and it can work again.
The only time they used a high overall pick on a QB (Culpepper), they had him sit on the bench for two years behind past their prime quarterbacks. After the two Years Culpepper thrived in the system and gave the Vikings their longest run of consistent quarterback play in a decade. The other quarterbacks they drafted were late round picks and never had much hope that they’d become the franchise quarterback even though they did spend time behind past their prime quarterbacks.
So is Minnesota the place QBs go to die? If they sign McNabb I think we can agree it is, but if you can get 1 more run out of them, that might not be a bad thing.