Well, with training camp just a couple of weeks away, the Vikings appear to be one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and are on just about everyone's short list for the Super Bowl, especially here in this little corner of the Internet. But all of those predictions are made with one assumption--the return of Brett Favre for one last hurrah, and the expectation that his 2010 performance will match his 2009 performance...minus one fateful throw, that is.
Now I know, and you know, and I know that you know that I know Favre's coming back, and this latest 'well, my ankle isn't where it needs to be' stuff is a smokescreen for 'well, I don't want to come to training camp until the two a days in Mankato are over', but let's peek behind the curtain for a minute, and see what happens if Brett Favre shocks everyone and actually doesn't play in 2010? Where does that leave the Vikings?
Okay, okay, get out of the fetal position...this is just a hypothetical. Didn't mean to traumatize anyone. But it is a question worth looking into. Favre could come back and get injured. He is the ultimate ironman for a quarterback, but it could happen. So what happens if the Vikes have to turn to Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels?
Well, surprisingly better than most people would seem to imagine. In 2008, the Minnesota Vikings were 10-6 and division champions with Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte as the two quarterbacks. They had a dominating running game, a dominating defense, and were able to compete week in and week out.
I see much the same if Jackson is the quarterback for 2010, and not Favre, but I think they'll be better than the 2008 version for a couple of reasons:
1) Tarvaris Jackson has had a year to sit and watch from one of the best of all time, and it couldn't have hurt at all. When I watched Jackson in 2009, he seemed a lot more comfortable with the offense. Now granted, it could've been because he was playing when the game had long been decided, but his decision making seemed quicker, and more assured.
2) I would like to think that part of his renewed confidence was in his receiving corps. Sidney Rice matured, and Percy Harvin flourished. I don't know that you can say that would've happened if Jackson had been the starter, but a year with Favre helped them learn the offense in ways they probably wouldn't have with Jackson. That's not a knock on TJ, but you can't quantify the experince Favre brings in this offense. And that was evident almost from week one. Before, Jackson and Rice were learning at essentially the same time, and neither was developing at the rate they should have been. That learning curve was accelerated last year, and now the receivers and quarterbacks have a new level of knowledge about the nuances of the offense they might not have otherwise received without Favre.
3) Almost everyone else is back and healthy. My only concern from an injury perspective is Cedric Griffin. We don't know when he'll be back, and how effective he'll be when he does make it back to the field. A reasonable assumption would be a starting tandem of Antoine Winfield and either Lito Sheppard or Benny Sapp, but that is still unsettled as we line up on final for Mankato.
Can the VIkings be as good a team without Brett Favre in 2010? WIth a more difficult schedule, the kneejerk reaction is to say no way, but it's not that simple. Minnesota has a potent offense, a potent defense, and one of the most accurate kickers in the game. The mediocre wide receiver corps of 2008 is one of the most dynamic as we enter 2010, and I don't think we'll see the same indecisive, inaccurate Tarvaris Jackson, either.
The Vikings, with or without Brett Favre, will still be one of the teams to beat in 2010.