For every team in the NFL, no matter who the coach or owner is, and no matter what the era, there always seems to be a question about a position. It might be running back, linebacker, or kicker.
For the Minnesota Vikings, it’s been quarterback. And it’s been quarterback for a long time, going back, give or take some handpicked seasons, to 1979, the year Tommy Kramer took over from Saint Francis of Bloomington.
Kramer had a few decent to good seasons, Wade Wilson had a few. When Denny Green became coach, he began a tradition of signing over the hill QB’s that might have had a season or two here and there, like Warren Moon or Randall Cunningham.
But there was no long term answer until Denny drafted Daunte Culpepper in the 1999 Draft.
Culpepper had a few good seasons, but a knee injury in 2005 essentially ended what was becoming a prolific career. Brad Childress drafted Tarvaris Jackson, which led to Gus Frerote, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, and eventually Brett Favre.
The Vikings then drafted Christian Ponder in 2011, which led to Donovan McNabb, Joe Webb, and Matt Cassel.
Finally, it was thought, when the VIkings traded up in the 2014 draft to select Teddy Bridgewater, all that was behind them. After years of wandering in the QB wilderness, the Vikings finally had their long term, franchise QB.
Hold that thought.
Cassel started until he was hurt a few games in to the 2014 season, and Bridgewater took over. Under Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, and a top 10 defense, the Vikings won the NFC North in 2015 and it finally looked like this quarterback Gordian Knot riddle had been solved.
Until Teddy’s knee exploded right before the 2016 season began, and the QB drama began anew.
Since then, the Vikings have started Shaun Hill, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum, and have decided that gambling on Bridgewater and his reconstructed knee was too much of a risk.
The two guys that played while Bridgewater was rehabbing also had risks that outweighed the reward in the minds of the Vikings hierarchy. For Bradford, his knee is as much as a risk as Bridgewater’s, and although he’s been the best pure passer on the roster since Favre, his laser accuracy and frozen ropes don’t help anyone if he’s on Injured Reserve, like he was for most of 2017.
For Keenum, the risk is that his 2017 season was a mirage, much like Randall Cunningham’s 1998 season was, only in a more low-key way. With Cunningham you could reasonably think, based on his career to that point, one or two more seasons that approached 1998 were possible. Especially throwing to Cris Carter and Randy Moss.
For Keenum...it wasn’t that simple. His arm doesn’t consistently dazzle, Vikings receivers bailed him out on a lot of throws, and when the o-line wore down and pressure increased, his performance dropped. Still, there seemed to be a lot of chemistry with Keenum, the team gelled, and made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
But was Keenum worth an extension, and the gamble he wouldn’t revert to his pre-2017 form? The Vikings didn’t think so, so enter Kirk Cousins.
And, it is hoped, good QB play along with a level of stability the position hasn’t seen any since Daunte Culpepper.
How bad has it been? Let’s take a look:
Since 2005, including Culpepper, the Vikings have had 16 different quarterbacks start at least one game (playoffs not included). They are:
Yes, that’s correct. When it’s all said and done, Christian Ponder and Brett Favre will have started more games as a Vikings quarterback than Teddy Bridgewater, and of the three quarterbacks drafted in the first round, including Culpepper, one was a bust and two had career-altering knee injuries.
So in the end, that’s why the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins. He’s a very good player, at the most important position, and for all the slings and arrows people have thrown at him breaking his game down, durability has bever been a question. He hasn’t missed a start in three seasons, and is rarely even on the injury report.
How bad has it been in terms of quarterback instability? If Kirk Cousins leaves after three years and starts all his games, he will be the first QB since Culpepper to start that many games in a three year span. And before Culpepper? Tommy Kramer, from 1979-1981.
That’s mind boggling.