Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Solving Our Problems-Tarvaris' Backup

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I've started by looking at the quarterback options, starting with Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and now possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson.]

Sorry about the sporadic posting over the lasrt few weeks. I've been fighting my usual "end of the vikings season" funk, getting into the start of Big East basketball (that's right, that's the Hoyas you see with a two game lead in the conference) and traveling for work (who books someone in a hotel without free internet nowadays?)

And, to be honest, every time I sit down to finish my series on the Vikings options at quarterback, the lack of reasonable options always stops me before I even start. The Purple aren't going to be able to get Donovan McNabb or Derek Anderson without giving up a large number of draft picks, which means that we're headed for year three of the Tarvaris Revolution. And, as others have pointed out, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Going into next season with Tarvaris under center, however, does not mean that the Purple are set at quarterback (and it means they really need to bring in some wide receivers, which I'll cover later). Rather, it means that the Purple must find a competent backup (ie, not Brooks Bollinger), something that is just as hard to find as a starting quarterback this year.

By my count, there are four possible options for the Purple, and none of them are ideal, let alone likely. The best option is for them to trade for Chad Pennington. He's good enough that he can be counted on to give the Vikings a chance to win if he's playing, but not so good that he expects to start (86.1 QB Rating, 68.8 completion percentage, 10 TDs, 9 INTs) . He has had some injury issues the last few years (including a rotator cuff injury that required surgery and an ankle injury), but nothing that is so troublesome that it causes you to worry about having to play your third quarterback. And, he understands making the transition from a non BCS school to the NFL, which, along with his 8 years of experience, should make him a great mentor to a young quarterback. The problem, of course, is that the Jets need a veteran backup QB to help mentor their young starter as much as the Vikings do, which is why Pennington is unavailable.

Unlike Pennington, Steve McNair is probably available, for the right price. Of course, that means he has other drawbacks. If his job were solely to mentor Tarvaris, then he'd be perfect, considering that in his prime, he was what we want Tarvaris to become-a mobile, accurate QB that played 1-AA football and shared the MVP award in 2003. The problem is that, not only did McNair show he is no longer good enough to be a starter in the NFL (73.9 QB Rating, 2 TDs, 4 INTS), he spent most of last year injured. Considering that Tarvaris missed 4 games last year due to injuries (and parts of others), the last quarterback you want backing him up is a fragile one.

The other two options for the Vikings are Josh McCown and Quinn Gray. Unlike Pennington and McNair, neither McCown nor Gray have ever been the starter on a winning team. While McCown's been in the NFL for six years, three of which he was starting during, he has yet to post a positive DVOA, and his play last year was actually worse than Tarvaris', according to DPAR and DVOA.

Unlike McCown, Gray made his team better last year, posting a 20.4 DPAR (22nd overall) and 19.5% DVOA (12th overall), which was backed up by his 85.6 QB rating, 10 TDs and only 5 INTs. Avoiding the fact that some team may be willing to sign him to start (or at least compete for a starting job), there are still some major question marks about Gray. The first of which is his career completion percentage of 56.1%, which was actually higher than his 55.1 completion percentage last year. The second problem is that he doesn't have the experience to act as a mentor for Tarvaris--his first start of his career was in Week 8 this year.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the Vikings end up going after McCown, after they find out that the better options aren't available. It's not ideal, but it's probably (hopefully) better than going into the season with Bollinger and Holcombe.


Nuff said...

Two words.


Available for trade, for cheap. He's young enough to have potential for growth into a starter if needed. He has experience and he was pretty ok.

Sven said...

Chris Simms, good call! man, I've always wondered what he could do with a solid offensive line, but I think he's still good enough to compete for a starter's job and I'd rather him do that somewhere else. We should get a veteran guy who could act as a mentor, past his prime, but still able to step in when he needs to. My vote is, though retired, someone like Flutie. same type of mobile quarterback, knows the game really well, and a class act to boot. he didn't mind holding a clipboard.

Sven said...

Speaking of veteran guys who could act a mentor, Trent Green just got released by Miami... anyone else think that this might be a perfect fit?