by Inside the Redzone staff – Bill Seng
This week the Minneapolis sports media (TV, Radio, Print) are almost all saying the main reason for the Vikings dismal 1-4 start is due to the play of one person: QB Donovan McNabb. The main “fix” being prescribed is to get McNabb to improve his play. With an improved McNabb the Vikings could still make the playoffs they are saying. However, that is not the case nor the answer in my opinion. The answer I believe resides within reach and it involves the Vikings bench. The Vikes should bench McNabb for rookie QB Christian Ponder, but not because of McNabbs’ poor play, but because the Vikings gain nothing if McNabb plays well.
Even with an improved McNabb will the Vikes go to the playoffs at this point? No. Instead the Vikings issues are not really McNabb related. The issue is the front office decision making. After drafting Ponder in the first round (12th overall) in the NFL draft this year the Vikings went out and signed Donavan McNabb instead of letting Ponder go the Andy Dalton (Bengals rookie QB), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville rookie QB) or Cam Newton (Panthers rookie QB) route and start. Dalton, who also plays with a strong running game and defensive unit, is 3-2 as a starter so far in 2011. The Vikings compounded the signing of McNabb, but signing no one to throw to. This Sunday, he had one guy who was cut from a division rival and one guy who is best known for being a good downfield blocker, but probably can’t out run Jermichael Finley or even Jared Cook.
Has McNabb lost that much?
Let’s break it down and see if Donovan McNabb is who we thought he was. He’s a veteran QB (in his 13th season) past his prime and a career 59% completion quarterback. This year in 5 games he’s completing the same 59% (58.6% to be exact) of his passes. So he is who we thought he was (thank you Dennis Green for that timeless quote), which is not the most accurate quarterback. Sometimes people overlook that because of other intangibles such has leadership. We are seeing it now with high draft choices invested in Jake Locker and Tim Tebow. And that is why Leslie Frasier overlooked the fact that McNabb can’t even hit the 60% completion mark.
Has McNabb lost that much? In terms of mobility, yes – in terms of arm strength and all other McNabb traits, no. How do we optimize McNabb? Let’s look at what made him successful in Philadelphia. He is best when he has a strong deep threat like Desean Jackson and Terrel Owens, a strong receiving tight end, and a 700 yard receiving back like Brian Westbrook. An outlet guy who can turn a 5 yard pass into a 25 yard play makes the most inaccurate quarterback look better. From a personnel standpoint the Vikings did not surround McNabb with players for him to succeed. Bernard Berrian?! Please.
Front Office F***ed the 2011 Vikings
Rick Spielman deserves a few body blows from the press for doing absolutely nothing for the offense. The Vikings let Pittsburgh sign away Max Starks (offensive line depth at the least). He should’ve called Houston and traded a later round pick for Steve Slaton to be the third down back for McNabb’s outlet guy. Peterson catches passes like he plays basketball, really stiff. Then, although I don’t know the financials, the Vikings should have given Braylon Edwards a better 1 year deal than the Niners did. Perhaps he wanted to play in a bigger market, but a compliment of the deep threat like Edwards and the fast slot guy in Harvin, would have dramatically improved this offense (see Harvin’s production when Randy Moss was on the team). Oh and give Rudolph more snaps. If you are going to draft a tight end that high and bypass the likes of a talent like Greg Little, you play him a lot.
So the original problem stems back to the signing of Donovan McNabb. I personally thought the decision was good at the time. Now, it is looking increasingly stupid due to the fact that the Vikings front office best attempt at giving him a down field weapon was signing journey man, Devin Aromashodu.