Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman have both been up front with their quarterback plans for 2013. Christian Ponder will be the starter. No questions asked.
But who the No. 2 man on that depth chart will be remains to be seen.
Joe Webb won that role last offseason and held it all the way up until the playoffs. Then, when a severely bruised throwing arm kept Ponder out of the Vikings’ postseason game in Green Bay, Webb was forced into starting. And after not throwing a single pass during the regular season, Webb was a disaster at Lambeau Field, completing just 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards during a one-sided 24-10 loss.
On a brightly lit stage, Webb showed his throwing accuracy deficiencies are still a major concern. And his decision making was also iffy. Which, in turn, leaves his role for 2013 in a similarly questionable state.
Neither Frazier nor Spielman has closed the door on Webb remaining the team’s top back-up next season. They’re trying to make sure they don’t let the loss in Green Bay be the only factor in their decision, continuing to point out the 2010 win Webb led in Philadelphia plus impressive 2011 relief efforts in Detroit and Washington.
Said Spielman: “Our coaches are with him every day. They’re in the meetings with him every day. We see him out at practice every day. Just like when you’re grading college players, I don’t think that you grade [a guy on] just one game. You don’t make a determination. I think you look at the whole big picture.”
Still, it’s clear the Vikings will open the door to competition for the No. 2 quarterback role.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson finished last season as the No. 3. And it seems likely the Vikings will either seek out a veteran in free agency or perhaps even use the draft to add depth to the position.
As far as that former option, Frazier said any free agent signing would have to come with a mutual understanding that the Vikings have no plans on holding an open competition for the starting spot.
“He’d have to understand his role,” Frazier said. “That would be the key. If the guy comes in and has the mindset that I’m going to create a problem in the locker room because he feels he should be the starter, that would not be a good fit.”
So here are some of the notable names on the quarterback free agent list: Jason Campbell, Matt Moore, Rex Grossman, Tyler Thigpen, Brady Quinn.
On Friday, Frazier again reiterated his belief that unified support of the starting quarterback is essential for a team’s success.
“Our guys need to know who’s the starting quarterback and how confident myself and the rest of the coaches are [in Christian] and kind of create some clarity for our football team as we are giving them direction about where we want to go and what we want to achieve. It’s important to have that position solidified more so than any position as you are setting your goals for that next season.”
So what about some of the mid- to late-round QB options in this year’s draft? Keep an eye on Duke’s Sean Renfree, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Arizona’s Matt Scott.
Vote of confidence
Frazier won’t have the final say on which of the Vikings’ in-house unrestricted free agents will be re-signed for next season, but he cast a forward vote of confidence for left tackle Phil Loadholt on Friday.
Said the Vikings head coach: "Phil has come a long way. His consistency this past season was the best it's been. … I think he's an ascending player. He's not a guy that's descending. This is the time where we want to make sure that we keep him a Viking, and he knows that.”
What would a day be without at least one Percy Harvin note? So here is what Frazier had to say when asked what Harvin conveyed to him recently when he returned to Winter Park for his exit physical: “He expressed to me that he was healthy, which is something we wanted to make sure of when he came back for his exit physical. And that he was doing well. He was going to go home and spend some time with his family and that he was doing fine. So that was encouraging.”
Subsequently asked if Harvin would commit to the Vikings and invest in being a part of what the organization is building, Frazier said, “Well, the fact that he’s under contract, he’s a part of our team. And he’s excited about being a part of our team from my conversations with him. And that’s where things are.”
If you’re itching for a combine fix this weekend, the NFL Network has you covered. Drill and speed testing begin Saturday for offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters. On Sunday, the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs will take to the turf. And on Monday and Tuesday, defensive players will get the stage. NFL Network will provide extensive coverage with two-dozen analysts, hosts and reporters chiming in and 25 cameras set-up.
Senior coordinating producer Mike Muriano believes the combine has increasingly become great television for the avid football fan.
Said Muriano: “I think a lot of folks tune in because they’re still Jonesing for football being two-and-a-half some weeks since the final game was played. … It’s really kind of turning the page into the, ‘OK, now how is my team getting better?’ whether their season ended two weeks ago with the Lombardi Trophy or ended at the end of Week 17.
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