On the NFL: Meet the latest in a long line of hum-drum Vikings quarterbacks

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2009 - 9:06 PM

What has Sage Rosenfels done in his career to distinguish himself above any other signal-caller employed in purple under Brad Childress?

An attempt was made to get excited on Day 1 of the Sage Rosenfels Era.

Sorry. I got nothin'.

By all accounts, Sage is a fine, hard-working Midwestern fella from Maquoketa, Iowa. A former National Honor Society member. Adores his kids. Probably even loves apple pie and American cars.

Unfortunately, he also reminds me of about eight other uninspiring quarterbacks that Brad Childress has presented to us since becoming head coach of the Vikings in 2006.

Guys such as Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb and Gus Frerotte. Guys such as Koy Detmer, J.T. O'Sullivan and Tarvaris Jackson. Guys such as Mike McMahon and Drew Henson. OK, maybe not guys such as Mike McMahon and Drew Henson.

But you get the point. Until Rosenfels proves otherwise, he's a nine-year veteran with no track record to make us believe he's the guy who can lead a reigning division champion to the Super Bowl. More likely, he's the next mediocre career backup selected by a team that's still paying for that draft day in April 2006, when it chose Jackson as its quarterback of the future.

Three seasons later, Jackson is that dangerous commodity: A quarterback who isn't good enough to trust, nor bad enough to unload and forget.

So the Vikings continue to put Band-Aids on a problem that needs total reconstruction. They sign aging free agents or trade mid- to late-round draft picks for second-tier guys who can push Jackson and/or buy some time.

"There's no set way to kind of climb that mountain to get to the first quarterback position," Childress said. "Whether it's Sage's path or Tarvaris' path with some backsteps. Or Jake Delhomme through New Orleans, or Kurt Warner and how he got to the top. It can be a circuitous path. It's not always as you plan it."

The Vikings did well enough with Frerotte and Jackson at quarterback to win the NFC North last year. But not well enough to make a peep in the playoffs, despite home-dome advantage in the fist round.

So Frerotte, 37, is out and Rosenfels, who will be 31 on Friday, is in. He and T-Jack will go mano-a-mano.

Rosenfels is more mobile than Frerotte. Then again, who isn't? But Rosenfels has started only 12 games in his career. He's 6-6, including 6-4 with the Texans over the past two seasons.

The Vikings are Rosenfels' fourth team. Yet this is the first time he's been given a chance to compete for the starting job. He also fetched only a fourth-round draft pick a year after the Texans killed a deal with the Vikings by demanding nothing less than a second-round pick.

Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman suggests that's because Rosenfels was entering the last year of his contract this year. The fact he went 2-3 with six touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 2008 also might have something to do with the discount the Vikings received.

In the Vikings' defense, they didn't overpay. Rosenfels has a better chance of making an impact than any rookie fourth-round draft pick does this season. And the three-year, $9 million deal the Vikings gave him doesn't handcuff them should a better option come along at quarterback.

Free agency wasn't the answer this year. Kurt Warner is 37, wants at least $14.5 million a year and isn't a lock to succeed starting from scratch somewhere else. As a franchise player, Matt Cassel would come at a ridiculous cost of two first-round draft picks, not to mention a monster contract. Jeff Garcia is intriguing, but, c'mon, the dude is almost 40. And the rest of the crop includes guys such as Kyle Boller, J.P. Losman and Joey Harrington.

And don't even mention Michael Vick's name. He isn't even close to being worth the headache.

Childress was asked after Friday's news conference if he felt Rosenfels was better than the other quarterbacks he has coached since he arrived in Minnesota.

He said yes quickly to all of them except two: Frerotte and Jackson.

On Frerotte, he said, "Logic would dictate yes, since we're trading one out for the other. But that remains to be seen."

As for Jackson, Childress said, "That remains to be seen."

Rosenfels probably is better than all of them. Unfortunately, that doesn't make him the answer. Nor does it make him the quarterback that the Twin Cities can get excited about.

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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