For the last couple of years, ESPN has been running a “Quarterback Confidence Index” in which it attempts to gauge more than just which quarterback is best or which teams should be the most optimistic. As Dan Graziano notes in the most recent rankings, released this week, “This is a ranking of teams based on how confident those teams are in their quarterback situation as a whole. That means it includes the reliability of the backup situation, the injury history (recent and otherwise) of the starter, the long-term plan at the position.”
The Vikings were No. 9 out of 32 teams in this week’s rankings, which feels about right. They don’t have the very best starting quarterback in the NFL, nor do they have the best succession plan in the event of injury. But in spending $84 million on Kirk Cousins and acquiring Trevor Siemian, they have obtained a measure of stability and confidence that they just haven’t had in recent years.
A year ago in these very same rankings, Graziano had the Vikings ranked No. 17 — middle of the pack, which again felt about right given the looming decision about who would be the Vikings’ long-term QB (with Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, and as it turned out Case Keenum possibilities).
Heading into the 2016 season, right after Bridgewater’s injury and after they had traded for Bradford, the Vikings were No. 22. That’s about where I had them (No. 21) when I did a similar exercise in the 2016 offseason, before Bridgewater’s injury.
The thing is, the Vikings had reasonable QB play in 2015 (Bridgewater), statistically better QB play in 2016 (Bradford, who set the NFL record for completion percentage) and above-average play in 2017 (Keenum). So they’ve done OK, and they made the playoffs two of those three years.
But here’s the other thing: The three teams those QBs wound up with in the offseason rank No. 21 (Broncos, Keenum), No. 30 (Cardinals, Bradford) and No. 31 (Jets, Bridgewater) on ESPN’s list. You could argue the Broncos and Cardinals could each be a few spots higher. But you wouldn’t put them anywhere near the Vikings.
Confidence in your QB situation is a beautiful thing. The Vikings have had hope and competence in recent years, but they haven’t had this level of confidence in a long time.