There’s a kid in Texas they call Johnny Football.
There’s a kid in Kentucky they call Teddy Ballgame.
There’s a kid at UCLA named Brett Hundley. You can call him “Hot Rod” if you like. Somebody will, eventually.
Here’s the new rule for the 2013 Vikings season: You may stop paying attention to the games and start preparing for the draft.
If the Vikings can keep losing at their current pace while playing incompetent quarterbacks, they’ll get to draft their next quarterback in a few months. By the looks of the top prospects, anyone with gaudy numbers and a cute nickname would be an improvement. By the looks of the Vikings’ season, anyone with either gaudy numbers or a cute nickname would be an improvement.
When the Vikings fire Leslie Frazier, he should look back at one of his proudest victories with regret. On Christmas Eve, 2011, he beat Washington with Joe Webb at quarterback and Toby Gerhart at running back. “Now I can enjoy Christmas,” he said immediately after the game.
That victory cost Frazier a chance to draft Robert Griffin III. Without Griffin or someone like him, the Vikings find themselves stuck with shellshocked Christian Ponder, journeyman Matt Cassel and a guy who used to be Josh Freeman.
While the Vikings blew a chance at Griffin and then reached for Ponder, the Packers watched Aaron Rodgers fall to them with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft. That’s when the game story for Sunday night’s game was written, in ink.
Sunday night, in the latest edition of a rivalry that either speeds pulses or spurs change, the Packers beat the Vikings 44-31.
The Vikings quarterback failed to perform at a professional level, again.
So did the defense.
“It’s embarrassing,” defensive end Jared Allen said.
“The frustration level is off the charts,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “It’s easy for people to say we’re not doing enough. The reality is, we’re having great weeks of practice. We come into the game and we’re in the game until that one sequence of events.”
There were a lot of unfortunate events for the Vikings on Sunday. Greenway was referring, specifically, to the second quarter. The Packers isolated fleet receiver Jordy Nelson on Greenway. Greenway covered him as well as any linebacker could be expected to, but Rodgers put the ball on Nelson’s fingertips, and he broke a 76-yard touchdown.
After the Packers defense held, Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown, and the rout was on.
The Vikings failed on defense and special teams, but the most obvious mismatch was at quarterback.
Rodgers controlled the game, picking on Vikings weaknesses and beating the pass rush with quick throws or quicker feet. Ponder couldn’t even control his nerves.
In a passing league, the Vikings have spent two first-round picks, a second-rounder and a third-rounder since 2010 on three cornerbacks and a quarterback, and none of the four could compete with the Packers on Sunday night.
The Vikings returned from England with their first victory, a bye week in which to rest and plan, and a sense that they had righted themselves. Then they got blown out by Carolina at home and performed incompetently against a bad Giants team on the road.
Sunday, in the Metrodome, the Vikings did not lack intensity. They failed in the categories that matter most in the NFL: skill and matchups.
One of the reasons the NFL ranks as the most popular sporting and television entity in America is that the league offers hope, in the form of high draft picks.
For once, the Vikings’ timing might be good. Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Hundley, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Georgia’s Aaron Murray will be available in the draft.
In 1992, the Packers traded the 19th pick in the 1991 draft for Favre, then a backup with the Falcons. In 2005, Rodgers became a gift with the 24th pick.
In 2011, the Vikings spent the 12th pick in the draft on Ponder.
Sunday’s whipping proved to be nothing more than the logical resolution of those plot twists. This ending was written long ago.