QB controversy stays on back burner

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2011 - 12:20 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is sticking with Donovan McNabb.

The numbers paint an ugly picture. Through four weeks of the 2011 season, Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb hasn't provided much return on investment.

In late July, McNabb signed a one-year contract worth $5.05 million to join the action in Minnesota. Here in October, he has yet to deliver a victory.

All the statistical reports the NFL generates also have given plenty of ammunition to armchair critics, who believe the numbers show the six-time Pro Bowl selection on an obvious decline.

Heading into Monday night, McNabb ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards per game (170.0) and 22nd in both completion percentage (58.6) and touchdown passes (four).

In the passer rating department, his 80.9 mark puts him in the bottom half of the league -- tied for 17th with Denver's Kyle Orton.

Add the visual evidence from four games and there's little to indicate a McNabb resurgence is on the horizon. Yet first-year head coach Leslie Frazier says he is not pulling the plug on McNabb and inserting rookie Christian Ponder. Not yet, anyway.

Frazier declared Monday that McNabb will be his starter for Sunday's home game against Arizona. But Frazier's reasoning was less a ringing endorsement for McNabb and more an acknowledgement that he sees bigger problems to fix first.

"Based on these four games this season, we are not at a point where we are making a quarterback change," Frazier said. "There are a lot of things we need to correct on our football team based on the fact that we are 0-4. But at this point, a quarterback change isn't one of those changes."

Oddly, Frazier seems incredibly upbeat overall, even after his team fell 22-17 Sunday to a Chiefs team that had lost its first three games by an average of 27 points.

Frazier said his initial film review of Sunday's stumble gave him reason for optimism, even if he is considering making some depth chart tweaks later this week.

"As dire as it may seem," Frazier said, "I do believe we are on the verge of getting things headed in the right direction. I really believe that."

When pressed to identify specifically what impresses him, Frazier spoke only in generalities.

"There are some things I want to share with our players that I want them to understand and get a sense of where we are right now based on what's going on in our league and also where we are as a football team," Frazier said.

In the Vikings locker room, defensive tackle Remi Ayodele translated Frazier's message.

"When we watch our film, we're doing some great things," Ayodele said. "We're just not doing those great things at the times we really need to. In crunch time. But it's not a lack of effort. Some teams when they're losing, it's lack of effort, guys not really trying. You watch our film, our guys are hustling and trying to do their jobs. It's just a few little miscues."

That's certainly true for McNabb, who showed admirable patience and an understanding of the game plan in Kansas City. He involved Percy Harvin throughout the afternoon and frequently took advantage of tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph, who combined for nine catches for 102 yards.

But then came the miscues. A holding penalty on Phil Loadholt in the first quarter negated a first-down pass to Bernard Berrian. An illegal shift in the third erased a 16-yard completion to Shiancoe.

And on the Vikings' final four offensive plays, McNabb rushed throws that never reached their targets.

Just like that, a winnable game slipped away.

But McNabb will get another chance.

Harvin supports Frazier's decision, still a believer that McNabb's veteran leadership can steady this sputtering team. Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was also on board, believing Frazier's loyalty to McNabb sends a strong message.

"We're not looking toward next year," Robison said. "For him to stick with Donovan shows me he has trust in the players we have here right now."

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