Rand: Backup QBs do matter

  • Updated: February 27, 2013 - 12:49 AM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman reasserted recently that the team will actively search for another quarterback this offseason -- while also saying the QB would be in a competition as a clear backup to starter Christian Ponder.

Fans who wanted the Vikings to make a stronger push for a challenger to Ponder should realize this: Whatever you call this potential new QB (backup, starter, whatever) doesn't really matter. What does matter is his potential value to the team. To illustrate this point, we went back and tracked the last 10 seasons in which the Vikings made the playoffs. In 2000 and 2004 (Daunte Culpepper) and 2009 (Brett Favre) the backup proved to be a nonfactor. In the other seven years? Well, it mattered quite a bit:

• 2012: Ponder started all 16 games despite an uneven middle part of the season. Fans who called for Joe Webb to play during the year got what they were asking for when the backup had to sub for an injured Ponder in the playoffs against Green Bay. He completed just 11 of 30 passes in a 24-10 loss.

• 2008: Tarvaris Jackson opened the year as the starter. Gus Frerotte ended up starting 11 games, going 8-3. But T-Jack got the playoff nod as the Vikings lost 26-14 at home to the Eagles.

• 1999: Randall Cunningham, coming off a spectacular season, was ineffective as the Vikings started 2-4. Veteran Jeff George came off the bench and rallied the Vikings with eight wins in their final 10 regular-season games and a playoff victory over Dallas before they lost to the Rams.

• 1998: Brad Johnson began the year as the starter but was injured in Week 2. Cunningham took over until a victory over the Saints, when Cunningham hurt his knee and Johnson briefly reclaimed his spot before hurting his thumb. Cunningham returned and led the way pretty much from there on out. Nobody remembers what happened in the playoffs.

• 1997: Johnson opened as the starter and led the team to an 8-4 record before a season-ending injury. Cunningham won just one game in the regular season after taking over, but the Vikings snuck into the playoffs, where Cunningham led them to a crazy rally over the Giants for the first postseason victory of the Dennis Green Era. They lost the next week to the 49ers.

• 1996: Warren Moon began the season as the starter, but injuries led Moon and Johnson to each start eight games. Johnson was 5-3 as a starter in the regular season and was the starter in the playoffs when the Vikings bowed out 40-15 against Dallas.

• 1994: Moon started the first 15 games, but an injury led Sean Salisbury to start the regular-season finale -- a 21-14 victory over San Francisco that clinched the division title. Moon returned for the playoffs, when the Vikings lost 35-18 at home to the Bears. Coincidentally, this was the first Vikings game attended in person by a certain writer who does not have fond memories of it.


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