I like the Vikings new uniforms for the most part. I really like the look of their new Fortress of Solitude, er… I mean, stadium. I think they did a bang-up job in the draft. And I think they are making a wise move with Joe Webb.
Webb is not an NFL quarterback. This much has been clear for quite some time – certainly long before the Vikings fell to the Packers in their playoff game at Lambeau that featured an overmatched Webb filling in for Christian Ponder.
Webb has neither the accuracy nor decision-making skills required to be a signal caller at the highest level. And when it comes to playing quarterback I'd rank those two attributes first and second in importance. You can get by with marginal arm strength and size or lackluster mobility – none of which are a problem for Webb – but if you can't decide quickly what to do with the ball and get it precisely where you need to get it, you simply can't succeed as an NFL quarterback.
In drafting Webb (a quarterback from UAB) in 2010 the Vikings saw a gifted athlete with plus running and jumping ability – a real threat in the open field. Their hunch was that he might have what it takes to play wide receiver – a position he played in 2007 – in the NFL. The wide receiver experiment was short-lived, however, and Joe was transitioned back to quarterback. The Vikings subsequently dabbled with him in the blazer package and, in short, really weren't sure what to do with him.
To his credit, Webb has maintained an "I'll do whatever the coaches want me to do, play wherever they want me to play-attitude" throughout the positional back-and-forth.
When the Vikings signed Matt Cassel in March, the writing on the wall was clear for Webb: he was no longer a Vikings quarterback. The poorly-kept secret was recently confirmed by Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. Webb is now working full-time on becoming a wideout, to which I say: why not?
The Vikings might as well give it one last shot with Webb. He's not a quarterback so the only thing they could do besides trying wide receiver would be release him. I say give him one more shot at wide receiver or kick returner or something – see what he can do with all that running ability. If it doesn't work out during training camp, so be it. At least the possibility was investigated.
While I'm not expecting big things from Webb as a wide receiver, he has a better chance of making a career for himself as a wideout than he does a quarterback. He definitely knows how to run and make people miss when he has the ball in his hands. Of course, that's where the tricky part comes in: getting the ball is his giant hands.
During his first go-round at playing wide receiver, Webb displayed average hands at best and questionable route-running skills – two rather significant issues. However, I would argue that it is easier to improve on catching and route-running than it is to improve on the skills requisite of becoming an NFL quarterback. Thus, I like what the Vikings are doing here.
There will be times where Webb runs a poor route or drops a ball that should have been caught, but those will be easier to stomach and less damaging than errant throws and poor quarterbacking decisions. I know; it's the lesser of two evils argument, which is kind of sad. But it works in this instance.
If in the end Webb develops into a fourth or fifth wide receiver and/or kick returner capable of occasionally busting a big play, it will have been worth it. The Vikings need all the receivers and big plays in the passing game that they can get. And if it doesn't work out for Webb at wide receiver this summer, they Vikings can part ways with him knowing full-well they tried everything to tap into his substantial athletic ability.