Good, bad or 16-point losses to a winless Giants team, the overall sense in the Vikings locker room Monday night was it’s time for the coaching staff to commit to Josh Freeman as the starting quarterback for the final 10 games of the 2013 season.
“I think so,” fullback Jerome Felton said following the 23-7 loss at MetLife Stadium. “You don’t want to switch quarterbacks every couple of weeks. I was a part of doing that in Detroit in 2008 [five quarterbacks, including three starters] and we went 0-16. That’s not what you want to do. So I’m assuming they’ll pick a guy and stick with him.”
It seems to be a safe assumption at this point, although coach Leslie Frazier would not commit to Freeman beyond Sunday’s game against the Packers when asked about the quarterback situation at his Tuesday news conference.
“I don’t know if I’ve thought that far ahead,” he said. “I really haven’t.”
Frazier also said he’s under no obligation from upper management to start Freeman ahead of Christian Ponder (0-3 this season) or Matt Cassel (1-1). But it’s sounding as if he might be obligated to stick with Freeman if he wants to keep his locker room from fracturing from further frustration.
Adrian Peterson, the reigning league MVP and face of the franchise, was asked if his franchise should commit to Freeman for the rest of the season.
“Yeah,” he said. “Commit to him.”
The frustration level of playing with a third different starting quarterback in four games was evident among those players willing to address this situation honestly or at all.
“It’s tough,” Peterson said. “We’re professional athletes, so we have to adjust and get into the swing of things. But we had a couple of plays, a couple of areas, that due to a new quarterback, [we struggled] communication-wise. Those are simple things we should be able to clean up.”
All the sugarcoating on Peterson’s favorite Froot Loops cereal couldn’t make Freeman’s performance on Monday look good. He completed only 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. Frazier said Freeman’s inaccuracy was due more to mechanical issues than the mental challenge of having had only four practices in this offense.
Whatever it was and whether or not it was understandable given the circumstances, it was just plain ugly. The final tally was a 40.6 passer rating — a season low for a Vikings quarterback — and a .377 completion percentage that was the lowest by any NFL quarterback since 2007. And, oh yeah, the Vikings’ offense was held scoreless against a team ranked last in scoring defense (34.8).
“I think it was one of those weeks where Josh got thrown into the fire, and we kind of didn’t answer the call against a team we felt we could beat,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “But we got another opportunity next week.”
Jennings is about to be reminded — again — just how different life with the 1-5 Vikings is compared to what it once was for seven seasons in Green Bay. In seven seasons with the Packers, Jennings played with as many starting quarterbacks as he’s played with in the past four games.
“Yes,” he said, “it’s a different feeling.”
Asked if he thinks it’s time to commit to one quarterback for the rest of the season, he said, “I’m not a player personnel guy. But, yeah, at some point, you got to make a decision and stick with it.”
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson agreed. Asked if it would help to commit long-term to a quarterback, he said. “It really would so we know who our quarterback is for the week. It would help us out a lot with our rhythm.”
Frazier said he doesn’t sense that the quarterback situation has caused any division in the locker room.
“One of the good things about our guys up to this point is they have been so supportive of every decision, evidenced by the way they played [Monday night],” Frazier said. “As hard as they played and competed throughout, you can tell that those guys are on board.”
Frazier also said he talks to the veterans to get a feel for how decisions are received in the locker room. But …
“At the end of the day, those guys know I’m going to make decisions I think are the best for our team,” Frazier said. “I’m always conscious of where they are but they also know that every decision can’t be made by committee. Some have to be made by myself and coaches.”
Mark Craig • firstname.lastname@example.org