Souhan: Cassel right choice for Vikings right now

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2014 - 4:08 PM

The veteran isn’t the sexy pick at QB, but it’s the smart one.

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Matt Cassel agreed to a two-year deal to return to the Vikings, where he will be the short-term starter and mentor to the young quarterback they will draft.

Photo: File photo by CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

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Matt Cassel’s return to the Vikings sets up so many juicy possibilities.

The team is now one signing away from putting the band back together. If they can just re-sign Josh Freeman, they’ll have Cassel, Freeman and Ponder all under contract, negating the chance of any of their competitors stealing the magic formula of the 2013 Minnesota Vikings, or what Vikings receivers called, “Hunger Games: Catching Nothing.”

The team can now lure fans to buy tickets to the next two seasons. Imagine: Getting to watch Cassel and Ponder in subzero weather at an outdoor college stadium. The price of one game: $100. The price of two games: $50.

OK, that’s not fair. The Cassel signing is rational. He played pretty well last year, and handled himself like a pro even when forced to watch Ponder throw at the feet of receivers and Freeman throw at the feet of concessionaires.

What’s most important about the Cassel signing is that it allows the Vikings to maneuver. With Cassel capable of starting or relieving, the Vikings can cut Ponder if they want. They can spend a high draft pick on their latest quarterback of the future and know they won’t have to rush him into action.

And here’s a thought that might infuriate Vikings fans desperate to draft and develop their own Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers: The Vikings have done pretty well signing veteran quarterbacks. Their Plan Bs have worked out better than a lot of teams’ Plan As.

Before Denny Green arrived, the Vikings tried to develop their own quarterbacks. Green’s impatience changed the organizational philosophy.

When he ran off the promising Rich Gannon in favor of the perplexing Sean Salisbury, Green was forced to scramble. His teams were competitive enough that he never had a chance to draft a blue-chip quarterback at the top of the draft, and competitive enough that he was always searching for the next quarterback who might immediately take him to the playoffs.

Green brought in Jim McMahon, who was mediocre for one season, and then Warren Moon, who was effective for two. When Brad Johnson’s run as a homegrown starter ended with a foot injury early in the 1998 season, backup Randall Cunningham took the Vikings to the NFC title game. Cunningham lost the job to another retread, Jeff George, in ’99.

After Daunte Culpepper’s rise and fall, the Vikings again drafted a quarterback of the future (Tarvaris Jackson) who again gave way to a couple of veterans. Gus Frerotte was productive in 2008 and Brett Favre took the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl in ’09.

That timeline is troubling for those who compare the Vikings to Super Bowl champions, because 10 of the last 11 champions have won with a quarterback they drafted.

But for every home-grown quarterback who wins a Super Bowl, there are dozens if not hundreds who fail.

Instead of constantly comparing the Vikings’ quarterbacks of the last 20 years to outliers like Wilson and Rodgers, perhaps it would be more educational to compare the Vikings’ approach to that of a team that has invested multiple first-round draft picks in franchise quarterbacks.

In 2001, Team X selected a talented passer — call him Quarterback A - with the first pick in the second round. The quarterback became a star. In 2004, Team X used the fourth pick in the first round to select Quarterback B. Quarterback A left in free agency. Quarterback B became a star for a franchise that, like the 1998 and 2009 Vikings, was considered to have one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the NFL not long ago.

Team X must have won a Super Bowl or two, right?

Wrong. Team X is the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers drafted Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. They have won four playoff games and reached zero Super Bowls with those two at quarterback. Favre and Cunningham came closer to taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl than Brees and Rivers with the Chargers.

Cassel might work as a temp. He might work as a mentor.

The Vikings could have done worse. Many teams have.

The Vikings have suffered only six losing seasons since 1990. Two of those six losing seasons occurred as they were breaking in a first-round draft pick named Culpepper. Two more occurred as they tried to develop a first-rounder named Ponder.

Cassel was the right choice for a team looking to draft a quarterback. Vikings history suggests he might even be the right choice if they draft a bad one.

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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Minnesota 17 3rd Qtr 4:55
Miami 14
Baltimore 7 3rd Qtr 11:10
Houston 16
Detroit 10 3rd Qtr 2:45
Chicago 14
Cleveland 6 3rd Qtr 3:14
Carolina 10
Atlanta 20 3rd Qtr 1:44
New Orleans 7
Green Bay 10 4th Qtr 12:00
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 6 3rd Qtr 1:55
Pittsburgh 10
New England 10 3rd Qtr 0:06
NY Jets 13
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
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Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
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Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
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Miami
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Edmonton
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NY Rangers
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Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 64 1st OT 3:05
Army 62
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 63 1st OT 2:45
Cleveland State 64
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 64 2nd Half 3:00
Central Arkansas 45
Holy Cross 23 2nd Half 16:56
Canisius 26
Southern Miss 33 2nd Half 14:16
Georgia State 42
Western Carolina 28 2nd Half 18:51
UNC-Asheville 38
Creighton 21 2nd Half 18:30
North Texas 37
Maryland 45 2nd Half 17:03
Oklahoma State 30
Cornell 38 2nd Half 19:17
Radford 34
Vermont 28 2nd Half 16:46
Saint Louis 29
Loyola-Maryland 35 2nd Half 16:55
Stony Brook 32
Reinhardt 32 2nd Half 20:00
Winthrop 44
Ark-Little Rock 31 2nd Half 15:03
Green Bay 43
TX-Pan American 35 2nd Half 18:03
Nebraska Omaha 45
Alabama State 49 2nd Half
Evansville 47
FIU 31 2nd Half
Hartford 42
Goshen 22 1st Half 3:50
Valparaiso 31
Bryant 0 1st Half 20:00
Denver 0
Austin Peay 2 1st Half 17:02
Lipscomb 3
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
South Dakota 4 1st Half 18:10
Montana 4
ULM 2:00 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
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Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
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Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
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Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
Duquesne 54 2nd Half 0:55
Providence 63
(3) Texas 48 2nd Half 9:54
(4) Texas A&M 53
Rhode Island 56 2nd Half 2:02
Bryant 51
South Florida 37 2nd Half
Penn State 34
Sam Houston St 28 2nd Half 16:01
TCU 48
Evansville 21 2nd Half 20:00
IUPUI 28
(14) Maryland 59 2nd Half 20:00
Coppin State 25
Mercer 34 2nd Half 16:2`
Coll of Charleston 47
NC A&T 17 2nd Half
Chattanooga 32
Princeton 48 2nd Half 18:16
Monmouth 24
Eastern Illinois 54 2nd Half 13:21
Lehigh 50
Rider 36 2nd Half 16:19
Binghamton 34
SC State 16 2nd Half 20:00
Clemson 29
Fairfield 35 2nd Half 17:56
Iowa State 44
Richmond 54 2nd Half 13:56
Eastern Kentucky 30
Cleveland State 44 2nd Half 13:57
Morehead St 51
Kent State 31 2nd Half 17:55
Colgate 29
South Alabama 21 2nd Half 12:18
UAB 54
Saint Peters 16 2nd Half 20:00
Navy 39
Youngstown St 28 2nd Half 13:48
Pittsburgh 46
NJIT 28 2nd Half
Lafayette 34
Davidson 14 2nd Half
Charlotte 44
Indiana State 19 1st Half 8:06
St Johns 17
Southern U 11 1st Half 6:01
Florida 29
Wright State 14 1st Half 2:47
Purdue 28
Northern Ariz 2:00 PM
New Mexico
Elon 2:00 PM
(6) North Carolina
Chicago State 2:00 PM
Milwaukee
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
Bradley
Ill-Springfield 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Northern Ill 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
(19) Oklahoma St 2 1st Half 17:23
USC 5
Houston 4 1st Half 14:57
Texas Tech 5
Ark-Little Rock 2 1st Half 17:49
Tulsa 3
Dayton 0 1st Half 20:00
Vanderbilt 0
UNC-Asheville 0 1st Half 19:04
USC Upstate 2
North Dakota 0 1st Half 20:00
South Dakota 0
Western Ill 0 1st Half 20:00
Marquette 0
Ball State 3 1st Half 18:53
Western Ky 2
(8) Kentucky 2 1st Half 15:59
(13) Duke 10
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(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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