The Vikings switch from Donovan McNabb to Christian Ponder has made big news in Minnesota, but it just adds the Vikings to a growing list of teams that have had to abandon Plan A in their quarterback vision. Just six weeks into the season, a significant number of the NFL’s 32 teams have had to switch to Plan B. Some were due to ineffectiveness. Some were due to injury. But, when combined, you find out the Vikings are far from alone. Consider the following:
Carolina – While technically not a change of quarterback, top draft pick Cam Newton was thrown out in Week 1 as the Panthers’ starter and lit up the NFL for more than 800 passing yards in his first two games. While the Panthers are 1-5 like the Vikings, there is excitement in the air that the franchise had turned a corner with a long-term quarterback.
Cincinnati – The Bengals claimed they were willing to wait and develop Andy Dalton. That was until Bruce Gradkowski forced the franchise’s hand after he stunk up the joint in Week 1. Dalton replaced him and the team hasn’t looked back – gaining such complete franchise confidence that it felt comfortable making a “blind squirrel finds acorn” trade – getting an improbable bonanza of high draft picks from the Raiders for exiled QB Carson Palmer. The Bengals are paving the road to their future with Dalton and, from their perspective, he has exceeded expectations.
Denver – All the Broncos did was encourage billboard sponsors to create their own QB controversies, as a fan-inspired ascent of Chosen One Tim Tebow has sent Kyle Orton out to pasture in Colorado. The move curiously coincides with Tebow being honored with his Florida Gators championship teammates in the Miami stadium in which he will be playing Sunday.
Indianapolis – The best thing that happened to Kerry Collins was that he got a concussion. Coming back from retirement, the Collins-led Colts offense had all the killing power of a cap gun. When he went down, appropriately named backup Curtis Painter (who looks like an adult version of the kid on the Dutch Boy paint can) took over and has helped wheeze the Colts closer and closer to a potential Manning-Luck showdown.
Jacksonville – The Jaguars hoped to shelter rookie Blaine Gabbert, but when Josh McCown became Josh McClown with a pee-wee passer rating of 30.6 in two games, the white flag of surrender was thrown and Gabbert began his career as their starter.
Miami – Another team expected to be deep in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes thought Chad Henne would keep the chair warm. But he was lost for the season due to injury. Journeyman Matt Moore took over and the team signed Sage Rosenfels. Finding a win on the Dolphins’ schedule gets tougher after this week.
Oakland – They say you never lose your job due to injury. Tell that to Jason Campbell. Given the pimp’s ransom the Bengals got for trading the rights to disgruntled retiree Carson Palmer, not only did Campbell lose his starting job, but, as a free agent after this season, his roster spot with the Raiders.
Philadelphia – Mike Vick has managed to start all of the Dream Team’s games –two wins and four losses – but has been knocked out of three of them at some point and has turned the offense over to feeble Mike Kafka and Vince Young, whose only contribution to the team was naming it the Dream Team. Vick is still playing every week, but it seems like just a matter of time before his style takes him out of action.
Seattle – Big shocker. Tarvaris Jackson is injured. It seemed like every time Jackson did something positive as the Vikings quarterback, it was followed up by an injury setback that consistently derailed any progress he was making. After posting the first 300-yard passing game of his career, Jackson was knocked out of action and replaced by Charlie Whitehurst. There likely won’t be a QB controversy when T-Jack is good to go, because it’s more a case of Worse and Worser.
Washington – Bad Rex showed up in D.C. in a big way – nine interceptions and a first-class ticket to the bench for Rex Grossman, a quarterback despised by home fans more than almost anyone outside of Ryan Leaf in league history. John Beck may not be the answer, but he’s not Rex, which may be enough to appease Redskins fans.
Vikings fans might feel like they have the only team with a quarterback question, but through little more than one third of the season, one third of the teams have had QB questions of their own that they didn’t envision when training camps opened following the lockout. More are sure to follow and will likely be as big a reason why teams fall to the wayside as any other. At this rate, it could be a battle of attrition for teams looking to compete for the Super Bowl.
For the second straight day, John Sullivan and Jamarca Sanford were sidelined at practice as both were knocked out of last Sunday’s game with concussions. While there is no “official” policy that has been expressly stated, it seems that players who sustain “take their helmet away” style concussions automatically will be held out the following week as a long-term precaution. Don’t expect to see either play Sunday unless they get a 100 percent clean bill of health on their post-concussion tests.
Phil Loadholt said his knee is progressing each day and he expects to be good to go Sunday. Loadholt hurt his knee in the first quarter of Sunday’s game with the Bears and tried to play through it until he was pulled at halftime. While players don’t have to discuss their injury status – Percy Harvin pleaded the 5th when asked the same question – Loadholt said it’s been a process in which his knee mobility is getting better with each day. He was limited in Thursday’s practice and today will be critical for a final assessment. If the swelling returns to his knee today, the Vikings will be at a crossroads as to how to deal with the left side of the Packers’ defensive front.
Signs continue to point to Antoine Winfield returning to the field Sunday. While still limited in practice, his neck is improving, according to head coach Leslie Frazier. But Winfield may end up being a game-day decision and will likely be listed as questionable on the final injury report Friday.
Packers LB Clay Matthews, who missed practice Wednesday while resting a quad injury, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. The rest is being viewed as precautionary and he is expected to be ready to go Sunday.
Nickel cornerback/return man Sam Shields remained sidelined Thursday after being diagnosed with a concussion last week. He would be a bigger loss to the Packers lineup than it may appear, because they have had a penchant to move Charles Woodson to safety in nickel situations and use Shields at cornerback. Given the lack of depth the Packers have in the secondary, that option will likely be denied them if Shields doesn’t play, which, at the moment, doesn’t appear likely.
Woodson remains limited in practice with what has been described as both a foot and knee injury. Much like Tom Brady’s phantom throwing shoulder injury, the multiple Woodson injuries won’t prevent him from playing Sunday.
Former Viking Matt Birk will be highlighted on this week’s Monday night game against the punchless Jaguars. Birk is in the middle of the Ravens offensive line and has been battling a knee injury all season after having offseason surgery. Perhaps a casualty of not being able to work with the Ravens training staff, Birk is fighting through the pain. Vikings fans will remember when Birk needed painful sports hernia surgery, but said that, if the team would guarantee his contract for the following season, he would wait to have surgery until the end of the season. The team balked and Birk had the season-ending surgery. But the fact he was willing to endure excruciating pain for his team with the assurance it wouldn’t cost him long-term speaks volumes.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.