Just when you thought the Vikings’ QB situation couldn’t be more controversial or convoluted, the organization pulled the rope tight around the bull Sunday.
At a time when Christian Ponder’s short-term and long-term future are in question and veteran former starter Matt Cassel played well enough in his Vikings debut to make a legitimate case for the starting job, the Vikings decided to turn up the pressure valve on both by bringing in former first-round draft pick Josh Freeman for a $3 million look under the hood.
When it comes to quarterbacks, much is made of their “psyche.” The Vikings should have a psychologist on staff to put in some significant “couch time” with the Vikings quarterbacks. . Someone with the seldom-seen Van Dyke would be preferred, because, in the psychology world, a Van Dyke (balding with facial hair) provides instant credibility.
Ponder is coming off one of the worst hometown fan reactions this side of Matt Schaub. In the Vikings home loss to suddenly-red hot Cleveland, Ponder was booed throughout, with a third-quarter chant of “Cassel! Cassel!” that gained enough steam to sustain for about a minute. In terms of psyche, he’s a big hot mess.
Cassel has been through the grinder himself. When former Patriot-then-Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli decided to create a virtual Evil Empire half a country away from Boston, he had seen enough of Cassel to convince the few people above him in the organization that he would be the man. Last year, the situation crashed and burned and, when Pioli was shown the door, Cassel wasn’t far behind. At this point, the psychologist strokes his Van Dyke and raises an eyebrow. A second volatile psyche of a Vikings quarterback in the mix. Cassel has been a team player, but, after his performance in Wembley Stadium, he can make claim to a starting spot. Cancel the doctor’s next appointment. This may take time.
Enter Freeman, stage left. Some divorces are ugly. This is one for the books – as in pay someone else to start your car. For those unfamiliar with Freeman’s plight, you have to go back to the beginning. When Freeman led the Bucs to a 10-6 record, it was a shocker. Head Coach Rahim Morris was named Coach of the Year by most organizations that hand out such awards. A year later, he was fired. Enter Greg Schiano, a.k.a. General McArthur, stage center – kicking his way through the curtain.
When it comes to clashes of personality, Schiano has a history of violence. Incumbent leading receiver Kellen Winslow was the first to butt heads with the New Jersey Bulldog. He was gone within months. LaGarrette Blount had proved to be a powerful between-the-tackles running back bell cow. He didn’t fit in with Schiano’s crew. He had to go. He took a trip to the swamps and never came back.
An argument could be made for getting rid of Winslow – overpaid for his production – and Blount, who was chum in the water after Schiano decided to replace him with Doug Martin. Martin was in the Schiano crew. He was a made man. Blount wasn’t. Somebody needed to be taken down by the ocean and disposed of. That guy was Blount.
When Schiano drafted Mike Glennon on the third round of this year’s draft, it sent a clear message to Freeman – it’s your job … for now. He wasn’t part of the Schiano crew. Freeman had been one of the captains that headed to midfield for coin flips. The first sign of trouble in Tampa came when Freeman was stripped of his captaincy. Somewhere in between the movie Election and the workings of Tampa native Santo Trafficante, the votes were tallied by Schiano – and shortly thereafter destroyed to prevent any recount. Given Florida’s history of vote-count accuracy, conspiracy theories began to spring up that dangling chads might be in play.
The discord turned to divorce in a hurry. In Week 3, Freeman started. In Week 4, he was banished to a suite in the stadium – not even on the sidelines to give potential guidance to the rookie Glennon. With the Bucs bye week coming, the clear impression a week ago was that Freeman wouldn’t be a member of the team when they returned to the team facility in full force today. He didn’t. In true Schiano fashion, he denied him the opportunity to say goodbye to his teammates. In that world, he swims with the fishes.
Clear out the rest of the doctor’s week. His Van Dyke is thinning from constant tugging. He had two patients that had legitimate reasons to be venting on the couch. Now he has three – but that has ramped up the angst for the other two even more. The couch time has gone up exponentially.
For the last week, the Vikings have had a quarterback controversy. Now what they have is a quarterback malaise.
A malaise is like a siren – you ever know one to be good?
In 2004, the Vikings’ Daunte Culpepper had what, in an ordinary season, would be viewed as an MVP season. But, that same year, Peyton Manning set the all-time NFL touchdown passing record and was named MVP. On Sunday, Manning knocked Culpepper out of the record books for the second time in a decade. Culpepper held the NFL record for most touchdown passes in the first five games of a season with 18. With his four touchdowns against Dallas on Sunday, Manning broke that record, raising the bar to 20.
Adrian Peterson was honored at Palestine High School by having his jersey retired. Were they waiting to make sure won an NFL MVP award before hanging up his jersey?
Kudos to the Vikings P.R. Department – or whomever came up with the title of “Stadium Builders License” to replace the term “Personal Seat License.” The Vikings make a PSL sound like those who buy them will be required to wear a Bob the Builder yellow helmet and perhaps a photo-op with a golden shovel in hand. Nah. But you have to appreciate the level of political correctness/spin value in the semantics of it.
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.