Of all the storylines that presented themselves at this weekend’s minicamp, one that wasn’t expected was the lack of work for quarterback Sage Rosenfels.
During Saturday’s practices, the veteran backup threw only three passes in full-team work, giving way to rookie wide receiver-turned-back-to-quarterback Joe Webb. Webb took the lion’s share of second-team snaps at practice, leaving some to wonder where Rosenfels’ future lies with the Vikings.
On Sunday, Rosenfels’ action was limited to throws in individual work and he kneeling and standing to the side of the action during 7-on-7 and full-team work. He declined to comment over the weekend.
When the Vikings traded a fourth-round draft pick to Houston last spring to acquire Rosenfels, many believed he would be the Vikings’ starter in 2009. While head coach Brad Childress has tied his coaching future into the success of failure of Tarvaris Jackson, that commitment was dashed just two weeks into the 2008 season when he announced that Gus Frerotte would be the Vikings starter not just for Week 3, but for the rest of the 2008 season. When Frerotte’s aging body couldn’t hold up to the strain, he was discarded and Rosenfels was acquired and early in the 2009 offseason and signed to an extension.
Rosenfels’ Vikings history has been a strange saga. The Vikings made a run for him prior to the 2008 draft, but, at the time, Houston was demanding a second-round draft pick in return to make a trade. The Vikings balked at that notion, deeming the price too high. A year later, the Texans dropped their demand to a fourth-round pick and the Vikings jumped at it. As part of the deal, the Vikings signed Rosenfels to a two-year contract extension worth $9 million. He had one year remaining on his Texans deal worth $1.35 million.
At the time, Rosenfels was not only expected to compete for the starting job, but was the frontrunner. Childress refused to anoint Rosenfels the starter, saying a multi-faceted set of parameters for both quarterbacks would determine who won the starting job. It seemed almost destiny that Rosenfels had the job to lose – thanks to a minor injury to Jackson, Rosenfels started the opening game of the 2009 preseason and was on target to start the third game – the one preseason game that matters – in a return to Houston on national TV in a preseason edition of “Monday Night Football.”
Then, Brett Favre came rolling into town. The circus was in town and Rosenfels was the odd man out. Because he hadn’t taken many reps and got robbed of his start in the second preseason game, Jackson got the No. 2 spot behind Favre in the preseason game with Houston. Rosenfels was bumped to the No. 3 spot. He never recovered from it.
At the time of Favre’s arrival, the stunned ecstasy Vikings fans were going through was basically unrivaled in franchise history. The Vikings were viewed as a team that could compete for a Super Bowl berth with one huge exception – the quarterback position. Neither Jackson nor Rosenfels were viewed as proven, top-notch NFL starters and with conference rivals boasting franchise quarterbacks – Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warrner – that deficiency was seen as a death knell for the Vikings’ Super Bowl aspirations. Favre immediately vaulted the Vikings into the mix.
For all the joy Vikings fans were experiencing, there were three guys who weren’t happy – not even a little bit. Those guys were Rosenfels, Jackson and John David Booty, who had the additional problem of wearing No. 4 – a number he gave up without a bark.
Rosenfels wasn’t shy about his displeasure. In order to absorb the team’s playbook, Rosenfels, a father of two elementary-school aged children, uprooted his kids from their family and friends in Houston to move to Minnesota in the late stages of winter. The sacrifice, he theorized, would be worth it because, after years of never being able to outright win a starting job as an NFL quarterback, that opportunity was in front of him … until Favre rolled into Winter Park riding shotgun in Childress’ SUV.
As a result, when the regular season began, Jackson was the No. 2 quarterback and Rosenfels was inactive as the No. 3 emergency quarterback. That never changed. As far as NFL history goes, Rosenfels has never officially played a game for the Vikings. He was philosophical about his position this year, as everyone expects Rosenfels and Jackson to get the reps with the receivers in Mankato and then give way to Favre in early to mid-August. However, if we can read anything out of this weekend’s minicamp, Rosenfels may be the odd man out again – but this time it might be his roster spot that is at stake.
When he signed with the Vikings, they didn’t tear up his contract, they added two years to the end of it. The heavy lifting portion of the deal (two more years worth $6.5 million) will increase this year. Is it worth it to the Vikings to keep a No. 3 quarterback for that kind of money? We’ll find out in the next couple of months. However, it looks like the Rosenfels experiment could be coming to an end. For a guy who has been the victim of trades and free-agent signings that have prevented him from getting a chance to be a full-time starter, Minnesota was supposed to be the answer to his prayers. Instead, it would appear it has just been the latest chapter in a growing saga of denied opportunities.
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.