Many might think the Vikings are close to being a postseason team if they solve their quarterback issue, but they are far from being a quality playoff team for several reasons.
The Favre factor
Did you think I could write about the Vikings without including Brett Favre? No chance. Favre must be included, because as he walks into the sunset finally retiring, the Vikings are left with a mess to clean up. Favre the player is not the reason for the mess, but rather the approach Minnesota took. It started with giving former coach Brad Childress a long-term contract because the Vikings thought they needed continuity within the organization After a bitter loss to the Saints in the NFC title game in 2009. They also felt as long as Favre returned, they would be back in the playoffs.
John Madden has a great saying: "Winning is a great deodorant."
Rebuild or repair?
The Vikings were bad in every phase last year. The offensive line, which at one time was their strength, became a liability. They could not convert third-and-short or pass protect, especially with left tackle Bryant McKinnie struggling. Right tackle Phil Loadholt cannot cutoff the backside on running plays going the other away, so the Vikings are forced to run right on critical downs. The Vikings must fix their left tackle spot and get more athletic on the line to handle the speed and quickness of the defensive fronts they face.
Sidney Rice potentially being a free agent also makes receiver an issue, but clearly the quarterback problem is the most glaring. The only aspect of the offense that does not need help is running back.
Defensively, the Vikings must get their best players to live up to potential, (Jared Allen, Kevin Williams), find a way to repair the secondary, upgrade the speed at linebacker, and add depth on the defensive front. I've written this many times, but the Vikings are one of the worst-tackling secondaries in the league. Their poor tackling is partially due to a lack of athletic talent in the back seven (linebackers and secondary). The Vikings are slow on defense and having to face the Packers, Bears and Lions twice makes their lack of speed in the back seven even more obvious.
The Vikings have some assets, but they need to address many areas. This draft must be a homerun. They must get younger, more athletic and, most of all, improve the overall talent level.
What are the options?
The time to draft a quarterback was a year ago, but since the Vikings gave Childress, who believed in Tarvaris Jackson, an extension, they passed. In fact, when Childress had problems with backup Sage Rosenfels, the veteran was traded to the Giants. Now I am not making a case for Rosenfels as the starter, but he was better than any other option they had on the roster.
Picking 12th overall, the Vikings probably realize they won't be in position to draft either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, which is why they are rumored to be interested in the Eagles' Kevin Kolb. He could make sense because he has been schooled in the West Coast offense, a system Bill Musgrave is using as Minnesota's new coordinator.
Is Kolb worth that high of a pick? From my viewpoint, I don't think so. If the Vikings are intent on trading for Kolb, they might want to move down to secure more picks. At that point, then they could deal their lower first rounder to Philadelphia knowing they would be the only team making that kind of offer.
If the Vikings pass on Kolb, they will have to select a second-level quarterback in the draft and find a veteran to play in 2011. Matt Hasselbeck or Marc Bulger would be good options since either can run their offense and buy time to develop a younger quarterback. Even still, signing either Hasselbeck or Bulger and drafting a quarterback will not make the Vikings a playoff team. In fact, they must improve in many other areas.
The Vikings, under new coach Leslie Frazier, must be realistic in their evaluation of the team. They must move past playoff expectations with a comprehensive plan to rebuild the entire team. They are not devoid of talent, so if they understand there are more areas to repair than just quarterback, they can get back to a playoff level in two years.
The Vikings might be best served to add a blue-chip player in the first round, then sign a veteran and look to trade for another quarterback -- Kolb, Donovan McNabb or someone else. They cannot force the quarterback pick since they need more talent across the board. Therefore, the time to be courageous to solve the quarterback issue is not now. With a two-year plan in place, the Vikings must be patient and realistic.
If the Vikings are not reasonable or make the wrong call at quarterback, things might get worse before they get better.
Note: In writing about all the teams in the top 10 that need quarterbacks, I left three teams off my review (Cleveland, Dallas and Washington) last week. Now, some might think the Redskins and Browns need help there, but I did not include them in part because both teams feel comfortable -- at least in terms of not drafting one in the first round -- with their quarterback situation.