Vikings: Which QB? It's a toss-up
The silence of coach Brad Childress on his choice to lead the offense might signal a change.
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: December 04, 2006 – 11:40 PM
Will the Vikings' starting quarterback keep his job because of an injury to the backup? That scenario seemed possible Monday at Winter Park, where coach Brad Childress brushed off questions about Brad Johnson's immediate future and indicated he will not name a starter for Sunday's game at Detroit until later this week.
Childress' refusal to immediately support Johnson, who threw four interceptions in a 23-13 loss Sunday to Chicago, suggested he preferred a change. But Childress' options are limited; backup Brooks Bollinger's left arm was in a sling Monday, courtesy a second-degree sprain of his left shoulder, and rookie Tarvaris Jackson continued to express reservations about stepping into the lineup.
Childress admitted he did not know when Bollinger would return to practice but insisted, "I have a few different options." Childress said he will decide based on who "give[s] us the best chance to win in the fourth quarter."We'll just look at that and see who we feel like that is," Childress added before cutting off reporters' questions on the situation.
Johnson, who has thrown 14 interceptions, was not available for comment Monday. But Childress has benched the 15-year veteran twice for throwing multiple interceptions, and coaches often look to replace starters after a second sitdown. Childress, for one, offered no evidence to the contrary Monday.
"We've got a lot of things that we have to clean up on offense," he said, "primarily number one, taking care of the football."
To that end, Childress seems willing to delay his decision until he can rule out Bollinger from a physical standpoint. According to Childress, Bollinger sprained the acromio-clavicular (AC) joint in his nonthrowing shoulder when Adewale Ogunleye sacked him during the fourth quarter Sunday. A second- degree sprain in essence means Bollinger slightly separated his shoulder.
Doctors administered a pain-killing injection Monday, and Childress said, "He just has to be able to function at a high level."
Players have today off and will resume practice Wednesday. Asked if it was important to name a starter by Wednesday for stability reasons, Childress said: "I think that's less important than guys getting reps where they are at."
In two relief appearances this season, Bollinger has completed 13 of 18 passes for 148 yards and one interception. The Vikings acquired him Aug. 31 from the New York Jets, signing him to a contract extension that will pay him backup-level salaries of $750,000 in 2007 and $950,000 in 2008.
Bollinger referred all questions about his injury and playing status to Childress but said he will prepare -- as always -- to play Sunday against the Lions.
"I've been in a lot of different situations," Bollinger said. "That's really part of this job and part of this position. You just show up on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, every day, preparing to play a football game and getting yourself ready as if you are going to play a game. ... It's just a matter of getting yourself prepared because you never know what kind of situation you're going to get yourself into."
While Bollinger will need an exceptionally quick recovery to be a factor this week, Jackson also has obstacles to overcome. His brief stint against the Bears, completing three of four passes for 35 yards, represented his first work with the Vikings offense since the preseason. A fan favorite, Jackson said he believes Johnson should retain the job.
"I think we're staying with Brad," Jackson said. "We still have a chance to make the playoffs, so we're still trying to do that. So it's obvious that Brad is still our quarterback so we can stay on that [path]."
Jackson reiterated that he has taken almost no practice snaps during the regular season, focusing almost exclusively on scout team work, and said he does not feel "as prepared as I'd like" to take over the job. Asked why he is not pursuing the job more aggressively, Jackson said he prefers a quieter style.
"It's not my decision to make," he said. "It's Coach Childress' decision. If he calls on me, I'll do my best. I'm very confident. I can play. It's just, I'm not going to be bragging and boastful about it."
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Vikings' Childress quiets talk of rift on team
Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
Last update: December 04, 2006 – 10:33 PM
A day after safety Darren Sharper called for the Vikings to make changes on offense following a 23-13 loss at Chicago, coach Brad Childress attempted to downplay any talk of dissension in the ranks.
"It's a volatile situation after a game," Childress said Monday. "I mean, there are emotions that are on edge, and I understand that. We're not trying to hide anything from anybody. ... The only thing you say is -- and they're clear on this, they understand this -- it's a team game.
"As long as they've played, you win and lose together."
But the Vikings defense has outplayed the offense for much of the season, and there clearly was frustration on the part of the defense Sunday after a loss in which it gave up a season-low 107 yards and held Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman to a 1.3 quarterback rating. "Everybody gets paid to do a job," Sharper said. "If you're not executing your job, changes need to be made."
Fellow safety Dwight Smith attempted to quiet such talk Monday, saying, "There is none," when asked about the frustration level. Smith pointed to the fact the Bears returned one of their four interceptions of Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson for a touchdown.
"We have one credo we try to live by in our room and that's, 'Outplay the other team's defense,' " Smith said. "If the other team's defense is scoring with its turnovers, then we need to score with turnovers. Until we match the other team's defense we can't sit around and point fingers at our offense. It's not like every game this year we've held up our end of the bargain."
Center Matt Birk, who is in his ninth season with the Vikings, has seen plenty of seasons when the roles were reversed. "For a long time, at least on this team, offense carried the day," he said. "It's not about offense, it's about winning games. It's about finding ways to win games no matter how you do it. And we haven't done it."