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No matter the starting QB, backup should be high priority for Vikings

The Year of the Backup Quarterback saw Case Keenum and Nick Foles play in the NFC Championship game and Foles beat Tom Brady to win the Super Bowl.

It isn’t likely that we’ll ever see anything quite like 2017 again, but the rise of Keenum and Foles shows us that a good backup can save a season, so long as everything else is in place. We’ve also seen from the Houston Texans that a bad, unproven backup can sink a good team.

The 2018 Vikings currently do not have a starting quarterback with Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all set to hit the free agent market when the new league year begins in March. Deciding on a starter is clearly Priority No. 1, but the backup QB shouldn’t be far behind.

One thing that 2017’s results hint is that the difference between starters and the top backups might not be as large as we think unless we’re talking about the best of the best like Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

Quality starters have ups and downs during their careers based on supporting cast and scheme. Of course Foles and Keenum are examples – players who succeeded under good quick-passing offenses, but struggled when playing for Jeff Fisher. But even $100 million quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr have hit bumps in the road under poor circumstances and succeeded when things aligned right.

One thing the Vikings have going for them is a great supporting cast and defense. That means that when the Vikings evaluate backup QB options for 2018, it’s reasonable to project a No. 2 quarterback to play toward the top of their potential.

Let’s have a look at the best backup options on the free agent market and their best years.

Case Keenum/Teddy Bridgewater

But first – there is a possibility that both Keenum and Bridgewater end up on the roster next year. The Vikings can franchise tag or transition tag Keenum (the transition guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team). There’s also a chance Bridgewater’s contract tolls or he returns on a short-term contract with an opportunity to win the starting job.

If Keenum or Bridgewater returns to the starting gig but the other one goes elsewhere, here are the top backup options:

Josh McCown

Best season stat line: (2017) 67.3 completion percentage, 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 7.4 yards per attempt, 94.5 rating

Jets fans might have expected McCown to lead them to the No. 1 overall pick when he was named starter in training camp, but the 38-year-old proved them wrong by having a solid season. This year’s performance was the second in three years in which McCown started at least half the year and ended up with a rating above 90. He also put on an incredible show in Chicago in 2013, starting five games and finishing with a 109.0 rating.

Assuming there isn’t a team willing to make him a starter again, McCown would be a strong option for the Vikings.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best season stat line: (2014) 63.1 completion percentage, 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 8.0 yards per attempt, 95.3 rating

When handed the keys to the Buffalo Bills’ starting job, Fitzpatrick came up short, but since then he’s had some good moments. He threw 31 touchdowns and led the Jets to a 10-6 record in 2015 while throwing jump balls to Brandon Marshall, but struggled the following year. This season he went 2-1 with an 86.0 rating while filling in for Jameis Winston.

Fitzpatrick can be frustratingly aggressive for a backup quarterback and is prone to bad interceptions, but he’s got a strong enough arm, experience and mobility. He’s gone 21-21 over the last four years. The 35 year old can keep a team alive over a stretch of games.

Matt Moore

Best season stat line: (2011) 60.5 completion percentage, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 7.2 yards per attempt, 87.1 rating

When Ryan Tannehill went down in 2016, Matt Moore got the Dolphins into the playoffs and gave them a fighting chance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In three regular season starts, he produced a 105.6 rating and then in a playoff loss Moore went 29-for-36 with one touchdown, one interception. He’s 15-15 as a starter over his career.

Moore’s game log has some wild ups and downs. Against the Vikings in 2009, he went off for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He has six starts with ratings above 120 and and seven starts with ratings below 65.


Brock Osweiler 

Best season stat line: (2015) 61.8 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions, 7.2 yards per attempt, 86.4 rating

Yes, Osweiler has become somewhat of a punchline for his lack of production vs. contract in Houston, but he did help the Broncos go 5-2 during a stretch without Peyton Manning en route to a Super Bowl win. He’s not a starting-caliber quarterback, but his awful 2017 stint with Denver probably wasn’t an accurate representation of his skill either. The Broncos dropped 17 passes on just 157 Osweiler attempts – that’s as many as the Vikings dropped all of last season.

The bottom line

When the Vikings signed Case Keenum last year, it appeared they had plucked one of the better backup QBs on the market. A great situation helped him fulfill his potential and prove he can be a starting quarterback. The QBs above have shown to be backups, but they could serve the same purpose if the Vikings’ starter went down: Give them a chance to compete with one of the strongest top-to-bottom rosters in the NFL.

  • Gordon Guffey

    I’m not sure the CaseTeddy is the right ticket ~ Nothing against either but every time one had a bad game the fan would be chanting the others name ~ This team doesn’t need that ~

    I’ll let the coaches do what they do ~ I trust Spielman to look over their shoulder and see that they are doing the right thing ~ Either way I look for the Vikings to draft a QB this year if someone falls ~ By that someone between the 1st and 7th rounds ~

  • Rod Morgan

    I would love to see a Bridgewater/McCown tandem in 2018. could likely do that for less than 20 million total, potentially find your long term qB and have the best backup in the NFL in case TB fails to stay healthy or progress. win/win/win

    • cka2nd

      My one concern with a Bridgewater/McCown combination is that if Teddy’s knee gives out on him, we won’t have the QB we need for the Super Bowl window for this team, which should be open until 2021 or 2022. I’m not totally opposed to the idea because the browbeating of some of the fans here has started to convince me that Kyle Sloter may be the real deal, if not in 2018 then maybe in 2019.

  • brian199511

    Sloter should also be an option listed as he had an excellent preseason with Denver last year and the Vikings would surely lose him if they tried to sneak him back on the practice squad. Money is also a big issue.

    • Gordon Guffey

      Never say never ~

    • Jim Grace

      Yes Brian. I truly believe the Vikings really see something in him.

    • Pete

      The only thing Sloter has is prototypical size.

      • brian199511

        He passed very well in the preseason for Denver and they wish they had kept him. If they drop Sloter I bet Green Bay jumps on him along with a lot of other teams. He could be good with coaching and experience. You are right he does have the size. Also he wants to play in Minnesota. Or so his tweats have said.

        • Pete

          Of course he’s going to tweet he wants to play with the team that’s paying him. So many Monday morning Qb’s always think the best QB is the one that isn’t playing.

  • Corn Bread

    Garoppolo just got 27.5 million a year from SF. That sets the market, and likely puts Cousins outside what we should pay him.
    I think the Vikings are going to sign Teddy.
    I’d like them to pursue Tyrod Taylor once Buffalo releases him (they could still trade him) whichever one wins in camp is the starter.

    • Jim Grace

      No….no….no. We have to choose from the QBs already on our roster. Tyrod Taylor.,,,,NO!

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  • styx rogan


    • Robert Batchelor

      Let’s just ponder that for about 10 years.

  • wdnemesis

    The thing is Foles would be a great option. I really want Case Keenum or Teddy to start. I am not worried about Teddy’s knee. I know Teddy can get what the Vikings want.

  • Jim Grace

    The Vikings would not have had 4 QBs (for playoffs) on the roster if they did not think very highly of Sloter.

  • Pete

    I think Teddy/Keenum would be a good pair.

  • Andre Esters

    Not a fan of this “capable backup” trend brewing after Foles takes SuperBowl MVP… even with Keenum helping the Vikes to double-digit victories, these guys leading their teams coming off the bench is flat out rare.
    R.Fitzpatrick and M.Moore could be solid #2’s, but I really don’t want any backup coming off the bench expected to be the next Nick Foles. If a starter goes down, it helps to have depth. But if the Vikes really need to focus on assets across the roster, I rather have depth in the secondary instead of extra QBs.


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