So, the news broke Tuesday morning, and The Associated Press just confirmed it with a report of its own: Brett Favre(notes) is retiring. Let's pretend for a minute that we can believe the reports, and this really is it for Favre. Where does this leave the Vikings?
Weakened, of course, but how significantly? As loathsome as I find Favre, I can't deny that he was a sensational quarterback last year, right up until the closing minutes of the NFC Championship game. And I don't think you'll find anyone who would argue that you can go from Brett Favre to Tarvaris Jackson(notes) without seeing a decline in offensive production.
The pessimistic view? The offensive line, despite the big names and reputations, wasn't great last year. And in a league where your quarterback determines much of your success, Tarvaris Jackson plus a mediocre offensive line does not breed confidence.
Defensively, they should still be at least solid, even. The front four is still borderline unfair. Giant, space-eating defensive tackles don't have to be young to be effective, and Jared Allen(notes) and Ray Edwards(notes) are still going to ruin Sundays for opposing quarterbacks. They make jobs easier for everyone else, and the secondary should be fine, especially if Cedric Griffin(notes) can get healthy.
So where does all this leave the purple and gold?
Bumped to the fringe of the list of teams that can compete for the NFC championship, and solidly behind the Packers in the NFC North race.
I keep coming back to the quarterback position. I know that's the easy and obvious thing to do here, but the fact is that it's a quarterback's league. Look at last year's playoff teams: 10 of the 12 had quarterbacks in the elite-to-very good range: Manning, Brady, Brees, Warner, Favre, Rodgers, Romo, Rivers, McNabb, Palmer.
The two outliers, Mark Sanchez(notes) and Joe Flacco(notes), had outstanding defenses on which they could rely. The Vikings could absolutely fall into this category in 2010, but the odds are with the teams with proven studs under center.
And who knows, maybe this really is the year that the light comes on for Tarvaris Jackson. Maybe a year on the bench is exactly what he needed. Maybe he's matured, learned from Favre, and the game has slowed down for him. Yes, he is 27 years old, but we've seen quarterbacks blossom at that age before.
It's not something I'd bet on, though.