Assuming that Brett Favre(notes) has actually decided to retire and stay retired through the 2010 season, the Minnesota Vikings are in a bit of a pickle. They have a roster tuned for Super Bowl expectations, among the best rushing attacks and front fours in the NFL, and a gaping hole at the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson(notes) has failed to complete 60 percent of the passes he's thrown in his NFL career, and the last time we saw Sage Rosenfels(notes), he was throwing a pick for a touchdown in a preseason finale loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"Really, the same plays are being installed whether he's here, or the other guys are here," head coach Brad Childress told the NFL Network's Mike Mayock just after his press conference Tuesday morning. "We've always had the mantra here that it's next man up. The great thing is — you've got Sage, you've got Tarvaris, and you've got Joe Webb(notes) taking all those turns, and they're doing one hell of a job through the first five days of camp."
That said, "next man up" is a difficult option when you're talking about a drop from Favre to anyone the Vikings currently have on the roster. And with that in mind, should the team have been better prepared for the inevitability of an actual Favre retirement? This is their Plan B?
The truth is that everyone expected Favre to come back, and he may well still do so. But if he doesn't, how much can Childress and the front office be held accountable? Favre's the one leaving them in the lurch, but with all his wavering over the last few years, leaving everything on him still seems unwise.
So, what could the Vikings have done? What can they still do?
In the 2010 draft, they had a short order of quarterbacks to deal with — beyond Sam Bradford(notes), every quarterback in this class has major question marks. Jimmy Clausen's(notes) accuracy, Colt McCoy's(notes) arm, Tim Tebow's(notes) ability to handle a pro-style offense. In any case, none of those players was going to be ready to take over this offense at the level expected, something that can also be said of Jackson, Rosenfels and Joe Webb. Jackson and Webb are interesting athletic quarterback hybrids — Webb, whom the Vikings took in the sixth round this year, became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Jackson is just as prone to acting like a running back on the field as well. And Rosenfels is a very average version of a more traditional signal-caller.
The free-agent haul isn't any more conclusive. Had Favre retired soon after the Vikings' NFC Championship loss, the team could have tried to trade for Donovan McNabb(notes) (probably the most likely scenario), gone after Jake Delhomme(notes) in the hope that his recent interception festivals would be a thing of the past, or written a blank check with Kurt Warner's(notes) name on it (a strategy I'm sure they're strongly considering right now). But whether you're talking about free agency or the draft, 2010 has been a very bad year to be in the market for a great quarterback — a fact that is now more true than ever. And that's what gives Favre all the authority in this situation.
Add into that the fact that according to Football Outsiders, the 2010 Vikings are one of 16 franchises since 2000 fielding a team with a median age of over 29 on both offense and defense, a fact that remains true even if Favre isn't part of the equation. This is not a team looking to rebuild; it's a team that was counting on its veteran quarterback to propel a dialed-in roster that one last step to the Super Bowl.
And if Brett Favre doesn't come to that party for whatever reason, the Vikings are most likely sunk. You can say that the Vikings should have had a better sense of this inevitability, but the reality of the 2010 quarterback group from every angle makes the story a great deal more complicated.