Nine years ago, the Minnesota Vikings were in the exact same position they are today after having been told no by another eventual Hall of Fame quarterback. Then-Vikings coach Dennis Green had offered Dan Marino just about everything, including a chance to fly home to South Florida after games Sunday and not return until the following Wednesday.
Green promised to fax the game plan to Marino and even vowed to spend part of the offseason in the Sunshine State going over the playbook. Anything, Green said, just come to the Great North.
Without Marino, the Vikings suffered so much that they went to the NFC championship game behind second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper(notes), who went from having played one game in 1999 to being a star in 2000.
The moral of this story is simple: For all those people who think the Vikings have suffered a season-altering blow before the first whistle of training camp, that's not the case.
"Yeah, this is some pretty interesting news today," Vikings projected starting quarterback Sage Rosenfels(notes) said, less than two hours after he heard that Favre was going to remain retired. "But really, I've tried my best not to follow every turn of the story as it inched along. I know that's your job, but my job is really to just prepare for the season … whether you're the third or fourth guy or the guy who might start, you have to prepare the same."
Rosenfels, who still faces a training camp battle with Tarvaris Jackson(notes) for the job, wasn't sitting at home every night with a Magic 8 Ball or a Cootie Catcher trying to figure out what Favre was going to do. More important, he wasn't showing that attitude to his teammates.
"I wasn't going to sit around and talk about it because there wasn't much to talk about. … This was a rare chance with a Hall of Fame player. I understood the situation. Now, it's become one big non-story and it's back to me and Tarvaris competing for the job."
What the Vikings are lucky to have – just as they were lucky to have the physically-gifted-but-inexperienced Culpepper in 2000 – is a mature player in Rosenfels who can handle whatever is thrown at him. If, at the end of training camp, Rosenfels isn't the starter, he'll handle that as well. He'll probably even flash the same sheepish grin he has worn perpetually through his football adventure.
From stops in Washington, Miami and Houston before being traded to Minnesota this offseason, Rosenfels has had an interesting career. He has gone from head coaches like Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier, Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban, Gary Kubiak and now Brad Childress. He has seen everything from offensive genius to, well, not so much.
So if anybody is going to handle this latest and hopefully last twist in the Favre saga, Rosenfels is suited for it. Having worked his way up from the backup ranks, Rosenfels has thick enough skin to handle a few more jabs. That's what the Vikings, who are led by the high-strung Childress and still face a difficult legal battle to keep defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams(notes) from being suspended, need to navigate a potentially great season.
Even without Favre, the Vikings' offense could be dangerous. Minnesota added dynamic rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin(notes) to a group that already included running back Adrian Peterson and deep threat Bernard Berrian(notes). Altogether, they could be the fastest trio of skill players in the league.
"We do have some speed," said Rosenfels, who gave Harvin high marks. The two have lockers next to each other, which should help Harvin learn the offense quickly.
"He's not so much a receiver as he is almost a tailback with the way he runs the plays," Rosenfels said. "He's interesting, he's just a really good football player. It's going to be really interesting to see how we use him. … He didn't make too many mental mistakes in picking up the plays. He seems very sharp,"
Get the ball in the hands of fast guys who can make plays.
If the Vikings can find the right quarterback to do that, they should be fine.
Even without Favre.
- Dan Marino