The Minnesota Vikings may not be entirely sure who their future franchise quarterback is, but they apparently know who it won't be. It was announced on Wednesday that head coach Leslie Frazier has decided to move backup quarterback Joe Webb to receiver on a full-time basis. Webb, who started the Vikings' first playoff game since the end of the 2012 season due to starter Christian Ponder's elbow injury, completed 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the Vikings' 24-10 wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers. Those passes were the first Webb had thrown since the 2011 season finale against the Chicago Bears.
Webb was a quarterback/receiver combo player at Alabama-Birmingham, and the Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft more for his impressive athleticism than his positional specificity. Now, with Ponder established as the starter and former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel signed on as the backup, Webb will add to a receiver corps that was weakened in the offseason by the trade of Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, but bolstered by the addition of Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the 2013 draft. It was after the Patterson selection that Frazier informed Webb of his new full-time role.
"Coach brought me in the office and talked to me about the different plans they had and stuff,” Webb told Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune. “I haven’t played [receiver] since my rookie minicamp, but I think I can adjust to it pretty good. You just have to put in a lot of work. Coach Stew [wide receivers coach George Stewart] will do a lot of that with me, so we’ll see what happens.”
It was thought by some at the time that the Vikings were drafting Webb to be a receiver, but after Brett Favre's injuries in 2010, the team's quarterback situation was nebulous enough for Webb to get some time under center. He started two games in his rookie campaign, and played in 11 in 2011. The Vikings selected Ponder in the first round of the 2012 draft, and while Ponder's overall results have been less than totally impressive, he's going to be the man at that position -- at least, in the short term.
Webb's positional switch does give Ponder another target. He spent his entire sophomore season at UAB at receiver, but he said that his experience at quarterback goves him an advantage.
“I always relate things that I see on the field to quarterbacks — to Christian [Ponder], to Matt Cassel, to [McLeod] Bethel-Thompson, I can tell those guys what I see out there. That will help them out a lot, my quarterback experience. Also, it will help the receivers out — for instance if they see a safety rotating down, different coverages that teams prepare and things like that. I think it’s going to be a big help.”
Webb, who displayed 4.4 speed as a draft prospect, has caught 33 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns total in his college and pro careers. Just one of those catches -- a nine-yard reception against the Packers in Nov., 2011 -- came in the NFL.