Vikings still search for heir to Fran Tarkenton

The Vikings commence a new search for a quarterback, six years after signing their last one. And, no, they still haven't had a true franchise quarterback since Fran Tarkenton.

A year ago, we got the sense that the Vikings intended to ride it out with Kirk Cousins for one more year, with a goal of drafting in 2024 a player who could become the team's long-term answer at the position. That vibe changed after Cousins seemed to be playing better than ever, during his second season with head coach/offensive play caller Kevin O'Connell.

O'Connell wanted him back, despite having a torn Achilles tendon. The Vikings weren't willing to do what the Falcons have done, with a four-year, $180 million deal that includes $50 million to sign and $90 million fully-guaranteed at signing.

So now it's back to the drawing board. The problem is that they did too well last year to be in line for one of the top-shelf prospects. They'll have to trade to get up there, especially with teams in their vicinity at No. 11, teams which also might want quarterbacks.

No team can be a consistent contender without a great quarterback. Cousins was good, but the Vikings only went to the playoffs twice in his six seasons with the team. The Chiefs, by comparison, have been to the AFC Championship every year and four Super Bowls.

So, yes, the goal was/is/should be to get a long-term answer. Cousins was the first Vikings quarterback since Tarkenton to start eight or more games for six straight seasons. And Tarkenton only did it seven straight years, given that he was traded to the Giants in 1967 before being traded back to the Vikings in 1972.

Since Tarkenton, it's been Tommy Kramer, Steve Dils, Wade Wilson, Archie Manning, Tony Adams (during the 1987 strike), Rich Gannon, Jim McMahon, Sean Salisbury, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Tavaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill, and Case Keenum.

During Cousins's time with the team, other starts went to Sean Mannion, Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall.

The franchise's only first-round quarterbacks were Tommy Kramer in 1977, Daunte Culpepper in 2000, Christian Ponder in 2011, and Teddy Bridgewater in 2012.

So who will be next? The real question is when the next one will make it six straight years as the primary starter, like Cousins. Or seven, like Tarkenton. Or maybe, for the first time in team history, eight or more.