The Donovan McNabb Era in Minnesota begins. It was a long week to get to that point, as rumors of the deal with Washington came down early, were finalized mid-week only to be finally announced on Friday. The 34-year-old McNabb comes to the Vikings to play quarterback and immediately jumps to the head of the depth chart.
“We’re signing him hoping that he’s going to be our starting quarterback, barring some unforeseen circumstance,” head coach Leslie Frazier said in a conference call with local media. “He looks great, he’s everything I thought he would be in our conversations, and I fully expect him to go out and lead our football team through this 2011 season.”
McNabb, who now dons his third uniform in three seasons, agrees with Frazier’s role for him:
“When you trade for a guy who’s been a starter for 12 years, you’re not bringing him in here to be a backup.”
Previously, however, the Vikings took Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and Frazier said at that time he expected all the rookies, including Ponder, to battle for a starting spot. And even though Ponder was said to be the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, for some, putting him in the starting role would pretty much send up a rebuilding flag over the Vikings ship. Frazier said he never saw it that way.
“We’ve got some pieces in place on this football team to fight for an NFC North championship again,” said Frazier. “I have never seen ourselves in a rebuilding phase. We are one year removed from playing in the NFC Championship.”
Getting to the point again will require the Vikings to move quickly. They have a new coaching staff, a new offense, new personnel and a new starting quarterback–all in a lockout-shortened offseason that will make winning the division difficult. But McNabb is ready for the challenge.
“Training camp is a time for us to build a bond with each other. You have to build a bond with your offensive guys [to find out] when you are in a tough situation, what [each other is] going to do,” said McNabb. “How do you want the ball delivered? How does Adrian [Peterson] like to get the ball handed off? Whatever it may be. Those are the kind of things you build in OTAs and minicamps and now we don’t have that. So it’s going to happen in training camp and it’s going to take time.”
McNabb comes to Minnesota after more than a decade of success in Philadelphia and one very bad season in Washington. When asked about it, McNabb made it clear that he is putting that season behind him. “Everything was a blur, and it is going to continue to stay a blur because that’s behind me right now. I’ve moved on, they’re moving on and we are going to keep it as such,” he said.
According to Frazier, this deal has been in the works for some time, as the conversations between the Vikings and McNabb started after the 2010 season ended and Frazier was certain that Brett Favre was retired. Frazier is convinced that McNabb wants to be in Minnesota and that he may be coming to town with a little extra edge to him.
“I got the sense that Donovan wants to move past 2010, just like we do,” said Frazier. “I think a little chip on his shoulder is good.”
As for Vikings fans, this acquisition may be eerily similar. Those fans recently experienced what it is like to have their favorite team run by an aging quarterback with a chip on his shoulder–someone who spent the bulk of his career having success with one team, was traded to another for one failed season and then ends up in Minnesota with something to prove. As they have seen, it can work very well, and just as quickly, fail miserably.
“I want to win, and I want to win here,” said McNabb.”My focus this year is to do whatever it takes to help us win. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Well, Donovan, welcome to Minnesota. Your predecessor found the fountain of youth for a season in one of its 10,000 lakes. Perhaps you will find it and drink from it for a while longer.