Analysis: Veteran QB Speculation

Kelly Holcomb

There's been media speculation that it might make sense for the Vikings to bring in a veteran quarterback as insurance behind the unproven Tarvaris Jackson. Specifically, the name of the Eagles' Kelly Holcomb has been mentioned. What are the pros and cons of entertaining such a move?

There has been off-and-on speculation throughout the offseason that the Vikings “needed” to add a veteran quarterback to the mix, at least as an insurance policy, behind second-year pro Tarvaris Jackson.

Despite the rampant speculation in the media, head coach Brad Childress has consistently stated that he is comfortable with Jackson and Brooks Bollinger competing for the starting job.  Media rumors have had the Vikings in the mix for various veteran quarterbacks (Jeff Garcia and David Carr to name a couple) during the offseason, yet they haven’t shown even a whiff of interest.  When Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn began to slide in the draft, many thought there would be no way he would get past Minnesota at No. 7.  And yet, the Vikings have done exactly what Childress said – nothing.

So what to make of the recent Adam Schein report on FOXSports.com that the Eagles’ Kelly Holcomb would make sense for the Vikings?

Schein writes:  “Tarvaris Jackson is going to be a very good player eventually in this league.  But with only the underwhelming Brooks Bollinger behind him, don't be surprised if the Vikings go after a veteran quarterback for insurance.”

The name he throws out is that of Holcomb, who told Schein:  “I think it makes sense.  Coach Childress was a coordinator in Philadelphia.  It is the same offense.  Obviously the Eagles just drafted Kevin (Kolb) to go with Donovan (McNabb) and AJ (Feeley).  I love the guys in Philadelphia and love the professionalism and Andy Reid and the staff and I'd like to stay.  But there is a logjam here and that situation you are describing, with the young talented quarterback in Minnesota, is one I've thought about.”

There’s too much meat in that quote to simply ignore it.  But it is also pure speculation.

So here’s some analysis on why this will NOT happen….followed by the circumstances under which it could.

Why not?

Childress has said all along that he has confidence in Jackson as the quarterback of the future.  At the same time, he has also expressed confidence in Bollinger.  He’s told both players they are competing for the starting job, but he clearly is giving Jackson every possible chance to earn the job.

Bringing in another veteran only muddles the plan to develop Jackson.  It brings another player for him to be looking over his shoulder at.  It brings into question his credibility with the rest of the team whether or not he is “the guy.”

To this point in OTAs and mini-camps, Jackson has done nothing to have the coaches abandon him as their starting quarterback in 2007.  He’s taken some lumps.  He’s struggled with the exchange at times.  He struggled when they threw numerous blitz packages at him.  But he’s also thrown plenty of precision passes and demonstrated all the physical tools needed to be very, very successful.  He has a rocket arm, good wheels and overall athleticism.  But perhaps even more surprising, he’s impressed new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier with his mental acumen for the game – his ability to read coverages and get the ball to the right person.  He’s legitimately shown an instinct for that most critical aspect of the game.

It makes no sense at all to tamper with the development process that appears well on track with Jackson.

As for Bollinger, Childress has tried to communicate to the media that he views him as a veteran player.  He’s not the seasoned 12-year veteran that a Kelly Holcomb is, but he is a five-year NFL veteran now and he has started nine games in the league (with the Jets in 2005).  With a marginal supporting cast in both New York and in brief playing time with the Vikings last season, Bollinger has completed 57.3% of his passes with a 7-7 TD-INT ratio and a quarterback rating of 73.0.

Holcomb has 21 career starts, has completed 64.6% of his passes with a 37-37 TD-INT ratio and a quarterback rating of 79.9; hardly a dramatic improvement.

The other factor is assimilation of the offense.  Childress, Bollinger and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have known one another all the way back to their college days at Wisconsin.  Bollinger spent all of last season in Chili’s version of the West Coast Offense and has now gone through an entire preseason of implementation in that same WCO system.

Bollinger has played some NFL games and held his own, he’s participated in the offseason work and acclimated himself just fine, he hasn’t lit it up but he hasn’t embarrassed himself, either.

If Jackson and Bollinger finish the preseason running 1-2, that leaves the No. 3 spot and/or a practice squad spot for Drew Henson and rookie Tyler Thigpen, both of whom have NFL talent and developmental upside.

That said, it just doesn’t make sense to bring in another veteran like Holcomb, or anyone else who’s available, given the current climate.

However….if things change, it could become more likely.

For example, if either Jackson or Bollinger sustains anything more than a minor injury during the preseason.  Particularly Bollinger, who looks like a little kid behind NFL offensive and defensive linemen sometimes.

Then the fact that Holcomb is a poised, smart, experienced, overachieving-type veteran (I know, that sounded a lot like Brad Johnson, didn’t it?) who has been working all summer in essentially the same system with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles might make him the best option.

Holcomb, at 32 years old, isn’t going to rock the boat with Jackson in that scenario and is simply the veteran insurance policy behind the young rising star.

The book on Holcomb is that he’s been more effective coming off the bench than being the guy as a starter.  However, he’s almost always been surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast, too.  But he’s generally been a high-percentage, quick-rhythm passer who is well-suited for the West Coast Offense.  On the downside, he’s been streaky at times and like Brad [Johnson] last year, does not have a true deep arm.  He can nickel-and-dime defenses to death, but he seldom can make them pay with the quick strike because of his arm.

In the end, the Holcomb-to-Minnesota speculation will probably remain just that as long as Jackson and Bollinger are healthy and continue to play to their potential in the current system.

If that changes, keep an eye on Holcomb and his status with the Eagles, where he is indeed part of a logjam behind Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feeley, with the second-round rookie Kevin Kolb almost assured of a roster spot, as well.

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