StaTuesday: Vikings set to start 3 QBs in a season for 10th time
With Sam Bradford’s future in doubt and Teddy Bridgewater’s return apparently around the corner, the Minnesota Vikings could start three different quarterbacks this season.
For Minnesota, that’s not as rare as you might think.
It would be the 10th time in franchise history this has occurred, but the sixth time since 2001.
Unsurprisingly, only twice in those 10 seasons did the Vikings finish with a winning record — 1977 and 1987. So if you’re a believer in coincidental history, having three starting QBs in 2017 might not necessarily mean a losing season.
Of course, Minnesota never planned for this to happen — but then again, who does? After a 2016 season in which he had 71.6 completion percentage, Bradford looked to repeat his success, but a knee injury knocked him out of action, forcing him to miss Weeks 2-4 then be pulled from a Week 5 game vs. Chicago and put him back on the shelf.
Case Keenum has been an admirable fil-in. In five games, with four starts, Keenum has a 64.2 percent completion rate for 1,134 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception.
And then of course, there’s Bridgewater, the nominal franchise quarterback who missed all of last year after suffering a gruesome non-contact injury to his knee just before the start of the regular season. Is he still the future for the Vikings? Surely, Minnesota wants to find out, although the team didn’t pick up his contract option and the quarterback is set to be a free agent in 2018. As is Bradford. And Keenum.
Anyway, that’s a problem for another day.
With the expectation that Bridgewater will get a start — perhaps Nov. 12, after Minnesota’s bye — here’s a look at every season the Vikings have started three quarterbacks and the stats of each QB (warning: it’s not pretty). Scroll down past the chart for more detailed information on each of those years.
A brief rundown of the circumstances surrounding the other times Minnesota started three QBs in the same season:
Thirty-seven-year-old Frank Tarkenton started the first nine games before breaking his ankle and thumb in a win over Cincinnati. Veteran Bob Lee took over as the starter for the rest of the season and playoffs, with rookie Tommy Kramer, making his first pro start, filling in in the second-to-last regular season game, a 35-13 loss at Oakland.
Kramer, who only once played all 16 games in a season, injured his knee in the third game of the year against Tampa Bay. The veteran Dils, who appeared in 28 games with three starts for the Vikings from 1979-82, started the next 12 games. Second-year pro Wade Wilson was given the start in the season finale, with Minnesota winning to finish the year at 8-8. Minnesota actually had a fourth quarterback play as well — Archie Manning was acquired from Houston, where had been the starter, after Kramer’s injury (along with tight end Dave Casper). Manning played in two games, but his debut as a Vikings starter would have to wait a year.
Kramer started the first eight games before once again being sidelined by injury. Manning would finally get his start for the Vikings — and was sacked 11 times in a 16-7 loss to Chicago (yards lost due to sacks: 101; Manning yards passing: 138). Wilson started games 10 and 11 with Kramer starting, but not finishing the 12th Minnesota game. Wilson started the next week, a 34-3 loss to the Bears. Both Wilson and Manning would play in each of the final three games as they alternated starts.
Head coach Jerry Burns alternated his quarterbacks all season, going with Wilson more often than Kramer. The only reason Minnesota used three QBs in 1987 was because of a player strike. Teams called in backups to play — in the Vikings’ case, their quarterback was 37-year-old Tony Adams, who hadn’t played in the NFL since 1978. Minnesota snuck into the playoffs at 8-7 despite a loss in the regular-season finale to Washington. Kramer started the postseason opener, although Wilson played as well in a 44-10 win over New Orleans. Wilson then led Minnesota to a 36-24 upset over San Francisco and was the QB in a loss in the NFC championship, once again falling to Washington, the eventual Super Bowl winners.
Daunte Culpepper sprained his left knee in Week 10 against Chicago yet played the next week in a 21-16 loss to Pittsburgh, although he was replaced by Todd Bouman in the fourth quarter. Bouman, a rookie, took over as the starter, but sprained his thumb in his second start. He started the next week against Jacksonville, but was pulled early after re-injuring his thumb. Spergon Wynn took over and started the final three games for the Vikings — which were also the last games of his NFL career.
A second-round pick of the Vikings in 2006, Tarvaris Jackson played in only four games as a rookie with two starts. In 2007, Jackson was Minnesota’s starting QB. However, he suffered a groin injury in his second game vs. Detroit and missed two games. Kelly Holcomb started in his sted (losses in Kansas City and vs. Green Bay) with Jackson returning in Week 5. But the following week Jackson injured his thumb at Dallas, causing him to miss one more contest. Holcomb started again in a loss to Philadelphia, with Jackson returning in Week 8 against San Diego, only to suffer a concussion, causing him to miss the second half and the next week’s game. Brooks Bollinger got the call — his final NFL start — at Green Bay (and another Vikings loss). Jackson did return in Week 10 and managed to finish out the year.
Brett Favre had never missed an NFL game since becoming a starting quarterback for Green Bay in 1992, including all 16 games in 2009 with Minnesota and the first 12 games in ’10 before having to miss a Week 13 game against the New York Giants due to a shoulder injury. Jackson started vs. the Giants, but would suffer a turf toe injury that would knock him out for the season. Favre shook off the injury — he had been declared out due to a shoulder injury two days prior — to start against Chicago on Dec. 20, the final home game of the season. He suffered a concussion early in the game after being thrown to the turf by the Bears’ Corey Wootton, effectively ending Favre’s career. Wide receiver Joe Webb, the emergency QB, would start the final two games of the season, including a victory in Philadelphia, the first Tuesday night NFL game since 1946.
Following a 10-6 season in 2012, Christian Ponder returned as Minnesota’s starting quarterback in 2013. The Vikings lost their first three games and Ponder hurt his ribs against Cleveland in Week 3. Matt Cassel took over the next two games — a win over Pittsburgh in London and a 35-10 defeat at home to Carolina. Minnesota had acquired Josh Freeman, who began the season as Tampa Bay’s starting QB, on Oct. 6. Just over two weeks later, Freeman started against the Giants and, unsurprisingly especially with so little practice time with Minnesota, performed miserably. He also suffered a concussion, leading to Ponder taking back the starting role until he was concussed in Week 12. Cassel finished up the final few games and Minnesota ended up drafting a quarterback a few months later.
Minnesota moved back into the first round of the 2014 draft to select Teddy Bridgewater. But when the season began, Matt Cassel was the starting quarterback. That lasted all of three weeks as Cassel broke bones in his foot in Week 3. Instead of turning to the previous future quarterback of the Vikings, Ponder, Bridgewater, who would start the next week against Atlanta and then. However, he’d hurt his ankle, thus allowing Minnesota fans to vent their wrath at Ponder, who started a 42-10 loss at Green Bay, one more time. Bridgewater returned the following week and three years later is poised to once again be a part of three-quarterback offense.