The Vikings Are Playing the Field In Their Quarterback Search

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are taking the process of finding their franchise quarterback seriously. So seriously, in fact, that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah invoked a holy sacrament when describing his process. “Since we got here, Kevin [O’Connell has] really been adamant about, when you select a quarterback, it’s…a marriage,” Adofo-Mensah said on Thursday. “It’s that serious, and that level of commitment and work that should go into it.”

Kirk Cousins was the girl next door. The Vikings had known him forever. He was all-American and wholesome, but the front office was hesitant to commit. Cousins was 1-3 in the playoffs and was always pretty expensive. He was a Gucci quarterback who threw short of the sticks. He passed for over 4,000 yards each season but often wilted in primetime.

The Vikings have decided to just be friends with Cousins, but that doesn’t mean they already have their eyes on a particular suitor. They don’t want to limit themselves. Their friends are looking to set them up. There’s a good bar scene. They downloaded Tinder. Adofo-Mensah said that there are multiple quarterbacks he could see the Vikings tying the knot with.

“I believe [so],” Adofo-Mensah said with a sly smile. “I hope my wife doesn’t take that to mean anything.”

Adofo-Mensah won’t say how many quarterbacks he’s interested in. “I wish I could give you that answer,” he said. He doesn’t want to lose leverage with other GMs as he tries to use picks 11 and 23 to put himself in position to get Mr. Perfect. Caleb Williams is probably out of Minnesota’s league. The Washington Commanders and Jayden Daniels appear to be getting pretty serious. Bo Nix? The Vikings can do better than that.

But Adofo-Mensah is correct; the Vikings have options. Drake Maye is 6’4”, 230 lbs., a quick processor, and has a rocket arm. Michael Penix is exciting but a little unrefined. J.J. McCarthy has a great personality.

However, they’d have to talk the New England Patriots into taking picks 11, 23, and next year’s first to get Maye. They probably could get Penix at value, but they’ll have to work on his footwork and hope he stays healthy. McCarthy has all the intangibles, but is he good enough to be a franchise quarterback?

“There are multiple guys that we are in love with just on our basis,” said Adofo-Mensah. “But there’s also other guys that we are in love with given what, if we get them at a certain value, they’d also be able to come with, right? … If you’re talking about the ability to overcome context, well, if the guy’s got less ability, but we have assets to go get somebody who is not going to put them in that situation, those things add up, too.”

The Vikings believe they have created a place for a rookie quarterback to succeed. He can throw to Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and T.J. Hockenson. He can sit behind Sam Darnold until he’s ready and will have O’Connell, a former quarterback, guiding him. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell have put in a lot of effort to change the culture in their building, and O’Connell will be calling plays from Sean McVay’s playbook.

“It’s not even just the environment they’re put in,” said Adofo-Mensah. “Just the ability to grow, you know, not having to have everything on their shoulders right away. You can go back historically. A lot of good quarterbacks typically maybe go later in the draft, go to better teams, better defenses, better running games, better things around them so that they’re not asked to win the game on third down as a rookie.”

Adofo-Mensah is leaning heavily on O’Connell as the draft nears. Few people at TCO Performance Center in Eagan have gone through the process of selecting a quarterback. O’Connell coached Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford when he was the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator, and he acted as a secondary quarterbacks coach when he was a backup in the league. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell don’t know who they will end up with, but they have a type.

“You can call it ‘processing,’ you can call it ‘playing on schedule,’ you can call it ‘rhythm time,’” he said, describing the kind of quarterback the Vikings are looking for. “But I think there is a play that is called, and that there’s a play that should be available to the top half of the league of starting quarterbacks – they’ve gotta be able to make it at that clip.

“[There’s also] an accuracy element to that,” he continued. “I do think as the league has gone higher and you get to a place where you’re using assets on the quarterback, and maybe you have to pay people in other places, that you might have to overcome some stuff, whether that be a dirty pocket or different things like that…. And then lastly, obviously, I think the learning, the intangible aspect of it [that] is crucial.”

The Vikings are playing the field. They’re keeping their options open. Maybe they’ll make a trade with New England and land Maye. Perhaps they’ll move up to get McCarthy. They could try to get value with Penix if they miss out on both. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell describe their relationship with their next quarterback as a marriage, but they’re still dating around. They’ll eventually find their Mr. Perfect. They just don’t know who it is yet.

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