Vikings could learn about QB depth from Patriots, Eagles
The Vikings entered the 2017 NFL season with a pressing question: Was their quarterback of the future Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater?
Then, of course, the quarterback that led them to the NFC championship game was ... Case Keenum.
The Eagles rode the arm and legs of quarterback Carson Wentz to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But, in Sunday's Super Bowl, their starting quarterback will be ... Nick Foles.
The Patriots went 11-1 during the 2016 regular season with Tom Brady serving as their starting quarterback. They went 2-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo under center and 1-1 with Jacoby Brissett.
Quality quarterbacks are like nice cars. Franchises that don't have one, want one. Those that do have one, want two. And it's entirely possible that two will break down and you'll need a third.
"Having been in different roles, starter, backup, I think having someone that can step up and fill in is crucial," Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer said.
That's why those who have quarterback depth rule the world. Philadelphia had two starting-caliber quarterbacks at the start of the 2016 season, allowing them to flip Bradford to the desperate Vikings for a first-round draft pick that turned into pass rusher Derek Barnett, aka the guy who delivered the key strip sack on Keenum in this year's NFC title game.
The Patriots turned their depth behind Brady—Garoppolo and Brissett—into a second-round pick and receiver Phillip Dorsett.
Quarterback depth proved valuable to the Vikings this season—where would they have been without Keenum?—but they're back to Square One this offseason. Not only do they need to find a starter, but with undrafted rookie Kyle Sloter the only quarterback currently under contract, they also probably need to find a backup.
"We'll try to be aggressive from the history we've had over the last couple years to make sure we have enough depth at that position," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
But attaining depth at the most important position has proven easier said than done throughout the league. It's hard enough to find one good quarterback, let alone two. But the Eagles and Patriots have been able to do it—New England throughout its past 17 years of success, and Philadelphia more recently.
"Attaining it is picking the right guys," said Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
How you go about doing that requires a longer, more complex answer. McDaniels noted some guys coming out of college now have never called a play in a huddle, some don't know formations and some just received signals from the sideline, "and that's tough." But, when evaluating players, those shortcomings can't be enough to eliminate a guy who has other traits you're looking for.
McDaniels said a big part of the Patriots' process is to evaluate what info a player absorbs and how he absorbs it. From there, you have to determine a quarterback's skillset and see how that matches up with what you consider important.
"Then (it's) trying to marry the two together with opportunity to get them," McDaniels said. "We've had an opportunity to get a few young guys recently, and it's worked out for us."
Specifically, which traits do you look for? For Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, it starts with character. He wants quarterbacks who are "obsessed" with football, and guys who can get along with everyone else in the quarterback room.
"We're fortunate that we have three guys that are obsessed with football in our quarterback room," DeFilippo said. "I'm telling you, that's a major, major reason for why we are where we are today."
As far as the pure football traits are concerned, DeFilippo wants to see three things: decision making, timing and accuracy.
"There's two traits that follow a quarterback from high school to college, and college into pros: It's completion percentage and interception percentage," he said. "If they're high interception percentage guys in college, what makes you think they're going to get any better in the pros? Likewise with completion percentage."
But getting the right guys on your team is only half the battle.
"It starts with evaluating the players and trying to find the best ones that we can develop in our system," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "Then it's up to the players and us to bring the most out in those players."
That stretches from mental preparation to physical development. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, a former quarterback, said the coaching staff should have a plan together as to how to develop a quarterback before he even arrives.
"There will always be work at this position with a young player coming into the National Football League," McDaniels said. "None of them will be ready to go right away as a rookie, so you're going to have to give a little and do what they do well early if a guy has to play, similar to what we did with Jacoby. ... You can't make him do the same things that Tom (Brady) knows how to do, because he's not ready yet. So you just kind of keep going and try to groom him and build him. They've got to keep working hard to try to learn it.
"It's a process, there's no question that it is."