Vikings find a new coach and a new quarterback

PHILADELPHIA -- After sitting around a hotel for four days, an interim head coach took a hopeless team into a pointless game while playing a rookie quarterback who was supposed to be a wide receiver and beat one of the best teams in the NFL in on...

Leslie Frazier
Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier walks onto the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., in 2010. Frazier later was named head coach. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

PHILADELPHIA -- After sitting around a hotel for four days, an interim head coach took a hopeless team into a pointless game while playing a rookie quarterback who was supposed to be a wide receiver and beat one of the best teams in the NFL in one of the league's toughest venues.

Maybe we shouldn't read too much into that. Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles were drunk with overconfidence at the sight of the woeful Minnesota Vikings with their Hall of Fame quarterback on the sidelines.

But you could do worse than to draw a few conclusions from the Vikings' 24-14 upset of the Eagles on Tuesday night at Lincoln Financial Field. You could do worse than to make a few decisions.

If Leslie Frazier can rally a team to its best performance of the season when a rookie drafted in the sixth-round out of Alabama-Birmingham is making his first start at quarterback, Vikings ownership would be foolish to look elsewhere for a head coach.

"I hope this seals it up for him," cornerback Antoine Winfield said of his coach. "He's a former player. He's a player's coach. He knows how to talk to us.


"I hope the Wilfs go ahead and get it done."

If Joe Webb can outshine MVP candidate Michael Vick on such a stage, the Vikings would be foolish to move him back to wide receiver, where they thought he would play in the NFL.

Webb is at least the Vikings' backup quarterback of the future, and Tuesday he displayed the poise, touch, athletic ability and decision-making of a starter.

"It's just football," Webb said, maintaining that poise, after the game. "I've been playing football all my life."

If acting defensive coordinator Fred Pagac can design blitzes to harass Vick into one of his shakiest performances of the season and if offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell can coax Webb into a breakout performance, the Vikings would be foolish to break up this coaching staff -- the same staff that positioned the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl last year.

"We're comfortable with this staff," Winfield said. "We've been together for four or five years now, and we've won a lot of games together."

This has been a horrific year for the franchise, and the players are responsible for the collapse. Tuesday, though, they offered hope that 2011 won't necessarily be spent at the bottom of the division rebuilding.

Pagac, who coached Winfield at Ohio State, sent the veteran relentlessly on blitzes from the slot. With Vick taking deep drops and looking for long passes, the blitzes handcuffed the Eagles' explosive offense and led to the most pivotal play of the game.


"The Ol' Buckeye sent me," Winfield said.

The Eagles led 7-0 and seemed poised at the end of the first half to take a two-score lead. Winfield blitzed from Vick's left. Vick dodged. Winfield's right hand punched the ball from Vick's grasp. Winfield scooped it up and ran 45 yards for the touchdown.

"We have used those blitzes before," Frazier said, noting that Winfield scored on a similar play against Carolina in 2008.

Winfield is the rare Vikings veteran who has played to his capabilities this season. Not as much should have been expected from Webb.

While Vick was throwing fluttering passes and committing three turnovers, Webb was confidently operating a short-passing offense and running not quite like Vick, but more like former Eagle and Viking Randall Cunningham.

Frazier said Favre will start the season finale Sunday if he's able, but the franchise would get much more out of giving Webb another start.

Webb completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards and no interceptions while running six times for 31 yards and a touchdown.

If Sidney Rice hadn't dropped three passes, including a touchdown, Webb's numbers would have improved from impressive to astonishing.


It could have been another off night in a lost season, but on Tuesday -- a Tuesday? -- Frazier made the Wilfs' next decision easy, and Webb made the Vikings' future much more interesting.

Souhan writes for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

Joe Webb
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb (14) looks to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Miles Kennedy)

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