MANKATO - Two words that are instantly associated with the name Donovan McNabb are competitor and stop-gap.
McNabb's name is synonymous with excellence. With his record of four consecutive division championships, five NFC Championship games, and a Super Bowl appearance, McNabb is without question one of the most successful quarterbacks to suit up in the NFL in the last decade.
However, the NFL is a "what have you done for me now?" league with its ever-growing fan base that is reflective of a point-and-click era accustomed to instant gratification, and having the attention span of a fruit fly. If McNabb fails, there will be Facebook posts and tweets screaming for his successor. Both tweets and messages will be begging for Joe Webb or Christian Ponder, and the backers of these two talented young quarterbacks will be split right down the middle.
The offseason move to acquire McNabb is indicative of management's current identity crisis under the Leslie Frazier regime. The Vikings are having more difficultly deciding what direction to go than Brett Favre sitting on his tractor in Kiln, Miss., pondering whether or not he'll come out of retirement ... again.
What should the Vikings do and what direction should they go? That's the question the Vikings management has trouble answering with their current quarterback situation this year. The Vikings made it abundantly clear they were moving on from Tarvaris Jackson when they decided not to renew his contract, which made him an unrestricted free agent.
Although the NFL lockout further complicated the offseason for every team, the Vikings also made a controversial decision to draft Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the draft. Many believe the Vikings could have obtained Ponder in the second round, but they believed so much in his pedigree that they didn't want to take any chances with existing quarterbacks on the roster, Rhett Bomar and Joe Webb. Now Webb and Ponder, two highly talented and motivated young quarterbacks, will duke it out for the majority of repetitions with the No. 2 offense to get that No. 2 coveted spot.
"(With Ponder and Webb) it's just a young vibe," said Michael Jenkins, a 6'4" target that was signed on July 29 to fill the void left by Sidney Rice. "(Christian) has a great arm, and (Webb) is a bright, vibrant guy that loves football. I look forward to seeing both of them battle in the preseason."
The two quarterbacks' take on fighting for the No. 2 slot behind McNabb was predictably very PR conscious.
"I am just doing my part," Webb said. "If I just go out there and make the plays I am capable of making, that's all I can do. It's up to the coaches to figure out where everyone fits on the depth chart."
Ponder was more reserved about the competitive aspect stating the competition between Webb and him is "friendly."
"We all like each other, and there is great chemistry between us. We help each other," Ponder said. "The competition has helped each other get better, and Joe is doing well at quarterback.
He is a heck of an athlete, and a guy to learn from. He can make plays out of nothing. So far, we have been getting the same amount of reps."
Whether it be Ponder or Webb for No. 2, one thing they both conquered is the amount they learned from McNabb.
"It's been a huge help that Donovan has come in," Ponder said. "He has great character, and he is helping me without even me asking. If I make a mistake on a certain play, he'll tell me what he saw. He'll do that even when I make a good play."
With the amount of experience Webb has from dealing with the tumultuous 6-10 debacle that can best be described as disorganized, and getting a chance to learn under Favre and McNabb about the preparation both put into the game, he gets the nod for the No. 2 spot.
"You grow up fast in the NFL," Webb said. "Especially coming from college, I was immature. You learn a lot on and off the field. I just tried to learn from other's mistakes. There were a lot of distractions taking place. Hopefully, we can avoid those distractions this year."
One player who was obviously tired of distractions is TE Jeff Dugan. It is very evident the vet grew tired of the Brett Favre sideshow last season and just wants to focus on football with his short and sweet answers regarding this year's questions about the quarterback.
"I mean, I guess you just kind of learn to go with it," Dugan said. "You just do your job, ignore other stuff that happens, and try to stay in your little box."
Dugan said McNabb has instantly come in and commanded respect.
"It's just the little things he does," Dugan said. "If something gets screwed up in practice, we have to do it over again until we get it right. Someone that has achieved as much as he has just instantly gains respect."
The respect and success Dugan references to McNabb will also make him a very hard quarterback to bench as the season progresses.