With seven minutes and 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Minnesota Vikings WR Jordan Addison was streaking down the left sideline alone. There wasn’t a Chicago Bears defender within 20 yards of him. The only thing between Addison and a touchdown was the conditioned air blowing through U.S. Bank Stadium.
QB Joshua Dobbs missed Addison, leaving the ball too far out of bounds for the simple connection it should have been.
Ugly as it was, that throw was only about the sixth-worst play Dobbs made in Monday night's 12-10 loss to the Bears.
Dobbs Crashes Down to Earth
Dobbs threw four interceptions and tried his hardest to throw a couple more. The constant barrage of pressure sent his way — mixed carefully with a bit of bad luck — quickly turned Dobbs from a courageous caretaker to a dime-a-dozen reckless journeyman backup.
If you are a Vikings optimist, you can make the case this four-interception escapade was just a fluke and doesn't mean anything for Dobbs. Two of Dobbs' interceptions bounced off a receiver's hands.
The first of the two hit the receiver dead in the hands in open grass. The other was a well-placed ball into a contested window that just happened to pop into the air. Sometimes, it will happen. That's football; that's life.
The other side of the coin is the interceptions Dobbs tried to throw but didn't. In the middle of the second quarter, Dobbs threw a ball right at Bears CB Jaylon Johnson, who was squatting in the flat. It would have been a pick if Johnson had hands in that moment.
Mind you, this throw came on a drive after two consecutive interceptions.
On the very next drive, Dobbs chucked up a prayer while being dragged to the turf on a sack. The ball never got close to any Bears defenders, but the process of even attempting that throw was insane. Dobbs earned himself an intentional grounding penalty for it.
And if that wasn't enough, Dobbs gave the audience a scare on a fourth-and-7 throw to T.J. Hockenson on the first drive out of the half. Hockenson ran a simple out route to the sticks, but Dobbs left the ball way too far inside.
Though the Bears defender couldn't quite get there for the breakup or interception, the shaky throw let DB Kyler Gordon make the tackle short of the sticks: no interception, but no conversion, either.
Part of me believes this is what the Vikings signed up for. Dobbs is a career journeyman who has been making aggressive throws all season. That aggression only amounted to four picks in Arizona and one last week as a Viking. Maybe Dobbs was just due for a game — or a stretch of games — like this with how he plays.
It's also not like any of what Dobbs was doing for the Vikings before was a mirage. He was eighth in EPA per dropback and ninth in success rate through his first three Vikings’ games, according to TruMedia.
Here's a look at some of the quarterbacks Dobbs ranks near in EPA per dropback following Monday's game.
Nobody was going to mistake Dobbs for a legitimate top-10 quarterback. Still, he was putting up the numbers in a limited sample after being reasonably competent as the placeholder in Arizona.
Four-interception games simply can not happen, though. No quarterback can afford to have those games. That’s especially true for Dobbs, a journeyman fighting to earn his spot, and the Vikings, a team lurking for a playoff spot with a roster not built to sustain good football into the season’s toughest months.
More than anything, this game felt like a reminder that the 2023 Vikings aren't in much different a spot than they were when Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles right before the trade deadline.
Dobbs is better than Jarren Hall or whoever the Vikings could have signed off the street, i.e., Joe Flacco, but this isn't a quarterback who will put them over the top.
Dobbs is a respectable stabilizer, having a career year, not a legitimate and reliable force. That's great for maintaining morale in the building and feeling like you are still fighting for something.
It's even great to see what you have in the other pieces on offense, considering Dobbs is a competent NFL quarterback instead of a Day 3 rookie or street backup.
For the purposes of getting to and through January football, though — it won’t cut it. We knew that already, but the Bears game laid it out in a way that is impossible to overlook.
Who Quarterbacks The Vikings in 2024?
So now, after an improbable turnaround to the season, the Vikings are back to where they were after Week 3: Wondering who will be their next quarterback.
The Cousins Option
Cousins has more than likely played his last game in the purple and gold. It's hard to see it any other way after the injury. An Achilles injury is a tricky one to come back from, especially for a 35-year-old quarterback with no athletic ability to spare.
There's also the fact that Cousins' deal expires after this season.
Between the injury, age factor and expiring contract, bringing Cousins back on an expensive deal to a team two steps away from being legitimate contenders doesn't make much sense.
NFL Draft Options
It's a lot more likely the Vikings' next quarterback is playing in college right now. Unfortunately, the Vikings' miracle run back into the playoff hunt has erased their odds of landing one of Drake Maye or Caleb Williams.
I firmly believe NFL teams should never tank, but it does sting to be out of the race for the bells of the ball, especially given the fallback plan of re-signing Cousins doesn't sound as good now as it did before the injury.
That leaves the Vikings choosing between a host of interesting yet flawed quarterback prospects who do not have the same slamdunk first-round status as Maye and Williams.
As things stand now, that third or fourth quarterback off the board could really be anyone.
LSU's Jayden Daniels is in the mix thanks to his Heisman campaign. Oregon's Bo Nix, a fifth-year player like Daniels, is also surging at the end of his college career. Yet another older prospect, Washington's Michael Penix, could be in the running after the gaudy numbers he's put up this season. Michigan's JJ McCarthy has earned himself plenty of fans, too.
It's hard to know what the Vikings think of these players, but Daniels and McCarthy feel like they have the highest chance of playing in Minnesota next year.
For Daniels, it's all about command and athletic ability. Daniels knows how to play the quarterback position regarding pocket management, decision-making, timing, etc.
Granted, he's gotten plenty of reps to figure that out, but it's paid off. Daniels is also a sick athlete. He’s the kind who can change the math for a team in the run game and boot-action passing game. All of that sounds like someone O'Connell could turn into a useful quarterback.
McCarthy, on the other hand, kind of works because of his familiarity with some of the things O'Connell already does. At his core, O'Connell wants to be a run-run-boot play caller with select dropback concepts sprinkled in. McCarthy already plays in an offense like that at Michigan.
It's not 1:1 in terms of the concepts they are running, but the general idea of leaning on the run game and asking the quarterback to make just a handful of serious throws a game is a formula we have seen work with McCarthy.
I don't love that as much personally, but hey, sometimes that's how NFL teams approach the draft process.
Maybe the Vikings prefer one of the other two or someone different altogether. They could be the surprise team that loves Carson Beck or something. Who knows?
Regardless, we're at the end of two roads with the Vikings. The euphoria of the 2023 season feels like it's come to a halt, with two losses in a row.
And with that being the case, it's right back to searching for the quarterback of the future, an idea the Vikings have flirted with on and off for years. Now, they've no choice but to embrace it wholeheartedly.