Quarterback Casualty Impacts Vikings Again

Cincinnati Bengals fans react to a touchdown run by Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) in the fourth quarter of a Week 10 NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. The Houston Texans won, 30-27. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Coming into the season, the Minnesota Vikings’ most solidified position was under center. Kirk Cousins is a well-established veteran who simply does not miss games. The unfortunate thing about the best-laid plans is that they only matter until they fall apart. Cousins going down threw a wrench, but the feeling has been felt across the league.

Quarterback Casualty Impacts Vikings Again

When the Vikings first lost Kirk Cousins, it was a sobering reality that the season could trend in a negative direction again. This was before they continued winning and pushed the streak to five games. It was before Josh Dobbs came in and put up a herculean effort against the Atlanta Falcons. It was even before top wide receiver Justin Jefferson got back on the field.

Fans watch as the Texans drive down the field in the fourth quarter of the NFL Week 10 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans at Paycor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Losing your quarterback in the NFL can be sort of a death sentence. In reality, there are 32 starting-caliber options, and pushing backups into the action waters down the product that much more. The Vikings were in a position to see what their late-round rookie Jaren Hall had before he suffered a concussion, but playing someone like Sean Mannion would have been catastrophic.

All season long, the league has seen quarterbacks be lost for a substantial amount of time. Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles out of the gate, and Deshaun Watson recently succumbed to surgery after missing time over the past handful of weeks. Anthony Richardson watched his rookie season get cut short, and the Giants got even worse as Daniel Jones bowed out. Now with Joe Burrow hitting the shelf, Minnesota again can feel an impact.

Quarterback Casualty
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws in the first quarter during an NFL divisional playoff football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Walking into the game with a brace on his wrist, Burrow suffered an injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football that ended his season. A ligament tear stopping his ability to grip and throw the football, Cincinnati was forced to turn the position over to undrafted rookie Jake Browning.

Back in 2019, coming out of Washington, Browning found himself on the Vikings practice squad. He never made it into a game, and Thursday night was his professional debut. With the Bengals having Super Bowl hopes and a high-flying offense, they now see those expectations resting on the shoulders of an unproven commodity.

Minnesota is still amid a stretch that includes winnable games stacked together. While they are underdogs against the Broncos on Sunday night, it’s not unfair to argue they are the superior team. That stretch looked to be bookended by a mid-December game against the Bengals, but there’s no way they can be considered of the same ilk with such a substantial change at the quarterback position.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Across the league this year, the NFL has seen the product dramatically change as quarterbacks suffer substantial injuries. Minnesota was forced to pivot when it happened to them, and the timing allowing for a Josh Dobbs trade may have saved their season. At this point, there isn’t the same such luck for other teams, and they’ll be forced to pave a path forward with a much lesser talent under center.

Minnesota isn’t going to have sympathy for opponents experiencing the same injury struggles they have had to overcome. When facing them, though, it helps to make the games that much more winnable.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.