Familiarity, consistency and continuity are the three things a coach in the National Football League loves the most. If a coach knows his team possesses those three things, he’ll sleep easier at night. Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans is anything but familiar for both teams.
Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey has done his best all week long keep the focus on his team and not who the Vikings will start at quarterback this Sunday. Last Tuesday, Teddy Bridgewater injured his knee and was ruled out for the 2016 season. Sunday, the Vikings traded for QB Sam Bradford, sending a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round (may become a third-round pick depending on conditions) and will pay $7 million of Bradford’s $18 million salary.
“Well, I’m not going to worry about—again, I’ve told them that,” Mularkey said in Wednesday’s press conference. “With the injury and with the trade and all that, it’s never been about what’s going on up there. It’s all about what we’re doing here. I’m very confident in what we’re doing. I’m very confident, obviously, in Marcus (Mariota). Our team is. What happens elsewhere is irrelevant to what we’re doing on this end of things.”
With Mariota, the Titans have a quarterback by all indications has improved throughout the offseason, found his voice and is rapidly developing into a leader in the locker room and on the field.
“He’s vocal. Yeah, he’s vocal,” Mularkey responded when asked whether Mariota is vocal enough. “You’re not going to hear him, he’s not going to be a screamer, but in the huddle, he gets his point across or he’ll pull a guy aside on the sideline or out here on the side talking through it. It’s not something you’re going to hear verbally across the field, but he’s very aware of what guys should be doing. He just handles the offense like we want him to with a lot of command.
Meanwhile, the Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he will not reveal who will start at quarterback until Sunday morning. It doesn’t faze Mularkey because he believes Shaun Hill and Bradford are similar signal callers.
“You’re not talking about two totally different dimensional quarterbacks,” Mularkey said. “It’s not like one is an extremely mobile guy and another guy is a pocket (passer). They’re not far off of each other. They’re more comfortable in the pocket. They have the ability to get out with schemed plays out of the pocket, which they will do, to complement their run game. There’s not a lot of difference that you’d have to go in and have separate periods to practice against different quarterbacks—not from what we see.”
A quarterback’s best friend is a sound running game. No matter which quarterback is in the game, Adrian Peterson will continue to tote the rock for the Vikings. Last season, Peterson ran for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on 327 carries. He has been the focal point for the Vikings, now going on his tenth NFL season and that will not change this Sunday.