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Opportunity lost

There are times when wonderful surprises happen in the world of sports. Witness the charge of University of Minnesota Duluth's men's hockey team in recent weeks, and how that charge captivated the community. It was exciting, it was great drama, and above all, it was successful.

After coming home from a lot of time on the road in recent weeks, then, it's nice to know that there's some stability. It's nice to know that the Vikings are still the Vikings.

Unfortunately, you need to know that sarcasm is the basis of my last sentence.

Don't get me wrong. Management has done a nice job of bringing in talent to put a winning team on the field. They've spent money and no one can say they haven't. But seeing Jay Cutler lining up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage from them for the next ten years will remind Viking fans of the one that got away.

Evidently, you either love Cutler or you hate him. Media tends to hate him while fans, at least in the online polling I've seen, tend to love him.

One of the things Brad Childress takes justifiable heat for is not bringing in a real quarterback to run his offense. The fiasco surrounding the draft of Tarvaris Jackson - when the conventional wisdom suggested the Vikings should have traded up to draft Cutler - still surrounds the team, and more importantly its success-starved fan base.

The retreads and ne'er-do-wells who have been brought in make football fans cringe. Of course, in the offensive scheme Childress runs, if you can hand off, throw the ball into the flat or throw it short of the sticks, you've got a shot to play.

The point here is that Cutler is a quarterback who could have changed all that. The knock, after all the stories last week coming out of Denver, is on his attitude.

But as others have pointed out, there's really nothing wrong with a quarterback being a bit of a head case. Viking fans (and now some Packer fans) will tell you that Brett Favre certainly was, and look where he's headed.

The Mannings have been known to make their feelings public from time to time. And for every no-talent big ego like Ryan Leaf, there are players like I've mentioned, who want the ball when it matters the most and want to do something constructive with it.

Perhaps it's because Childress doesn't want a quarterback with an ego that might rival his own. It's no secret that the coach, as anyone confident in his own abilities would say, believes he has the answers. Anyone remember the infamous "KAO?"

I just can't help but feel there's an opportunity lost here. Listening to ESPN Radio a couple of weeks ago, I heard Mike Golic's morning show guests proclaim the Vikings would be legitimate NFC championship contenders - if they signed 38-year old Jeff Garcia.

Jeff Garcia. Not exactly short in the tooth, not exactly mobile, and not exactly with the kind of arm Cutler has. Jeff Garcia.

They didn't. They signed 31-year old Sage Rosenfels instead. But for crying out loud, how good could they be with Jay Cutler?

Reportedly, the Vikings just weren't interested. Yet to instead watch him go to a division rival in equal need of a quarterback makes no sense. If the salary cap isn't an issue, make the effort. What do you possibly have to lose, except a losing reputation?

I'll say it again; this team wants a stadium. In this economic climate, that's a big ask, especially without a championship-caliber team on the field. I know they're trying to build one, but I can't help but feel that Jay Cutler will represent opportunity lost, for a long time to come.