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Monday Morning Mailbag: Browning or Mond? Who Has Edge for Backup QB Job?

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Jake Browning was poor and could not move the ball all preseason. Kellen Mond was better in the preseason finale but still has room to improve. Who will be the second QB?

— Larry Riddle

Larry kicks us off with a topic that we covered last week, but one that might be even more relevant this week as the Vikings 53-man roster will be announced Tuesday.

To me, it seems that Browning and Mond have gone in opposite directions over the past few weeks.

Browning was the star of the show at the annual Night Practice on July 31 when he was the lone quarterback available. He brought some juice and moxie to the team and was seemingly in position to secure the backup quarterback job.

But when preseason games arrived, he just didn't have that same mojo. In three games, he completed 13 of 33 passes for 143 yards with no touchdowns. He had an interception returned for a score and didn't record a passer rating higher than 60 in any game.

Mond, on the other hand, got off to a slow start — both in the offseason program and in training camp. He missed 10 days due to COVID protocols, but slowly turned it around the past few weeks.

It was evident in practice that he was getting more comfortable and playing faster, and he showed more progression in each game.

The Vikings have kept just two quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Minnesota retained three in 2014, 2015 and 2018.

So what will the Vikings do behind Kirk Cousins?

There are numerous points of evaluation for every position, but it's hard not to put extra weight on production in games.

It is not up to me, but perhaps Mond, heads to the 53-man roster. If Browning doesn't also, maybe he is signed to Minnesota's practice squad, where the Vikings will be able to protect him from signing with another team after he clears the initial waivers.

Mond has shown potential, but he is still too raw to be asked to step in and win several games if Cousins gets hurt or misses time due to COVID protocols. Yes, Mond has looked better in games, but remember that he is also going up against third-string defenses most of the time.

The Vikings also will have the option of scouring the waiver wire to bring in a veteran backup who could be capable for a game or two.

Why don't the Vikings contact Philip Rivers for the backup QB job. He has experience and is available. Thanks, a fan since 1961.

— Dan Ben

Speaking of potential backup quarterbacks, Dan tosses out an intriguing name in Rivers, who is currently coaching high school football in Alabama.

Here's what Rivers told Sam Farmer in this Los Angeles Times article from earlier this month about potentially coming back:

"I'm just going to stay ready. I want to make sure I'm very clear: I'm not predicting I will play in December or January, for that matter. One, you've got to have somebody who wants you, and two, it's got to be right. But I have not completely ruled that out."

That sounds like a guy who still loves the game but is also at peace with where he is at the moment.

I'd suspect the Vikings, if they were to bring in a backup quarterback, would want that guy around for the whole season. There is also the cost factor, too.

And, who knows if Rivers would even accept a backup job? The man started 240 games in his career, and is as competitive as they come. He might wait for a chance to start if a team's QB suffers an injury midway through the season.

A timely question here, but I'm going to answer it a bit differently. Instead of picking which guy will make the roster over another, I'll give you a player that will certainly be on the team that perhaps wasn't a lock when the offseason started.

And that's wide receiver K.J. Osborn, who has certainly earned his spot on the team after quite the turnaround the past few months.

To recap, Osborn's rookie season was rough. He didn't play a single snap on offense and didn't contribute much on special teams. He fumbled twice and averaged just 3.9 yards per punt return, which was below what was expected of the 2020 fifth-round pick out of Miami.

As we sit here today, Osborn is in the mix for a returner job. But even if he doesn't get playing time there, that might be because he's established himself as a receiving option behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

I mean, look at this catch he made in Friday's preseason game? That looks nothing like the guy we saw in 2020.

Kudos to Osborn for dedicating himself this offseason (when he worked out with Jefferson), so that he could be a reliable piece to the offense when the season starts in less than two weeks.

Hi Eric, fans of the Vikings don't always see or hear what is happening behind the closed doors in Vikings headquarters. I saw some good plays or plays that need to be better executed, but here's another view that maybe needs to be talked about? Is our new offensive coordinator, Klint Kubiak, ready to find and adjust his vision on how to best handle the play calling?

— Tim Wiegand

Tim's email actually came through in regards to the Colts game, but it could certainly be applied to the Chiefs game, too.

For those that aren't aware, Kubiak called played from the booth Friday night, a change from his spot on the sideline in the first two preseason games.

Here's what Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Greg Coleman about the switch at halftime on the TV broadcast.

"I just felt like he could see better up there," Zimmer said. "Less commotion, and he could get the calls in without everybody talking to him. Guys not getting the ball, and they want to come over and talk to him that way, as well."

I'm sure Kubiak will get asked about his positioning this week, and we'll see what he says. But Zimmer's comments make sense as to why he changed it up.

Yes, some coaches (including Zimmer) call plays from the sideline. But some of those play callers are head coaches, and they wouldn't he anywhere else other than the sideline.

Kubiak is a first-time offensive coordinator and play caller who has been on the Vikings sidelines the past two seasons at Minnesota's quarterbacks coach. The sidelines were familiar, but Kubiak might decide there are some advantages upstairs. Gary Kubiak, after all, was a booth guy during his career when he wasn't a head coach.

Perhaps Klint Kubiak will stay upstairs and thrive. There is certainly less commotion up there, as Zimmer said.

He could chat with Cousins by phone, instead of trying to have a conversation with Cousins and any other skill player that wanted to offer some input. An NFL sideline is sometimes more chaotic than the actual field on game day.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the Vikings did not play Dalvin Cook or Justin Jefferson in any preseason contest, and Adam Thielen only played a handful of snaps. Those three accounted for 38 total touchdowns in 2020.

With the Vikings wide receivers being a problem, the answer is to offer MEGATRON a contract to come out of retirement for a chance to win a Super Bowl ring. He would be a game changer for our team. Cousins and Megatron working together would be awesome. Come on Vikings, get smart and sign MEGATRON.

— John Hillan

John offers up a wild idea here, and one I'm going to shoot down rather quickly.

Calvin Johnson, AKA 'Megatron,' was just enshrined the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month in his first year of eligibility.

Johnson was a force on the field. His 1,964 receiving yards in 2012 is a single-season record, and his 329-yard performance in 2013 is the second-most receiving yards in a single game in league history.

His career was shorter than many expected, as Johnson retired at age 31 after the 2015 season, his ninth in the NFL. Johnson's enshrinement speech included an explanation of why he walked away from the game when he still seemed to have prime years remaining.