Before you say it, let me say it: Joe Webb isn't on the market.
As the backup QB in Minnesota, Webb has become a favorite of fans, teammates, and coaches with his positive attitude off of the field and his crazy athleticism on it. Webb has already led the Vikings to multiple come-from-behind victories in his two-year career and I doubt that anyone would want to see him go.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they aren't a team that can afford to miss an opportunity to get better now. Christian Ponder was selected as the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft and the quarterback of the future. While coach Leslie Frazier has hinted at the possibility of a competition in the off-season, I would be shocked if Ponder was given up on so soon. While I was personally shocked that he went in the first round, Ponder has actually played very well at times this year and is a good prospect in the NFL.
Minnesota has no reason to believe they should part with Webb, who would be amongst the best backups in the NFL, but if they can pick up a draft pick or two (or player) in return for a guy that they only used a 6th round pick on in 2010, should they not take it?
After finishing at 3-13, the Vikings two best players are in their prime (Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen) and Minnesota has got to try and take advantage of the now. In my opinion, they're sitting on a potential gold mine with Webb. Should Seattle be considering going back to the well (lake?) in Minnesota to find a quarterback?
Here's a quick profile I've done on Minnesota backup QB Joe Webb.
Webb attended the University of Alabama-Birmingham and redshirted during his freshman season. The next year, he still sat on the bench for most of the year but finally started the last two games of the year. Webb threw for 426 yards against Central Florida in the final game.
Still, this did not win him the job for the next season. At least not at quarterback.
Webb started seven games at wide receiver and caught 30 passes for 459 yards. He has lined up a tiny bit at wide receiver in the NFL, and was drafted at the position, but former coach Brad Childress announced early in his career that they were going to try him out at QB first.
During his junior season at UAB, he started all 12 games at QB and ran for a Conference-USA record 1,021 yards (record for a QB, obviously.) The next season he ran for 1,427 yards (3rd highest in NCAA history for a QB) and passed for 2,299 yards. He is the only QB in NCAA history to throw for over 2,000 yards and run for over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
Despite being in the NCAA record books, UAB is not considered to be a big enough college power to automatically get a QB like Webb an invite to the combine. Personally, I don't exactly understand why, because he's clearly one of the best athletes that college football had ever seen at the QB position. There should have at least been enough interest to see how "freakish" this kid really was.
Turns out, pretty freakish.
UAB Pro Day
Webb had to put in his numbers at the UAB Pro Day rather than the combine. His 4.43 40-yard dash would have been one of the best ever put up by a QB and would keep him in the middle-of-the-pack for wide receivers. His vertical jump and standing long jump would have led all wide receivers.
If this site is telling the truth about the best standing long jump in combine history, than Joe Webb would hold the record at 11 feet, 5.5 inches.
Webb even went viral with this video of him jumping over "7 bags" with the Vikings.
The most incredible part (to me) is that all of this information about him being fast, about him being tried out at wide receiver, about his athletic ability, would lead a person to believe that maybe he's not been seen as a top-end QB prospect because of his size. But Webb is listed at 6'4, 220 lbs, and he looks like a big enough guy on the field.
He doesn't look like Daunte Culpepper out there, but he's not Charlie Ward either. He's a big guy but so elusive and quick that it's hard to believe that a big guy can run like that.
Webb was drafted with the 199th pick, just like Tom Brady.
It was a fair place for Webb to be drafted because whether you were drafting him as a quarterback or a wide receiver, you were drafting a very raw prospect. He would need time to develop at either position. Unlike Seneca Wallace, he seems willing to do whatever the team asks him to do and is just happy whenever he gets the opportunity to contribute.
Before the season finale yesterday, Webb was very vocal about hoping for Christian Ponder to be healthy because Ponder is the leader of the team and a big part of the Vikings future. This isn't like Mark Brunell backing up Mark Sanchez, this is a case of a second-year player who has had a few opportunities to play and has become a local legend in Minnesota supporting the only guy standing in his way of starting.
Webb should be thinking about whether or not teams are going to blow-up the Vikings phone asking about his availability. From what I saw, Webb is a viable candidate to start in the NFL next season and potentially lead a team to the playoffs.
What I Saw
I watched the Vikings-Bears game from yesterday. Ponder started but left the game on a brutal hit early in the game and Webb came in for the rest of it.
Let's get the numbers out of the way early: 17 of 32 for 200 yards, 0 TD/2 INT, 6.3 Y/A. One of the interceptions came on a pass to Percy Harvin that just flipped up and landed in the hands in the defender. It was not Webb's fault in that it was not an inaccurate pass that went right to a defender, but it was Webb's fault in that the pass was so low that the receiver had to dive for it and it popped up and took an unlucky path into the defenders hands.
The other interception came on the last offensive play of the game, with the Vikings down four points and needing to drive 93 yards for a game-winning score. There was about 30 seconds left, no timeouts for the Vikings, right around mid-field and Webb went for it and the ball was under-thrown and intercepted. If the Vikings hadn't botched a field goal attempt minutes earlier, maybe Webb doesn't attempt that pass.
He was actually pretty impressive during the two-minute drill, only missing on that throw really.
More important than the numbers though is what I saw from him as a QB. He possesses at least one quality that we all wish Tarvaris Jackson had, which is the ability to avoid sacks. He was sacked one time during the game, and I would honestly guess that if Jackson was in the same situations, he would have been sacked at least six times.
At one point it became ridiculous how hard it was to get a sack on Webb. It doesn't mean that every possession was a great one, he didn't avoid every sack for gain, but he got rid of the ball a lot. Webb seems to focus a lot on the fact that he doesn't want to be sacked. Not that it's a bad thing, but he could stand to have more of a pocket presence.
Part of the problem is that the Vikings desperately need help on the offensive line (something they might get with USC OT Matt Kalil, one of the best LT prospects to come around in a long time) but it also seems that Webb, like many other athletic QB's, is too quick to start running and at times got himself into trouble by going back 10-20 yards.
The good news is that he is amazing at making sure he's out of the pocket when he throws it away, or that he gets it to a receiver in the area. At one point, he was being sacked by two Bears and somehow what had already looked like a loss of eight, he had flipped the ball to Lorenzo Booker. The pass was incomplete, but he somehow managed to save the yardage.
I also saw him get wrapped up by Julius Peppers and escape it.
Sometimes he just throws it away. Sometimes he'll run for a first down. Sometimes he'll find a receiver for positive gain. But you'll never be frustrated by him getting sacked for holding the ball too long, unlike Tarvaris.
His accuracy is questionable at best. At times, he will still impress you by making a beautiful pass, but he also misses guys too often. His arm strength is fine and he's got some nice zip on his passes.
I don't know that Webb will develop into a great quarterback, but I'm pretty damn certain that he's one of the most interesting. He's probably the most athletic QB in the league right now, and that includes Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and Tim Tebow.
I've been wondering lately what the success of Tebow would do to the career of a guy like Webb and whether or not a team would be willing to trade a high draft pick for him and build their offense around him as well. This was obviously before Tebow-mania went defunct and fell ass-backwards into a home playoff game.
Still, Webb is not Tebow.
He is not a run-first QB that can kind of pass it. He's a QB that can kind of pass it but has the ability to run it and has similar athleticism in the open-field to teammate Harvin. He tries to make things happen with his feet too early sometimes and gets himself into trouble, but rarely seems to pay for it.
Tarvaris Jackson was sacked once every 10.7 pass attempts in 2011. Webb, in a much smaller sample size, was sacked once every 21 pass attempts. I admit the sample size is small, but just watch the two QBs play and tell me that it's not indicative of how they play.
It's a pretty accurate representation of both QBs.
Joe Webb's final numbers this season were not great. He completed 54% of his passes and only 6.0 yards per attempt. He did however run for 154 yards and 2 TDs, one of those on a 65-yard dash against the Lions in a near comeback victory.
I don't think that Tarvaris Jackson had a terrible season, he was actually a little bit better than I thought or expected. Seattle was able to win some games with him and at times he actually helped. At other times, it seemed clear how much better the Hawks would be if they improved at the position.
Is Webb an improvement?
I think so. Though it's possible that Webb never gets any more accurate or never finds a better feel for staying in the pocket, it's also still possible that he becomes similar to the QB he backed up for a time this season; Donovan McNabb.
It was almost as if the Vikings felt it was safe to cut McNabb because they had a younger version of him already on the team. (Or they cut him because he looked like the worst quarterback in the NFL.)
I don't think that the Vikings will trade Webb, but I think they'll hear some offers and I think they have to consider them. They can't waste their window of opportunity with Allen and Peterson and they have got to get Christian Ponder more help. Minnesota should draft Kalil if they can and add another pick or player in a deal for Webb, and the potential for a bounce-back is possible next season if they can stay healthy.
If the Seahawks managed to get Webb, it would actually make me even more excited for next season. Moreso than Matt Flynn, but I guess that conversation will have to be saved for next time.