Key matchup: The Vikings' No. 3 QBs

McLeod Bethel-Thompson (T.W. Henderson/Getty)

With so many backups and third-stringers working the preseason finale, there is one key battle that exists between current teammates. Sage Rosenfels is expected to play about one quarter and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be given about half the game to make one (last?) impression.

When the regular season begins, there will be weekly matchups featuring one or more players from both teams that will be highlighted, but in the final preseason game it's all about the competition within the team that is important. At the end of the year, there likely won't be many people who remember the score of Thursday's Vikings-Texans game, but, for those on the roster bubble, the big fights will be in-house, especially at quarterback – where there is apparently an ongoing competition between Sage Rosenfels and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

The initial impression coming into training camp was that Bethel-Thompson, like so many other undrafted rookies, was little more than a "camp body" – a guy who takes reps, hopes to do enough to catch the eye of the coaching staff and, in the end, typically gets cut. That isn't always the case. In 2010, Joe Webb came to minicamp as a project wide receiver who was going to be converted from a college quarterback. Instead, he impressed then-coach Brad Childress so much that he was immediately outfitted with a red jersey (the ones worn by quarterbacks) and has been a quarterback for the Vikings ever since. Ironically, when the decision came as to whether Webb would stay or the Vikings would try to slide him through waivers to the practice squad, it was Rosenfels who had to go. He was traded to the New York Giants and the problem was solved.

This time around, things are different. Bethel-Thompson was brought in to be the fourth QB because, it was thought, the quarterback position was effectively set. Christian Ponder and Joe Webb were already signed and one of the first moves the Vikings made this offseason was to re-sign Rosenfels, which is where the rub lies for Bethel-Thompson.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has a long history with Rosenfels. When Spielman was the general manager in Miami, he orchestrated a trade to acquire Rosenfels. When Spielman got fired when the brief Nick Saban regime was put into power, Rosenfels was hung out to dry and eventually moved on to Houston. As time went on, Spielman was hired to serve as a de facto general manager in the infamous Triangle of Authority with the Vikings and the Texans made a blockbuster trade with Atlanta to acquire Matt Schaub, leaving Rosenfels in career limbo again. In 2008, the Vikings tried to make a deal with the Texans, but their asking price was too high (a second-round draft pick) and it didn't happen. In 2009, Spielman traded a fourth-round pick to Houston to get Rosenfels to compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. The arrival of Brett Favre killed off that competition.

After a year as the No. 3 QB on the Vikings roster, Rosenfels was traded to the Giants when Webb emerged as a viable project quarterback. But Spielman wasn't done with his pursuit of Rosenfels. Last year, when it was clear that the Donovan McNabb experiment was a disaster, Spielman pounded when Rosenfels was dumped by Miami and claimed Rosenfels off waivers (after Miami refused to trade him for a late-round draft pick to Houston). When his contract expired, Spielman, now empowered to make all roster signings, brought him back as a free agent – the fourth time in his front-office career that Spielman signed Rosenfels to a contract.

Bethel-Thompson has some of the same gunslinger qualities that made Favre a star and it's hard not to notice the velocity with which he throws passes. At a time when the Vikings are in a youth movement, being over 30 isn't a good thing and that plays in his favor.

While he is still a long-shot to make the final roster, Bethel-Thompson will get his final chance to make an in-game impression on the coaching staff Thursday when the Vikings meet the Texans. It may be his only chance to supplant Rosenfels as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster. Given Spielman's penchant for bringing Rosenfels to his team, the odds may be against MBT to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but the possibility still exists, which makes this in-team battle this week's matchup to watch.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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