Tarvaris or Not? Can He Lead the Vikings?

Michael TreeceCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2009

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings have a pretty strong opinion on Tarvaris Jackson, good or bad.

With quarterback ratings of 62.5 in 2006, 70.8 in 2007, and 95.4 in 2008, he has improved his play immensely as he has matured in the league. However, despite his improvement, many Vikes fans believe that this "failed experiment" should be stopped abruptly.

Many believe that Jackson is not the answer to the quarterback question in Minnesota, but with improving stats, how can fans dislike the guy?


The Positives

Jackson has shown great improvement through his three years as an NFL quarterback. His touchdown-to-interception ratio has improved each season and as a starter he's posted a respectable 10-7 record over the past two seasons.

Jackson was also voted the Week 15 Fed Ex Air award winner when he threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 35-14 win over eventual NFC Champion Arizona. Jackson has been consistent with his short passes and can make big plays with his feet as well.


The Negatives

Turning the ball over is an issue for Jackson. He has fumbled 14 times in 23 career games and has thrown 18 interceptions in a run-heavy offense. He also struggles with his accuracy on deep passes.

Jackson has a pretty good supporting cast with Pro Bowlers Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, and Bryant McKinnie. He also has great role players such as Bernard Berrian and Chester Taylor to help him with the offense.

However, Jackson has major problems against the blitz and struggles when it is not picked up by the lineman or backs. The Vikings have improved everything else drastically since 2005, except the quarterback position.


Why is Jackson hated by so many fans?

The main reason people do not like Tarvaris Jackson is because he can not seem to win when it matters the most.

In 2007, the Minnesota Vikings were in a "win and get in" situation. If they beat the Washington Redskins at home in Minnesota, they would have clinched the final playoff spot.

Jackson forgot to show up for this game. He completed 25-of-41 passes, but threw two costly interceptions. He did run for two scores, but the Vikings were shut out in the first half, and beaten 32-21.

In a last-chance game the next week at Denver, Jackson played a little better but still came up short. He threw for a pair of touchdowns without a pick, but fumbled twice as the Vikings offense was again shut down. Minnesota scored only three points in the first three quarters, and again lost a key game 22-19.

Jackson began the 2008 season as the starter, with fans soon questioning Brad Childress as to why. After completing 30-of-59 passes, throwing for one touchdown and one interception, and losing one fumble, Jackson was benched after Week Two.

Failing to close the door on the Indianapolis Colts, after leading 15-0 in the second half, was the obvious reason for his benching.

As Jackson got used to the bench, the Vikings started winning, going 7-3 with veteran Gus Frerotte leading their offense. Fans believed Jackson was gone for the year, until Frerotte was hit hard against the Lions in Week 14, forcing Jackson back into the lineup right before the half.

No one could have expected Jackson to do what he did next. He completely turned around the struggling offense, completing 8-of-10 passes and throwing for one touchdown as he notched a comeback win on the road.

Coach Childress was impressed enough to give Jackson a start against Arizona in Week 15. He responded well, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Vikings' biggest win of the year against the Cardinals.

Fans began to jump on the Tarvaris Jackson bandwagon again with a chance to clinch a playoff spot coming up.

While he was not awful, Jackson was not capable of leading the Vikings over the Falcons in Week 16 with a playoff berth to clinch. The Vikings were sloppy, fumbling five times, with three by Jackson. He threw for two touchdowns without an interception, but was put in a situation to win the game late and was unable to convert.

The Vikings had the ball needing a score, but Jackson threw way too many short passes over the middle with time running against them.

Ultimately, Jackson threw an incomplete pass on fourth down to Sidney Rice and they fell short. It was controversial whether or not there should have been a flag for pass interference, but regardless, Jackson needed to go deep for the Vikings to win.

The next week, Jackson took his 0-3 record in playoff-like games against the New York Giants. In another so-so game, Jackson completed 16-of-26 passes, with one touchdown and one interception.

The Giants rested most of their starters in the second half, and the Vikings were able to squeak out a 20-19 win on a last second 50-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell.

As the playoffs approached, Jackson had finally gotten a big win. He would finally get his chance to prove doubters wrong in his first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, Jackson played his worst game of the season, posting a 45.4 passer rating, throwing a miserable 15-for-35, tossing one interception and zero touchdowns, and fumbling a snap. The Vikings' season had ended and Jackson became the goat of scrutiny once again, leaving even his biggest fans questioning him.

Who knows what 2009 will bring for the Minnesota Vikings at quarterback? Will it be Jackson, Frerotte, Booty, or someone not on the final 2008 roster?

Tarvaris Jackson will most likely have to earn his job if he wants to keep it, especially since Gus Frerotte has made it clear, he will most likely retire if he is not the starter in 2009.

Many people believe the Jackson "experiment" has run its course, but should the Vikings toss a guy out the door who has continued to improve?

The conservative choice would be to let Frerotte go, and bring in a more proven QB, such as free agents Kurt Warner or Jeff Garcia, or trade for a guy like Derek Anderson. The Vikings could then either start their new quarterback, or let Jackson prove himself as the starter.

How long will Minnesota keep up this experiment? The answer remains unclear.


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