Tarvaris Jackson: Why the Vikings Will Be Just Fine With T-Jack
On Thursday, Brett Favre visited Dr. James Andrews to see how his ankle is progressing, and it is likely that this diagnosis will dictate whether the ageless wonder finally hangs it up.
If Favre is truly done, then the Vikings will turn to Tarvaris Jackson to lead their offense into the 2010 campaign. Most think that this spells doom for the Vikings, and see a Wild Card berth and an early exit from the playoffs as their eventual fate.
It's the widely held belief that Jackson doesn't have what it takes to be a starter in the NFL, and would be the weak link on an otherwise good offense.
This is completely disrespectful to a man who has progressed consistently ever since his career began in 2006, and has shown that he is perfectly capable of leading a Super Bowl-caliber offense.
His career stats are misleading.
When people talk about Jackson's shortcomings they point to his pedestrian 21:18 touchdown to interception ratio and his 10-9 record as a starter.
What people seem to neglect is that he is long past that point is his career, and 2008 was a year in which he turned the corner and really started to come into his own.
In 2006, his rookie season, he was 0-2 in two starts and threw 2 touchdowns to 4 interceptions in the 4 games he played that season. When he took the reins, the Vikings were 6-8, and had already checked out for the season.
In 2007, he began to progress, but couldn't shake the interceptions that haunted him in his rookie season. He was 8-4 as a starter, and in the 4 games he didn't play the Vikings were 0-4. He had a 9:12 TD to interception ratio, and ran for 260 yards.
Finally in 2008 Jackson started to become the quarterback the Vikings expected him to be when they traded up to get him.
After being benched for losing in weeks one and two to very good Packer and Colt teams, he came back in week 14 and in 3 subsequent starts tore through opposing defenses and posted a rating of well over 100 over the last three games of the regular season.
This year was a major step forward for Jackson and he posted a QB rating of 95.4, had a very respectable 9:3 TD-int ratio, and rushed for 145 yards on only 26 attempts.
Last year, under Favre, Jackson looked phenomenal in his relief appearances, which were quite frequent considering the Vikings successes.
He threw for one touchdown, no interceptions, and posted a rating of 113.4 over six appearances.
Although these came against downtrodden teams in the fourth quarter, a 113 rating over 21 attempts is nothing to sneeze at.
To recap: Since 2008, Jackson, in the action he's seen, has been superb. He's thrown 10 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and has looked like everything anyone would want in a starting QB.
His early career struggles are what he is being judged by as a player, and no one seems willing to acknowledge his consistent progress from year to year.
He's had a year under Favre.
When we last left Jackson as a starter, he was, as pointed out earlier, finally coming into his own as a quarterback.
Between then and now Jackson has been studying under Favre, and that can only have improved him.
It isn't unreasonable to say that Aaron Rodgers would not be the quarterback he is now if he didn't spend several years backing up Favre.
Jackson has all the tools to be a great quarterback, but his decision making has held him back.
Watching Favre put on a clinic last year definitely helped him in that regard.
If the limited action he saw last year is any indicator of his progress, he should only be better this year.
He finally has the support of his coach.
During the 2008 campaign, Jackson was benched after two games after throwing no touchdowns and one interception in two losing efforts against the Packers and Colts.
Brad Childress didn't trust him, and benched him in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte.
Eventually, however, Jackson gained his job back after Frerotte was sacked 29 times, threw 15 interceptions, and only 12 touchdowns in 11 starts because of his inability to overcome his lack of mobility caught up with him and a back injury shut him down.
Upon his return, Jackson showed why he should have been the starter all along.
A year with Brett Favre was not only good for Jackson, but also Brad Childress.
After seeing the results of what happened when he let Favre run the offense, Childress should have a looser hold and more trust in Tarvaris Jackson.
While Jackson is no Favre, Childress should have taken the lesson that the coach is not the only one who should control the offense.
If not that, at the very least he has more job security than two losses with the erratic Sage Rosenfels, and the sixth-round Rookie Joe Webb filling out the depth chart.
His team is stacked.
Last year, the Vikings were one of the best teams in the NFL, and were an interception and some significant other factors away from the Super Bowl.
The Vikings had 10 Pro Bowlers (9 guaranteed returning) which, if memory serves, was the most in the NFL.
On defense, they have Jared Allen, who is arguably the best defensive end in the NFL; Kevin Williams, who is the best defensive tackle in the NFL; Pat Williams, who is one of the best run stuffers in the NFL; Chad Greenway, who is one of the best young outside linebackers in the NFL; EJ Henderson, who is one of the best linebackers in the NFL; and Antoine Winfield, who, although hampered by a foot injury last season, is the most physical corner in the NFL.
On offense, they have Adrian Peterson, who needs no introduction; Visanthe Shiancoe, who is becoming one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL; Sidney Rice, who is coming off a breakout Pro-Bowl season; Percy Harvin, the reigning offensive ROY; Steve Hutchinson, who although hampered by injuries last year, is still one of the best guards in the NFL; Phil Loadholt, who was one of the best rookie offensive linemen in the NFL last year; and Bryant McKinnie, an overrated, but still great Pro-Bowl run-blocking tackle.
To say that The Vikings sans Favre are an easy out in the playoffs is sheer stupidity.
The Vikings are hungry.
After outplaying, but losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints because of bad turnovers and other factors, the Vikings are barely even the favorite to win their own division over a team they soundly trounced twice last year.
This team has an elite offense and defense and will have at least 20 starters returning.
Tarvaris Jackson is being disrespected because his position is essentially a glorified placeholder until Favre makes a decision, but the entire team is being disrespected because their value as a team has been pegged to Brett Favre's decision.
As I said before, they're perceived as a favorite to win the Super Bowl if he comes back, and an also-ran if he retires.
No single player is that valuable to a team except Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, and even then, the Colts and Saints are great teams and would survive handily.
The Vikings were a playoff team without Favre in 2008, and the entire team is better than they were that year.
With or without Favre, the Vikings are one of the best teams in the NFC, if not the NFL, and should be considered the favorite to win the NFC North and one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.