With a win over Buffalo last week and a promising season hanging in the balance, many fans are beginning to wonder whether or not Tarvaris Jackson is the answer for the Minnesota Vikings.
And while this particular argument could go either way, I believe there is more reason to doubt Jackson than to believe in him, which is what I intend to try and prove.
I want to cover 10 aspects that are not only important to the Minnesota Vikings, but also aspects that Jackson lacks. I also will try to show that Jackson isn’t the answer this Vikings team will be searching for in the off-season.
One of the more common aspects that separate a mediocre quarterback from an elite quarterback is the frequency of mistakes, and it is this separation that Jackson is without.
But it isn’t just his career 24:21 TD to INT ratio that I’m talking about. To a certain extent, it is his inability to prevent bone headed mistakes.
Jackson has a history of curious, in-game decisions that you don’t normally see in most quarterbacks that relegates him to a risky player every time he takes a snap, not the kind of person the Vikings need leading this team.
By the numbers, Jackson isn’t exactly the worst quarterback the Vikings (or any team for that matter) could have under center.
Jackson is an accomplished 59.2% passer (a better percentage than Vick before he came the Philadelphia), and he has thrown for over 3,800 yards in the 19 games he’s started.
But, you can’t just look at the individual alone.
We are, in fact, talking about Jackson being the answer for the Vikings, and one glaring statistic is his 21 interceptions thrown in that 19 games started span.
In fact, Jackson’s INT% (percentage of times intercepted while attempting a pass) is 3.7, which is rather high, especially for a quarterback playing in a vertical offense.
The Vikings need a quarterback who is just as accurate as he is reliable, which happens to be two aspects Jackson lacks.
Tarvaris Jackson is a tailored conservative quarterback who, even in his conservation, tends to unravel and underutilized the players around him.
The Minnesota Vikings are built on an aggressive, downfield approach with a smash-mouth ground game to compliment.
Jackson simply isn’t built for such an offense.
While he does have a strong arm, Jackson simply has never been known to be an aggressive quarterback.
Facing facts with facts, some quarterbacks are true leaders: Brett Favre, Matt Ryan, and Peyton Manning.
Some quarterbacks are just “the guy throwing the ball:" Jason Campbell, Kerry Collins and Alex Smith.
Being a quarterback in the NFL doesn’t just stop at being an accurate passer, it also requires you to be a leader both on the field and on the sideline, and Jackson has always sort of been a really neat lap dog.
Brett Favre already showed the world what happens to this team when they don’t believe in their coach or their quarterback, so without a hefty mouth in that pocket, pointing and yelling and leading, the offense simply doesn’t click the right way.
Tarvaris Jackson simply isn’t that type of quarterback.
A 59.2% completion rate isn’t all that bad, but there’s much more than field vision, such as progressions and locating the proper receiver out of the lot.
Jackson has consistently shown himself to be the type of quarterback that has a mild case of tunnel vision.
He doesn’t locate the open man all that much, he under utilizes his check down receivers, and forget getting anything out of him when he is under pressure.
The Vikings run with vertical outside threats, short yardage crossing patterns alongside one checkdown receiver at the very least, which is the type of offense strategy that seems to confuse Jackson more than he seems to understand it.
Could Vick Wind Up In Minny Next Year?
Albeit, this is a bit more speculative, but imagine—if you will—Favre announces his actual retirement at the end of the season.
I’ll give you a minute to roll your eyes, sigh in disbelief or let out a robust cackle.
The free agent market will have some interesting players for the Vikings to kick the tires on, including a certain Michael Vick who leads the pack of free agent quarterbacks this year.
While it is hard to imagine Philadelphia parting ways with Vick. One has to imagine, if the price is right, Vick will go for the paycheck he hasn’t had all year long.
Other scenarios could include trade talks with Denver regarding Kyle Orton or possible interest in Matt Hasselbeck, but either way, it’s either that or offer Jackson—a contract year player himself— a new deal and keep him around like unwanted luggage.
An interim contract would work for the Vikings, if they planned on keeping Jackson around as some sort of mentor, or perhaps that camera friendly player who is really good at holding the clipboard.
A long-term contract would eventually lose it's overall value.
Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t been able to shed the stigma of mediocre because of his inability to consistently display control of the fundamental aspects of the game.
When he does start, basic mechanics and knowing to throw the ball away are just two outstanding problems that plague Jackson on a regular basis.
Jackson still has a tendency to throw off the wrong foot—a common mistake you see in college QBs and even first year pros—and leads way too much with his shoulder (as shown in the photo to the left) which accounts for quite a number of tipped balls at the line of scrimmage.
He also utilizes his athleticism poorly with his oft “stylish jump passes,” which is not the type of skill set found in an elite QB.
The final problem with all of this? After half a decade he hasn’t improved any of these fundamental issues.
Consistency in the NFL is just as important as fundamentals, and often more so. Many players—and fans—often confuse initial progress with actual ability.
Tarvaris Jackson can read most defenses, yes. But can he do it on a consistent basis over the course of 16 games? Certainly not.
Tarvaris Jackson can unload some pretty big bombs downfield, but can he do it consistently with more reward over penalty? No.
These are qualities that the Vikings need in their quarterback, especially in the event they wind up in a playoff atmosphere, which abruptly brings me to my next point….
Jackson has shown Minnesota fans that he is nowhere near the mold of a quarterback who is built for a playoff environment.
While some of you may say it is unfair to judge a guy who has only played in one playoff game, I offer the counter argument of Tom Brady, accomplishing such a feat as a backup to Drew Bledsoe his first time or Brett Favre who was also a backup—and a Jerry Glanville castaway might I add—who we all know about.
The playoff environment requires a team, and every member on that team, to elevate their overall ability to new heights, which is something that Jackson couldn’t do in his only try.
In all honesty, Jackson actually seemed to go backwards in his lone game, finishing with a 42.9% completion rate, 164 yards and a lone INT—a poor counter to his 59.1% regular season completion rate and 9:2 TD to INT ratio.
In the NFL, more often than not, you only get to prove your worth once.
Tarvaris Jackson is not a bad quarterback at all. He does have significant power in his arm, a boat load oft athleticism, an average set of eyes and he can read rudimentary defenses pretty well.
But, a powerful arm isn’t worth much without consistency. A boat load of athleticism has little value, if you don’t know how to make it work for you.
An average set of eyes cannot lead an above average team and reading rudimentary defenses is nothing if you can’t effectively pick up on advance defensive techniques and sets.
All of these counters to Jackson’s attributes are nothing more than long-term liabilities for the Minnesota Vikings, not solutions.
And in the end, a team with more questions than answers is a team that will never make it to the Super Bowl, much less hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Tarvaris Jackson just isn’t the answer for Minnesota.