Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Overthinking Tarvaris

As you probably noticed, Peter King prominently featured Tarvaris Jackson in his latest MMQB column and, after reading it, I have to say, I'm still feel pretty much exactly way I did about the way the Vikings handled the quarterback position this off season as I did before.

Unlike last year, it wasn't unreasonable for the Purple to decide on Tarvaris Jackson as their starter. The alternatives were too expensive (and too risky), and as King pointed out,

"Before I spoke with Jackson, I looked at his bio and his game-by-game numbers from last year. This stunned me: In the final seven games last year, when Jackson and the Vikings went 5-2, he completed 65.2 percent of his passes. Look at these game by completion accuracy numbers, in percentages: 77, 83, 75, 64, 62, 61 and 52. The biggest thing he had to do after his career at Division I-AA Alabama State was work on accuracy (in his three seasons there, he completed 51, 52 and 61 percent of his throws, respectively) and knowledge of the pro game."

So he was getting better as he got more comfortable. That makes sense to me. You could see the same thing in the way he played against the Broncos and during the Purple's winning streak--he was finally making the adjustment to the speed of the NFL that rookies have to make (and he was a rookie in spirit, if not in name). Apparently, he's also done really well in the recent practices, something both Robert Ferguson and Steve Hutchinson pointed out to King (and both players have played with Pro Bowl quarterbacks).

But here's the thing. He might have completed a high percentage of his passes in his last few games, but he was also quite horrible in the last two games that really mattered in the season, throwing 3 interceptions against da Bears and 2 against the Redskins. I also distinctly remember a jump pass occurring against da Bears, something I will hopefully never see again.

And, once again, there isn't a backup plan. Now, I'm not a huge Gus Frerotte fan, but he was a decent backup the last time he was wearing Purple. That was also four years ago. He's 37 now--does anyone really think he can do a good enough job under center to allow the Vikings to win a game? John David Booty is what he is--a developmental quarterback that's likely to wash out of the NFL within a few years, like most quarterbacks drafted on the second day. Sage Rosenfels was available, and the Vikings almost pulled the trigger, and, well, they really should have, especially if King is right that the Vikings "would have put the efficient Rosenfels in competition with Jackson, and Rosenfels likely would have won the job". Nothing against Rosenfels, who was a solid QB in limited time last year, but if he can beat out your starting quarterback, that's a problem. Of course, that doesn't mean that King is right about Rosenfels winning the job from Jackson (I read King for his sources, not his football analysis or his writing), but still, it's disheartening to hear.

So yeah, we're basically right back to where we started prior to King's column. Tarvaris has the potential to be a good enough quarterback for the Vikings to go deep into the playoffs. He's shown the ability in flashes, last year was his first year as a starter, the Vikings' went 8-4 when he played, etc. That doesn't mean he will though. As Tarvaris himself put it,

"I know what people are saying,'' he told me. " 'The Vikings have a great defense, the best running back in the league, a great offensive line ... what about the quarterback?' The quarterback position -- every day of your life you're under the microscope anyway. I understand that. I'm very confident in my growth as a player in this system. But I know what's going on. People don't have any reason NOT to ask that question about me.''

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