With the Favre Fiasco finally resolved through a trade with the Jets, we now know that Tarvaris Jackson is going to be the starting quarterback. And that means that the success of the Vikings will rest largely on his ability to be a league average quarterback. There’s good news on that front, however, as one of the surprising things that this edition of the Pro Football Prospectus has done is reinforce my confidence in Tarvaris Jackson’s ability to be a league average quarterback. To be fair, I’m probably interpreting the stats as optimistically as possible, but I reserve the right not to let the Vikings’ long history of failure prevent me from being optimistic. So, without further ado, the Pro Football Prospectus’ reasons to be confident about Brad Childress’ decision to trust a Super Bowl caliber team in Tarvaris Jackson:
- Tarvaris Jackson had a better DVOA and DYAR last year than Marc Bulger, 2005 first overall pick Alex Smith, three of the five other quarterbacks selected in the first three rounds of the 2006 draft, all of which the experts consider to be better quarterback prospects (Kellen Clemens of the Jets, Brodie Croyle of the Chiefs and #3 pick Vince Young) and last, but not least, Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning, who was, without any question, a worse quarterback than Tarvaris Jackson last year. Manning’s DVOA was -13.1%, Tarvaris’ was -5.8%. Manning had -70 DYAR, Tarvaris had 107 DYAR. Manning completed 56.1% of his passes while averaging 5.6 Net Yards per Pass, while Tarvaris completed 58.7% of his passes while averaging 6.0 NY/P.
- Tarvaris’ was a lot more accurate than his stats show. According to PFP’s game charters, he had the 9th highest drop rate, as Vikings’ receivers dropped 20 passes, a full 6.9% of his throws. That rate should go down now that Troy Williamson is gone, and the offense now features Sidney Rice (projected catch percentage of 57%), Bobby Wade (projected catch percentage of 57%) and Bernard Berrian (projected catch percentage of 54%). He also had the 7th lowest rate of underthrown passes and the 3rd fewest passes defensed, where he slots right in right after Tom Brady, but ahead of Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisburger and David Garrard.
- Tarvaris is good at avoiding sacks. The Vikings’ line had an adjusted sack rate (ASR) of 8.6%, the fifth highest in the NFL. Tarvaris’ was 6.5%. That low rate doesn’t mean he wasn’t hit a lot though, as he was knocked down (sacked or hit) 17.4% of the time he dropped back, the fourth highest rate of quarterback’s with at least 200 attempts. What’s striking is the ASR of the other quarterbacks in the top ten of that list—six of the nine had ASR higher than 8.0%.
- David Garrard was 29 in 2006, one year before his breakout (Tarvaris will be 25 this year), but aside from his age, his advanced statistics are close enough to Tarvaris’ last year to believe that some tweaking of Tarvaris’ arm angle and footwork, combined with better receivers, could lead to a similar breakout.
- Garrard’s line: 11 games, 60.2% Completion Percentage, -4.8% DVOA, 107 DYAR, 6.6 NY/P, 8.3% ASR, 7.0% Rushing DVOA, 56 Rushing DYAR.
- Tarvaris’ line: 12 games, 58.2% Completion Percentage, -5.8% DVOA, 107 DYAR, 6.0 NY/P, 6.5% ASR, 25.4% Rushing DVOA, 80 Rushing DYAR.
- Ok, I know that’s something of a stretch, but remember, we’re being optimistic here. Garrard’s line doesn’t foretell a 4% increase in Completion Percentage, a 42.2% increase in DVOA, an increase of 981 DYAR, a 7.0 NY/P, a 1.4% decrease in ASR and a complete lack of scrambling the next year (Garrard only ran 5 times last year, down from 47 in 2006).
Is that enough to convince me that Tarvaris Jackson can lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl (or at least not get in the way of the rest of the team)? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it enough to convince me that the Vikings made the right choice in not trading for Derek Anderson or Chad Pennington, and in the process giving away the draft picks they used to obtain Jared Allen? Yes. And is it enough to convince me that I’d rather have Tarvaris than Favre and all the cognitive issues he would have created? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.