Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get to Know 'Em: Jeff Garcia

The second of the Vikings' two main options to replace Tarvaris Jackson (after Matt Cassel) is Jeff Garcia. He's a veteran with a proven track record coming off of three straight seasons with a quarterback rating over 90. In his ten seasons, he's had seven seasons with a completion percentage over 60%, including the last three years. Of course, it's that first number (ten seasons) that raises some big questions--is he too old, at 39, to be successful over a full season and in the playoffs?

And if he's not too old, would he fit in with the Vikings? Last year, Garcia played in 12 games for Tampa, completing 64.9% of his passes for 2712 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing only 6 interceptions. It was the sixth straight season he failed to play in 16 games. Of course, one of the reason that he's missed games is that he's lost the starting job (or didn't start with it). The other reason is that he tends to get hurt. In 2006, he replaced Donovan McNabb after McNabb was hurt and led the Eagles to the second round of the playoffs. Of course, he only played in 8 regular season games. Two years ago, (when he should have been playing for the Purple) he missed two games with injuries and sat out a meaningless Week 17 game, and last year he lost his starting job after Week 1 to Brian Griese and then missed the Bucs' Week 15 loss to Atlanta with a calf injury, returning to put up back to back sub 75 QB Ratings in the last two weeks as Tampa flamed out of the playoff hunt.

Even at 38, however, he was still a very mobile quarterback, as the Vikings' learned all too well last year. While he doesn't scramble as much as he used to (he's averaged about 10 yards per game the last three years) he has the ability to escape the pass rush and keep the play alive. His sack rate was only 5.8%, and his career sack rate is only 4.8%. In contrast, Tarvaris Jackson was sacked 8.7% of the time he dropped back last year, and has a career sack rate of 7.6%. And he's outperformed his offensive line significantly, as the Bucs line had an adjusted sack rate of 6.5% (while Adjusted Sack Rate and sack rate are not the same stat, that seems to be a large enough gap to illustrate that Garcia's good at avoiding sacks). His ability to scramble would certainly help behind a line like the Vikings that was significantly worse at preventing sacks than Tampa's (the Purple's ASR was 8.8%).

Another of the big issues that Garcia has, however, is a weak arm. He only had 5 completions for more than 40 yards last year (or one more than Tarvaris and three fewer than Gus Frerotte). He's averaged 6.64 yards per attempt over the last two years, and 6.55 YPA last year. That would have put him 10th in YPA last year as a team, which seems to show he still has the ability to make plays, but in actuality, his high YPA has more to do with a lack of negative plays than it does high yardage plays, as he was 22nd in completions for more than 20 yards. Of course, for a team like the Vikings, avoiding sacks is almost as important as big passing plays, so his mobility might actually offset his lack of an arm.

If the Vikings do decide to go with Jeff Garcia at quarterback, it would fill the position with a capable quarterback this year, and with a quarterback that Tarvaris Jackson can learn a lot from. Garcia rarely gets criticized for his decision making (his career interception rate is 2.3%). He comes with some drawbacks though--he doesn't have the arm to stretch the field, which makes it less likely that his presence would force defenses to remove defenders from the box (though I doubt the Vikings would see 9 men in the box with Garcia under center) and he's not going to make it through the season without getting hurt. Tarvaris Jackson will be playing quarterback for the Vikings if they sign Garcia to start. And, depending on when Garcia gets hurt, Tarvaris could be playing during the stretch run or the playoffs (which seems likely considering that Garcia tends to wear down rather than get hurt early). Finally, signing Garcia (to what I assume would be a one year contract) means that the Vikings would have only delayed the need to find a franchise quarterback for a year, leaving them with only John David Booty under contract at the end of the year. Basically, they'd still have to address the position in the draft (with either Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman or Nate Davis) or guarantee themselves another off season with massive questions about the position. I don't think that signing Garcia is necessarily a bad way to upgrade at quarterback, but its certainly not a great way to do so (like it would have been two years ago). The fact that he's the first or second best option (depending on how you feel about Cassel) says more about the way that the Vikings have mismanaged their roster than it does about him. Can they win the Super Bowl with Garcia under center? If Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson can win Super Bowls, so can Garcia. Is Garcia likely to be in good enough shape to lead a team through the Playoffs (or even be able to play)? Considering what happened at the end of last year and in the playoffs against the Giants the year before (when he had a 60.5 QB Rating), I doubt it. Which means that while Garcia might get the Vikings another home playoff game, it doesn't seem any more likely that he'll be able to win it at 39 years old than Tarvaris would be.


Luft Krigare said...

Tarvaris Jackson noticeably improved his play after watching Gus Frerotte for 11 games. Would he improve even more from watching and learning from Jeff Garcia? Would it be enough to make him the quarterback of the future?

If the answer is possibly yes, is that not a safer option than taking the gamble that would be Matt Cassel? Granted, if Matt Cassel turns out to be the next Tom Brady then no, but the likelihood of that is smaller than most think in my opinion.

What if the Vikes sign Garcia and draft best available candidate then keep 4 QBs on the roster to get to the 2010 season with at least two options (not that JDB is much of an option)? Do you think that might be worth it?

TBird41 said...

If the Vikings sign Garcia, they have to draft a QB in the first or second round (Josh Freeman or Nate Davis), b/c Tarvaris is likely gone after this year unless the Vikings offer him way over market value. I can't see him coming back after getting benched multiple times the past two years and then having it happen again when Garcia signs. So if he plays well, look for him to go to some other team that's interested, rather than return to the Vikings. Of course, we better hope he plays well if we sign Garcia, because he's going to play at least 2 or 3 games when Garcia gets hurt.

And while keeping JDB around as a 4th QB would certainly provide some competition, I don't know if any team has ever kept 4 QBs on the roster and there's nothing I've seen this regime do that would suggest they think out of the roster construction box (see the loss of Tyler Thigpen). Not to mention the fact that Childress probably needs to make a deep playoff run this year to keep his job and so won't want to waste a roster spot for a year he might not even be the head coach.

And I almost think it'd be better to go in to 2010 with only Freeman/Davis and whatever journeyman the Vikings sign (Jake Delhomme, Sage Rosenfels, Jason Campbell and David Carr are available) than wasting a roster spot on Booty this year, who, more likely than not, is seen as a viable QB at some point in the future only because of how desperate Vikings fans are for a viable QB and not because of his skills.

MikeHoll said...

Favre was the Viking's best chance at winning the super bowl, but Garcia is second. My biggest concern is that Garcia's small stature forces him out of the pocket where he doesn't handle the blitz well (and the Vikes need a QB that can handle the blitz to take pressure off AP). Garcia is also limited by his noodle arm that can't throw outside of the hash marks or beyond 15 yards on a consistent basis.

TBird41 said...

I disagree with you on Favre, for the same reason I'm not so sure that Garcia is the answer--age.

Favre's problem is he wears down over the season, and he didn't actually play that well last year, outside of his one big game against the Cardinals. He was awful in December, and now he's a year older and his arm is messed up.

I think Garcia would be a good choice, but I don't trust him to play the entire season (or to be healthy for the stretch run). I think Garcia as the starting QB means that there will be 3 or so games that Tarvaris starts, and that those will likely be at the end of the year and possibly even the playoffs.

Garcia still might be a better choice than Cassel (the shotgun thing scares me b/c I don't trust Childress to put Cassel in a situation where he can be successful), but the reality is that all the choices have some major drawbacks. The likelihood is that we'll look back at this season as yet another that Childress wasted because of his inability to find a good quarterback.

MikeHoll said...

My prediction is the Vikings win the super bowl by picking up Garcia and later Favre (if his arm feels better). By utilizing two geezers the Vikes can avoid playing T-Jack in the playoffs.