Is Jackson Ready to Lead Vikings?

The 20-17 loss last Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings to the Detroit Lions has prompted a number of questions surrounding the Vikings’ ability to end the 07-08 season with a winning record. As an avid Vikings' fan myself, it’s tough to talk about it but aside from the defense, there really is nothing going right for the Vikings. Having struggled for years with consistency in the quarterback spot, this year definitely will not be an exception.

It was reported when Tarvaris Jackson was drafted as the last pick in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft that the Vikings were excited to have found somebody who needed development or was a “diamond in the rough” so to speak. Unfortunately, the development curve seems to be far more gradual than Vikings' head coach, Brad Childress, was expecting.  In the week two loss to the Lions, Jackson threw four interceptions, tying the likes of Daunte Culpepper for a team high interception record.

As a commentator, it’s difficult to try to pinpoint what Jackson’s biggest problems are and where the biggest opportunities for growth are. The most unfortunate part is really that there are instances in which Jackson looks like a seasoned veteran. The subtle pump-fake that’s reminiscent of a young Peyton Manning or the scramble and explosive speed of Michael Vick when he was still allowed in the NFL. Those moments are apparently fleeting though, and it’s the lack of awareness and rookie mistakes that dominate Jackson’s time on the field.

The Minnesota Vikings have always had quarterback problems, and recent years have gotten worse and worse. There has always been a habit of bringing in veteran quarterbacks at the end of their careers to warm them up to finish with a winning record on another team. Enter Brad Johnson, Randal Cunningham, etc. If Jackson was given time to develop fully, the Vikings would have a chance at becoming a great team. While the lack of the explosive offense that came with players like Randy Moss in seasons past make it difficult, Jackson is going to have to start making big plays. Lenience on a growth curve is going to be necessary to foster development of a young quarterback but without signs of improvement; it really is a lost cause.

My recommendation would be this: start calling plays that allow Tarvaris Jackson the opportunity to exercise the mobility he was notorious for in college. Allow him to work with a core group of receivers on a wide variety of routes.  This will help facilitate Jackson’s ability to explore options at all positions on the field, and work with the new star running back Adrian Peterson on the short slant routes.  If Jackson can team up with Peterson on 3-5 short receptions a game to help build confidence for both, the Vikings have a much better chance of having a record above .500 than they do now.

By T. Lloyd,
September 17, 2007