Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quarterback Mess

The 2007 season has not been kind to the Vikings and it has been particularly harsh on the QBs. Nobody thought this was going to be a real strength of the team, in fact ESPN Insider ranked our QB situation 31st in the league this offseason (only the Chiefs were worse).

I know that you were all with me that it can only get better and really we'll surprise a lot people with the play of Tarvaris Jackson.

Well, it is not better and nobody is surprised. It is pretty bad and it is hard to win games when your quarterback arguably the weakest link on your team. I am very dissatisfied with our QB play and I realize that we will not win more than 5 games this year no matter how good our defense or running game is.

The interesting (and I use that word loosely) thing is that I'm not calling for a change at QB or a change in Offensive Coordinator. We don't have an option that will allow us to win in 2007. I'm ready to accept that.

Here is my 3 step plan...

1. Let Tarvaris Play - Kelly Holcomb has been just as bad as Jackson this year and really his record is 0-3 to Jackson's 2-2. I know that young QBs often always struggle in their first year of consistent playing time. But there are 2 distinct differences between what you usually see with a young QB and what the Vikings have...

  • Their team is usually really bad to begin with. Peyton Manning's first year had a terrible offense and a terrible defense.
  • They usually show at least flashes of talent. Even as Manning struggled in his rookie season he still had moments of showing that there was some serious talent there. We were able to see that given time and some surrounding talent this kid might really be something.
Jackson is blessed with a talented defense (at least against the run), a talented expensive OLine and a game changing running back. And secondly, Jackson hasn't once shown a a unique ability or flashes that he will be anything better than mediocre. There isn't 1 pass that he has thrown that was impressive. The the 60 yd pass to Williamson is the highlite of his career and that was a long pass, to a wide open receiver that any QB at this level should be able to hit 85% of the time.

With that said we might as well let him play and play a lot. When we have no other option, we have to give Jackson every opportunity to grow into an NFL QB and prove everyone wrong.

2. Evaluate in January - I am a big believer in players have to adjust to the speed of the game. Some players adjust and can succeed at this level (Brad Johnson). For some the game really slows down and they dominate this level (Tom Brady). And for many others the NFL game is too fast for them and they struggle to keep up (Ryan Leaf). As I stated, we have no other option so why not let TJax adjust. I think a full season is ample time to evaluate if he'll figure it out or be left behind.

A perfect example of this is Jackson's performance in the pre season. If you recall, he looked good. Not great, not a QB ready to lead this team deep into the playoffs, but significantly better than what we've seen in the regular season. Why is that? The pre season game is slower. At that speed Jackson was able to see the field, his decision making wasn't rushed and he was able to execute. Week 1, things started moving faster and he has struggled to adjust.

Let him start the remaining 9 games and if we don't see improvement then I think we know that he is not a long term solution. At some point it will either click or it won't.

If TJax improves and looks like the future of the franchise, then skip step #3 and draft some help for him in the form of OLine or WR. If the results are mixed or no better than week 7, move on to step #3.

3. Find a New Solution - I for one don't believe that the game will slow down for Tarvaris and the Vikings will have to go into 2008 with a new future QB on the roster. Fortunately this will be a good offseason to find a new QB. The NFL draft is expected to be full of very good QBs. 6 current college QBs expected to declare for the draft are considered 1st round talent (3 of top 10).
  • Brian Brohm - Louisville
  • Andre' Woodson - Kentucky
  • Matt Ryan - Boston College
  • Chad Henne - Michigan
  • Colt Brennan - Hawaii
  • John David Booty - USC
And to go along with this deep QB talent, the Vikings are on pace for another to 10 draft pick. Chances are pretty good that the draft day decision makers will have their choice among 5 of the 6. This is the time and the place to bring in a new future franchise QB.

The Future of this Franchise

Is there any doubt that Adrian Peterson is truly the Purple Jesus? I know that this is VERY early in his career but all signs point to a franchise RB that teams have to gameplan to stop every week. If we are going to move forward with sub-mediocrity at the quarter back position we really should trade Peterson as soon as possible. It is a disservice to the league, fans and most importantly it will be a complete waste of his career. Don't make him the next Barry Sanders. Get him a competent QB and a good offensive line. Let him be the next Barry Sanders with playoff wins on his resume.

I really have not seen anything in Jackson's game that gives me any hope. His throws are erratic, his decision making is questionable at best, he has shown no leadership on the field and while you can't argue his athletic ability he has shown no ability to use it to his advantage.

Holcomb is not the answer and Bollinger is certainly not the answer. Give the ball to TJax and let this season play out. But this organization better be prepared to move in a new direction and do so quickly. They have the real deal standing 7 yards behind center, they better get someone who not only can hand off to him but can also keep defenses honest.

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