Beginning of an Era?

Tonight may not officially usher in the Tarvaris Jackson Era in Minnesota, but it could go a long way to determine what the Vikings have planned for the 2007 season and beyond.

When the Vikings packaged a pair of third-round picks back in April to get back into the second round of the 2006 draft to take quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, there were several mixed messages taken from it.

First, there were some detractors who said the Vikings moved too quickly on Jackson. Many believed he would still be available in the third round. Others, especially scouts who had seen Jackson play, applauded the move -- citing his athleticism and raw natural talent.

But one thing most everyone could agree on was that Jackson was a raw talent that likely would be best suited to sit for a year or two to master the NFL game.

Eight months later, Jackson makes his first NFL start against the Packers tonight in prime time -- a coming-out party against future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

While it appears clear that Jackson will start the Vikings' final two games of the regular season and be their starter in the event they make the playoffs, there will be a lot of eyes within the circle of power and triangle of authority with the Vikings watching Jackson's every move tonight and next week. Why? It will go a long way to determining the future course of the Vikings.

There is a belief that if Jackson can get the job done, the role of starting QB will be handed to him and the team will either stand pat in free agency at QB or bring in a veteran with the clear understanding that he's the backup. If not, the Vikings might use free agency to shore up the position -- going after an out-of-work veteran like Drew Bledsoe or Jake Plummer to serve as conduit from now until Jackson is ready to take over full-time.

The Jackson Era does begin tonight -- for better or worse. He has the chance to win the trust of the organization in the next two weeks or lose it. We'll just have to wait and see how the chips fall.

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