Analysis: An Open QB Competition?

Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger are supposed to head into training camp competing for the starting job, but is this really an open competition?

Brooks Bollinger says head coach Brad Childress has told him that he has a legitimate chance to be the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback in 2007.

"That's obviously what coach has expressed, and I feel like I'm at a point in my career where I can make that an opportunity, and obviously I'm just welcome to have an opportunity to compete," Bollinger said last week. "That's all you can really ask for in this business, a chance to go out there and compete. I'm excited as heck about it and I'm going to keep working hard to put myself in the best position possible and help this team have a successful offense and win football games."

Still, Bollinger has to wonder if he's on a level playing field when it comes to his competition with second-year pro Tarvaris Jackson.

Last year, Bollinger and Jackson were pretty much equally average in their limited opportunities behind starter Brad Johnson, whose 72.0 passer rating wasn't the stuff Pro Bowl seasons were made of either. In fact, the entire offense was relatively average, according to NFL rankings – falling to 23rd in the league after ranking anywhere from 12th to 18th in the league through the first 16 weeks of the season.

It doesn't get much more ho-hum than that. Jackson completed 58 percent of his passes to Bollinger's 72.2 percent. Jackson had two touchdowns and four interceptions to Bollinger's zero touchdowns and one interception. Jackson was sacked eight times with 81 additional pass attempts and Bollinger was sacked six times with 18 other pass attempts. Jackson finished with a 62.5 rating to Bollinger's 72.9.

But while many of Bollinger's statistics are a little better than Jackson's – again, in very limited action – it just doesn't seem like Bollinger is on equal footing. Sure, the Vikings traded something away to acquire each of them last year, giving up a draft pick to move up and select Jackson at the end of the second round and then giving up backup defensive tackle C.J. Mosley and a draft pick to acquire Bollinger from the New York Jets before the season began.

But talking with the Vikings' free-agent signees on offense, including wide receiver Bobby Wade, they have said they watched film of Jackson before they signed with the team, or they met with Jackson and see his potential. That doesn't sound like an organization that is trying to sell recruits on the merits of Bollinger.

"We watched some film. I watched some film of Tarvaris and we watched some film from last season, but you know Brad took the majority of the snaps and whatnot, so we really focused on the games that Tarvaris played in," Wade said. "Being a young player and not getting the amount of reps that he got, it's hard to really see what kind of player he's going to be. But I think the harder he works and the more reps he gets to get comfortable with, and comfortability in this league is really what you need to be able to play at your best."

Now, however, it seems others are being more careful to word their analyses of the position to include at least Bollinger and sometimes even Drew Henson.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie said last week that he wonders who he will be protecting in September "because you have two different styles of quarterbacks and you want to know who you're going to be protecting. We'll find out during the course of OTAs, minicamps and training camps."

Wade added: "I think you've just got to look forward to the potential that we have here. Tarvaris is a good player, he's a young player. I'm looking forward to seeing him develop into a great player. And Brooks is a vet. He's been around and seen a lot of great places. Drew's another player who's been with some great coaches and seen a lot. So I think we're going in the right direction in that area. The more we can work together and just get timing down, the better it will be."

To be fair, Childress really does seem to like Bollinger's demeanor and was quick to include Bollinger's veteran presence and familiarity with the offense when questioned at the NFL Scouting Combine in February about adding a veteran quarterback to the mix.

Whichever way Bollinger really views his chances to be the team's opening-day starter, he said he didn't even wonder if the team will draft a quarterback and further add to the competition at the position.

"It's the last thing on my mind. Honestly. I haven't been in this league forever, but I've been in it long enough to know that you're just wasting your time. There's plenty of things for me to worry about that I can control. I've got my hands full just trying to make myself a better player and do everything I can to make this offense better. To worry about any of that stuff is just wasted sleep. I get little enough sleep with my son crying anyway," Bollinger said.

And Bollinger also doesn't discuss the competition much with Jackson, he said.

"We don't sit and talk about that too much, but his locker is right next to mine as you guys know from last year, and we have a very good relationship and we communicate very well as far as what we need to do on the field and a lot of times we just sit and talk about whatever," Bollinger said. "I think we get along well. There's no animosity between us. I think we both welcome competition. I think we both feel it's going to make this team better and make both of us better, so it's a really good relationship right now."

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