Analysis: Jackson Not Asked For Action

The emotional fan tide on Tarvaris Jackson has switched from excitement to fear without T-Jack doing anything that would keep fans off the bus or throw him under it. Jackson should heed the advice given his peers and predecesors -- manage the game and stay within the system.

Tarvaris Jackson won't be playing his wares down in the Cayman Islands after his passport wasn't in order to travel outside of the United States for the first time. The second-year quarterback was one of several NFL signal-callers that was scheduled to compete in a made-for-TV throwing competition today.

But without his licence to travel abroad, concerns back on the home front among fans continue to center on whether Jackson can be a legitimate NFL starting quarterback. Perhaps the bigger question is can he be a big-play quarterback who minimizes mistakes?

While Daunte Culpepper came from a school that wasn't on everyone's radar until after his college career at Central Florida was done and scouts began comparing his measureables with those of other quarterbacks in the 1999 draft, he was given a year to adjust and came out like gangbusters. Granted, it doesn't hurt to have Robert Smith behind and Randy Moss and Cris Carter on either side, but Culpepper brought the big-play element to an offense that was built around it.

Jackson is another story. Without the "catch-anything-thrown" guys like Carter and Moss around him, the Vikings offense got predictable and Culpepper became average – at best. Last year, the Vikings offense bottomed out. It was a near-certainty that the team would run on first down of most series and, if they didn't get three yards or more, they were likely to run on second down too. Brad Johnson, who is among those scheduled to be in the Cayman Islands today, didn't have the creativity, mobility or arm strength to create big plays and, as a result, the Vikings became eerily similar to their Metrodome counterparts in the Twins – without stringing together three or four singles, they couldn't score. The Vikings had to string together five or six first downs or they wouldn't score a touchdown.

Jackson has the ability to make big plays both with his arm and his feet. But, for the Vikings to be successful, they really don't need him to be a huge big-play threat to win. What they do need is for him to manage a game, grow into the position and simply not make stupid mistakes. A year ago, we predicted that Vikings fans would be in for a shock in that their-once mighty offense was likely going to be pedestrian at best and downright boring at worst. They saw plenty of that on display last year and, when times got tough, the offense imploded on itself. Defenses didn't have to respect the deep ball from Johnson and the Vikings didn't have receivers that could command double coverage. With the additions of Adrian Peterson in the backfield and Sidney Rice and Aundrae Allison at the receiver spots, the Vikings have new additions that can turn handoffs or short passes into big gainers. If you have that, you have a chance to win.

It hasn't been unusual for teams to win without having a Pro Bowl quarterback. Trent Dilfer was nothing short of awful, but didn't make stupid turnovers and let his defense get the job done on his way to a Super Bowl ring. The same Brad Johnson that got benched three times in 2006 due to ineffective play has a ring he can wear around. Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie with the Steelers when he got the early call and was asked, much like Jackson will be, to hand off the ball a lot and, when called to pass, not to make mistakes. Last time we looked, Big Ben still has a championship. Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick from a big-time school that every team in the league felt like passing on five times or more before he got drafted and he's heading to the Hall of Fame when his career is over.

There was excitement about Jackson after he was drafted but, now that the reality of having him as their No. 1 starter is staring fans and media in the face, they've done a double-take and said he might not be ready and, in some cases, he might never be ready to step up and be a NFL quarterback. But the reality is that he doesn't have to be a Peyton Manning or Michael Vick or Steve McNair to be a success. All he needs to do is make enough big plays to get the team into scoring position and not give away points with dangerous passes or ill-advised decisions. It won't be easy, but the least the fans owe Jackson is a chance. The team knew what it was doing when they drafted Jackson in the second round. The 2007 season will be the proving ground to see if that decision was right.

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