T-Jack or Not T-Jack?

When the Vikings drafted Tarvaris Jackson, many draft experts applauded the move, citing T-Jack's impressive upside. But, one year later, many of those same critics are saying the Vikings are doomed because he doesn't have any pro experience. Confused? So are we, to be honest.

It's funny how critics work. Whether it be sports analysts or movie critics, they aren't members of the profession in which they give their harshest critiques – outsiders who pass judgment as part of their job.

The critics and Tarvaris Jackson have had a tenuous relationship at best since the Vikings moved up in the 2006 draft to take him with the last pick of the second round. Jackson, who many believed was a third-round prospect at best, was clearly on the Vikings' radar and they drafted him with the intention of starting him. While the critics claimed the Vikings may have reached for a Division 1-AA quarterback, many of the critics praised the selection at the time – citing Jackson's strong arm and athleticism.

Yet, just a little over a year later, those same critics are now claiming that the Vikings will sink or swim with Jackson and that he isn't ready for the big time. It seems to me those same critics said the same about Daunte Culpepper when he was handed the reigns of the Vikings offense in his second season in 2000. Even Dennis Green has his doubts – in the weeks leading up to the regular season, Green tried to woo Dan Marino out of retirement. If not for having a special-needs child, Marino might have taken Green up on his offer and come up to Minnesota for a season and played with the Vikings. He didn't and Culpepper led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game that year.

Unlike Green and Marino, it would appear that, to date, Brad Childress has made no overtures to veteran quarterbacks, even though players like Jeff Garcia – well-versed in the Eagles version of the West Coast Offense – were available. The coaching staff had made up its mind. This would be T-Jack's job to lose.

While other teams have earned praise for "throwing their quarterback out there" to get experience, the Vikings have been blasted by the critics – many of whom acknowledged the big upside of Jackson when the Vikings took him.

Sorry, critics. You can't have it both ways. If Jackson was a good choice for the quarterback of the future, why isn't he good enough now that he's getting a shot? Green knew when he drafted Culpepper that he would get the job sooner or later. Considering the team already had Randall Cunningham and Jeff George on the roster as the time they drafted Pepp, the thought was similar – he can sit for a year or two and be ready when the time came. That time, it would seem, came earlier than originally anticipated and Culpepper performed well.

What the critics need to do is look in the mirror and ask themselves a couple of simple questions. Were the Vikings better off in the last year Culpepper was their starter? Would they be in better shape if Brad Johnson entered the season as the starter again? The answer to both questions would likely be a resounding "no."

The beauty of critics is that they can always say "I told you so" after the fact. That's their job and they're very good at it. But, when Childress and the Vikings moved up to get Jackson on Draft Day 2006, they did so with the intention of making him a starter or at the least giving him an honest chance to compete for a starting job. That timetable has been moved up. Perhaps the timing wasn't what the team was hoping for, but they're moving ahead with it regardless.

Maybe the critics should reserve judgment until they actually get to see Jackson working with the first-unit players in games that count. At the worst, they can always say "I told you so" in January.


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