Jackson doesn't have to be a star

If there is one player on the Vikings who has hit the point of being overanalyzed to the point of paralysis, it is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. All the preseason prognosticators and football pundits have shot plenty of holes in the team's plan to build this team, beginning with their perceived "weakness" at the quarterback position because of Jackson's inexperience.

There are 32 teams in the NFL and most “experts” would rank the Vikings’ quarterback situation of Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson and Tyler Thigpen somewhere between No. 28 (at the highest) and No. 32 (dead last).

What’s interesting is that virtually everyone agrees that Jackson is talented and has “all the tools” to be a very successful quarterback in the NFL.  Yet some would have liked to seen the Vikings bring in the next Jim McMahon, Warren Moon or Brad Johnson – a 37-year-old quarterback who’s better days are clearly behind him.

But isn’t that just another stopgap approach that only delays the inevitable, which is that Jackson is going to be “the guy?”  So why not bite the bullet, take your lumps, and start the transition into the long-range future now?  After all, is a Jeff Garcia or a Trent Green or a Kelly Holcomb going to be such a savior that they put this team over the top and assure Super Bowl success?  Unlikely.

So why not begin the process now?  How much more is Jackson going to learn watching someone else?  He has the physical tools.  He has the mental capacity.  He needs to be on the field playing to become a veteran.  There’s no other easy way to make it happen.

So do what you can to put playmakers around him, give him the best coaching you can and do as much as you can to not make it all ride on his shoulders.  It would seem the Vikings have done that.

First of all, Brad Childress & Co. have surrounded him with the components for a low-risk offense to go with a very solid defense.  It’s not unlike the formula that has brought success to Lovie Smith with the Bears the past two years.  It’s not unlike the pattern for success the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens used to win Super Bowls.

There are question marks on the right side of the offensive line, but the rest of the unit is stellar with Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk.  As a whole, the unit having worked together for a full year now can only be more consistent than they were a year ago.

Jackson has a 1,200-yard veteran all-purpose back in Chester Taylor to hand or toss the ball to, with an exciting, gamebreaking rookie in Adrian Peterson, as well.  If Jackson has to win games with his arm week in and week out, the guys up front and these two backs haven’t done their job.

Sure there’s a lot of unproven talent at wide receiver.  But the proven talent they had at the position last year wasn’t all that consistent or productive, either.  At least this bunch should be able to separate from defenders and stretch the field a bit.

If the defense remains reasonably stout against the run and shows even modest improvement against the pass, they can usually keep the Vikings in games, which will only help their ball-control, eat-up-the-clock style of offense.

If Jackson was expected to come in and be the savior of the team, maybe these dismal predictions make sense, but he’s not.  As Denny Green used to say, “he just needs to drive the car.”  He doesn’t have to have an MVP season.  He just needs to NOT be the reason they lose games.  If Jackson does that, the other 10 guys on offense can help this team improve on 6-10.

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