Holcomb Remembers the Hard Times

Kelly Holcomb is a 12-year veteran of the NFL, but the sage quarterback vividly remembers what it was like during his first playing opportunities. One game in particular – against the Vikings – stands out because he was harassed by John Randle. See what Holcomb had to say about that early learning experience and how it might apply to Tarvaris Jackson during his struggles.

Kelly Holcomb has had a chance to play in NFL games as part of the Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills and may end up starting for the Vikings on Sunday against Kansas City if Tarvaris Jackson's groin injury doesn't heal quickly enough.

In 12 years of quarterbacking, you'd think Holcomb might not remember the early days – and he might be better off forgetting them, especially one dastardly day against the Minnesota Vikings in 1997.

It was Dec. 21, 1997, and Holcomb was a member of the Indianapolis Colts, who were 3-12 at the time under coach Lindy Infante. Like many of his teammates, Holcomb was looking forward to returning to his offseason home and getting a dreadful season over with. He called his limited playing time against Minnesota at that time "the worst experience I ever had."

Despite entering the league in 1995, his first playing experience was in 1997 as a backup to Jim Harbaugh, who went down to injury against the Vikings. Holcomb had thrown 65 passes that season before he entered the game at the Metrodome, but he can look back on his first Metrodome experience with humor after the passage of time.

"I think I had 15, 16, 17 snaps. I turned it over five times. I had never been into a situation where there was a louder place than in the Metrodome up here," Holcomb said. "I can remember my offensive linemen were all huddled around me and they couldn't hear me call the play. I'm just coming out of college now – I played some games and I started some games that year – I played some good games, didn't play that great. But that taught me a valuable lesson: It doesn't matter what your record is, you'd better be ready to play."

Holcomb completed 5 of 8 passes, but the three that weren't complete went for interceptions. What stood out maybe even more than his performance was the heckling he took from former Vikings defensive lineman John Randle.

"That was the roughest game I've ever been involved in because your boy John Randle was hollering at me and he was making me madder by the minute. I think I had two or three fumbled snaps and I had a couple of interceptions. That was not good," Holcomb said. "I remember him to this day running off the field and saying, ‘Hey, Holcomb, if you want to give it to us, we'll take it.' He was making me madder by the minute. And then at the end of the game, if could have been on ostrich and stuck my head in the ground, I would have." The Vikings ended up winning the season finale 39-28 and made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, which led to Dennis Green's first playoff win as the head coach.

Holcomb said he didn't think Randle referenced any of his biographical information, like Randle so often did with the starting quarterbacks he faced, but Holcomb seemed pleased that trash-talking lineman at least knew his name.

While facing a character like John Randle – a one-of-a-kind player and person – isn't likely to happen any time soon, but it was a good learning experience for the young quarterback.

"It wasn't that I wasn't prepared, but I was a rookie, 16 games is long and we were bad and I was already gone (to Tennessee in his mind). But it teaches you a valuable lesson. That's what this game does, it teaches you valuable lessons and I'm sure Tarvaris learned a lesson (in Detroit)."

Jackson threw four interceptions and admittedly made some bad decisions.

"It's a situation where things aren't going well and you have to try to keep your spirits up because he's a young guy," Holcomb said of Jackson. "Heck, I've been in those situations before and it's not fun. Normally, when you're in a game like that, you're not in it to still win the ballgame when you have that many mistakes on offense. Luckily, Detroit had a lot of mistakes as well. There are not many times where you can go into a turnover game like we had and still have a chance to win at the end."

The Vikings did have a chance to win it with seconds left in the fourth quarter, but kicker Ryan Longwell missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

When Jackson was injured on the first snap in overtime, he limped off the field and Brooks Bollinger had to hastily enter the game.

"That's a tough deal, and Tarvaris made it even tougher trying to get off the field," Holcomb said. "If he would have stayed down, there would have been an injury timeout and you've got a chance to warm up. That's the tough part about being a backup quarterback in the NFL. I think he did a pretty good job … that's a tough situation to be put in when you've got overtime and the game's still hanging in the balance."

With only a few warmup tosses, Bollinger entered the game and missed his first pass attempt.

"They were hollering at me to get out there because the play clock was going. It all happened pretty quick," said Bollinger, who was asked if he would have preferred the Vikings to use a timeout there to give him more time to warm up. "At the time, it kind of caught me off-guard. But once you step into the huddle, whether you've had all week or 30 seconds to think about it, you've just got to go execute the play."

After missing wide on his first pass attempt, he turned third-and-10 into a first down with an 11-yard completion to Jeff Dugan. Sandwiched in between two completions was a sack, and then a fateful center-quarterback exchange that wasn't executed cleanly.

Detroit recovered the ball, and five plays later the Lions were kicking a game-winning 37-yard field goal.

"Obviously that can't happen," Bollinger said of the botched snap. "I think you've just got to get the snap first and we didn't get that done. Obviously, it's a tough situation to have that happen."

The whole episode, combined with Bollinger's lackluster preseason performances, has led to the thinking that Holcomb might become the No. 2 quarterback this week – and would be the starter if Jackson's groin injury is too severe to play.

Holcomb said "there's no doubt" he would be ready to play in Kansas City this Sunday if needed, and said the offense wouldn't need to be limited even though he's been with the Vikings less than a month.

"I'm pretty good with everything, plus there's a lot of stuff I knew that I learned in Philly that's here. There's no speculation. We don't know what's going to happen. Tarvaris, hopefully he's good," Holcomb said.

And if he isn't, Holcomb had better hope his first experience as Viking isn't as painful as his first recollection of playing against the Vikings.

Viking Update Top Stories