Tarvaris Jackson has posted ratings of 79.9, 139.2, 110.4 and 95.9 during the Vikings' four-game winning streak, which started when Jackson returned from injury after a 34-0 shellacking by the Green Bay Packers, but the Vikings aren't ready to give him too much leeway in his ability to audible at the line of scrimmage.
Earlier this year, the Vikings had talked about giving Jackson the ability to change a rushing play from one side to the other, but head coach Brad Childress said there is more that goes into the making audibles as the line of scrimmage.
"There's more to it. I don't want to just denigrate that he can just change a side. There is some study that has to go into that – getting us in the right formation and the right side-to -side is huge because they're trying to deceive you as well," Childress said. "But he has a little bit of latitude of that. Without talking about game plan and what he can go to and what he can't go to, we'd never let a quarterback go all the way through the playbook and call from X to Z. And we don't want quarterbacks going to the line of scrimmage and looking to change the play because you can get that mentality, too – hey, I'm going to be the smart guy. You don't want (the quarterback) seeing ghosts, you just want them to do what you want them to do."
Jackson said he is allowed some latitude in changing plays, but he indicated that he doesn't want to overdo it, either.
"If it's called for (he'll audible), but we've got a lot of answers in our offense for the play that's called so there's no need to jump out of plays," he said.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell played quarterback at the University of Wisconsin and was quarterbacks coach for Brett Favre in Green Bay. He understands first-hand how complicated making those quick decisions at the line of scrimmage can be.
"There are so many decisions that you make on every play. First of all, it is so much recognition that you have to have. Just like you have mentioned, you have to come up, you have to recognize the defense," Bevell said. "Whether it's a run, there are times you are checking run game. Then when it becomes a pass play, it opens up a whole new can of recognition. OK, what's the front? How am I protected? What kind of protection am I in? If I am in a specific protection, where I've got to get rid of the ball if this specific guy comes, what's the coverage that is matched up with that? OK, this guy is going to run this route, will that coverage change? Now he is going to run this route.
"It's very quick decisions and that's why you see progression from a lot of these guys where at times they can look totally confused and at times they seem like they have been doing it for years. The plays that they have the most reps on and the most opportunities to have been in there, they have seen different looks and they can have that reaction time speed up for them. I think people say the game slows down for them and I think we are beginning to see that."
Quarterbacks can audible out of runs and into passes at the line of scrimmage and vice versa in Childress' system, but "they don't very often," he said.
Jackson said his one touchdown pass last week against San Francisco wasn't an audible, rather just reading San Francisco's tendency and having a good call in the huddle for the situation the 49ers presented. As they had done many times before to stop Adrian Peterson's rushing game, the 49ers brought a cornerback on a blitz and Jackson unloaded the ball to the right side from where the defender was blitzing.
Robert Ferguson caught the quick slant, broke a tackle and raced for the end zone.
"It was just recognizing and getting the ball out of my hand and Ferg doing a great job of running the route to get open," Jackson said. "He did a great job of breaking the tackle and getting into the end zone."
At minimum, when the cornerbacks coming blitzing, Jackson said, "you've got pretty good matchups with a receiver on a linebacker or corner, so it's a good deal for the offense if you can recognize and pick it up."
Jackson admitted that the 49ers' aggressiveness limited the Vikings' running game, but they were able to do enough to get a 20-point win and their fourth victory in a row. Jackson was a big part of that win.
"I thought (Jackson) did all the things to help us win … just a performance that you'd expect an NFL quarterback to make and he's grown a little bit every week," Childress said.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led all vote-getters with 1,037,608 votes and current Patriot and former Viking Randy Moss led all receivers with 830,789 votes.