Tarvaris Jackson's 2007 season has been put under a microscope for the last four months. It's often been described as an up-and-down season, his first as a full-time starter. His mechanics – or lack of consistently sound ones, according to league insiders – have been chronicled.
Still, with all the games he could have singled out or all the plays he could have looked back on with second-guessing or regret, Jackson didn't pick one play or one game when asked about his biggest disappointment of the season.
"My biggest disappointment is probably being injured so much at the beginning of the season," he said before leaving Winter Park earlier this month. "I was never really injured like that. I was injured a lot during the first half of the season. After a while I got better at protections, accuracy, just things like that."
In fact, the number of injuries Jackson sustained may end up being the single biggest reason he hasn't been crowned the unchallenged starter for the 2008 season by head coach Brad Childress. Jackson's injuries, and therefore lack of consistent progress throughout the year, have left some doubt about what kind of player he might eventually be.
He still finished the season with an 8-4 record as a starter while the Brooks Bollinger-Kelly Holcomb duo finished 0-4 in their opportunities to start when Jackson was dealing with hamstring, finger or concussion issues.
"When I'm out for two weeks and came back in, it was like a new experience for me all over again – just stepping into the huddle for the first time," Jackson said.
But eventually, as his season progressed and he finally started the last seven games of the season, he began to see more confidence from his coaches in him, he said.
"Just seeing what I could do out there, they would feel more comfortable calling different plays and just the more experience I got, they would see, OK, he can make that decision," Jackson said. "… The more comfortable I got, the more comfortable they got in me."
Toward the end of the season, he was even beginning to feel like it was his team –
"As a quarterback, you want it to be your team," he said.
Throughout the season, he learned more about the offensive scheme, more about his coaches, more about his receiving corps. But when asked about the game potentially slowing down for him, he referenced his time in the film room as a key factor. Not the quantity of his video studies, but the quality of it.
"I knew how to watch film, but you don't always know the little things to look at," he said. "You see things over and over again, they start to slow down. When things slow down for you, the game gets a lot easier for you."
It finally looked that way in the final nine minutes of action for the Vikings, the first time that Jackson appeared to go from a manager of the game to the all-important playmaker phase.
Trailing 19-3 at Denver with 8:06 to play, Jackson connected on six of eight passes in an eight-play drive that went 69 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 5-yard pass to Bobby Wade. Jackson's rush up the middle capped the touchdown with a two-point conversion.
After misfiring on the first two passes of his next drive, Jackson used his legs to scramble for 32 yards – his longest run of the season. Following another incompletion and a run by Adrian Peterson, Jackson found Wade again, this time for a 22-yard touchdown pass that Jackson capped again with a 2-yard run to tie the score.
However, the ever-humble Jackson didn't hide from the fact that the defense helped him turn into a playmaker in those two touchdown drives.
"I've always been comfortable when you can just go out there and play. The defense is going to be vanilla. You know they're not going to do too many things when you're hurrying up," he said. "We feel like we were a well-conditioned team, so they were going to get tired. It was good to just go out there and play."
Eventually, it was a Jackson fumble during a sack in overtime that led to a game-winning field goal for the Broncos, but for at least one six-minute span in the season finale, Jackson seemed to made strides from manager to playmaker.
However, he still doesn't seem to know for sure whether the starting job will be his or not.
"Everything happens for a reason, that's how I look at it. If I'm supposed to go in and play now, that's how it's supposed to be. My job is to just go out there and make the best of my opportunity," he said.
One thing he does know: This offseason, he won't have to spend time rehabilitating his knee like he did in 2007. Instead, he said he'll focus on continuing to get better and hope that injuries don't impede his progress in 2008 like they disappointingly did in 2007.
Jackson's Biggest Disappointment May Surprise
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