Of all the additions the Vikings have made to the roster over the last two years, the one area that has remained relatively untouched has been the quarterback spot. Whether intended or not, Brad Childress has had his coaching legacy tied to Tarvaris Jackson. Many draft analysts scoffed at the Vikings moving up to take Jackson at the end of the second round in the 2006 draft – the first for Childress as head man of the Vikings. The last two years have done little to quiet down those questions.
The Vikings have a long history of making due at quarterback. Prior to Daunte Culpepper arriving in the 1999 draft, the Vikings had a revolving door at quarterback that included such veterans as Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jim McMahon and Jeff George. Nobody took root as the franchise QB until Pepp took over the reigns in 2000. But, a testy early relationship with Childress led to Culpepper being shown the door. Johnson was supposed to be the short-term answer, but that never panned out either. Expected to be a two-year solution, Johnson was benched three times due to ineffectiveness and the handwriting was on the wall that his time in Minnesota was over.
The Jackson Project has been slow and, at times, painful. His leap from Division I-AA has been filled with landmines in front of him. While at times he can look like a good game manager, at other times, Jackson appears to panic and throw dangerous passes that can lead to game-changing plays. To complicate matters, the Vikings have done little to bring in stiff competition to force Jackson's hand. Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger have given Jackson little more than cursory challenges to his starting job and, despite missing time due to injury last season, there was no question that the job was Jackson's to lose whenever he returned to health.
Jackson apologists will point to the fourth quarter of the season finale against Denver, when he rallied the Vikings with strong play and good decision-making. To some, it appeared as though the light switch came on and Jackson finally seemed to "get it." Is that a portent of things to come? The Vikings seem to think so because, once again, the team has done little in the way of providing an immediate challenge to Jackson's starting job. Holcomb is gone and has been replaced by aging veteran Gus Frerotte, who is ideally viewed as a stop-gap backup. While Bollinger is still on the team, his spot as the No. 3 QB is in serious jeopardy following the draft of USC QB John David Booty.
One thing that has become evident over the last year is that Childress has tied his coaching legacy into the production that Jackson brings to the table. The offense has been strengthened through the draft and free agency at many positions in the Childress Era. The one constant, however, has been quarterback and, more specifically, Jackson. As of now, a lot of fans question whether he can be the man that leads the Vikings on a Super Bowl run, but, realistically speaking, he's all the Vikings have right now. For better or worse, the Vikings have tied their playoff hopes on the back of No. 7. If he doesn't deliver, jobs could be in jeopardy because the Vikings have become a team built to win now and, if T-Jack doesn't get the job done, there will be a lot of blame turned his way and the way of Childress. Continued improvement and success with Jackson, however, could result in a playoff run and job security for many. Which will it be? We won't know for about six months, so we can only sit and wait for the results.
Vikings' Positional Analysis: Quarterback
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