John David Booty threw three of the Vikings' four preseason interceptions, and head coach Brad Childress was reportedly "livid" with the quarterback play after the Vikings' preseason finale, in which Booty and his competition for the third quarterback spot, Brooks Bollinger, each played a half of football.
Yet, when push came to shove and Childress & Co. were required to make a decision about Booty's future this weekend, their actions indicated that they saw enough potential in his future to keep him on the 53-man roster. About two weeks ago, Childress essentially admitted that the grooming of a rookie quarterback takes time.
"He's coming along. He's another smart guy, but there's just so much involved at the quarterback position in terms of snap count, leading, knowing where your eyes are supposed to be, and then knowing what's happening with the defense. So I'm not sure all of it is quite (there) yet," Childress said of Booty. "Can he tell you? Can he draw it on the board? Yeah, but when things start spinning, and you have to get to one, to two, to three, to four and ball out, those are the kinds of things where you see how far back you go. He's about on track. It doesn't help that he's in there with who he's with, but every third quarterback who's ever made it, whether it's A.J. Feely or whoever, (has had) to play with that group. You don't say, ‘Let's stick him with the ones and see how he looks with them.' That's not how a young quarterback gains his stripes."
If learning from his mistakes is gaining his stripes, then Booty has had some tough lessons this preseason. His 36.9 passer rating was among the lowest in the league this preseason, and his first pass in Thursday's preseason finale was one of those – his third interception.
"I hate the fact that it's on-the-job training," Childress said of another Booty interception. "I'd rather see him pick a ball here (in practice) and run it back and say, ‘I can't sneak it in,' as opposed to the live situation. It's a lesson learned. I don't want him to be any less aggressive. I just want him to know, let's not give any indicators. We showed something; somewhere there was a tell where the guy picked it up off of."
Booty can take solace in his rookie preseason if he looks around at the NFL's rankings of preseason quarterback play by passer rating. He finished 109th with his 36.9 rating, but there were some familiar faces surrounding that ranking. Bollinger was 95th with a 51.3 rating, and two other rookies that many draft analysts had ranked ahead of Booty finished the preseason with similarly poor passer ratings. Brian Brohm, a second-round pick for the Green Bay Packers, was 102nd with a 45.2 rating and Andre Woodson, who was since released by the New York Giants, finished 115th with a 9.3 rating, lowest among quarterbacks who completed a preseason pass.
Booty said getting the reps is the most important thing for his development.
"That's all big for a quarterback, getting the reps. You can draw it up on paper or on a dry-erase board, but until you get out there and do it in live game speed, that's a different deal. I think the more and more I do get reps, the better I'll feel out there," he said.
"Mainly just lack of experience is the biggest thing. It's hard to come right in and be thrown right out there and you're awesome. Nobody really does that unless you're dang Adrian (Peterson), who is a freak of nature. Especially at the quarterback position, there is so much going on and so much that you have to know – audibles, fronts, coverages, everything. For me, I was so used to getting all the reps in college at USC and then to get here and not get quite as many, that's definitely the biggest challenge for me to overcome."
After that first interception against the Cowboys, Booty did seem to settle into a rhythm the more he played in his most extensive work of the preseason. But he knows that to really gain the confidence of his coaches over the coming weeks and months, he needs to show more consistency. That likely won't happen in game situations, but he has been taking messages from his coaches.
"Out here, they can tell if you have something to be a good player. It's really just not totally blowing it and reading something that you have no business reading," he said. "It's just not going brain-dead on a play, which happens sometimes. That's happened. You get confused, you get stuck. I think if you can just eliminate those things to as few as possible, then you're helping yourself.
"There is just so much more that goes into it – the preparation, the style of game. It's not a huge difference, but even just the hashes being in skinnier makes a difference in where you throw the ball, where you got with it, the types of coverages. Everything really makes a big difference."
Despite the struggles, Booty says he's enjoyed his training camp and preaseason experience with his teammates and coaches.
"Really what comes to my mind is how much fun I've had. I've enjoyed my teammates, being around the coaches. Everybody has been awesome to be around, and (I'm) really learning the game of football," he said. "From high school to college, that was a huge jump, and then from college to here, I'm really enjoying the knowledge from all the guys I'm getting around. We know we have great coaches, but this quarterback group with these older guys, they are so much fun to be around and just pick their brains. To me, that's what I've really enjoyed the most."
Despite talk surrounding the draft about Booty coming from a West Coast Offense in college at USC, he has admitted that the amount of work that goes into a professional offense and the scaled-back version at the NCAA level isn't too comparable.
"I've got such a ways to go and I can get so much better," he said. "I feel good about what I've done. I'm not satisfied or content with the way things have gone, but it's definitely a great opportunity for me."
With Saturday's roster moves, he got a chance to extend that opportunity.
Booty Survives Tough Preseason
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