The Vikings certainly made strides in Brad Childress' third season as coach, winning their first-ever NFC North title with a 10-6 record and making their first playoff appearance since the 2004 season.
But in the wake of a first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Childress finds himself faced with a familiar question. Who will be his quarterback in 2009?
Not even Childress has that answer right now. What is clear is that if Tarvaris Jackson is going to remain the starter he's going to have to earn the job back. And even that might not be enough.
Jackson, who was benched after the Vikings lost their opening two games but returned to the starting role late in the season after Gus Frerotte was injured, struggled in the 26-14 defeat against the Eagles. He threw for only 164 yards with no touchdowns, an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a sub-par 45.4 passer rating.
Four days after that loss, Childress was non-committal about his plans at quarterback.
"It's really kind of a whole offseason type of study," Childress said. "I am not going to pass judgment right at this particular point. I think that you owe it to everyone here in the organization, just like we always have, to turn over all the rocks and see what you have there.
"I would also say there is a point with Tarvaris of continuing to evolve as a quarterback. While you would like the process to happen immediately, it doesn't always happen immediately. There isn't anything we are going to leave unturned in terms of free agency, the draft, and that goes until after the draft. You see who is out there and by the same token Tarvaris is going to be here and we are going to continue to get him better."
But how much time does Childress have to do this? He will be entering the fourth season of a five-year deal in 2009, and some feel he already has stuck with Jackson too long since the Vikings selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft.
There also is the issue that the Vikings' roster isn't getting any younger and that the window for players such as defensive end Jared Allen, cornerback Antoine Winfield, defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams and even running back Adrian Peterson is going to be open for only so long.
That is why the Vikings likely are going to seriously explore their options this offseason and have at least one new quarterback coming out of the draft and free agency. Jackson almost certainly will still be on the roster, but Frerotte could be gone.
Frerotte wasn't happy about being benched after he had recovered from a back injury, and he made no attempt to hide his frustration with Childress' decision to stick with Jackson.
John David Booty, a fifth-round pick last April from Southern Cal, likely will return, but it will probably be as the No. 3 quarterback again.
The Vikings' options could include looking to make a trade for Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels, whom they tried to acquire last offseason, or making a run at Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, who is expected to be given the franchise tag.
Whatever the Vikings do, they need far more consistency from a position where they have used five starters — Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger and Gus Frerotte - in Childress' three seasons.
Do Vikings have time to wait on Jackson?
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