It's March, a month of high draft speculation and rushing to judgments that might not be valid. Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels? What about the great trade possibilities?
One projection being made is that the Vikings have already decided who their quarterback will be for the 2009 season. Not likely, but even the head coach shows tendencies of wanting to know ahead of schedule. And you can bet those projections will be made once the media get their first glance at the competition later this spring.
"We are legitimately having a competition. Somebody has to take the first snap of the first minicamp and probably Tarvaris is going to do that because he's going to be where he is in the system, but that doesn't mean that Sage couldn't go in," head coach Brad Childress said Wednesday. "… Sage is going to be in on the 31st. It's really up to me to create that so that both of those guys can throw to Bernard Berrian, be protected by the offensive line, have the benefit of play-faking to Adrian Peterson and putting them all in either situation. And then still, there can be some grousing about who's the guy by everybody looking on (and) the two quarterbacks themselves."
Even Childress admits that he would like a decision to be made at the earliest possibility, but doing that too soon would render the competition pointless.
"In a perfect world, it would be earlier than later, but then where was the competition? Where was that involved?" he said. "Typically, that's in the meat of training camp. That's probably a body of work that you build. You can eliminate yourself by not being there to be a part of voluntary offseason programs. But earlier is always better than later."
Last year, there was no such competition. Jackson entered the season as the starter, but he was pulled after only two games (during which his quarterback ratings were 59.0 and 73.3). Gus Frerotte replaced Jackson and helped produce an 8-3 record (during which he compiled a 73.7 rating).
In 2008, it was Frerotte in his first season in the Vikings offense under Childress. This year, it is veteran Sage Rosenfels who is new to the offense, but, unlike Frerotte, Rosenfels has more extensive experience in an offense similar to the West Coast version that Childress runs.
"He's played in this offense before. I've always been a fan of his since he came out at Iowa State. Big and physical in stature," Childress said of Rosenfels.
"I like the way he throws it. Good enough athletically. Physical stature, he can see. No small part of it is he's played the last three years for Gary (Kubiak) and he's going to come in and have a mind's-eye picture of exactly what our concepts are, even though there will be some nuances that are different."
Childress said there was going to be a competition for the quarterback spot whether it was Rosenfels challenging Jackson or someone else.
"It's about competing. It's not about somebody giving you something – that you're entitled because I'm here the longest. It's not about that. It's about who can move the team and put them in the end zone," he said.
And Childress was certain on what he wants to see out of Jackson especially. He has to eradicate the critical mistakes, the "fatal error," as Childress termed it.
Childress rattled off a few of the highs and lows from Jackson's starts in the final three games of the regular season and the playoff game, saying he played well early in that stretch but made costly errors against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles that resulted in interceptions. Jackson's decisions need to improve, especially at critical times.
"Just that discernment – when to, when not to. When to take a sack, although we don't like that, when to throw it away. A quarterback like Tarvaris, and I'll put Donovan (McNabb) in the same category – they are athletic quarterbacks … it's a fine balance from coaching out of a guy his ability to save a play. Really a fine balance.
"They always get to the, ‘I just want to go out there and have fun.' Well, there's a little more to it than that, but you can't machinate over decisions. They just have to be able to flow."
Childress said Rosenfels had some negative moments with the Texans last year as well, but some of those came when he was forced to be overly aggressive with his team trailing.
"He's prone on occasion to that critical error. Sage is in a little different spot from the standpoint of, at the time that he and Matt (Schaub) entered some of those games that you go back and look at it, they are down by 20, 21, 27 points. Well, that's a different mentality going in the game then," Childress said. "You've got to throw it and you better be aggressive with it. And then what does that lead itself to? It leads itself to turnovers and that type of thing. But, by the same token, he's led them back.
"You want that aggressiveness, and I guess what you want is the guy to know what he's called on to do in what situation – how am I entering the game here? Am I taking care of this game, is this game in hand, are we still playing aggressive, are we playing slow-down? I think the one that probably sticks is the one against the Colts trying to get the first down (when Rosenfels fumbled). Aside from holding onto the football, I think he was competing there."
It seems Childress just wants better awareness of the game situation from his quarterbacks. In other words, play situational football. There are times to take the downfield shots.
"(When) I'm calling a four-vertical, I'm calling a go route with a play-action on first down, well, I want him to take it if it's there," Childress said of Jackson. "But if a guy's soft and off and they're deep, deep, deep, deep, then I want him to understand that the 4-yard deal – second-and-6 is a pretty good deal. He's getting there with it. He's not being ultraconservative. I want him to stay aggressive with it. He's getting there.
"… You don't want a guy who (has) a guy open and he doesn't want to throw it (and) he's going to check it down. You've still got to be able to pull the trigger and take risks. You're still going to have to make probably five or six or seven throws during the course of a game that are critical plays. It might be a first-down throw where you've got a guy wide open because you were able to playfake it. It might be a third-down throw where you've got to fit it through the eye of the needle."
The quarterback that can best demonstrate those qualities on a consistent basis is the one that should be considered the starter in 2009.
What does Childress want from his QBs?
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