Jackson vs. Rosenfels: Cosell breaks it down

The Vikings are prepared to go into minicamp in six weeks with Tarvaris Jackson battling Sage Rosenfels for the starting job at quarterback. This may surprise those who have heard Greg Cosell's honest analysis (tongue in cheek), but the NFL Films senior producer offers his blunt assessment of where each of those players holds an advantage in the competition.

Jackson vs. Rosenfels. It's a competition that is expect to last well into the summer, as the 2006 second-round pick, Tarvaris Jackson, tries to hold off a challenge from the 31-year-old, Sage Rosenfels, who was acquired by trade.

So which one is the better quarterback? Just as NFL coaches judge their prospects by tape, so does Greg Cossel, a senior producer for NFL Films who is usually quick with an honest analysis, so long as he has viewed the film to support his arguments.

"I think you're dealing with two very inconsistent players. Rosenfels might be a little more consistent than Jackson," Cosell told Viking Update's Tom Speicher during a recent visit to NFL Films. "I think Jackson has inconsistency throughout his game. Clearly Jackson has a better arm. Clearly Jackson can make every throw. There are no limitations in your passing game with Jackson. Rosenfels is not necessarily that guy. But in terms of running your offense the way the coaches want it run, my guess is Rosenfels will do that more often than Jackson will."

While Cosell never pretends to know the players on a personal level or be on the inside of coaches meetings, he does have a feel for what Vikings coach Brad Childress says he is looking for – consistency.

"What they are looking for, they are looking for minimizing mistakes," Cosell said. "There is a philosophy that a lot of coaches have that more games are lost than they are won. The feeling is, although it's not necessarily true with Rosenfels because he does have some decision-making issues, but there is a feeling with Rosenfels he will manage the game better than Jackson. The Vikings can run the ball. Their defense is pretty good and it can be very, very good. And Rosenfels can give them fewer mistakes. And by mistakes I don't mean just throwing interceptions. Managing the game has a lot to do (with it), as well with understanding what you see at the line of scrimmage with the defense so you can set protections so you can get in and out of plays. Those kinds of decisions prevent negative plays."

For some compare and contrast, Rosenfels has a career passer rating of 81.2. Jackson is at 76.5.

Rosenfels became a starter with the Houston Texans last year only when Matt Schaub injured his knee against the Vikings. When Schaub returned four games later, Rosenfels was relegated to backup duty once again.

Jackson entered the season as a starter, was pulled after two games and regained the starting spot only after Gus Frerotte injured his back. When Frerotte returned to health, Childress elected to stay with Jackson.

So, does Cosell believe Rosenfels can play at a higher level than he has in the past with the Texans and Miami Dolphins?

"I think guys who make that jump, I think it's more of a function of the team around him. If the team around him can play at a higher level, then often times the quarterback can go along for the ride," Cosell said. "It's like Kyle Orton now. All I'm hearing is that Josh McDaniels has a great system and that Kyle Orton is going to step right in and be perfect. All of a sudden, Kyle Orton is going to become Joe Montana. That's not going to happen. Can he put up some numbers? Sure. That's a different question than if a guy is a really good quarterback."

Cosell has a blunt assessment of Rosenfels.

"He's nothing special by any means. Rosenfels has issues with decision-making. I think his arm strength is average. I think he is a backup quarterback," he said.

That said, and even with Cosell's equally concerning assessment of Jackson in the past, the game-film buff doesn't believe the Vikings will go into the NFL draft looking to snag a quarterback early.

"I don't think they will draft a QB. I think they feel like they have a nice competition between Rosenfels and Jackson and the belief I'm sure within the building is that they expect that Rosenfels will win the job," Cosell said.

Another comparison: Cosell was also asked about the competition between Schaub and Rosenfels when both were members of the Texans. "Rosenfels has a stronger arm than Schaub but not as refined a sense of timing and anticipation. Also he's not as quick a decision-maker. Takes Rosenfels a little longer to process information," he said. "Rosenfels' clear advantage over Schaub is mobility out of the pocket. He can make plays running the ball, which, by the way, is nice once in a while, but nobody is a great NFL quarterback by the way they run."


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