How much does the drama really hurt?
More than one retired veteran pundit or sportwriter or fan at the end of the bar or general rube has ripped the Vikings for their apparent pursuit of Brett Favre because of how unfair the whole situation is to the team's incumbent quarterbacks, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.
This kind of tenderness and compassion for a quarterback in the NFL is rare indeed, and would not at all likely be the case if we were actually playing games right now.
Certain facts are true.
The Vikings have invested a lot in Tarvaris Jackson. They traded up to draft him in the second round in 2006. At the time, head coach Brad Childress was quoted: "I think you judge quarterbacks a little bit differently. ... When you see what you want at the quarterback position, you need to go get it. And that's exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson is a guy that's a piece of clay, that has all the skills in terms of, No. 1, what's he look like throwing the football. ... He's got a great throwing motion; he's athletic. He has all those things that we're looking for, and he's wired right. That's important for a quarterback. I think he's a flatline guy. I think he's a sponge. You're talking about a guy that never had a coach there as a quarterback coach. So what can he do with coaching?"
So Childress has invested three patient years of coaching Jackson. Over that span, he has indeed gotten better. He looked like a deer in the headlights in a couple late-season starts as a rookie. He was 8-4 as a starter in 2007, but his 70.8 passer rating ranked 28th overall among NFL quarterbacks and he missed time because of injuries. Last season with Jackson at the helm, the Vikings came out of the gate 0-2 in large part because of the deficiencies of Jackson as a quarterback. His 64.8 passer rating ranked him near the bottom of the league and landed him on the bench until an injury to Gus Frerotte gave him back the starting job. Jackson returned to the starting job and looked terrific, finishing the regular season with a 95.4 passer rating and a 9-2 touchdown-interception ratio. However, his performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs once again revealed he may not be the guy to lead them to the next level.
It was clear heading into the offseason the team could not simply stand pat with Jackson as their starter. They didn't have to give up on him, but they clearly needed at least another alternative.
Enter Sage Rosenfels, whom the Vikings acquired for a fourth-round draft pick from the Houston Texans.
Rosenfels, a career backup who has never really had a clear-cut path at a starting job, appeared to be in the best situation he could imagine. And, as part of the trade agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $9 million.
Many were skeptical of Rosenfels as the ultimate answer, but he did seem like a logical prospect for the job and many consider him at least a slight upgrade over Jackson, although that battle is yet to play out on the practice field.
That said, Brett Favre THEN hits the market as an unrestricted free agent after being officially released by the New York Jets. Does Favre represent the possibility of improving the Vikings at the position of most significant doubt? Yes.
So the courtship begins.
Keeping Jackson and adding Rosenfels were good personnel moves. But even with that being true, pursing Favre is a chance to make the team even better. And Childress, who needs to make the next step forward THIS SEASON, has moved on it.
No matter how the Favre scenario plays out - if he doesn't un-retire, if he gets hurt, if he fails miserably - the Vikings are really no worse off from a football standpoint than if the option had never presented itself. Jackson and Rosenfels may still be viable options. The supporting cast is still pretty good. The chances of success this season are still good.
With Favre, they're even better.
Anyone concerned about the psyche of Jackson or Rosenfels needs to understand the mental and emotional requirements of being a Super Bowl quarterback in the NFL. If they buckle under this, they will surely buckle under the pressure of playoff-caliber pressure and competition.
Jackson has had ample opportunities and one way or another he will still receive yet another.
Rosenfels has about 3 million reasons to continue to be patient until he gets the call. In today's economy, few would grumble.
So if it looks like Childress is being desperate for pursuing Favre, so be it. Because those same folks criticizing him for that will be ripping HIM ALONE at the end of the season if Jackson/Rosenfels were not the answer.