Our old friend, former Vikings starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, looks to be changing addresses for the second time in two seasons with Seattle trading him to the Buffalo Bills, and it got me thinking about Jackson's impact on the Vikings.
Jackson was Brad Childress' pet project. Chilly selected TJack with the last pick in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft – 51st overall – with the goal of turning the Alabama State product into the Vikings quarterback of the future.
Chilly, who was given a great deal of credit for developing Donovan McNabb into an All-Pro during their time together with the Philadelphia Eagles, indicated he could do the same with Jackson, referring to TJack as a "piece of clay" that he would mould into the Vikings next great quarterback.
Problem was, Jackson never looked the part, showing poor pocket awareness, subpar passing accuracy and lacking touch on his intermediate-to-long throws. There were some bright moments here and there, but overall Jackson looked overmatched during the 2007-2008 seasons when he was essentially handed the Vikings starting quarterback gig (he did lose his job to Gus Frerotte for much of 2008, but won it back late that year with a flurry of uncharacteristic solid play). After a piss-poor performance during a 2008 home playoff loss to the Eagles (you can read PV's post-game column if you want to bring back bad memories), even Chilly realized his star pupil didn't have the chops to be a legit starting NFL quarterback.
With a talented team coming off a 10-6 record and an NFC North title, most league observers felt the Vikes were a good quarterback away from contending for a Super Bowl title in 2009. That led to trading with the Texans to get Sage Rosenfels to provide competition for Jackson. When neither guy blew Childress away during OTAs and the preseason, the Vikings wooed Brett Favre out of retirement. The Vikings fell one field goal short of making the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976 that season, but the move was still a short-term success. Perhaps it was too successful. Because the Vikings wooed Favre back a second time – knowing that there was no way TJack and Sage could take them as far in 2010 as Favre had in '09.
Of course, 2010 was an epic fail, and with Chilly fired midway through that season, and the rest of the Vikings brain thrust convinced TJack wasn't the answer at QB, they let him sign with the Seahawks and drafted Christan Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
I bring all this up because the selection of Jackson in 2006; coupled with Chilly's belief that TJack could be developed into a successful NFL starter; then his loss of faith in Jackson after 2008, which led to the two-year shotgun marriage with Favre; caused the Vikings to lose five years in the search for the next Fran Tarkenton. That reality doesn't make me hate Jackson (he tried his best while he was in Minnesota), it just shows how costly it is when a team makes a mistake in evaluating the quarterback position.
I hope Ponder doesn't turn out to be Rick Spielman's TJack.
* As an aside, Jackson – for all his faults – has been one of the better quarterbacks selected in the 2006 draft. Here is the list of QBs chosen that year:
1st round: Vince Young (Tennessee – 3rd overall); Matt Leinhart (Arizona – 10th overall); Jay Cutler (Denver – 11th overall)
2nd round: Kellen Clemens (Jets – 49th overall); Jackson (Minnesota – 51st overall)
3rd round: Charlie Whitehurst (San Diego – 81st overall); Brodie Croyle (Kansas City – 85th overall)
4th round: Brad Smith (Jets – 103rd overall)
5th round: Ingle Martin (Green Bay – 148th overall); Omar Jacobs (Pittsburgh – 164th overall)
6th round: Reggie McNeal (Cincinnati – 193rd overall); Bruce Gradkowski (Tampa Bay – 194th overall)
7th round: D.J. Shockley (Atlanta – 223rd overall)
Cutler's the only guy who has become an elite quarterback out of that bunch. Leinhart's been a bust. And Young, considering where he was selected, has to be considered one as well. In fact, Jackson may be the guy that gets Young released by the Bills. When Jackson and Young's careers are over, it's possible Jackson could end up being considered the second-best quarterback from the Class of 2006. Wow.