In his "Last Call" piece for ESPN.com, John Clayton serves up a little something that makes me think someone should have cut him off long before the bartender shut things down for the night. After all, friends don't let friends drink and write.
Coach Brad Childress' infatuation with QB Tarvaris Jackson once again bit the Vikings, although the wound isn't fatal. Jackson proved he's not ready for prime time in Minnesota's 24-17 loss to the Falcons. Although Jackson was 22-of-36 for 233 yards with no interceptions, he had three fumbles and lost two. That doesn't count the shotgun snap that Matt Birk sailed over his head for what turned out to be a 22-yard loss. Jackson might be the quarterback of the future, but he's jeopardizing the Vikings' current playoff push. If the Vikings lose to the Giants in Week 17 and the Bears win their last two, Minnesota will be 9-7 and watching highlights of Jackson throwing rollout screens to Visanthe Shiancoe instead of going to the playoffs.
Childress seems to cling to the fact that Jackson was 8-4 as a starter last year. With MVP candidate Adrian Peterson in the backfield, any quarterback with a pulse can excel. Gus Frerotte was contemplating retirement before coming to the Vikings as a backup. He was 8-3 as a starter before back problems forced him out of the lineup. Jackson is mobile. He's athletic, but he's not consistently accurate enough to beat the playoff-caliber teams.
Obviously, Clayton didn't see minute one of the Falcons/Vikings game yesterday.
As I pointed out in the previous post, one of the lost fumbles that was credited to Jackson wasn't in any way, shape, or form Jackson's fault. He attempted to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson, and AP attempted to starting going downfield before he actually. . .you know. . .HAD the football. Had Clayton actually seen any of the game on Sunday, he would have known to refer to AP as "former MVP candidate Adrian Peterson," because as of yesterday afternoon, that's what he is.
Jackson was one of the few reasons that Sunday's game was as close as it was. Sure, he missed on a couple of passes, but he was throwing a hell of a lot more than "rollout screens to Visanthe Shiancoe." He escaped from plenty of plays that Gus Frerotte would have gotten destroyed on. He showed far more poise and presence today than he has at any point in his career, despite pretty good pressure from the Atlanta defense.
Attempting to blame Birk's errant snap on Jackson is a bit on the ignorant side, too. The replay showed that Jackson was still looking over the coverage when the ball was snapped, and he gave Birk no indication that he was ready for the ball to come back. I don't know what the heck Birk saw, but I didn't see the standard lifting of the foot that usually proceeds a shotgun snap or anything like that. As far as I could tell, the only person to blame for Matt Birk's errant snap would be Matt Birk.
So, in reality, Jackson was responsible for two of Minnesota's seven (yes, John, that's 7) fumbles, and lost one. . .and the bounce that one took was so flukey that I don't know if you could replicate it if you wanted to. Despite having fumbled the ball seven times on Sunday, the Vikings were still in a position to tie or take the lead late in the ball game, and much of that was due to the presence of Tarvaris Jackson, not despite the presence of Tarvaris Jackson.
Quite frankly, Tarvaris Jackson IS the right option for the Minnesota Vikings right now. In my opinion, he's been the right option all season. Hopefully #7 will get a shot at the post-season to prove Mr. Clayton incorrect.