Since Tarvaris Jackson was drafted in 2006 to be the Quarterback of the Future, he has gone from largely unknown draft prospect, to raw rookie with a lot of talent, to a guy that can either be a) a legitimate NFL quarterback, or b) a guy that has no business being in the NFL, depending on what camp you pitch your tent in. In short, he's the football version of the health care bill, the global warming debate, and the Gulf Oil Spill all rolled into one. But you know what? Everybody can get off his ass. Right now.
This isn't to advocate Tarvaris Jackson over Brett Favre. I mean really, sometimes I like taking a contrarian position, but I'm not here to ruin a promising (?) blogging career in one embarrassing moment, or series of moments. I'll leave that to Lindsay Lohan. No, I want to tell Tarvaris Jackson Thank You for being such a professional in the way he has handled his very public demotion better than most of us would have.
I mean, let's think about everything he has gone through since he was plucked from relative 1-AA obscurity in 2006. He was immediately dubbed The Quarterback of the Future, and hyped up by coach Brad Childress to reinforce to fans that he picked the right guy; all the while we watched a noodle-armed Brad Johnson run the most brutal and predictable offense I have watched in my lifetime. I mean, it was worse than the Transformers sequel. Jackson started two games at the end of that season, and he looked far from NFL-ready, but the season was lost, so hey, let the kid get some on the job training.
2007 was kind of a one step forward, two steps back season for Jackson. He looked okay at times, but managed to look horrid at Detroit (4 picks in a loss), and arguably hit his low point in a miserable 6-19 performance against Dallas. But at times, he looked downright legitimate. In short, he was learning on the job, and was given a very short leash. The Vikings improved to 8-8 and missed the playoffs, but the season finale OT loss at Denver was Jackson's season in a nutshell. He looked terrible for three quarters (although he threw a BEAUTIFUL ball to Troy WIlliamson early in the game that should've been a TD but was...wait for it...dropped) but lead a furious 4th quarter comeback that got the game tied late. So you could see signs of maturity, and the thought that was that the job was Jackson's to lose heading into 2008.
And lose it he did, looking terrible in an 0-2 start in what was suposed to be a playoff team. Chilly, feeling the heat from ownership and the fans, inserted Gus Frerotte as the starter, and the team responded, clawing to a 7-5 record before Gus got hurt. Enter TJ, who went on the road and beat Detroit, went on the road and threw 4 TD's in an Arizona ass kicking, looked good in a loss at home to Atlanta, and then beat a getting-ready-for-the-playoffs Giants team to win the division. For his efforts, he was named the starter for the playoff game against Philadelphia...and looked terrible, throwing a pick-6 that changed the entire complexion of the game.
So in the off-season, the Vikings, in an effort to light a fire under TJ and give him competition for the starting job, traded for Sage Rosenfels. John David Booty added comic relief, and broke in the #4 jersey, keeping it warm for the eventual arrival of the iconic Brett Favre, immediately making any and all QB competitions up to that point moot and completely irrelevant.
Like Jay Leno.
It would've been easy, real easy, to pitch a fit and demand a trade. But he didn't. He held his tongue and said all the right things. He vehemently denied asking for a trade, and said all the right things in the immediate aftermath of the Favre signing. There was a possibility that there could've been a fractured locker room, with some players backing Favre and others backing Jackson. Yes, Favre helped diffuse the situation with an address to the team right after he signed, but so did Jackson. He did everything that was asked of him, and essentially played a mop-up role throughout the season. In relief of Favre during garbage time, Jackson looked accurate and relaxed. He also looked like he was having a good time, something we didn't see very often in his first three years.
Now, as Viking Nation awaits for the inevitable announcement that Favre is returning, Jackson is the starter for Favre in absentia while Favre thinks of reasons not to come to OTA's and training camp (and hey, that's not a dig on Favre. If I could convince my bosses to pay me and then tell me I didn't have to go to work, I'd do it. So would you. And for a lot less than $13 million).
And how has Jackson handled himself? Like a mature, dare I say, leader? Check this quote out, when asked about the whole
Bonnie Favre situation:
"I've been through so much the last couple of years, it's kind of like, 'Everything happens for a reason,'" he said. "I'm not giving up on anything, but just let it play how it's going to play because you can't control it."
He also said he benefitted from sitting behind Favre, and drew laughs from the press when he played coy about when or if Favre was coming back.
While 2009 was a memorable season for the Minnesota Vikings, it was, in some ways, forgettable for Tarvaris Jackson. And he dealt with those twists and turns as well as anyone could, and he deserves recognition for that.
I don't know what his long term future is with the Vikings, or whether or not he is the long term answer at the quarterback position.
But I do know that when Favre retires, this team can be his for the taking, because instead of pulling a Terrell Owens and bitching his way out of town, he became the consummate teammate and won a lot of respect from the fans and the team.