When this season started, my mantra for the Vikings' passing offense was that this year's version couldn't possibly be any worse than last year's version. We had a quarterback with a bigger arm than we had in 2006, we had upgraded the overall talent at wide receiver (or, at the very worst, stayed the same), and we had a group of players in their second season of Brad Childress' West Coast offense.
The key to the Vikings' offensive improvement this year was going to be young Tarvaris Jackson. The second-year man out of I-AA Alabama State has all the physical gifts to be an outstanding quarterback at this level. He's mobile, he's got a live arm, he's got an outstanding work ethic, and he's doing the best job that he can with what he has.
Believe me, nobody is pulling harder for this kid to be a success at the NFL level than I am. The kid has talent. . .if he didn't, he wouldn't have been a second-round pick in the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, with what we've seen in his first four starts this season, he is clearly not ready to be a starter at the NFL level. He should be sitting on the bench and learning from a seasoned veteran, ready to take over the reins in 2008 or even beyond.
What's even more unfortunate is that the Vikings, thanks to Brad Childress' infinite stubbornness and inability to evaluate the progress of his players, don't currently HAVE anything better at the quarterback position to turn to. There's absolutely no point in playing Kelly Holcomb right now. Kelly Holcomb is not the future of the Minnesota Vikings. Neither is Brooks Bollinger. Whether Tarvaris Jackson is the future of the Minnesota Vikings or not is, at least in theory, still the subject of some debate.
But the signs have not been encouraging. After playing an average game at Chicago (and I say that because he had a LOT of passes that bounced off of the hands of his receivers that made his numbers look much worse than he actually played), #7 absolutely stunk up the joint against Dallas yesterday afternoon. On the first drive, he completed passes on consecutive plays to Adrian Peterson (for 12 yards) and Chester Taylor (3 yards). He didn't complete another pass until the third quarter.
Let me repeat that. The man managed to go almost a full half worth of game action (from midway through the first quarter to midway through the third quarter) without completing a pass.
Of his six completions of the day, only two went to wide receivers. Three of them went to Chester Taylor, and one each to Adrian Peterson, Bobby Wade, and Troy Williamson. No sign of Robert Ferguson, no sign of Sidney Rice, no sign of Visanthe Shiancoe. . .nothing at all. And this was different from the Chicago game in the sense that Jackson was just flat-out missing every receiver he threw to. The receivers had a few bad drops against the Bears, but against the Cowboys, I can't recall any receiver transgressions that were particularly egregious. No, this one falls on the shoulders of Jackson. Everyone knew that he was going to have to have a good game for the Vikings to win yesterday, and he was terrible.
But, again, it's not as though we have anything better to turn to. There's no reason to start anyone other than Jackson at quarterback the rest of the way. This team isn't contending for the playoffs or the Super Bowl. . .which is good, because at this point it appears that every NFL team that isn't the New England Patriots is going to spend the next 3+ months doing nothing more than playing for draft position.
(Honestly, as blasphemous as this might sound, a small part of me is rooting for Green Bay to make it to the Super Bowl this year. Watching New England crush some team's soul would be boring. . .watching New England crush the Packers' souls would be a thing of unparalleled beauty.)
But back to the Vikings. . .Tarvaris Jackson pretty much has to be the starter for the rest of this season, barring injury. Best case scenario, he gets better as he gets more playing time and gets more comfortable as an NFL quarterback. Worst case scenario. . .well, we should be in a fine position to get a quarterback high in the 2008 draft, whether that guy is Andre Woodson (my personal preference), Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm, or whoever is out there.
What would I do? Glad you asked. Four little steps.
1) As detailed above, Jackson starts for the rest of the year, unless he continues regressing to "completely and utterly awful" status.
2) Next season, give a call to a Mr. M. Schottenheimer. He's not real busy at the moment. A team with a mammoth offensive line, the most talented running back to come into the league in years, and a solid defense? Sounds like the definition of "Martyball" to me, and that's exactly the kind of football this team should be playing, given their current construction. As far as salary? Give the man whatever the hell he wants. If we're serious about building a winner here, we need a coach that's a proven winner, and there are few more proven winners out there than Marty Schottenheimer.
3) Draft one of the elite quarterback prospects at the top of the first round next year. Again, I'd prefer Andre Woodson, but Matt Ryan or Brian Brohm wouldn't make me sad, either. (Granted, if Atlanta finishes with a worse record than we do, there's no way that Bobby Petrino doesn't take Brohm, but I digress.)
4) After Schottenheimer is hired, re-sign that guy that's currently on a one-year contract to start for the Oakland Raiders. Yes, I speak of Daunte Culpepper. Now, I'm probably going to get hammered for this, but seriously people. . .try to tell me he's not infinitely better than anything we have at the quarterback position right now. You can't, because he IS infinitely better than anything we have at quarterback right now. It really isn't close. Get DC back here on a 2 or 3-year deal with the understanding that he's going to be mentoring Woodson or Ryan or Brohm.
The problems with the Vikings' offense can't be fixed this year. This year we're stuck with what we've got. But as soon as the final gun sounds in Denver that last week of December, the healing process should begin, and begin in earnest.
Scarlett/Rosie (hopefully) later on today. Continue enjoying your Monday as much as a Monday can possibly be enjoyed, folks.