First off, before I get into the main post here. . .those of you with masochistic tendencies will be happy to know that NFL Network will be re-broadcasting Vikings/Lions tonight at 7 PM Central. I don't know if I'll watch it or not. . .it's taken me this long to forget about the majority of what happened on Sunday. I don't want anything coming back that doesn't need to be there.
But anyway, as you can probably judge from both the poll on the right and the title of this post, we've got a situation here, people. Access Vikings is reporting that Tarvaris Jackson didn't practice today, and is still pretty sore after injuring his groin against Detroit on Sunday. Judd Zulgad says that Kelly Holcomb worked with the wide receivers today, and Brooks Bollinger worked with the running backs. He also noted that Jackson had a noticeable limp as he moved around the practice facility today.
Now, anyone that's followed this blog knows that I'm a believer in Tarvaris Jackson's abilities. It's clear that he has the physical tools to get the job done at the NFL level. There ARE still questions as to his level of readiness, however. Brad Childress thinks he's ready. Darrell Bevell thinks he's ready. After the opener against the Falcons, I thought he was ready.
After Week 2? I can honestly say that I don't know. But I'm not the one that needs to make that decision. That falls squarely onto the shoulders of one Brad Childress. . .and, to be honest, it looks like he has quite the dilemma on his hands.
When Childress took this job in January of 2006, he said it was the best job of all the teams that had vacancies at that time. He then proceeded to take a team that was 9-7 and in the playoff chase until Week 16 in 2005 to 6-10 in 2006. He jettisoned Daunte Culpepper and his bum knee and hitched his wagon to Brad Johnson. We know how that turned out. After Johnson was told to hit the bricks, Childress hitched his wagon to a new horse. . .the second-year man from I-AA Alabama State. Many people around the league scratched their heads about this decision, because they saw what a lot of other people see when they look at the Vikings. They see that there are a lot of other pieces there when it comes to being a potential contender.
Strong running game? Check.
Solid offensive line? Check.
Strong run defense? Check.
Serviceable pass defense? Check.
But Childress passed on names like David Carr, Matt Schaub, and Byron Leftwich (although the latter was only recently available) to lead his team onto the field, choosing to rely instead on the triumvirate of Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, and some warm body. Prior to the final pre-season game against Dallas, Childress and Rick Spielman went back to the Philadelphia well and acquired Kelly Holcomb from the Eagles.
The addition of Holcomb. . .who will never be confused with Peyton Manning or anyone of that caliber. . .meant that IF something happened to Tarvaris Jackson, we would have someone solid to step into the fire and perform in a positive manner. The more I hear about Tarvaris Jackson's injury, the more convinced I am that #7 is NOT going to be available for duty this weekend in Kansas City. So, we've officially blown past "If" and are approaching the outskirts of "Now What?"
First thing's first. . .if Jackson doesn't go this weekend, I hope to heck that it's Kelly Holcomb behind center and not Brooks Bollinger. Don't get me wrong. . .Brooks is a good ol' North Dakota boy, and I'd love to see him succeed and all, but nothing I've seen from him to this point tells me that this is going to be the case. Holcomb has more experience than Bollinger, and is probably better equipped to lead the team in an environment like Arrowhead Stadium than Bollinger would be.
Despite being in the crazy confines of Arrowhead, I think this Sunday's game is very winnable for the beloved Purple. The defense is certainly going to hold up its end, I think. If there's an offense in the NFL that's tailor made for the Vikings' offense to crush, it's Kansas City's.
The strength of the Kansas City offense is running the ball between the tackles. This is good for the Vikings because
a) Larry Johnson isn't in football shape yet, and his backups aren't very good (hello, Michael Bennett!), and
b) Nobody's run the ball between the tackles against Minnesota for the last year plus.
Add in the fact that the Chiefs' o-line has given up the second-most sacks in the NFL over the first two weeks, and I think the chances of the Vikings' defense holding KC's offense in check are very good. The offense just has to be serviceable and avoid the big turnover.
The bigger dilemma comes along if the Vikings DO win at KC this weekend. Say we get to Monday or Tuesday of next week, Holcomb (or, for humor's sake, Bollinger) played well in the victory over the Chiefs, and now Tarvaris Jackson says he's healthy. The Vikings would have a 2-1 record, and a bye week sandwiched between two crucial games against NFC North opponents (Green Bay, bye, at Chicago). And after that? Three games against some of the best teams in the NFL. . .at Dallas, home for Philadelphia (though after the first two weeks, how good the Eagles are is still a matter of some debate), and home against San Diego.
Does Childress go back to Jackson? Does he stick with Holcomb/Bollinger? What are the consequences of either decision at that point?
My personal opinion? Ride the hot hand.
If Holcomb or Bollinger goes out and has a good game against Kansas City and leads Minnesota to a victory, keep them in there. If not. . .well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I know that Childress wants to develop Tarvaris Jackson into a great quarterback at the NFL level. But he has to balance this out with his potential job security. Zygi Wilf wants to field a winner. Zygi Wilf also has stadium funding he wants to get approved for the Vikings. Another 6-10 season isn't going to get a stadium. 3-13 sure as hell isn't going to get a stadium. Childress wants to develop Jackson, but the rest of his team is of a pretty veteran stature, and he needs to get results because of that.
I sure as heck am glad that they're not paying me to make this decision, that's for sure.