It’s the sad reality of Tarvaris Jackson‘s existence that he could replace Brett Favre as starter for the remainder of the 2010 season and win every game by 21 points and most of the fans would still not be convinced he deserves a shot at being the quarterback in 2011. This sad reality is not merely a product of typical fan unfairness either: the fact is, Tarvaris has earned every last drop of doubt. There’s a reason most fans want to stick with Brett Favre come hell-or-high water, and that reason is simply is: they remember the years 2006-2008 when Jackson bounced back-and-forth between starter and back-up like a slightly drunken pinball, all the while demonstrating the natural football instincts of a person who had never heard of football much less played it. Those three years of spotty play under alleged QB guru Brad Childress were why fans wanted Favre in the first place. And one good half of football, I’m sorry to say, is not going to be enough to dispel all that built-up, totally valid skepticism about Jackson’s worthiness.
It was a pretty good half of football though, let’s give T-Jack credit for that. After throwing a pick-six to Drayton Florence, Jackson recovered to complete the next 8 in a row including two touchdowns to Sidney Rice. For the second quarter of yesterday’s game, Jackson looked every bit like a man who should be in the mix when naming Brett Favre’s potential successors. And then…well, there’s always an “and then” with T-Jack. In the second half, Jackson threw two more interceptions, including an ill-advised under-pressure heave to a double-covered Sidney Rice. With the score already well in the Vikings’ favor, Leslie Frazier made the wise choice to take the game out of Jackson’s hands and place it in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart’s instead. The caveats come swirling like a Minnesota snowstorm when pondering Jackson’s performance overall: Yes he played well on the main, but it was against a bad defense, and Sidney Rice had to bail him out on a couple of those throws, and it’s a lot easier to play when you have Adrian Peterson on your side, and don’t forget the balls he overthrew, and he still does that annoying jump-pass stuff, and he’s still not that great a pocket passer, and everybody knows if he gets pressured a lot he folds up like a tent…so, no, we’re still not convinced T-Jack is anything more than an adequate #2 quarterback in this league.
I have a hard time arguing with any of the above-listed “yes buts.” You know why? I remember 2006-2008 Tarvaris too. I recall the way he was benched two games into the 2008 season, and only got back in because Gus Frerotte suffered a spine fracture. I have vivid memories of his awful performance in the playoffs against the Eagles. I remember how any little tweak used to cause him to come out of games (hopefully, watching Mr. Indestructible for two years has shamed him into learning a little toughness). I recall the way he couldn’t complete a slant pass to save his life. I would like to believe that with Brad Childress no longer breathing on him the whole game, Tarvaris might have a chance to become a more confident and therefore better quarterback…but I just can’t make myself buy into it. And I’m not sure four more good games would be enough. I’m not sure ten more would be.
The argument can still be made that, if you’re taking the long-view, it makes more sense to play Tarvaris, who could be your QB in 2011, than Favre who definitely will not be. But does anyone think Leslie Frazier really wants to put a premature capper on Favre’s triumphant farewell tour just to give T-Jack a look for next year? Is playing T-Jack a valid reason for bringing the greatest iron man streak in sports to an end? If T-Jack were a few years younger and more brimming with potential, I would say bench Favre for the good of the team. But, as things stand now, it makes no sense to sit Favre down and hand the reins to Jackson. With the Vikings on the brink of mathematical elimination at 5-7, Favre’s victory lap is really all there is left to look forward to this season. So, let Brett take his bows. I’m sure T-Jack won’t mind.