When Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Tarvaris Jackson slunk to the ground in the first quarter of Saturday's pre-season game, the future suddenly looked tenuous for the Vikings. When Gus Frerotte took to the field, however, that momentary sense of concern for the long-term future gave way to a measure of confidence over the Vikings' short-term prospects.
While Frerotte was returning to his pre-head thrashing form on the field, however, the Vikings received word that Jackson was not nearly as banged up as his actions first suggested. And as the Vikings' future again came back into focus, so too did the question that has haunted many coaches across the NFL for decades, this time; this time, the question regarded the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback. Because with yet another injury--and yet another injury that others have played through but through which Jackson could not--the question suddenly is not whether Jackson will be healthy enough to start the regular season, but whether the Vikings ought to establish a serious contingency plan for the next time Jackson gets hammered in a game.
Increasingly, the concern about Jackson is not whether he ever will evolve as a legitimate NFL starter, but how long it will be before his diminutive body and apparently normal threshold for pain will force him to miss significant playing time. And, with that question hanging in the air around Winter Park, the emphasis appears to be not on if but when Jackson has such a debilitating injury.
The question is not an inconsequential one to a Vikings' team that has yet to announce its presumed three-man quarterbacking corps for the 2008 season. With Jackson likely to play few if any minutes in the third pre-season game, and possibly in the fourth pre-season game, those Vikings' fans who can stomach the nonsense that is pre-season NFL football will be privy to a heavy dose of Frerotte and equally heavy doses of John Booty and Brooks Bollinger.
When pre-season began, it appeared Bollinger would be the odd-man out in competition for the third-string quarterbacking position with the Vikings. Jackson was the presumptive starter, Frerotte the willing, wily backup, and Booty the guy the Vikings dared not try to sneak through waivers onto the practice squad. That left Bollinger, with more experience than Booty, but with marginal upside from the Vikings' perspective, on the outside looking in.
With Jackson's injury issues already raising concerns for the Vikings, and with the team's most able veteran backup carrying his own lengthy injury history, the Vikings' view of their third-string quarterback suddenly has shifted from one favoring a rookie with upside to someone with experience who can stay healthy. That gives Bollinger the inside track over curious fan-favorite Booty.
If the Vikings needed a push in the direction of Bollinger, they may well have received it last night. Facing mostly second- and third-string players, Bollinger completed seven of fifteen passes for 63 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero picks. That's certainly not spectacular, but it bested by leaps and bounds the performance of Booty who completed two of three passes against even lesser opposition with one of the two completions made to Baltimore's Derrick Martin, who returned the pick for a touchdown.
While the Vikings clearly are not enamored with Bollinger, he could well turn out to be just the player that the team needs as the number three quarterback in 2008. That might mean cutting ties with Booty, but that might be more damaging in the starry-eyed gaze of an affected segment of the Vikings' fan base than in reality.
Up Next: Needs and Nots.