Thursday, September 03, 2009

Vikings Leaning Toward Wrong Decision on Jackson

Reports began circulating two weeks ago that the Minnesota Vikings were willing to concede that their 2006 draft-day trade for Tarvaris Jackson would not pan out as head coach Brad Childress once had planned. Given that Jackson will see significant playing time in tomorrow night's otherwise meaningless and final pre-season game, the reports have resurfaced with greater force in local media outlets.

That the Vikings would be seeking to avoid keeping four quarterbacks on their roster is not surprising. What is surprising is that, after two pre-season games in which Jackson has shown some improvement on at least two of his normally fatal flaws, directing screen passes to the receivers' hands rather than to their feet and moving away from rather than into pressure, the Vikings have seen all that they care to see of their third-year player.

With the Vikings' careers of capable players such as Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, and Erin Henderson resting in the balance, the Vikings would prefer not to carry four quarterbacks in 2009, even if one of those three is a starter likely to be around only for one season. But moving any of the team's current stable of three back-ups means that the Vikings will have to admit a recent mistake and, possibly, that they will have to dispatch part of their future for the present.

That was always the risk that the Vikings faced when they signed Favre, but, at the time, the quarterback picture seemed clear. Rosenfels was the capable, journeyman backup and John David Booty was the young player to be molded into a future starter.

Then Jackson played better in pre-season than either Rosenfels or Booty and the Vikings began to reconsider their options. With one year remaining on Jackson's contract, and Rosenfels the likely backup should Favre go down this year, however, that meant but one alternative for the Vikings to either cutting Jackson outright or retaining four quarterbacks. That option, the club decided, was to shop for a suitor for Jackson. And the team has enlisted the services of several local media members in achieving this result.

To date, there appear to be no takers for Jackson. In part, that's because most teams already have settled on a starter. But it's also because every team in the league understands the Vikings' predicament and, with Jackson an unlikely starter for any team this season, no team is overly concerned about losing the race for Jackson if and when the Vikings do release him.

That's left the Vikings with a plan but without the means for implementing the plan.

There are two alternatives, of course. One is to carry four quarterbacks and cut an otherwise deserving player capable of contributing this year. But even that option makes no sense without engaging in the second alternative, that of signing Jackson to an extension.

It's possible that Jackson has no interest in re-signing with the Vikings and that he would rebuke efforts to extend him now. That would be foolish for a player who has yet to show that he can be a consistent starter in the NFL, but it would not be out of the norm for an NFL player.

If Jackson is amenable to signing an extension with the Vikings, however, the Vikings would be well-advised to get the deal done now while they hold virtually all of the leverage. For, as this season wanes, Favre gets closer to retirement, Booty remains an unknown, and Rosenfels reinforces his backup make-up, the Vikings will get ever closer to realizing the day when they have no better of a starting quarterback than they had in year one of the Childress experiment. All Vikings' fans know what to expect of that scenario and understand that Jackson likely is a better option, at least in the short term.

Up Next: Weakest Link and Ticket Issues. Plus, parting pre-season thoughts.

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