At end of last season, Vikings' fans calling for the Vikings to give Tarvaris Jackson the staring quarterback position in 2009 nearly equaled those threatening a march on Winter Park should Childress and Company enter the season under such terms of folly. What's disturbing is not the division, but that a significant percentage of Vikings' fans had come to accept the party line that Jackson was the quarterback to lead the team to the Super Bowl.
After eight weeks of Brett Favre at the helm, not only is it clear that Brad Childress needs a quarterback like Favre to run his system, but also that Jackson is so woefully behind where Favre is today that it is virtually impossible to imagine him ever even being a shadow of Favre's 40-year-old incarnation.
Every time Favre steps up in the pocket in the face of pressure, an image of Jackson taking a sack conjures in the imagination. Every time Favre throws a bullet to a receiver, in stride, an image of Jackson throwing low or behind the receiver comes to mind. Every time Favre hits a deep pass, images of Jackson either hitting the Dome roof with a high arc or throwing a laser into the back of the defender's helmet races to the fore. And every time Favre calmly collects the offense and marches them down the field with little regard for missed blocks by his linemen or time ticking off of the game clock, one envisions Jackson totally unraveling.
It is, of course, a tale of two quarterbacks at opposite ends of the experience spectrum. In that sense, it's a tough comparison for Jackson. But that's the stuff out of which NFL comparisons properly are made. In the NFL, years on the clock don't matter. What matters are production and ability. Favre has both on the resume and the ability to continue to pad that resume. Jackson has neither the resume nor many of the attributes necessary to compose such a resume.
Thus, while it is a pleasure to see a competent quarterback make a receiver out of Sidney Rice, demonstrate, with his use of Percy Harvin, that receivers don't need to work in a system or with a quarterback for two years to produce on the field, and make clear that the only things holding Adrian Peterson back in the screen game are the Vikings' coaches and care-taker quarterbacks, it is more than a bit unsettling to think how close the Vikings came to using Jackson as the starting quarterback this season.
Through eight games and a 7-1 start, it is clear that Favre not only has brought maturity to the quarterback position in Minnesota, disabused the notion that care-taker quarterbacks should be counted on to lead teams to the Super Bowl, and forced Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to re-consider everything from how to use Peterson and Harvin to how to make use of the hurry-up offense and quick snaps, he also has been primarily responsible for at least five of the Vikings' victories this season--a feat that his counterparts on the Vikings' bench almost certainly would have failed to match, in full.
Despite the warts in the secondary, with Favre at quarterback, the Vikings can now dream about something that has never happened in team history. How fortunate that is for Vikings' fans, given how close the Vikings came to going a completely different route in 2009.
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