Back in June, when a sense of inevitability was growing regarding the eventual arrival of Brett Favre in Minnesota, plenty of players wanted to Vikings to stand pat with Tarvaris Jackson, the fourth-year quarterback who was benched last year after starting 0-2 and then returned to propel the team into the postseason.
But a sluggish performance in the franchise’s first home playoff game since 2000 caused coach Brad Childress to commence a search for someone else. First, Sage Rosenfels arrived via a trade and then a contract that tied him to the team for three years, with Jackson signed only for one.
It appeared, however, that Jackson would be able to hold off Rosenfels, even if winning the starting job only meant that Jackson would be in position to be benched in September, again. After Favre said in late July that he would remain retired, an injury to Jackson in the early stages of training camp made the identity of the opening-day starter less clear.
Until Favre stepped way out of character. And changed his mind.
Talk of some players preferring Jackson persisted, resulting in an ESPN report of a “schism” that, in time, ESPN would come to openly mock.
Then, once Favre hit the field and fit right in and the team starting winning, everyone got on the same page. Including Jackson.
And if Jackson is concealing his consternation, he’s doing a great job of keeping it concealed.
“Whenever you can play with a future Hall of Famer, it’s always a great
experience, even though you’re not playing,” Jackson said recently, according to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I’m still a team
player, we’re 7-1, we have a chance to win a championship. What else do
you want? I’d love to be the starting quarterback in that situation,
but whenever you can get a ring, you take it.”
As we’ve previously heard, Jackson still could be the quarterback of the future in Minnesota, even if Favre decides to return for 2010. “I don’t think there’s any question that he’s grown,” coach Brad Childress said of Jackson. “You can’t quantify it and say, ‘Well, he got 300 more snaps or
anything like that,’ but I’ve seen good things happen.”
To his credit, Jackson realizes that Favre wouldn’t be there if Jackson had taken better advantage of his opportunities.
“It was Coach’s decision to bring [Favre] in,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t do anything
about that situation, but last year I could have played better early in
the season and it might have been a whole different situation.”
Actually, if Jackson had played better in the playoffs, it would have been a different situation, too. A win over the Eagles would have sent the Vikings to Charlotte for the divisional round, and Arizona to the Meadowlands. Even if the Vikings hadn’t been able to force Jake Delhomme into six turnovers, setting up a likely Minnesota-New York showdown for a Super Bowl berth, Jackson’s success in getting the team beyond the wild-card round might have prompted Childress to make a long-term commitment to Jackson.
Given that Childress ventured far onto a limb when making the former I-AA signal-caller a second-round pick in 2006, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if the Vikings find a way to keep Jackson around. Absent a new labor deal, he’ll be a restricted free agent in 2010. The ability to keep Jackson off the open market would provide a good opportunity to dangle a moderately-sized contract in the hopes of nailing him down for the long haul.
Regardless of how it all turns out, Jackson has impressed us more by not playing than he ever did while on the field. And we’ve got a feeling that he’ll still make a contribution this year, even if it comes in punt formation.