Let’s call the Tarvaris Jackson experiment what it looks like, a failure.
I was hoping that last week’s inaccuracy was simply rust from not having played much during the pre-season. But it really didn’t look like rust; it looked like inaccuracy.
I had a lot of hope for Jackson after seeing his play before he was injured in the pre-season. He looked decisive, hit is receivers in stride, and if he still didn’t seem to have the touch on the long ball, at least it looked like he was making solid progress.
It appears not.
The thing with Jackson is that he’ll have streaks where he’ll play wonderfully but those streaks are short and woefully infrequent. For a coach who stresses consistency from all his players, the question this afternoon is whether he’ll hold his starting quarterback to the same standard.
I’ve long lamented that Jackson just has not found the touch for an accurate long ball. As a result, we don’t quite know what we’ve got in Bernard Berrian. More importantly, no one’s afraid of us making them pay for playing eight or ten in the box. When Jackson throws the long ball, he throws it practically straight up, creating a huge arc that gives defenders enough time to recover and forcing his receivers to slow down in adjustment.
Because it appeared Jackson was making progress in other areas of his game, I figured the long ball would come eventually. But Jackson has become inaccurate on practically every pass. He’s throwing behind receivers on the slant. He’s missing receivers on the out. He’s sailing passes thrown to receivers in the flat. He’s throwing passes at his receivers’ feet.
Jackson doesn’t seem to have a feel for how a screen pass develops and when he throws the screen, half the time the ball comes to the receiver at a downward slope and as a bullet. That’s a hard ball to catch.
Jackson never looks downfield on a swing pass. He stares at the running back from the snap of the ball and lofts a soft and airy pass to the back, giving defenders enough time to tackle the guy for a loss, or at best, at the line of scrimmage. The play is useless because Jackson doesn’t sell it.
The one play that has consistently worked for him, the play-action bootleg, has become predictable for that very reason. Defenses are on to it.
When your quarterback can’t make all–or even many–of the throws, you need to scale down the playbook to those plays he’s capable of executing. And that makes your passing offense predictable.
When you hold Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to 15 points for nearly four quarters and your offense plays most of the game in Colts’ territory yet you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When you’ve got an awesome offensive line (and TJax had plenty of time today), four talented receivers, and both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and you can’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When Adrian Peterson racks up 180 all-purpose yards (160 on the ground) and you don’t score a touchdown, there’s something wrong.
When the Colts’ entire offensive line are backups and starting tight end Dallas Clark is on the bench; when their starting defensive tackle is out, and Bob Sanders, their star safety, leaves the game yet you still lose, there’s something wrong.
When your defensive line is up in Manning’s grill all day and you get two picks and you still lose the game, there’s something wrong.
You can point to Ryan Longwell‘s last, missed, field goal attempt. You can blame (and please do) the loss on Visanthe Shiancoe for dropping another touchdown. But this game should’ve been a blowout. The only reason it wasn’t was because our quarterback could not make Indianapolis pay for their obsession with Adrian Peterson.
I’ve said the Vikings should be fine at quarterback and I still think we can be. But the reason I said that is the presence on our roster of one Gus Frerotte. He’s a veteran quarterback who can read defenses and make sound decisions. He may not be all that mobile, but I’ll take accurate over mobile in an instant. He may not have the rocket arm of Tarvaris Jackson, but what good is power if you can’t put the ball in your receivers’ hands?
There is more than enough talent on this offense to win (if Shiancoe sticks to blocking) and win now. We don’t have to blow out opponents like we did back when Frerotte et. al. were playing pitch and catch with Randy Moss. We just need to score a touchdown or three and let the defense do the rest. It doesn’t look like we can do that with Jackson at the helm.
It’s time to free Gus Frerotte.
Unless you want to gamble another season on the chance that Jackson might develop into a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, never mind a franchise quarterback, then free Frerotte.
It’s awfully hard to have a winning season when you start it off 0-3 or 0-4. If you want to salvage this season, then free Frerotte.
If you want to be coaching next year, free Frerotte.