Tarvaris Jackson Is Not a Legitimate NFL Starting Quarterback

As you've probably heard, the Seattle Seahawks will sign former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on Friday to a reported two-year, eight-million-dollar deal.

Speaking as a Vikings fan who has watched most of Jackson's professional football career unfold in real time, I can say that I have never seen an NFL quarterback with a comparable sample-size display anything approaching his level of inadequacy. If the Seahawks think they've got a credible QB1 in him, they are wrong.

Let's relive Tarvaris Jackson's glory days. It isn't as if there is some magical, mythical vintage Jackson that his boosters can point to and say, "Yeah, but remember when?" Because I remember his first career start. It was week 16 of the 2006 season against the hated Packers. The season was a wash, but we finally were getting to see what the new kid could do. The kid we'd traded two third-round picks to get in the second round, when he wasn't projected to go until the fourth, the kid head coach Brad Childress said possessed "all the skills." In his debut, Jackson led the Vikings to 27 passing yards and three first downs the entire game. The team's only score came on an interception returned by Fred Smoot for a touchdown. The 9-7 loss was probably the most depressing football game I've ever watched.

Then there was the 2007 season, Jackson's "best" on record. He started all 12 games he played that year before a bum ankle sidelined him, throwing nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions and leading the Vikings to the second-worst passing numbers in the league. The team went 8-4 during that stretch, but that was attributable to Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and the best run defense in the league.

The 2008 season, which was supposed to be Jackson's breakout year, started with him throwing a game-ending interception in a 24-19 week-one loss to the Packers. The next game, the Vikings kicked five field goals, scored zero touchdowns, and lost to the Colts, 18-15. At long last, Childress benched his beloved Jackson in favor of the exhumed corpse of Gus Frerotte. Frerotte's reanimated cadaver lasted until week 14, when it went down with a back injury. Enter Jackson. This time, something unusual happened. For the first time in his career, he wasn't the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Against the Cardinals, Jackson threw four touchdowns and no interceptions in the finest game of his career. The next week, he added two more touchdowns, again with no picks, in a loss to the Falcons. Then, after completing 15-35 pass attempts in a wild-card game loss to the Eagles, Jackson resumed the role he should feel lucky to have held ever since: backup quarterback.


Why would Pete Carroll and company sign a player who over a five-year career has the same number of turnovers (28) as he does passing and rushing touchdowns combined? A player who has over a (relatively, some would say remarkably) sustained period proved himself unequal to the task of leading an NFL team?

It is because, at age 28, Tarvaris Jackson has been deemed to have potential. As Chilly said back in '06, he's got all the tools. He can scramble like Vick. He's got an arm like Palmer. He looks amazing, in practice.

But here's the problem, and I'll try not to put too fine a point on it. Come game time, Tarvaris Jackson has, with few exceptions, been terrible. If his team were America, he would be bad for America. Since his team is the Seahawks, that is who he will be bad for.

There is word that the Seahawks will also sign Matt Leinart, a player whose career I have followed only from a distance. I know that he has struggled mightily in the NFL, that he has been dubbed "tentative" and that his arm has been called "weak." Then there is Charlie Whitehurst, a man known for poor throwing mechanics, slowness in reading defenses, and a dearth of playing of experience at a relatively advanced age. Here's hoping one of them gets the nod.

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