Life isn’t fair for underprivileged children, but wishing for new parents is a useless exercise. For Tarvaris Jackson, his NFL career has been the epitome of irresponsible team management. Yanked in and out of the starting lineup, the quarterback could never establish a rhythm and build momentum during a disappointing five-year Vikings career. After signing with the Seattle Seahawks, Jackson displayed marginal improvement, but again finds his role in jeopardy. While Jackson will tell you that external support is welcome, he understands that his own work can save his job.
Jackson faced adversity from the moment he entered NFL scouts’ crosshairs. A star in his senior year at Alabama State, teams questioned whether his performance was a result of facing Division-II competition. Regardless, the quarterback possessed adequate size, exceptional mobility, and a strong arm catered for NFL success. The Minnesota Vikings selected Jackson with the 64th overall selection in 2006, and planned to groom him as a starter down the road.
Coach Brad Childress handed 2003 Super Bowl champion Brad Johnson the starting quarterback job, but his poor play through the season opened the door for Jackson. He started the last three games, and began the 2007 campaign as the starter. Jackson went 8-4 and inspired a wild-card berth, but his efforts were mediocre. Observers ridiculed his throwing accuracy and decision making. Despite reasonable issues with a young quarterback, Childress lost patience with Jackson in 2008 after two starts, and replaced him with Gus Frerotte. An injury to Frerotte in the fourteenth week gave him another chance, which he surprisingly exploited. Jackson went on a tear, completing 64% of his passes for eight touchdowns against one interception, while averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. Jackson revived his future in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, Vikings brass had other plans, which included a stubborn, grey-haired quarterbacking legend. Brett Favre signed with the team after skipping training camp, which bothered Jackson. His off-season competition for the starting gig with Sage Rosenfels proved to be meaningless, but he found a silver lining. By studying Favre’s work ethic, Jackson relearned the process of game preparation. He was relegated to mop-up duty over the next two seasons, but he made the most of his unique environment. Jackson understood the Vikings didn’t value his services, so it was time to move on.
At the end of his contract, Jackson found a fresh start when he signed a two year, $8 million deal with Seattle. He faced competition yet again, but coach Pete Carroll believed in him. Jackson wrestled the starting job from Charlie Whitehurst, and produced solid numbers while playing with a torn pectoral muscle. He surpassed 3,000 passing yards at a 60.2% completion rate. He also started every victory for the Seahawks, and led the team to a 5-3 finish. Over that span, he tossed eight touchdowns to four interceptions. Considering how Jackson couldn’t sign with a team until the end of the NFL lockout, he demonstrated great leadership and organizational skills. But Jackson didn’t silence the critics.
When comparing his recent statistics with 2011 peers, Jackson is ordinary. He continued to make questionable throws, and his injury history is concerning. Seattle signed Packers backup Matt Flynn to a three year, $26 million contract, and drafted athletic phenom Russell Wilson in the third round of the NFL draft. Both players are less proven than Jackson, but carry more upside than the 29 year old. Jackson will enter training camp as the starter, but coach Carroll has declared an open competition for the position. The veteran has experienced the situation before, and appears comfortable.
Jackson faces an uphill battle for the job, but a few intangibles are in his favor. He has more experience with the team and his receivers, particularly Sidney Rice, who caught his spirals in Minnesota. Carroll sympathizes with Jackson, which may offset the weight of Flynn’s contract if the two came down to a dead heat. Jackson should be physically healthy, while Wilson could struggle to remain durable in the pace of an NFL training camp. Jackson also stands to lose the most, so hopefully Brett Favre’s training methods will be maximized.
Tarvaris Jackson knows the ruthless business of building a football team. His NFL career has been mistreated like a stray wiener dog. Credit Jackson for finding the maturity to take responsibility for his career, in spite of superiors’ decisions. Being quarterback is the goal, but it doesn’t mean everything. For now, Jackson is thankful for what he has, and that seems to be enough.