Jackson discussion under way in Minnesota

January, 29, 2009
1/29/09
12:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

In an appearance earlier this month on Minnesota's KFAN-1130, former Baltimore coach Brian Billick brought some quantitative analysis to the Vikings' current quarterback quandary.

(Click here for the audio. The interview is about two-thirds of the way into the clip.)

 
  Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
  Tarvaris Jackson's future in Minnesota remains unclear.

Billick said he abides by the Bill Walsh theory that you can usually tell if a quarterback is going to be a long-term success somewhere during his second year as a starter. "Between the 24th and the 30th game," Billick said.

Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has started 20 games and played in 25 during his three-year career. That puts him right in the Walsh/Billick wheelhouse for the Vikings to make a permanent decision about his career. Will they enter 2009 with him as their starter? Or will they pursue a temporary option and regroup in the draft?

Vikings coaches and front office officials are having that conversation as we speak. (For now, I'm going to consider it a coincidence that Sports Illustrated's Peter King suggested that Minnesota is the place that Brett Favre would "really like to play" during an appearance on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. There are so many obstacles to Favre ever donning a Minnesota uniform that it's not worth a detailed discussion at this point.)

The Vikings will have a couple of other options should they push Jackson down the depth chart, starting with free agent and West Coast specialist Jeff Garcia. But here in the final week of January, I don't think the Vikings themselves know exactly what they will do.

In his radio interview, Billick self-deprecatingly noted that "I pretty much in nine years in Baltimore proved I knew nothing about quarterbacks." But if the Vikings were to ask him, Billick said he has two concerns about Jackson's long-term: His career completion percentage (58.4) and his dwindling accuracy in the fourth quarter of games.

Here's the way Billick put his thoughts on Jackson:

"Looking at Tarvaris Jackson, I've seen him play. I think he's an impressive young man. Certainly adds some dimension to the game. The thing that concerns me is the completion percentage. Over his career, he's less than 60 percent. And there may have been a lot of reasons for that. The other thing is that as the games went on and the difficult situations began to mount, that that's when his accuracy seemed to suffer. Couple games that I saw, third-down conversions were pretty good early, then at the end of the game things got tight. Those are all things that have to be factored in."

Jackson's performance at the end of the regular season provided the Vikings a glimpse of what he could be, but as we've noted before, they can't afford to be wrong about him anymore.

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