Vikings-Cowboys Box Score at NFL.com
It all looks OK. Jackson is tall, mobile, and strong-armed. When he drops back, when he moves around, when he rifles a throw...it all looks like a potentially good NFL quarterback playing football.
Then you see where the ball ends up.
Tarvaris Jackson is not accurate. After today's awful 6-19 performance he's completing 45.9% of his passes this season. That's Mike McMahon bad. During today's broadcast, Troy Aikman said accuracy is the most important ability for a pro quarterback. He would say that, since accuracy was probably his greatest asset (he completed 61.5% of his passes in an offense that featured aggressive downfield passing), but I think he's probably right. Because pro football players are so fast and so quick, a quarterback needs to put the ball in a narrow spot; there's not a lot of space, and a quarterback is going to be required to make tight throws in coverage.
So far, Tarvaris Jackson hasn't shown that ability.
I don't know whether accuracy is an improvable skill at this level or not. It makes sense that practice would improve one's accuracy, and many quarterbacks have had lousy completion percentage early in their careers and improve greatly as their careers progressed (for example, see the early completion percentages for John Elway and Steve Young). However, I suspect that once players have reached the pro level, there's a certain natural ability to throw the ball accurately that practice isn't going to change very much.
And if Tarvaris Jackson doesn't improve his accuracy, it is glaringly obvious he cannot be the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.
On draft day, I was really desperate for the Vikings to draft Brady Quinn; I believe Quinn could be a 15 year franchise quarterback. I'm glad they drafted Adrian Peterson; I think there are between one and three running backs a decade with his ability. Since I've been watching football, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis, Marshall Faulk, and Ladanian Tomlinson are the elite RBs a class above everybody else. Peterson could be in that class, and I'm glad the Vikings took him.
But if Tarvaris Jackson doesn't show major improvement in his ability to throw the ball accurately this season, the Vikings are going to need to draft a quarterback early next season. That's fine: if they can hit on a good quarterback to pair with Peterson, they're going to be wickedly good very soon. But they need to know that. In 2006, Jackson was the Vikings' fourth draft pick, the last player selected in the second round; they don't have as much invested in him as a lot of people think. If he sucks this bad (and "sucks" is an accurate word to describe a 45.9 completion percentage), he cannot be the Viking quarterback of the present or future.
But 2007 is not lost
OK, the Vikes are 2-4--after playing 4 of 6 games on the road. That means that 6 of the next 10 games are in the Metrodome. The Viking defense is good enough and the pass offense bad enough that every game the Vikings play will be close, and I suspect they'll end up with between 6 and 9 wins. To get to 9 (and compete for a playoff spot), they have to go 7-3 the rest of the way. That's a long shot, and frankly, it will be surprising if they're able to do that; a lot of luck has to fall the Vikings' way. But with 6 more home games, it's possible, right? Right? Oh. I see I'm alone in this chamber, demanding to be treated as the King of Spain.