Friday, May 30, 2008

Yet another Tarvaris Jackson post

I try not to rag on T-Jack too often. All right, maybe that's not true. A look at my tagged entries lists shows 28 articles mentioning Tarvaris Jackson, second only to Adrian Peterson (29) among individual players; of course, they'll be tied after this entry. And I've tried to insist, time and time again, that the quarterback position, while important, isn't an absolute make-or-break position for the success of a team, if it's strong in all other areas, which seems to be the case for the 2008 Vikings.

What I do have a beef with is with anyone who insists that T-Jack is a good quarterback, or definitely will be good, somehow based on his previous performance. We hear it all the time from Brad Childress -- oh, by the way, did you know Tarvaris was 8-4 as a starting quarterback in 2007? -- as well as from other fans, naively optimistic about all things Viking, and especially from official sources, which always want to paint Jackson as "showing improvement" and other niceties. If a player at virtually any other position had struggled in his sophomore year like T-Jack had, there would be some strong consideration given for his replacement, or at least for a reduction in his playing time, but I've rarely hear such things spoken aloud about T-Jack this offseason, pointing instead to his positives while completely forgetting about his negatives.

To be fair, Jackson does have some good qualities. He's mobile, hard-working, humble, and young, so there certainly is some possibility for improvement. But what far too many people seem to forget is that just because you can improve doesn't mean you will improve. There's no automatic reason why Jackson should post better numbers in 2008 than in 2007. Yes, having Bernard Berrian (and no Troy Williamson) will likely help. And Jackson doesn't have to put up Dan Marino-esque numbers for his team to win.

The fact of the matter, is, though, that there are 32 starting quarterback positions available in the NFL in 2008. To state it simply, 11 of those will go to above-average quarterbacks, 10 of them will go to average quarterbacks, and 11 of them will go to below-average quarterbacks. I think few people would argue that, while he wasn't the worst QB in the league last year, Jackson fits pretty solidly into that last category. Can he move up the rankings and at least qualify as "average" in 2008?

A lot of people think so, largely based on the fact that he's a second-year player who shows some promise. Then again, every third-year quarterback who gets a starting job is labeled as "promising" by someone. How many of those players actually turn out to be good, and how many flame out?

To answer that question, I went back to the Historical Data Dominator and punched in some parameters to look for second-year QBs from 1978 to 2007 with numbers similar to T-Jack's in 2007. I looked for quarterbacks with 1,500 to 2,500 passing yards (Jackson had 1,911), 6 to 15 passing TDs (Jackson had 9) and 9 to 15 interceptions (Jackson had 12). Here are the results. In my opinion, it's a mixed (and mostly bad) bag.

Of the 13 quarterbacks, only one -- Steve Young -- had hall-of-fame talent, and he had to escape Tampa Bay (where he played in 1986) for the powerhouse 49ers to realize it. The only other QBs on the list with at least reasonable careers (in my opinion) are Jim McMahon, Jim Everett, and Chris Miller. The top four names -- David Carr, Cade McNown, Danny Kanell, and David Klingler -- read like a who's who of failed quarterbacks, and the rest of the list is almost too painful to examine too closely.

But, like Mark McGwire, we're not here to talk about the past. How did these 13 quarterbacks do in their third years? (Well, 12 quarterbacks...Cade McNown never played another down in the NFL.) While the results are mostly bad, there were some gems, like Don Majkowski's magical 1989, where he threw for 4,318 yards and 27 TDs, and Jim Everett's 3,964-yard, 31-TD 1988. And Steve Young was a spectacular fill-in for Joe Montana in 1987, throwing 10 TDs (versus zero interceptions) on just 69 passes. On average, though, these quarterbacks (minus McNown) accumulated 2,130 yards, 13 TDs, and 10 interceptions in their third year. That's not much improved over their second-year average of 2,043, 10, and 12.

Other than Young, I can't say for sure how much of an opportunity they all got to start, though they averaged 305 pass attempts as a unit (compared to 321 in their second years). Jackson had 294 in 2007. Even if he stays healthy and throws, say, 350 to 400 passes in 2008, should we expect better than about 2,500 yards, and a TD-to-Int. ratio just barely over 1.0 for T-Jack in 2008? I'd like to see it as much as anyone, but I won't hold my breath, no matter how much I read about how T-Jack is "seeing the field better" and "making all the throws." That's a lot easier in May than it is in September.

No comments: