Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Madden as Hell

Individual player ratings for Madden '09 have been revealed, and with them comes the usual gnashing of teeth at how certain players are rated ridiculously high or low. The folks over at Daily Norseman are particularly upset over Tarvaris Jackson's rating and how it compares to other QBs, as are the bloggers at The Viking Age. Naturally, I would never disparage T-Jack's ability and the Viking blogosphere's defense of the man who, 31 of 32 NFL fans would probably rate among the worst handful of quarterbacks in the league.

Heh. Right.

The charts shown on Viking Age are a little different than the ones at Daily Norseman, though, with Jackson's overall rating being 78 instead of 79, and they do break down the rating a little better. In particular, Jackson's awareness is a ghastly 56, worst among the starting quarterbacks listed. His 78 throwing accuracy is also dead last. Among qualifying QBs in 2007, Jackson rated 26th in completion percentage and 30th in interception percentage (out of 33), so it's not hard to see where those numbers come from. It might be that Jackson's not the most "unaware" or inaccurate QB in the NFL, but he's in the discussion.

The Madden folks do give Jackson credit for his throwing power, rating him a 94, and his 86 speed trails only Vince Young. But then you get to the rookie quarterbacks. The top three quarterbacks taken in the draft -- Joe Flacco, Brian Brohm, and Matt Ryan -- all have higher overall ratings than Jackson, which sends the blogger into a tizzy. How could it be that a rookie QB could be better than a third-year man with lousy career numbers? Who on Earth would think that? The nerve.

Look, my point all along is not that I think Tarvaris Jackson is the next coming of Peyton Manning or that I'm accusing other fans of thinking that's the case. My point is that there is no reason -- none, zip, zilch, zero, nada -- to believe that he will get better at a rate any higher than any other third-year quarterback with his numbers, or even that he will get better at all. I pointed out a few posts ago how QBs with his stats in their second year tend to do in their third years: just over 2,000 yards, about 13 TDs, and 10 interceptions. Based on the fact that he's got the starting job practically won already, I think Jackson will improve slightly on those numbers, but not terribly so. 15 TDs, along with more TDs than interceptions, would make me more than happy. But it's just as likely that he'll have a drop-off-the-charts awful season. I hope he doesn't, but someone's got to be the worst QB in the league next year, and Jackson's as good a bet as any.

I also understand that, with the other offensive and defensive weapons the Vikings have, as well as its relatively weak division, Jackson doesn't have to put up big numbers for the team to succeed. But the sheer indignity that some fans have at the notion that Jackson might actually be very bad makes no sense. And some of the "logic" used to shore up some of those claims -- from not believing that there could be less experienced players out there who are better to his awesome 8-4 record as a starter in 2008 (Drew Brees went 7-9 as a starter last year -- would you rather have T-Jack at QB than him?) -- is mind-bogglingly frustrating and has little basis in actual likelihoods.

Is Tarvaris Jackson a good quarterback? There is zero evidence to support that this is true.

Could Tarvaris Jackson become a competent quarterback? It's possible, though I think fans are overestimating the impact of the relatively unproven Bernard Berrian and the maturing Sidney Rice. Toss in the fact that the O-line was likely playing a bit over its head in 2007 and Bryant McKinnie could still get suspended, and the improvements in the offense could be largely negated.

Can the Vikings win with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback? 10 dollars says "yes."

Does Brad Childress really know that T-Jack isn't very good but never says a bad thing about him so as to both not damage his ego and to keep fans optimistic about the season? Quite possibly.

How many teams are "going to win the Super Bowl" in June? All of them. OK, maybe not Miami.

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