One of the best sports blogs on the internet, written by Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski, has yet another great post today. The gist of it is that despite all our newfangled technology and advanced scouting and statistics, we still don't have much of an idea how to judge talent. He uses three of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time as an example: Unitas, Montana, and Brady. All three were mid to late round picks, and all three were drafted well behind some other not-so-notable quarterbacks. I especially love this part about Brady:
Brady was taken in the sixth round (after Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi — gotta love ‘dem Hofstra quarterbacks — Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn) and was thought so little of that (people forget this) the Patriots and Bill Belichick specifically signed Damon Huard to a fairly high-priced deal to be Drew Bledsoe’s backup quarterback going into the 2001 season. Now, Brady impressed Belichick enough to beat out Huard for the backup job, and then eventually Belichick stuck with the kid even after Bledsoe got healthy. Belichick deserves all the credit in the world for that. But don’t let anybody tell you the Patriots had any inkling what they had.
It really is pretty crazy that three guys who turned out to be this good were so overlooked coming out of college. I was not around when Unitas played, and although I was alive, I wasn't old enough to remember Montana at Notre Dame or getting drafted. But I do remember Brady. I even had a Brady Michigan jersey for awhile (I think I gave it to TheDan), but mostly because I wanted a Chuck Woodson jersey and couldn't find one. I remember, as a Michigan fan at the time (yes growing up in Canada I cheered for 2 college football teams- the U of Washington and much more so for Michigan), I wanted all-everything super-duper-awesome Drew Henson to play QB over Brady. I remember a lot of Michigan fans feeling the same way. Henson was All-American in football and baseball, and all-state in basketball in Michigan. I don't have any idea which state Brady even came from or whether he was any good in high school. The only thing I remember about Brady graduating was that it finally gave Henson the chance to start and make beautiful music with WR David Terrell (who also went on to be a bust- he was the #8 pick in the draft!), which they did.
Of course the rest is history. Henson went to the Yankees because he was a top 10 prospect, a legit power-hitting third baseman with a cannon- he was really the definition of a "Can't Miss" prospect. But he had one little problem- he couldn't hit a curveball. He then went to Dallas in the NFL and couldn't hit an open receiver. Done and done. The Can't Miss Kid missed not just in one sport but in two. Meanwhile Brady is on his way to becoming the greatest quarterback in history. I did not see that coming.
In a round-about long-winded way, this brings us to the Minnesota Vikings and Tavaris Jackson (actually first I just want to say it also points out that I guess nobody really knows what the Twins got for Santana. Those prospects could be nothing or they could be spectacular. We really don't know). I have zero faith right now in T-Jack as a starting quarterback. I believe, firmly, that he's holding back this team from being a championship contender, and I have a mountain of stats to support my claim.
Let's start with the basics: 70.8 Qb rating (28th in the league), 159.2 yards per game (30th), an average per pass of just 6.5 yards (23), 9 TD's (24), and 12 INT (15). And despite throwing mostly short, safe routes, his completion percentage was a woeful 58.1%. There's also this: just 14 passes completed of 20+ yards (32nd, or 2nd worst, of eligible QB's) and just 4 passes of 40+ yards (tied for 20th). There are further new-fangled smart-guy stat-geek stats from Football Outsiders (a really good explanation here) that explain in further and more complicated detail that T-Jack was one of the worst QB's in the league this year.
That is the logical side to my argument. There is, of course, also my liberal, illogical, emotional gut feeling which says, without any evidence to back it up, that I don't trust T-Jack one bit. When he goes back to pass I end up thinking "Gosh I know it's 3rd and 17 but why can't they hand it off to AP?" Yet not once but twice in the last month, SI's Peter King in his MMQB column, has given a vote of confidence to Jackson- and for the life of me I have no idea why. Peter obviously sees and believes something I do not, and it has to be a gut feeling on his part, because there's no logic that would support a claim that Tavaris Jackson has proven in his first two seasons to be a quarterback you would want to build a franchise around. Not by logic or by gut instinct do I think Jackson should be the starter next year based on what I've seen so far.
So what do we, as Vikes fans, do here? What are we to believe? Do we continue to trust Jackson, and coach Brad Childress' undying support of him (there are also some very disturbing numbers out there, which I won't reveal at this time, that shows that the problem might not be just Jackson. Said Disturbing Numbers show the Vikings, in two years under Childress' "Kick Ass Offense", have by far the fewest attempts throwing the ball downfield, and this "Kick Ass as Safely and Conservatively As Possible" philosophy has been terrible for the Vikings passing game. Hmmmm...)? None of the evidence so far points to Jackson turning this around. Yet there was no evidence to support Daunte Culpepper's good seasons in Minnesota (still my favorite Denny Green story is him playing the race card saying the Minnesota media and public were racist towards Daunte and they never believed in him like Denny did and they should be ashamed. Of course Denny left out the part about how he tried to bring Dan Marino out of retirement and tried desperately to bring back Jeff George, and only when all other options failed and he was forced to play the inexperienced Daunte did he finally play him) before they happened, nor, as Posnanski tells it, evidence to support Kurt Warner being good in St Louis. Only after Tony Banks failed miserably and Trent Green got hurt did they turn to Warner, who then went on to lead the Rams to two Super Bowls and have three of the greatest statistical seasons in history. You just never know.
My two cents is that they need to bring in competition. Try to trade for Donovan McNabb (assuming the price isn't too high) or bring in a veteran (Byron Leftwich?). Just somebody to force him to compete. I don't like handing the job to a guy who hasn't proven it. Bring in some competition and make him fight for it, and then maybe he starts producing like Childress is convinced he will. I love that Cleveland gave Derek Anderson a two year extension. They draft Brady Quinn, and gave up a lot to get him, as their QB of the present and future. Anderson, a sixth round pick who was cut by the Ravens, was put in after starter Charlie Frye fizzled, and Anderson went on to have a helluva year. The Browns, smartly I believe, are going to let Anderson play and let Quinn develop slowly. Yes they paid a high price to get Quinn, but they finally have a QB in Anderson that can run their offense, so they're not going to get rid of him for the unknown that is Quinn. Love it. This IS what San Diego should have done with Drew Brees. Yes they picked Phil Rivers at #4, but Brees, after three sub-par seasons, suddenly came to life. The players loved him and he was the perfect fit there, and they let him walk. Dumb. Yes the Chargers got to the AFC Title game with Rivers, farther than Brees took them, but I have no doubt Brees could have taken them farther.
But of course, I'm also the guy who believed Ryan Leaf would be better than Peyton Manning or Drew Henson would be better than Tom Brady. You just never know.
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