It’s safe to say that, barring a significant change, Tarvaris Jackson’s NFL career won’t be the fodder of a major motion picture. It may not even be worthy of a Lifetime made-for-TV biopic.
On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks confirmed that, pending the “I’s” and “T’s” being dotted and crossed, Jackson would be traded to the Buffalo Bills for a late-round draft pick. It would appear to be yet another case of the carpet being pulled from under Jackson and him landing face-first.
The start of the Jackson story had all the makings of one of those spy novels. The Vikings draft brass deployed its own version of Seal Team 6, which repelled into the Alabama night to work out Jackson without the rest of the outside world being aware of their stealth. The Vikings traded back into the second round of the 2006 draft (it should be noted, this was the first Brad Childress draft – when Rick Spielman was applying Crest Strips for ESPN appearances) to drop the J-Bomb on the rest of the NFL.
Early on, it seemed like the Vikings had it right. When mentor Brad Johnson effectively did what Vikings fans have come to know as “pulling a McNabb,” the timetable on T-Jack stepping from the shadows into the spotlight was accelerated. In 2007, with Adrian Peterson coming in to take a lot of the heat off of him, Johnson was jettisoned like blue airplane ice and it was Jackson’s show.
To his credit, in the 12 games he started in 2007, the Vikings managed a record of 8-4 – they were 0-4 when he was sidelined. However, Jackson’s penchant for injuries became a concern, but not to the point that his job was in jeopardy – no TV news helicopters followed Gus Frerotte from the airport to Winter Park. It was Jackson’s job. Unfortunately, the Vikings started the season 0-2 and Childress, perhaps worried about his own coaching future, not only benched Jackson, but he announced he was benching him for the remainder of the season … or at least until the brittle Gus Bus broke down and belched out smoke on the side of the road.
As luck would have it (and as reality expected), the much-concussed Frerotte slowly crumbled like a decaying building as the 2008 season went along. The Vikings were in playoff contention, but needed a road win in Arizona to get to the promised land. Jackson got the call to duty and answered – having one of those games where everything went right and the Vikings blew the doors off the Cardinals in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Vikings (and Jackson) would lose to the Eagles in the playoffs and the perception became that, while the Vikings had enough talent to contend for a Super Bowl title, the big missing tooth in the front of the bridgework was at quarterback.
The Vikings swung a trade in early 2009 for Sage Rosenfels, which was supposed to be the “put up or shut up” moment for Jackson. That plan got imploded when Brett Favre rolled into town. While Rosenfels seemed to soak up the knowledge Favre imparted in a slow southern drawl that made it easy to understand and vice versa, Jackson and Favre had no such camaraderie. He preferred to watch Favre from a distance.
When 2010 rolled along, Joe Webb forced Childress and Rick Spielman to decide between T-Jack or Rosenfels. One of the latter had to go. Rosenfels got shown the door with a kiss and a late-round draft pick from the Giants. While Favre stalled and sputtered in 2010, Jackson’s injury past flared up and let Webb checker-jump him as the No. 2 guy. The story arc was crashing and burning for T-Jack and it came to a head when the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder and, in the subsequent photo op moment, made it clear what Jackson’s future was with the team. They gave his No. 7 to Ponder.
To his credit, Jackson landed on his feet. He found an opportunity in Seattle and, in the 14 games he started, Seattle went 7-7. In the two he didn’t, they went 0-2. Yet Pete Carroll announced his breakdown of play between his quarterbacks. Expensive money-pit acquisition Matt Flynn was going to get every chance to win the job. But diminutive rookie Russell Wilson from Wisconsin was going to get a long look. At the time, we scoffed at Carroll’s explanation: “We know what we have in Tarvaris.” That has never been a good phrase to associated with a player whose spot isn’t locked down.
As it turned out, Wilson did enough to perk Carroll’s interest and Jackson went from starter to man without a country in two weeks. On Sunday, he was shuffled off to Buffalo, where his arrival apparently is the end of the Vince Young Experiment and he joins fellow Viking castoff Tyler Thigpen as the understudies for Rams castoff Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The T-Jack Story initially had plenty of intrigue. Now it would appear that his story has become one that has hit a brick wall at high speed. It’s sad that a story that was once so promising has come to this – a project that Denzell Washington was attached to earlier, but now Rob Schneider would pass on.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.