That is when rookie Tarvaris Jackson will make his first NFL start for the Vikings in a prime-time game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Granted, it will be aired on the NFL Network so not everyone will be able to watch, but there certainly will be plenty of focus on the second-round pick from Division I-AA Alabama State as he takes over for veteran Brad Johnson. "I have high expectations for him, and he's prepared," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He' ready to go at this point."
The decision comes with few risks for a 6-8 Vikings team that has been offensively challenged throughout Childress' first season as coach/offensive coordinator and is in definite need of a spark.
Jackson could be just the guy to provide it in the final two games of the regular season. Unlike Johnson, Jackson has a strong arm and great mobility. His presence on the field will force opposing defenses to change how they approach the Vikings.
"I'm ready," Jackson said. "I've been waiting my whole life just to play football period."
There is little doubt Jackson's teammates will rally around a young player who seems to be respectful of his veteran teammates and is well liked in the locker room.
Jackson was among those who stood up for Johnson on Sunday after Vikings fans continually booed the latter during a 26-13 loss to the New York Jets at the Metrodome. It was late in the third quarter of that game that Childress decided to grant the fans their wish and insert Jackson in place of Johnson.
Jackson was greeted with a standing ovation and even received applause when he threw a ball out of bounds that was caught by Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. Jackson acknowledged that was a bit bizarre, but it merely signified how starved Vikings fans were to see the quarterback of the future.
While Jackson's late-season run certainly will be a honeymoon period, it also will be interesting to see if Childress makes the necessary adjustments to take advantage of the youngster's skills.
It's not a given that will happen.
Childress has appeared overmatched for much of this season in his play-calling and Johnson has taken the brunt of the criticism because of this. Certainly, Childress should have more options of what he can do with Jackson under center. The key will be for the coach to pull the trigger and allow Jackson some freedom. It also will be instrumental for Childress to tolerate mistakes.
This won't be easy.
Johnson's 15 interceptions this season have driven Childress crazy. No coach likes turnovers but Childress so despises them that he seems to make his players uptight with the ball at times.
With Jackson at quarterback, Childress is either going to have to back off or risk ruining the rookie's confidence in a hurry. Jackson is raw and remains somewhat of a project. He threw an interception in the Jets game and Childress addressed it in his postgame comments with his usual disdain.