After a few days of reflection and evaluation about his team since the season ended on Sunday with a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the assessment of Vikings coach Brad Childress is essentially the same as it was within an hour after that game. He isn’t ready to make any public proclamations about the team’s future at that position.
Third-year pro Tarvaris Jackson started the first two games of the season, veteran Gus Frerotte replaced him from the third game of the season for 11 starts, and Jackson re-assumed the starting role for the final 4½ games, including the 26-14 loss to Philadelphia in the playoffs.
"I'm not going to pass judgment right at this particular point. I think with everybody here in the organization, just like we always have, is to turn over all the rocks and see what you have there,” Childress said. “I would also say that there's a point with Tarvaris of continuing to evolve as a quarterback, and while you'd like that process to happen immediately it doesn't always happen immediately. But there's not anything we're going to leave unturned in terms of free agency, draft – and that goes on until after the draft. You see who's out there, and by the same token Tarvaris is going to be here and we're going to continue to get him better."
Childress admitted that Jackson didn’t have a convincing performance in the playoffs, but he did think Jackson make progress from the beginning of the season, when he was given the starting job, until he was reinserted as the starter for the final four games.
“He did. Obviously you don’t look at sitting down after two games being a step ahead, but I thought when he came back in he was about his business and did a nice job for us when he came back in, aside from some things in that last game,” Childress said. “There are 11 guys that are contributing, sometimes him running for his life.”
“… Tarvaris did a ton of good things this year and unfortunately you have that bad taste in your mouth from that last game. He was doing some good things through that game, overcame some adversities in that game, and I would see him continue to get better as well."
Childress said he hasn’t discussed the season at length with Frerotte, but Frerotte told Yahoo.com that he thought he gave the Vikings a better chance to win in the playoffs.
Frerotte didn’t hide his feelings about that situation at the end of the season, either, when Childress decided to stick with Jackson after Frerotte said he was healthy enough to play after recovering from a fractured transverse process in his back.
Frerotte had his postseason medical evaluation on Monday and made his way back to St. Louis shortly thereafter to be with wife and kids.
“I mentioned to you before I can understand how Gus feels. He had a stake in the action here, did a great job of leading our teams to wins, and I wouldn't want a guy that didn't feel, didn't have that competitive zeal,” Childress said. “I really wouldn't want that guy. We agree to disagree on who's starting at quarterback, but the one thing you know about Gus is he's a team guy and I certainly appreciate that about him."
During the regular season, Frerotte completed 59.1 percent of his passes and, amazingly, so did Jackson. Frerotte threw 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a 73.7 passer rating. Jackson had nine touchdowns and two interceptions with a 95.4 passer rating.
Of course, there is the chance the starter in 2009 would be neither Jackson nor Frerotte. The Vikings could go into free agency, which starts Feb. 27, looking for another veteran at that position. In Childress’ three seasons as head coach, the starting quarterbacks have been Brad Johnson, Brooks Bollinger, Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and Frerotte. None has had a 300-yard passing game.
Childress said he hasn’t gone through all of the free-agent possibilities yet, although he admitted to having the list at the top of his desk, and said he wasn’t sure of the team’s salary cap position for 2009.
"We end up having that meeting, as I mentioned to you, later in January. Really when we get a chance to sit, I’ve got a free-agent list on my desk but to comment on that would be ... I’d be shooting in the air,” he said of the team’s cap position.
INJURED AND HEALING
Several Vikings players have had, will have or are contemplating surgery in the coming weeks. Guard Anthony Herrera had shoulder surgery on Wednesday, a new revelation.
“All those guys have (nagging injuries). He had to fight through some things as the year progressed,” Childress said. “Some of those guys refused to be put on that training report. There’s a lot of those guys that treat and just say, ‘I don’t want to be on that report,’ and you don’t put them on the report."
Childress said Herrera “should be close” to being ready to participate in the offseason training program that starts in early April, a few weeks later than last year, so that players can have “time away from the game.”
Offensive lineman Artis Hicks is having surgery to repair his triceps on Friday.
Childress said a couple of other players are contemplating some “offseason cleanups.”
Linebacker E.J. Henderson, who suffered three dislocated toes early in the season, has been working out on a treadmill and has been a regular at Winter Park of late. “He came in and talked about the (playoff) game. He’s gotten over the fact that he wasn’t part of that game. But, he’s right on track,” Childress said.
Childress said he didn’t think Bernard Berrian’s toe bothered him after the first few games of the season and he isn’t one of the players that is considering surgery.
“He’s one of those guys that asked off that list. There may have been other things that were bothering him, from time to time,” Childress said. “But pretty much from early on – that Green Bay game ... Indianapolis game – it did bother him a little bit. But he worked through that. And at the end, I don’t believe – his toe was not any consideration.”