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Jackson, Frerotte, Booty: Vikings looking better under center

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 28, 2008 - 3:46 PM

Other than the fact that it's hard to picture the words "Brad Childress," "Booty" and play "call" in the same sentence, the Vikings have put together an interesting collection of quarterbacks.

For the average fan, "interesting" in this case might be a synonym for "volatile," "unproven'' or "catastrophic."

For me, it's a synonym for "promising."

While fans obsess over Tarvaris Jackson's stress-induced jump passes, Gus Frerotte's AARP status and the origins of draftee John David Booty's surname, I'm going to swim upstream against the flow of negative opinion and guess that the Vikings could be just fine at quarterback this year.

Jackson was often erratic in 2007, yet he went 8-4 as a starter and outplayed Eli Manning head-to-head while beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in New Jersey.

He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, which is about the worst statistic an NFL quarterback can compile. But in his first three seasons, Troy Aikman threw 31 touchdown passes and 46 interceptions, and he's now in the Hall of Fame.

Jackson threw nine touchdown passes and 12 interceptions; he also ran for three touchdowns and completed 58 percent of his passes.

The offense around him should be better this year, with the addition of Bernard Berrian and the presumed maturation of Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice.

The defense should be better with the addition of Jared Allen and Madieu Williams and the presumed familiarity with second-year defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's schemes.

The departure of Troy Williamson could be worth two victories all by itself. That is not satire. That is fact. Add the passes that Williamson dropped last year to Jackson's statistics, and he might not inspire so much doubt among the masses.

Most important, Jackson should be better this year, maybe much better. There is no reason to question his work ethic, arm strength or athletic ability. There is reason to believe he'll make dramatic improvement after spending an offseason dissecting last year's mistakes.

The Vikings went 8-8 last year even while Jackson went through the growing pains that should have been expected of a kid from Alabama State getting his first real exposure to NFL defenses. And to belabor the point, Jackson went 8-4 when starting, while Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger went 0-4.

Frerotte is an upgrade over either of those players as a backup quarterback. His age and durability can be questioned, but he could be ideal for short stints as an emergency starter.

And Booty is a worth a try as a fifth-round pick, especially since he prompted Vikings draft chief Rick Spielman to coin the phrase "Booty scenario."

Booty is an accurate passer who performed well in USC's pro-style offense. Other late-round quarterbacks who developed nicely in the NFL: Brad Johnson (ninth round), Tom Brady (sixth round), Derek Anderson, whom Vikings fans craved this winter (sixth round), and Sage Rosenfels, whom the Vikings inquired about this winter (fourth round).

Pete Carroll, a former head coach in the NFL who coached Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart before Booty at USC, on Sunday called Booty a gifted "pure pocket passer" with tremendous accuracy -- a Chad Pennington with better arm strength.

The key to the 2008 season, of course, is Jackson. Had he been drafted by a team with a better quarterback depth chart, he would not have been pressed into duty at the end of his first season and proclaimed the starter in his second.

The questionable decision to start Jackson in 2007 could benefit the Vikings in 2008. If Jackson is going to be a good NFL quarterback, we'll see progress this season.

And if Jackson progresses, the Vikings should return to the playoffs and belatedly justify the shocking selection of an unknown quarterback from Alabama State in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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