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Columnist
Orton, Jackson merely pieces of a bigger puzzle
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/18/2007 12:55 AM

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The NFL's quarterback crisis is only one of myriad baffling developments in America.

I mean, it's like how can we have more and more TV channels and fewer and fewer watchable programs.

That was one of the parallel mysteries that came to mind while watching the Bears and the Vikings attempt to play professional football against each other here Monday night.

Kyle Orton against Tarvaris Jackson?

One of them had to win, I guess, and it turned out to be Jackson in the Vikings' 20-13 victory.

"We just didn't make enough plays, and I put that on me," Orton said.

Listen, neither Orton nor Jackson was awful if your standards aren't exactly Montana and Elway. Jackson was eminently ordinary and Orton, well, let's just say he was merely Ortonary.

Neither's quarterback rating cracked 60. Jackson was the better of the two, hollow praise considering he threw 3 interceptions.

America deserves better. This is the NFL. "Monday Night Football." Prime time. Not just the big leagues, the only league. And the matchup is Kyle Orton against Tarvaris Jackson?

This wasn't painful to witness, just not compelling. It was like, say, Jason Marquis pitching against Gavin Floyd.

The Bears picked up where they left off with Orton two years ago, not having enough faith in him to implement a genuine NFL game plan.

"I thought (Orton) did a decent job for his first time out in a hostile environment," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said.

Still, if Orton is the hope for the future as the youngest of the Bears' three quarterbacks, the future appears hopeless and the position hapless.

Meanwhile, the Vikings couldn't get enough out of Jackson to dominate a Bears defense battered and beaten by a broken season.

Yards were like gold nuggets for both teams. First downs were like pulled teeth. Points were like imaginary friends.

Orton had an excuse because the Bears' offense stinks with or without him. The Vikings, however, would be scary good with a more accomplished quarterback than Jackson is.

Seriously, how did the NFL reach this point? It's not as if it expanded to 100 teams and needs 300 capable quarterbacks.

Do the math. America has 300 million people. OK, forget it, math is too difficult. But the NFL should be able to discover and develop 32 able-bodied quarterbacks from a pool of that many people.

Instead there are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Brett Favre and … yes, a bunch of Kyle Ortons and Tarvaris Jacksons.

Most puzzling is that this isn't the Dark Ages, when high school and college offenses ran the ball up the middle three times and punted their way to 0-0 ties.

It's the Space Age, when alleged student-athletes throw the ball from kindergarten right through graduate school in games where the over-under is 80 points.

Coaches still put their most gifted athletes at quarterback, don't they? Then they let them throw the ball somewhere around 25 times a game, don't they? They use the no-huddle and shotgun and spread offenses, don't they?

Yet we wind up on national television with Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson?

Maybe they'll both be Pro Bowl quarterbacks before their careers end, but right now they're stuck somewhere between Triple-A and the major leagues.

And too many NFL games are stuck between mediocre and dull.