Jeff Garcia = Fran Tarkenton

November 3rd, 2008
Peter King of tries to compare Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia with Fran Tarkenton.

Peter King of tries to compare Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia with Fran Tarkenton.

In another element to his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column on, Peter King tries to compare Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia to former Minnesota quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton.

From King:

No one would think of Garcia as the heir to Tarkenton, who retired in 1978 as the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader with 47,003. Garcia will never have his those numbers or Tarkenton’s resume. While Tarkenton played right away in the NFL after getting drafted by the Vikings in 1961, Garcia had to travel an arduous path to the NFL. But lately, when I watch Garcia, I see Tarkenton.

When I saw Garcia in Dallas nine days ago, I thought: That’s one of the wiriest football players — almost gaunt — I’ve ever seen. I asked him what he weighed, and he said he was “barely tipping the scales at 190.” Which means he’s not 190. “Well, I’m between 185 and 190,” he said. “One of the trainers said something to me about it recently, that I looked a little bit light, and I mentioned it to my wife, and she said, ‘I was going to say something about that.’ There’s no more weight for me to lose.”

Tarkenton was listed at 6-0 and 190, Garcia at 6-1 and 190. Both are probably an inch and a few pounds less. In 246 career games, Tarkenton averaged 14.9 rushing yards per game. In 116 NFL games, Garcia has averaged 17.4. Average touchdown passes per game: Tarkenton 1.39, Garcia 1.32. Average passing yards per game: Tarkenton 191.1 (obviously in an era when teams ran more), Garcia 205.6.

The idea for Garcia is to avoid the rush as much as possible so he can live to play another day; he got whacked 13 times by the Cowboys in Week 8 despite slithering in and out of trouble much of the afternoon. It was the same with the whippet-like Tarkenton in the ’60s and ’70s.

“The thing I admired about Fran is how he kept plays alive,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen highlights where he ran around so much to avoid the rush that he’d end up 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. I’m a little different. I run around, but I try to stay closer to the line. Sometimes I’m right on the verge of being over the line when I throw, but when I’m forced into running, I always try to make a play with my arm when I can. So I keep it ’til the last minute.”

That was a Tarkenton trait, too.

The biggest difference is probably the eras in which they played. Tarkenton was accepted as an NFLer right out of college, because scouts and GMs weren’t as manic about size 45 years ago; Eddie LeBaron, at 5-9, had been a highly effective quarterback for Washington and Dallas, for instance, making the Pro Bowl four times as the shortest quarterback in football. Not so in the last 15 or 20 years. Garcia had to ride the bench in Canada (behind, coincidentally, Doug Flutie in Calgary of the CFL). Bill Walsh became Garcia’s champion, telling anyone who’d listen to give the slight Garcia a shot. The 49ers finally did, and the rest is itinerant history.

Tarkenton would identify with Garcia. They both learned to make plays out of nothing. “It’s how I learned to play the game,” Garcia said. “It’s always been a game of survival for me, at all levels. It’s organized chaos.” I bet Tarkenton’s teammates in Minnesota and New York said that more than once about playing with Fran.

Not totally sure Joe would agree with King. If King suggests Garcia is like Tarkenton because of his happy feet, Joe would agree. But often Tarkenton scrambled because he was running for his life, especially his days with the New York Giants. Garcia seems at times to scramble just for the sake of scrambling.

Tarkenton also was an elite quarterback in an era when several future Hall of Fame QB’s played. Joe wouldn’t consider Garcia an elite quarterback today, when the game is populated by lousy quarterbacks. Besides, Joe can only think of three quarterbacks playing right now who would sniff the Hall of Fame (Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning).

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