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Originally published September 7, 2011 at 9:14 PM | Page modified September 8, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Jerry Brewer

Pete Carroll's science project: The role-playing quarterback

In general, there are two accepted ways to build a football team.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Sunday

Seahawks @ 49ers, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13

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In general, there are two accepted ways to build a football team.

1. Find a stud quarterback, make him the heart of your team, and give him complementary weapons.

2. The wrong way.

Good quarterback = good team. Bad quarterback = bad team. For sure, it's not that simple, but it's not calculus, either. If you know what you're doing, you can always build a solid team if you have the right QB.

So, um, why is Seahawks coach Pete Carroll proclaiming that he'd like to do it another way? And why is he so convinced that it won't be a misguided attempt to buck convention?

It's hard not to wince when Carroll says he wants a game manager at quarterback. Palms slap foreheads across the Puget Sound region when Carroll talks about wanting his quarterback to be like a point guard — and not the Chris Paul kind. He prefers the Mark Jackson model, a guy who facilitates the offense as a pivotal but complementary player, one who operates more as a conduit to deliver the ball to better playmakers.

Can Carroll win this way? And, if so, does he have the right athletes to make his quirky, crystallized vision work? Those questions represent the greatest bit of intrigue as the Seahawks open a season without Matt Hasselbeck for the first time in 10 years.

Tarvaris Jackson replaces Hasselbeck as the Seahawks' starting quarterback, but the job description has changed. The Seahawks are now far removed from the philosophy of former coach Mike Holmgren, a QB guru, who believed that the right quarterback can both carry a team and hide some of its warts. The defensive-minded Carroll brings a different perspective. The Seahawks' era of the game manager is undoubtedly here.

It's a loaded description, game manager. It's perceived as a role to minimize the damage that an unimpressive quarterback can do. But it's not that Carroll is uninterested in having a high-performing quarterback. He coached several at USC, including Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. He also coached Drew Bledsoe in his former NFL life. Over the years, Carroll has come to believe that the best teams are so balanced they don't need the quarterback to do so much heavy lifting.

"This is 10 or 11 years of orchestrating the quarterback position," Carroll said when asked to explain his philosophy. "We don't want this position to be one where he has to carry us all the time. It's such a hard position to play, and it's a team game, and we need everybody to fit in. I would much rather position our guy in an offense where he has to move the ball around to the right guy and not have to drop back and throw the ball all day long. That's not our style of playing."

Ideally, Carroll's vision probably would be similar to the way the Atlanta Falcons use young quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan is a gifted player who might be able to carry a team, but the Falcons support him with a strong run game and high-profile receiving options. Ryan threw at least 40 times in only four games last season. Balance carries the Falcons. Ryan's tools make them even better.

Maybe Carroll will have that in Seattle one day. Right now, he's surrounded by question marks that might turn into headaches. Upon investigation, there's nothing wrong with his quarterback vision, but you must question if he has the pieces to thrive.

Jackson still must prove he's good enough to be a game manager. The offensive line must prove it can protect him and open holes for the running backs to be effective. The Seahawks have weapons in the receiving corps — Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Mike Williams being the most prominent — but can they elevate the play of their quarterback? Is that even possible? This is their challenge.

Asked to define his standard of success in Carroll's system, Jackson said: "Make all the throws we're able to make. Take what the defense gives us. Spread the ball around. Be like a point guard, and get the ball to the right person."

It's still a big job, but it's not as detailed as Tom Brady's or Aaron Rodgers' jobs. Carroll's mantra: Manage the game remembering, first, to do no harm.

One problem, though: What if that isn't enough?

The Seahawks should hope that's a rhetorical question.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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