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Originally published Monday, January 2, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Jerry Brewer

Tarvaris Jackson's solid season doesn't erase Seahawks' need for franchise quarterback

Tarvaris Jackson played well this season but the Seahawks still need a quarterback who can win tight games in the fourth quarter.

Seattle Times staff columnist

quotes It is obvious that we are going to draft a quarterback, if for no other reason than... Read more
quotes Wouldn't mind us taking a DE and decastro if possible and just mashing fools with Lynch... Read more
quotes Jackson's "solid season" would be a career worst year for the top echelon of... Read more

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RENTON — And now we return to your regularly scheduled quarterback angst.

The Seahawks' never-ending (or never-beginning?) pursuit of a franchise quarterback is a tease similar to the meandering television show "The Killing." And, no, that is not a lame joke about getting rid of Tarvaris Jackson.

"The Killing" is a suspenseful crime drama set in Seattle that pompously broke all crime drama rules in its first season. We're still wondering who killed Rosie Larson, but we might be too ticked to care anymore. In "The Quarterback," the Seahawks have been just as, well, slow.

They've needed a young franchise quarterback since 2008. Four years later, they're still inventing plot twists. This offseason, there's a "good is the enemy of great" tone to the chase. The Seahawks have a serviceable 28-year-old starter in Jackson, and he had a career season (3,091 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 79.2 quarterback rating). It means that, unlike last offseason when Matt Hasselbeck was a free agent and the Seahawks decided to let him go, the franchise doesn't have a desperate need for a quarterback. They could go into next season with Jackson as the starter and be a competitive football team with legitimate playoff aspirations.

But just getting by shouldn't be the goal. The quarterback need isn't desperate, but it remains significant. If the Seahawks want to build a true Super Bowl contender — not just a team that might get lucky if everything goes right — then they need an upgrade.

Jackson's solid performance this season does open some possibilities. The Seahawks don't have to reach for any ol' quarterback in the draft. They could also acquire a raw quarterback that they project to be really good (similar to San Francisco's plan with Colin Kaepernick) because, if need be, Jackson is a suitable placeholder for another season.

The Seahawks just can't fool themselves into believing Jackson is the future. He's a wonderful person with great professionalism and more talent than the average temp. He defied low expectations and became a credible starting NFL quarterback. But the Seahawks lost six games that were close in the fourth quarter, and Jackson started five of those.

His greatest closing moment was running the clock out on the final drive of a 22-17 victory over Baltimore, and that only required handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch.

Success in the NFL requires a quarterback who makes big throws during crunch time. The way the Seahawks want to play — defense first, pound the run, grind it out — increases the need for a fourth-quarter literate QB. They figure to play more close games than normal.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has praised Jackson all season and recently gave him a strong endorsement for next season. Of course, he was going to say that. And Jackson deserves the coach's kind words. He played through a torn pectoral muscle and helped the Seahawks make major progress after a 2-6 start.

Still, though, Carroll has vowed to maintain a competitive atmosphere, and because there's no Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees playing quarterback in Seattle, the Seahawks should be seeking more out of the position.

Jackson said he would embrace the competition if the Seahawks acquired a young quarterback. And when asked for areas in which he could get better, Jackson simply responded, "Everywhere."

And what made him most proud about his season?

"Being able to finish the season," Jackson said. "It was kind of rough. Doctors didn't think I could make it through with my pec at first. But I was able to fight through it and sort of prove them wrong. That was big for me, not having to have surgery because I would've missed the rest of the season and much of the offseason. I really didn't want to miss that time."

Jackson did his job. He became a more efficient quarterback, especially after the run game emerged. You don't really have to worry about Jackson losing games.

The Seahawks still don't have a quarterback who can win games regularly, however. And so the pursuit continues. Or maybe, because they haven't made a significant investment in a quarterback yet, the pursuit begins.

Will general manager John Schneider go after Matt Flynn? Or move up in the draft to take Robert Griffin III if he declares? Or make an unpredictable pick in a later round? Or sign Charlie Whitehurst's clone?

It's hard to tell where the Seahawks are in this drama. It's also impossible to ignore the suspense.

This is the best unintentional television show not on the air.

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

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