Reality check: Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson is not going anywhere
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times
So the writing is on the wall for Tarvaris Jackson, huh?
That opinion is gaining popularity in Seattle these days. Not only did the Seahawks sign Matt Flynn in free agency, giving him a three-year contract that trumps Jackson's deal, but they went and picked Russell Wilson in the third round of the draft, choosing him No. 75 overall.
Throw in the presence of Josh Portis, a physically gifted prospect who made the team last year as an undrafted rookie, and you can start talking yourself into a scenario in which Jackson doesn't wind up on Seattle's 53-man roster.
It's an interesting discussion, I'll give you that, and it's not altogether impossible. It's just not realistic. So before we cannonball into the deep end of quarterback speculation, let's all pause to take a deep breath and survey the situation.
This team is trying to find a starting quarterback capable of leading this team to a next step. Franchise quarterback is the term that gets used most frequently, a label that is only marginally meaningful and vaguely translates to a quarterback of a perennial playoff contender who's capable of winning a Super Bowl. Whether this label is an accurate assessment of a quarterback's ability or a term applied in hindsight to describe someone who has accomplished those things is a discussion that rivals chicken-or-egg in terms of its solvability.
The absence of a franchise quarterback is much easier to describe than the presence of one, and Seattle entered this offseason with a long-term question at that position. If Seattle is going to become the playoff contender in 2012 that is expected, the Seahawks need improved play at quarterback particularly late in games because this is a team that is built to wage low-scoring tests of will.
And to that end, the Seahawks have made their two most significant quarterback since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in 2010. So the team signed Flynn and drafted Wilson with the highest pick is has used on a quarterback in 19 years, and that has led to a rising suspicion that Jackson may not be long for Seattle.
This is not an unreasonable perspective. Seattle signed him from the Vikings with the idea that perhaps a new environment with a more supportive coach would lead to a breakthrough. It did not. In each of Seattle's four home losses, the Seahawks had the ball in the final 5 minutes, trailing by eight points or fewer. In those situations -- one-possession games -- Seattle never managed to score a point with Jackson at quarterback.
Jackson passed for a career-high 3,091 yards in 2011, playing better than many expected last year. But he was 7-7 as the team's starter, which is the exact same winning percentage he had in 20 starts his first five years for Minnesota.
So Seattle set about improving its options at quarterback this offseason, first by signing Flynn and then drafting Wilson and now there are some looking at the depth chart and wondering if it's possible Jackson will wind up expendable, which is conceivable. Not likely, but conceivable. Perhaps Flynn is just lights out, the hands-down starter, and Wilson proves himself to be an ingénue so precocious that Seattle decides he's a better backup as a rookie than Jackson is after six years and 34 regular-season starts. Maybe Jackson shrinks from the competition instead of rising to it, and Seattle decides that Portis' upside outweighs the security blanket of having Jackson, who even the most ardent critics would have to concede is an above-average NFL backup.
But right about now everyone should just go ahead and take that deep breath. Remember that Flynn has two regular-season starts in his career and that the last time Seattle used a third-round pick on a quarterback it got David Greene, who never took so much as a single regular-season snap before the Seahawks released him in 2007. For that matter, he never played for the other three teams that acquired him after his release from Seattle.
Seattle has not settled its quarterback situation. Not by a long shot. What the Seahawks have done is expand -- and hopefully improve -- the array of options they have with the immediate goal of improved quarterback play in 2012 and a long-term starter down the road. Maybe it is Flynn, who has passed for more yards in his first two NFL regular-season starts than all but one player in NFL history. Or perhaps it's Wilson, an incredible athlete who started for two different colleges in the previous two years in addition to playing professional baseball.
And maybe -- just maybe -- it comes from Jackson who is recovered from the strained pectoral muscle that limited him the final 10 games of last season. Maybe he comes in for his second season in Seattle, cuts it loose and starts making plays in the fourth quarter.
Why would anyone have a problem with that? For anyone who finds the possibility of that breakthrough being laughable, I would argue it's much more likely than the possibility Seattle would go into 2012 with a quarterback trio consisting of Flynn and two backups who've never attempted an NFL regular-season pass.