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Originally published Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Steve Kelley

Tentative Tarvaris Jackson could find starting job tough to keep

Let's assume (and you know what happens when you assume) the Seahawks lose in Pittsburgh this Sunday and come into their home opener against...

Seattle Times staff columnist

quotes I'm no quarterback expert despite all of the football I've watched for over fifty years... Read more
quotes The one thing I think this article fails to mention is that it doesn't really matter... Read more
quotes Is Jackson holding the ball, getting sacked because he can't make a decision; or is it... Read more

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Let's assume (and you know what happens when you assume) the Seahawks lose in Pittsburgh this Sunday and come into their home opener against Arizona winless in their first two games.

The home crowd is going to be a bit testy and very impatient, and if new Seattle starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson misfires on his first pass, he will hear his first Seattle boos.

And if, in the first quarter, the Hawks have a quick three-and-out, Jackson will hear the same chants his predecessor Matt Hasselbeck heard last December.

"Charlie. Charlie. Charlie."

The fans will be calling for backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who although it means almost nothing, had a better exhibition season than Jackson.

"Charlie. Charlie. Charlie."

For now, Whitehurst is the man of the people.

But what will coach Pete Carroll do if the offense continues to sputter and the heat is turned up on Jackson? What happens after the Hawks play Atlanta at home, then travel to the New York Giants?

Uncharacteristically Carroll never opened this job for competition. He understood that the lockout compressed the preseason and he had to give his new No. 1 as much practice time and game snaps as possible. Jackson has been Carroll's starter since the first day of camp.

But now, one week into the season, the Seahawks are in trouble, and it all starts at quarterback.

In his Hawks debut Jackson was inaccurate and, at times, almost reluctant to throw the ball. He was sacked five times. But worse, he seemed to hold on to the ball far too long, far too often.

He isn't the answer.

In their two years of attempting to restructure this team, the new Hawks' administration has mangled the quarterback search.

The Seahawks have remade the defense. Last year's trade with Philadelphia for defensive end Chris Clemons might be the best move general manager John Schneider has made since coming to town.

He also signed Raheem Brock, drafted safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, took a calculated gamble on former CFL cornerback Brandon Browner, signed free-agent tackle Alan Branch and re-signed tackle Brandon Mebane.

The defense was stout against the 49ers, smothering running back Frank Gore and limiting him to 59 yards and holding the Niners to 209 total offensive yards.

Of course all of that should come with an asterisk because the 49ers are awwwful.

Still the defense, remade under Schneider and Carroll, is competitive again and probably is the best defense in the NFC.

But it doesn't matter, because the Seahawks still don't have a quarterback, at least not the kind of quarterback that can take them places in late December and January.

Two years into the job the best the new administration has come up with is Jackson and Whitehurst. Kind of reminds you of the old days when the Hawks were trying to piece together an offense with quarterbacks like Rick Mirer and Dan McGwire.

This isn't a quarterback controversy as much as it is a quarterback quandary.

This is a quarterback's league. Look at the Super Bowl contenders, Green Bay, Philadelphia, New England, San Diego, New York Jets. There are no questions at quarterback.

Look at the NFL's worst: Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo. Seattle? Look at the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning. The lack of a strong quarterback is the common denominator.

The Hawks have addressed their offensive-line issues. They traded for running back Marshawn Lynch. They signed wide receiver Mike Williams last year and Sidney Rice this year.

But they haven't found a quarterback.

In Jackson's defense, the Hawks' receivers weren't exactly running free on Sunday at Candlestick. With Rice out, Seattle's receivers didn't get much separation. Sometimes Jackson held on to the ball because he couldn't find an open man.

But more often, he just seemed tentative. The playmaker didn't make plays. Jackson has to be more daring, without being careless.

But the greater truth is, Jackson is just a quarterback stand-in. He is the quarterback for now until the real QB arrives and that guy is harder to find than a left tackle or a safety or a bone-crushing running back.

Rebuilding's a bear, and without the right quarterback it's impossible.

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