For Seattle sports fans unfamiliar with Tarvaris Jackson, meet Jack Wilson, Mariners second baseman.
Wilson was a $5 million fill-in until high draft pick Dustin Ackley was brought up to do the destiny thing at the big league level.
The situation difference between the Seahawks’ new quarterback and Ackley is the Mariners, never confused with the bull orca in the pod, at least knew what they had in Ackley.
The Seahawks have much less of an idea about Jackson, but they probably know the answer is in the 2012 draft (Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, please pick up the white courtesy phone).
With the return of pro football — please tell me, anyone, that the new collective bargaining agreement couldn’t have been done a year ago if the owners hadn’t embarked on a foolish campaign to conquer the union instead of work with it — the Seahawks, by foregoing incumbent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, decided to sit out 2011.
Not saying they’re quitting one day into the new season, but there is no way that the Seahawks are better this year with Jackson as the new QB than Hasselbeck. Yes, Hasselbeck will be 36 in September, and the bones he hasn’t broken or the muscles he hasn’t torn are beginning to lose their lead over the damaged goods.
When the offensive line starts two rookies, a second-year left tackle and a third-year center (combined 27 NFL starts), and a humble corps of receivers, experience and leadership at QB would seem to be mandatory to survive 2011.
Jackson has a big arm as well as the legs to run away from harm, but he’s started 20 games in five years in Minnesota (10-10 record) to minimal swoonery that he is the next Donovan McNabb.
It would be easier for a Seahawks fan to talk himself or herself into believing in Jackson if the people who signed him Tuesday weren’t the same ones who were convinced a year ago that Charlie Whitehurst was capable of beating out Hasselbeck.
It’s easy to say that Whitehurst’s sample size of starts — two — is too small to pass judgment, but the important judgments were made daily in practice by the coaches, who knew that Janet Reno had nearly as much chance to beat out Hasselbeck as did Whitehurst.
That evaluation was confirmed Tuesday when head coach Pete Carroll approved the hiring of Jackson rather than elevating Whitehurst. While it’s highly likely that Carroll’s first press conference this week will contain much rhetoric about open competition, the auditorium at the VMAC training facility will not be not large enough to contain the growth of the coach’s nose.
Jackson has the endorsement of his previous Vikings’ coach, Darrell Bevell, who is now the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, and that has to be worth something. But playing with a new team in a new place with an inexperienced line is not exactly setting up a QB for first-year success.
Long-term, the Seahawks’ position is more understandable. Hasselbeck is in physical decline, which is likely to be hastened by the abuse resulting from rookie mistakes in front of him.
And Hasselbeck’s decision to pass on the one-year offer the Seahawks made pre-lockout in March is also understandable. Teams such as Arizona and San Francisco, and perhaps Tennessee, are suspected to be ready to give him two guaranteed years. Hasselbeck is cocky enough to believe he can deliver. Good for him.
But those conclusions don’t help the Seahawks in 2011. Carroll has said more than once that the Seahawks are under a three-year building program. But what else would a first-year coach say: “I’m on a one-and-done season”? Of course it’s three years, and at 8-8 in the third year, it’s a four-year plan, and so on, until he’s fired.
As much perverse fun winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record was for fans, and as much pleasure attended the first-round win over defending champion New Orleans — did you see that Marshawn Lynch’s “Beastquake” TD run was the No. 1 highlight on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the previous NFL season? — Carroll and GM John Schneider know it was a mirage.
While the Seahawks are $39 million under the salary cap and better positioned than most to exploit the stubby free agent period, it doesn’t mean they need to shove all their ammo into one cannon shot. The awful 2010 season that preceded the great fortune of the last couple of games told Carroll and Schneider that they need the oversized backhoe to fill a lot of holes.
Risky as it is, they have decided that the quarterback position in 2011 is a workaround, and the 2012 draft is where it gets fixed.
As for Hasselbeck, he will be sorely missed — by teammates, front-office people, media and the community where he spent much time doing little things well.
Fans bidding him an unsentimental good-bye shouldn’t forget that in his 10 years, he helped take the Seahawks to five playoff appearance including the Super Bowl. And this was for a team that had made the postseason just three previous times in its history.
The best quarterback in team history was also one of its best people. In the new CBA, no cash is provided for the latter virtue. But there is reward, a little in these few words, and a lot in the hearts of the community that came to savor him.