Or do they trust in the backup, Charlie Whitehurst, knowing he’s coming off his worst career game?
Or do they just direct-snap to the nearest running back and hope the Cincinnati Bengals are dumb-founded into haplessness?
These are the kinds of questions that teams confront when they enter a season without a franchise quarterback.
As of Wednesday, they didn’t know what they were going to do for a QB. They might know by Friday. Then again, it might not make a difference. The Bengals (4-2) are ranked second in the NFL in total defense (278-yard average) and fourth in points allowed (18.5). It’s doubtful the video of either Jackson or Whitehurst has created flop sweats among the defenders.
“We’ve got to get Charlie ready because we know he’s ready to go,” Carroll said Wednesday. “But we’ll work to bring (Jackson) back . . . is what it amounts to now.”
In the wake of a desultory 6-3 loss in Cleveland Sunday, the notion that Whitehurst is ready to go has to be Carroll’s shakiest statement since he said he didn’t know what was going on with Reggie Bush at USC. Then again, the return to playing health of RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Zach Miller and C Max Unger, none of whom played Sunday, might do wonders for Whitehurst’s QB rating.
No one really has a clue. Just as they don’t have a clue with the strained pectoral muscle that has been bothering Jackson. If he doesn’t play Sunday, it will be 20 days lost.
The medical staff “is going on what T-Jacks telling them because there isnt a long history of quarterbacks who have tried to play with this specific injury,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. ” I think theyre kind of playing off each other.”
The shrugs over the QB position at the VMAC Wednesday were so massive they could have knocked down a viaduct, were one handy.
Since there’s no predicting the outcome of a muscle strain, particularly one that is part of the throwing motion, Jackson, even after his return, could re-injure himself on the first downfield heave.
None of this is a surprise to anyone who feared for Jackson’s well-being since his arrival, knowing the state of the offensive line that was thrown together without the benefit of a normal spring and summer of practice. But there was an uptick toward averageness as the season progressed for the line and QB, apparently climaxed by the 36-25 upset of the Giants in New York — the game in which Jackson was injured.
But the results in Cleveland with Whitehurst as a starter were so pitiful that it’s possible to suggest the offense has regressed to Week 1 levels (or have you forgotten the 219 yards of total offense, with three turnovers, against San Francisco?).
Conventional hindsight says that the Seahawks wouldn’t be in this mess if they had kept Hasselbeck. Which is true insofar as Hasselbeck staying healthy. Except he wouldn’t have, because he lacks the elusiveness and youth that got Jackson as far as he made it.
Here’s the difference: Whitehurst would have known from the git-go that he was Hasselbeck’s back-up. But when Jackson was handed the job by Carroll with word, not compeititive deed in practice, it was disheartening as hell to Whitehurst.
There was no reason for him to think that Jackson, based on his play in Minnesota, was automatically better than he was. Then, after a flicker of hope against the Giants as an injury replacement, Whitehurst blew a chance in Cleveland and proved the critics right.
He’ll likely get another chance Sunday. But who knows where his confidence will be? He and the coaches will say all the right things, in part by making the credible point that nearly everyone on offense contributed to the epic pratfall.
But it remains the burden of the backup quarterback to manage the game and not lose it. Others can win it. When Whitehurst could not lead the team to a single touchdown in a game that was never out of hand — meaning the Browns defense couldn’t load up on a team attempting to pass while behind — it cast serious doubt. The outcome became not merely a loss but a major setback.
Its devastating nature might push Jackson and the medicos to get him back in the game, at some jeopardy to the rest of his season.
“Theres a certain level (of play) that you have to meet,” Bevell said, “so hell have to tell us how close he is to that.”
But as was discussed with this injury, how does he know? How do the docs know? As a proven tough guy, what’s keeping him from lying about it to get in the game?
The Seahawks’ own decisions with Whitehurst say what they think of him. Then he underscored it Sunday.
This was the fork in the road Carroll and Schneider chose when they quit on Hasselbeck — the long way around. But they can’t avoid the short road to Sunday, and the NFL’s No. 2 defense.