As the Seahawks head into one of the more sinister pass rushes Sunday in Dallas against the Cowboys, coach Pete Carroll Wednesday offered one of more contradictory set of thoughts in a slipping season ever more speckled with them.
In the 34-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson came off the bench after three weeks of chest-injury rehab to throw 40 passes in less than three quarters. Hidden in that high number for a sore guy was even a more sore number — the Bengals registered a quarterback hit 12 times.
Often, a hit is more impactful on a QB than a sack, which is more damaging to the team. In his return to action, he came into the game in a 10-0 hole that meant the Bengals’ fourth-ranked defense, God and all the ships at sea knew the home team had no run game and he had no choice but to chuck. The man was slammed.
Never can we afford to get hit that many times, ” Carroll said, “but thats what happened.”
Right-o on both counts, Mr. C. But since they indeed occurred simultaneously, an incongruity rages. Something has to be done.
The answer is to keep Jackson out of harm’s way. According to Carroll himself, that was the intent Sunday morning — to start Charlie Whitehurst and keep Jackson on the bench for another week to get healthy.
Instead, after three series of minimal movement, Carroll panicked, pulled Whitehurst and put in Jackson. The fact that Jackson threw for more than 300 yards and lived to tell about it is secondary to the fact that the condition of the game and the pass protection meant Jackson should have been held out, at least until an injury forced a change.
Carroll defended the change by saying, essentially, that Jackson is at least as indestructible as the hero in a Jackie Chan movie.
“He happens to be amazingly tough and strongly resilient in handling it,” said Carroll, inadvertently but unmistakably disclosing why Matt Hasselbeck is no longer in Seattle. “Hes got a knack for it and hanging in there.”
Not sure there’s a “knack” for standing up after 12 knockdowns, other than the fact that quarterback protection rules (known as “mother-may-I” to pass rushers) are working better than ever. But the fact that Jackson can take a hit is no reason to take a chance. Despite understandable skepticism, there is no proof that Whitehurst wouldn’t have come up with a similar game.
While it remains uncertain whether Jackson is Chan or simply luckier than a bobtailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, there is no doubt that the Cowboys D is No. 1 in the NFC, and fourth in sacks per pass play. And they know the Seahawks have little confidence in their backup QB. Duck, Tarvaris.
To his credit, Carroll is not oblivious.
“We need to clean it up, and this week it is so challenging,” he said, which is coach-ese for yikes! “These guys are so good that its going to be harder than ever, but we have to keep him cleaner. Because of the way the score went, we had to throw the football more than we would like and that made us more vulnerable to their pass rush and their heat.”
Besides channeling Chan, Jackson’s survival depends on the O-line halting its two-game regression following the 36-25 over the Giants in New York (a feat that grows more unicorn-like with time) as well as a return to the up-tempo style that Jackson favors.
Given his increasing enthusiasm for Jackson, Carroll was asked if he now sees Jackson as QB beyond this season, after which the conventional wisdom has the Seahawks drafting the best quarterback available.
Im looking at it that way, yeah,” he said. “I think Im probably more appreciative than you guys are at this time because we havent won enough games to make you excited about it. But Im seeing the things that hes able to do that gives us a chance to run an offense like we like to run it.
“Hopefully we can keep him going and keep him healthy until we really get a great gauge on him, but hes got a lot of games to prove it and show his value. I dont see any reason not to think that he cant make a lot of stuff happen over a long period of time.”
Not to parse things too closely, but use of double negatives is often a sign that speaker means he thinks the opposite is true. But in the bigger picture, what else can Carroll say: “Nah, he’s just keeping the seat warm for my young prodigy at USC, Matt Barkley”?
Carroll was, after all, in January a big fan of Hasselbeck. Then he wasn’t.
Somehow, the Seahawks offense has to transform in a week from the outfit that has scored one touchdown in the last two games, and let its QB down. Literally.
Said tackle Russell Okung: “We have to be prideful in protecting our quarterback.”
How that happens against Dallas is unknowable. Is there such a thing as a half-step drop before a QB releases the throw? Because the only way to get to be the Seattle quarterback of the future is to survive being the Seattle quarterback of the moment.