Merely for the sake of variety, it would be intriguing to hear two quarterbacks dead-heated for the starting job throw down verbally like, say, presidential candidates.
“As president, my rival would destroy the freedoms and liberties that generations of Americans have given their lives to preserve.” Countered by:
“As president, my rival would be toxic to every life form on the planet.”
You know, really stupid stuff that demeans speaker and audience but fills the conversational marketplace with the empty calories it craves.
Except for boxing, hydroplane and stock-car racing, sports generally try to avoid the inflammatory. As did Pete Carroll Friday, when the Seahawks coach swerved his crew away from rhetorical nonsense to blandness.
Knowing that the most intriguing debate in Seattle sports this spring and summer is the identity of the Seahawks’ starting quarterback, Carroll offered up the decisive metric between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and newcomer Matt Flynn.
Who said competition the most?” Carroll said, grinning. “Whoever said that
word the most when they were up here (getting interviewed), hes ahead right now.
Players’ quoting of Carroll’s mantra is a clear path to brownie points and journalistic amusement, but it sheds no light. Which is, of course, the point. No voluntary practice in May will be decisive in a final call that could await the completion of exhibition season in August.
That is the polar opposite of a year ago, when, without a single Seahawks practice, Jackson was declared the starter over Charlie Whitehurst, who backed up Matt Hasselbeck.
The decision to hand Jackson the job, rather than earn, Carroll explained then, was because the shortened pre-season, due to the belated resolution of the NFL lockout, left no choice but to slam in the more experienced Jackson. The free agent from Minnesota acquitted himself better than most observers expected. But all that bought Jackson this spring was two competitors — Flynn and third-round draft choice Russell Wilson — and the nominal No. 1 position in practice this week, where he gets the most snaps.
In his first meeting with reporters since free agency and the draft, Jackson predictably shrugged off the threats to his livelihood, although he did hint that he would prefer otherwise.
“Im not a GM, Im not a head coach, so I cant go and pick exactly who they want, or
say, Dont get a quarterback,” Jackson said, then he smiled. “If I could, I would, believe me. But thats not how things work, so Im just here to compete and may the best man win.
Flynn joined Jackson in assuring that nothing so far seems pointed toward to a cat-fighting TV reality show, “Real QBs of Renton.”
“We hit it off as soon as I got here and we’ve got a good relationship,” Flynn said. “It’s kind of cool. We’re in meetings and we’re kind of learning off each other.
“I think we’re trying to push each other and, when the time comes, I know that we’re going to lean on each other.”
Based on contracts alone, the conventional wisdom is that the Seahawks invested three years and $26 million, including $10 million guaranteed, in Flynn because he can get them farther than Jackson, who is making $4 million in the last of a two-year deal. But Jackson, 29, has played in 51 NFL games, including 34 starts. Flynn, 27 next month, has only two starts and minimal play in 32 other games as backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
Carroll nevertheless endorsed Flynn’s capacity for quick study.
“Hes really bright and he has no problems,” he said. “Hes out here on the field handling stuff right off the bat handling the checks and helping guys with adjustments already. So hes gifted. He understands ball and hell be able to pick it up. Therell be no issue about that.”
“Understanding ball” may be the key phrase in interpreting Carroll’s words for clues. Jackson acknowledged obliquely that that may have been his biggest shortcoming.
Asked what drew most of his off-season work, Jackson said, “Things like the two-minute situations and the end-of-game situations I could have done a lot better job of not turning the football over, finishing with points and just being more consistent.
“We didnt have any drives to win the game at the end of the game and thats what quarterbacks are supposed to do. So that kind of irks me a little bit. During the off-season Ive been trying to get better at that.
Friends for life or ruthless foes, the better QB in that phase of the game will start in September.
Instead of what happened last year, Carroll is thrilled to be have a full summer to make the call.
“Theres no timeline,” he said. “The format is really just to do everything I can to organize it and orchestrate so that they get a legit shot at showing what they can do
with all of the guys that are available. Just make it a real cool process and hopefully it will show itself somewhere down the road.
Not since Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer had a little back-and-forth for the starting job a decade ago has there been much of a quarterback debate in Seattle. Even then, the mentor-student relationship defined what was going to happen. Last year, no one much cared whether Whitehurst, who in March went back to San Diego in free agency, was given a shot.
But now, not only are the two more experienced guys locking horns, third-stringer Josh Portis is back and will attempt to hold off Wilson, the rookie from Wisconsin who makes Carroll swoon when talking about his ability to overcome his 5-foot-11 height.
So far it’s all gentlemanly and sporting. We can only hope that they aspire to the same rhetorical recklessless that marks the national political leadership. It’s an election year, and people must be made to pay attention.