In the history of the Seattle Seahawks, Tarvaris Jackson will always be a notable footnote. He was the starting quarterback who was replaced by precocious rookie Russell Wilson. And he came back to earn a Super Bowl ring as someone who was needed but barely played for the NFL champs.
Jackson, 36, was killed Sunday night in a one-car accident near his hometown of Montgomery, AL. According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Jackson was driving alone when his 2012 Chevy Camaro left the roadway, struck a tree and overturned. He was taken to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Jackson had been working as QB coach at Tennessee State in 2019, after spending a year as a quality control and quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Alabama State.
During his four years in Seattle, Jackson became a popular figure in the locker room, both for his toughness — he played several games in the 2011 season with a partially torn pectoral muscle — and his graceful willingness to mentor Wilson.
Jackson also endured quietly a miserable one-year sojourn in Buffalo, where he was traded before the 2012 season when Wilson’s growth as rookie left no doubt about the position’s future.
After not playing a down for the Bills, he returned to the Seahawks as a free agent in 2013, backing up Wilson. In those years, he played briefly in eight mop-up games, completing 15 of 20 passes for 188 yards. He also played in the final series in the Super Bowl.
Wilson tweeted his condolences.
TJack… you will be missed. Praying for your family…Love you man. 💔
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) April 13, 2020
There was never a public hint of any bitterness about losing his starting job, nor his acceptance of the backup role. When Jackson spoke to reporters at the start of training game in July 2013, he sounded thrilled to return.
“I really didn’t want to leave last year, but you know, it’s a business. Now I’m back and I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I mean, it felt like home, really. You know, we got an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs. I’m very familiar with the offense, the people around here, teammates, everybody. It was a no-brainer.”
Jackson came to Seattle as a free agent after five years in Minnesota, where he was a second-round pick in 2006 who made 20 starts. Beating out incumbent backup Charlie Whitehurst to succeed longtime starter Matt Hasselbeck in 2011, Jackson started 14 games and completed 271 of 450 passes for 3,091 yards, 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a QB rating of 44.7.
But the 7-9 Seahawks finished 25th that season in third-down conversion rate (38 percent). It was hardly all of Jackson’s fault — a 2-6 start to the season was due in part to shortened training camps because of a labor dispute that especially hurt teams with new QBs — but his decision-making late in close games wasn’t the best.
So in 2012, the Seahawks signed free agent Matt Flynn away from Green Bay with a three-year, $26 million deal, with $10 million guaranteed, then drafted Wilson. When it became apparent in 2012 that Wilson had the goods to start, the Seahawks kept Flynn as a backup and traded Jackson for a seventh-round pick.
Jackson didn’t play a down in Buffalo.
“It was tough, to be honest with you,” he said of getting no action as a third-stringer. “I just tried to take it a day at a time and just do my business. Whatever they asked me to do, I just tried to do it. I mean, it was a situation that I don’t wish on my worst enemy.
“I was just sitting, on a paid vacation.”
When the Seahawks cut Flynn ahead of the 2013 season, they brought back Jackson to compete with veteran Brady Quinn to be Wilson’s backup. The job went to Jackson in small part because he had a good relationship with mercurial WR Percy Harvin when the two were teammates in Minnesota.
“He’s going to work hard every day,” Jackson said of Harvin before he 2013 season. “When Percy gets back out here and he’s healthy, you best believe he’s going to be working out here every day. He’s a competitor, and that’s not even speaking about his talent. He’s probably one of the most talented guys I’ve been around, seriously.
“A lot of people used to give me grief. They would always ask me about Percy, and I would say, ‘He’s on that level with Adrian Peterson-type talent.’ When he started (breaking big plays) last year people were like, ‘Oh, you were right.’ I was like, ‘I know I was right.’ ”
Tarvaris Jackson was a beloved teammate, competitor, and Seahawk. He will be deeply missed. So heartbroken by the news of his passing and sending our condolences to his family and friends. We love you forever @7tjackson
— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) April 13, 2020
He was sufficiently accurate in 2013 that Harvin and Jackson helped the Seahawks beat AFC champion Denver to win Super Bowl XLVIII. But by 2014, Harvin was such an unmanageable player — years later he was diagnosd with anxiety disorder — that the Seahawks unloaded him at midseason.
Jackson was kept for three seasons as Wilson’s backup through 2015, and didn’t play in the NFL again.
Part of that he believed was due to an episode in June 2016 when, while on vacation in Kissimmee, FL., he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly pulling a gun on his wife.
Charges were dropped two months later. But in a 2018 interview, he said the incident all but ended his NFL career.
“It hurt me a whole lot,’’ Jackson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, claiming the police report had misinformation. “It’s no doubt I would have got a call (from an NFL team) to at least get a chance to go compete for a backup job, but it didn’t happen because of that. Once they put my name up, of course that’s going to come up and (teams said), ‘We don’t want to deal with it.’’’
Jackson is survived by his wife, Lakitta, and three children, Tarvaris, Takayla and Tyson.
“The Seahawks are stunned and heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of legend Tarvaris Jackson,” the Seahawks said in a statement. “T-Jack earned the respect of the organization and teammates with his competitiveness, toughness and professionalism. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”