January 6, 2012

That'll Do, Tarvaris.

"Seahawks? PFFT. Why the hell did you guys sign Tarvaris?"

That was what a TSA agent said to me before I boarded my flight west for that Seahawks v Cardinals game last September. Few of Seattle's offseason moves were more derided than the twin decisions to let Matt Hasselbeck walk and replace him with ex-Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson. I'll admit that at that moment I was stunned... But I came around to the notion that Jackson could be an effective "bridge" to the quarterback of the future, and that he was far more likely to survive the 2011-2012 seasons than Hasselbeck (and would be available at a much lower price). Back on July 31, I wrote this:

"I'm not thrilled that Matt Hasselbeck has been replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, but with the improved offensive talent surrounding him now, T-Jack doesn't have to be an All-Pro for the Seahawks to succeed. Really, he just needs to be as good (or a bit better) than Jon Kitna was with the Seahawks from 1997-2000. We don't have fond memories of Special K, but he WAS 18-15 as Seattle's starting QB. We just need T-Jack to be an average NFL QB."

After the preseason, many fans were clamoring for Charlie Whitehurst, and after two atrocious performances against the Niners and Steelers, Jackson was being called the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. It looked like it was just a matter of time before Whitehurst replaced T-Jack, and comparisons to the forlorn Seahawks offense of 1992 seemed apt.

Jackson started to win me over with a flawed but tough performance against Arizona in week 3, where he scored the go-ahead, lone TD in Seattle's 13-10 victory. His effort the next week in a losing cause against Atlanta made me a believer: 319 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a spectacular rally to almost transform a 27-7 blowout into a Seattle victory. T-Jack would have another impressive outing against the Giants before injuring his pectoral muscle- Charlie Whitehurst's pathetic performances against Cleveland and Cincinnati settled any possible QB "controversy" for good. In fact, Jackson would come off the bench against the Bengals and throw for a season-high 323 yards in just three-fourths of that game.

As Seattle's running game gained strength, Jackson became an effective "game manager" in the 2nd half of the season, throwing only four interceptions in Seattle's final eight games. He would still aggravate Twelves by holding the ball too long, and giving up more sacks than we all felt were necessary, and missing too many open receivers- But he also largely avoided the big mistakes that would cost us games, and when given time to throw he could unleash some of the prettiest deep balls you'll see in the NFL. Is it a triumph to be an average NFL quarterback? Hell no! But when your starting position is comparisons to stiffs like Stan Gelbaugh and Kelly Stouffer, ending up being as good or better than Jon Kitna aint bad.

Was T-Jack better than 1999 Jon Kitna? Jackson had a higher passer rating, threw fewer interceptions, and had a higher completion percentage, while Special K had more touchdown passes and passing yards. I'd say 2011 Jackson was better than 1999 Kitna, mainly based on the fact that Jackson improved as his season progressed while Kitna completely cratered in the 1999 stretch run after a hot start. It's also worth noting that 2011 Jackson was statistically better than 2008-2010 Matt Hasselbeck, and even this season Hasselbeck's numbers weren't significantly better than T-Jack's either. In short, Seattle got better QB play than it had seen over the last three years, and they got it from a player significantly younger and cheaper than Matt Hasselbeck. We can debate what Beck might have done had he stayed in Seattle, but I'm in the "Hass probably doesn't survive September behind that young O-line" camp.

Was Jackson good enough to allow Seattle to avoid needing to get a QB of the future? No. Was he good enough that I think he can lead us to the playoffs in 2012 as we continue to add more talent around him? Hell yes. For being a leader on our team, for playing through pain and injury, and for making nattering nabobs like that TSA dude look stupid, T-Jack deserves our thanks. I'm very happy that he's our quarterback right now.

What do you think, sirs?


Nick said...

If the guy can just improve his ability to make decisions in crunch time, I bet he could be a league-average NFL QB. But after six seasons in the NFL, I'm not sure something that can improve.

Carroll wants an offense that isn't dictated by the talent of the QB. Fine. But when it comes down to it, the QB has to take the offense on his shoulders in crunch time.

Boneheaded stuff like taking sacks on 4th down (end of WAS game) and throwing out of bounds on 4th down (second 49ers game) need to stop. He needs to prove he can finish games. Hopefully, he can improve in 2012.

Jonathan Dalar said...

With statistics comparable to Jon Kitna and Matt Hasselbeck's worst years, absolutely not. Like you've stated, he's an adequate starting quarterback, which I think is the worst kind. The kind that convinces you he's worth a shot, even against your better judgment.

I don't want adequate. I don't want mediocre, middle-of-the-road, average. I want a great quarterback, someone who can singlehandedly win the tough games for the 'Hawks. A true franchise quarterback.

And you don't get a true franchise quarterback by sticking with someone who's a prime example of the Peter Principle. Tarvaris Jackson is a great backup quarterback, which is exactly why that's the position he needs to play.

Bill McCready said...

I will humbly disagree with Jonathan. The truth is, having an adequate quarterback saves us from taking a flyer on some unproven first round pick and dealing with that for two-three years until we give up and try again. And again. And again. (see: history of Seahawk QB's between DK and MH). Build a great D, focus on running the ball, and continue to coach up Tavaris, and we're in the NFC hunt next year.