August 13, 2013

Back On The River

Yesterday I went kayaking for the first time ever (I know, that's pretty lame for a 38-year-old). I've always been an indoors-y person, so I didn't really expect to hit the Big Darby Creek and navigate the river like Tao Berman (thanks, Google!). But even for a beginner, I SUCKED. I had trouble getting the hang of steering, and I somehow managed to capsize FOUR times (which, unless you're Lucille Austero, is probably a tough feat to pull off). I also scraped the shit out of my leg, which is extra-sucky because now I'm starting to actually care how my legs look. On top of all that, my friend was stuck with a leaky kayak, which turned our pleasant kayaking trip into a nerve-wracking quest to simply make it back to Trapper John's.

Despite all that, there were stretches where I had fun and felt somewhat competent. I made it back in one piece. I didn't end up seriously injured, sunburned, or devoured by bugs, and at some point I plan to get back on the river and conquer that bastard. My kayaking trip was pretty much a metaphor for Tarvaris Jackson's NFL career.

You all know the story. Jackson was a stunning 2nd-round pick out of Alabama State by the Vikings in 2006, and flashed some skills in his brief stint as Minnesota's starting QB. He led the Vikings to the playoffs in 2008, but was replaced by Brett Favre in 2009 and left for a shot at a starting job in Seattle in 2011. Long-time readers know that I've always been one of Jackson's staunchest defenders, and I've always argued that while he was never going to lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, he has the skill set to be a competent NFL QB. In 2011, he had obvious problems (mainly his tendency to hold onto the ball far too long), but he also showed potential for brilliance in spurts (particularly in his ability to throw beautiful, accurate deep balls).

Jackson was cut during 2012 training camp after the acquisitions of Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson, and T-Jack languished on the bench in Buffalo last season. With Buffalo's signing of Kevin Kolb, and Seattle's trade of Flynn to Oakland, the path was cleared for Jackson's return to the Seahawks.

Despite some of the deficiencies in his game, Jackson was a locker-room leader for the Seahawks in 2011. He led by example, fighting through injuries and playing through pain most of the season. His return to Seattle this offseason made sense, given his familiarity with the Bevell's offense and his popularity among his fellow players. My gut feeling was that he'd thrive in a back-up role, free from the pressure of being the "franchise quarterback."

Through one preseason game, Jackson appears to be proving me right. Against San Diego T-Jack went 8-for-9 for 128 yards, 2 TDs, no interceptions and a 158.3 passer rating. His 42-yard scoring strike to Stephen Williams was one of the prettiest deep passes you are likely to ever see, and he seems to have seized a clear lead over Brady Quinn in the race to be Russell Wilson's understudy this season.

If everything goes to plan, Tarvaris Jackson won't take a regular-season snap for anything but the victory formation this year. But as the rash of preseason injuries around the NFL has shown us, things rarely go according to plan in this league. It's LIKELY that Wilson will get dinged at some point this season. That's a terrifying thought for Twelves, but I'm here to tell you that Tarvaris Jackson can lead this team for a few weeks if The WolfBadger goes down.

I really think that the story of Seattle's glorious march to Super Bowl XLVIII is going to include a chapter where Tarvaris Jackson is the protagonist, and that's OK with me. T-Jack has capsized more than once, and he's got the scars to prove it... But he's back in the kayak, and he'll get to shore safely.

What do you think, sirs?

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