Tarvaris Jackson knows nothing about job security. But he played well enough in 2011, leading the team to all seven of their wins, to put his team in a very dicey position when it comes to finding his replacement. With USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones dropping out of this year's draft class, Seattle finds themselves too far away from the elite picks, and perhaps underwhelmed by the remaining alternatives.
Coach Pete Carroll has to be praised for his ability to build a pair of seven win seasons (with a division title and a shocking playoff win for good measure) despite having a jumble of moving parts across his roster. But sooner or later, a coach seeking longevity wants to pair his fate with a franchise quarterback. Fifteen wins in two years keeps his seat relatively cool, but it also raises the stakes for the team.
What now, coach? asks the fan base. What now, coach? asks his quarterback. What now, coach? asks Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers, ready to tag-and-trade Matt Flynn. What now, indeed?
In Carroll's first two years in Seattle, the team has been extremely active in the draft -- and has ignored the quarterback position entirely. So far, that has been somewhat of a formula for success, as the team has addressed other needs.
Offensive line: Russell Okung (1st round, 2010) looks like a hit if he can stay healthy, even though James Carpenter (1st round, 2011) and John Moffitt (3rd round, 2011) have yet to come around.
Offensive skill players: Golden Tate (2nd round, 2010) might not be an impact player, but Doug Baldwin (6th round, 2011) certainly is. The team also sent draft picks in trades for Leon Washington and Marshawn Lynch, the latter a huge success.
Defensive backfield: Brandon Browner (undrafted FA, 2011), Richard Sherman (5th round, 2011), Earl Thomas (1st round, 2010) and Kam Chancellor (5th round, 2010) make up an imposing secondary with fewer holes than Philadelphia's high-priced dream team.
Linebacker: K.J. Wright (4th round, 2011) has fit Carroll's system immediately and looks like a long-term starter.
It's hard to argue with this kind of success up and down the draft board, for a team that had more holes than viable starters when he arrived. However, when it came time to look for a quarterback to compete with Matt Hasselbeck, Carroll went cheap. He swapped 2nd round picks with San Diego, agreeing to pick 20 spots later in exchange for Charlie Whitehurst, the team's little-known third-string quarterback. It turned out he was little-known for a reason, as there was very little that he did well.
Thus Carroll found himself in the somewhat embarrassing position of having to bring in another quarterback to compete with Whitehurst in 2011. The Seahawks' QB desperation was widely known, and they had briefly shown interest in Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb. However, they graciously allowed division rival Cardinals to overpay for Kolb's services (in both talent and dollars), and made do with unrestricted free agent Tarvaris Jackson.
After being slowed by a camp injury, Jackson did reasonably well in Dick Bevell's offense - which should be expected, since he had practiced in that system for four years in Minnesota. But success with him at quarterback seemed largely a function of gameplan rather than talent, as the Seahawks did not have a single 4th-quarter comeback win in 2011. With Tarvaris entering the lame duck year of a two-year deal, the Seahawks are rumored to be in the trade market once again.
Peter King thinks they are players for Peyton Manning. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and others have floated Matt Flynn. ESPN's Mike Sando brings up Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill as an option in the draft.
"We're looking for a great competitor," Carroll said at the NFL Combine, addressing the position. "We're looking for a guy that can really carry it when it's tough and make plays when you need it to happen, that affects guys around him in a real positive way because of what he brings."
This has Peyton Manning written all over it, and the Seahawks have Paul Allen's money to get it done with. But wait, there's more.
"There's a lot more to it than just physical stature. Really, we'd like to have a guy that can run a little bit and complement the running game and do something for us -- get out on the edge and threaten enough to keep the run game that we're so committed to alive and at its best."
Suddenly, this doesn't sound like Peyton at all. And I find it unlikely that the Seahawks pull off a tag-and-trade deal for the mobile but weak-armed Flynn, giving up huge dollars and draft value for a far less proven player than Kevin Kolb was a year ago. And the #12 pick overall is not a comfortable slot for drafting a second-tier quarterback like Tannehill.
Ironically, Tarvaris Jackson's success as starter may have resulted in putting the Seahawks in a difficult draft slot to find his replacement. With Carroll and his front office fully secure in their jobs, and having found success so far by not chasing after the big fish at quarterback, don't be surprised if T-Jax is your starter again in 2012.
If he gets them into the playoffs, then we'll really have a burning question in Seattle.
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