From day one, and without competition, Tarvaris Jackson was named the starting quarterback by Pete Carroll. After an 0-2 start, impatience and criticism from fans grew large, and Jackson received most of the blame for the offense’s struggles. In the game against Arizona, boos and chants for Charlie Whitehurst roared from the stands at Century Link Field.
Two weeks after Jackson was injured during the win against the Giants, Whitehurst was named the starter against Cleveland. In that game, the Browns offense scored a total of six points, yet the Seahawks still lost. Whitehurst, despite having two weeks to prepare to play against a subpar team, went 12-30 for 97 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. A week later, Whitehurst got the start again at home against Cincinnati, but was benched for Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the first quarter. Let me repeat that: Pete Carroll decided that an injured Jackson (pectoral strain, plus a knee injury that occurred later in the game) was a better option than a healthy Whitehurst.
With this being the final year remaining on Whitehurst’s contract, this season will likely be his last in Seattle. Whitehurst had two starts to prove himself, but the only thing he proved is that Pete Carroll made the right decision when he named Jackson the starting quarterback. Even if Seattle drafts a quarterback in the first round of next year’s draft, the immediate future of the team belongs to Jackson, and I expect that he will remain the starter through at least the end of the 2012 season.
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Jackson’s stats aren’t very appealing (7 touchdowns to 11 interceptions), but they don’t tell the whole story. Despite playing with a pectoral strain on his throwing side, Jackson’s play has improved immensely over the course of the season. His veteran leadership has earned him the respect of his teammates, who voted to make him a team captain, and he takes responsibility for his performances by owning up to his mistakes.
However, Jackson isn’t the only one to blame for the Seahawks’ struggles. Jackson has had some trouble sustaining drives, but I believe most of the blame for that belongs to the young, inexperienced offensive line he plays behind and all their false starts and holding penalties. If Matt Hasselbeck was still here and playing behind this line, he wouldn’t have been able to post the numbers that he has this season in Tennessee. Still, once the linemen work through their growing pains, Jackson will benefit greatly from all the promising young talent up front.
Jackson has been through a lot already in his career. In Minnesota he was benched for Brett Favre after being considered at one time to be the future of the franchise, and after moving to Seattle he got to spend the first half of the season being booed by the 12th Man. In bouncing back from that, Jackson has displayed great mental toughness, and he’s shown flashes of still having the potential to be a franchise quarterback. In fact, he’s fared better this season than half the quarterbacks in the NFL, including Kevin Kolb, for whom Arizona gave up its draft picks, its firstborn child, and its kitchen sink.
Jackson is now 4-4 as a starter, and he’s beaten two of the league’s top teams, the Ravens and Giants. He and his teammates still need to learn how to finish out games, but his numbers will improve next year once he’s had an opportunity to get healthy and gets an actual full training camp to acclimate. Had it not been for the lockout, Seattle would be contending for another division title, but that will come in due course. For now, Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks just need time to develop together.