Who will be the Seahawks' quarterback?
OK, you've been warned. Shall we proceed? Good.
The Seahawks wrapped up their final minicamp Thursday afternoon, the last team activity between now and training camp. And when camp opens in late July, one question will dominate the discussion until Pete Carroll names a starting quarterback.
Who's it going to be, Pete?
Since declaring the quarterback competition a three-way battle between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, free agent signing Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson, Carroll has given no clues about who will be the Seahawks quarterback. And it's not that Carroll is trying to toy with the media or fans, but rather that he still has no idea who will be his team's best option come Sept. 9 when they open the regular season in Arizona.
"It's going to take us until we start playing (preseason) games to where we'll see something happen," Carroll said. "At this point they're doing everything they can do with the opportunities and they look good, so I can't tell you that there's anything that has happened other than we'll stay with the same format going into camp."
That format involves all three quarterbacks splitting reps with the first team equally. It may not mean equal work each day, but over the course of a week, all three will be given a chance to show what they can do.
"Let the games begin," Carroll said. "We'll be really excited to see what happens."
This will be exciting, and perhaps excruciating, for Seahawks fans for a number of reasons, most notably because quarterback is the single most important position in football. In Seattle, it is also the team's biggest question mark. What also makes this three-way battle so intriguing is that it represents the first true quarterback competition for the Seahawks in a decade.
After coming to Seattle in a trade following the 2001 season, Matt Hasselbeck took a season to pry the job away from Trent Dilfer, but once he held that job, he held it through 2010. Sure there was a "competition" between Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst in 2010, but it took about half of one practice to see that Hasselbeck was light years ahead of the challenger.
Last year, Carroll snuffed out the idea of a quarterback competition at the beginning of training camp, naming Jackson the starter over Whitehurst because Jackson had familiarity with the new offense, which gave him the advantage in the lockout-shortened preseason.
This year, however, we've got ourselves an honest-to-goodness competition, and what will make it especially interesting is the fact that it's not going to end anytime soon. Sure, Carroll could decide to make it a two-man race early in camp. But as he has said on a few occasions, he'll need to see how the quarterbacks perform in preseason games to make a final decision because there is only so much a quarterback can show in a practice setting.
The fact is that for a quarterback to be on an NFL roster, he is going to be capable of looking good while throwing a ball in shorts in a non-contact practice in which he knows that neither he nor his receivers will be hit. There are notable exceptions, but for the most part, any quarterback who has made it this far in his career is going to look good in a June minicamp. That's not to say OTAs and minicamps aren't without merit, but the coaching staff really won't know who is the best quarterback until they see how a player responds to a defensive end in his face, or how he handles a two-minute situation, or how he reads a defense before the snap and makes the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Those are the things that separate the average quarterbacks from the great ones in the NFL, not how they throw the ball in May to an uncovered receiver.
And let's not kid ourselves, this isn't an ideal situation. As people disparaging platoon situations in college football like to say, if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one. So what the heck do you have when you're dealing with three quarterbacks? Well, the short answer is a mess. Whoever wins this quarterback battle will be at a disadvantage compared to other starters around the league who didn't have to split practice reps well into training camp.
"It's going to hold that guy back a little bit, there's no question," Carroll said. "If you had your starter going he'd probably be taking two-to-one snaps over everybody else, so it's not like that. It's going to hold us back a bit, but we're not worried about it at this time. We've got plenty of time."
But over the long haul, this is the right move for the Seahawks. Seattle has built a very good defense, and seems to have the pieces in place to have a strong running game after promising finish to the 2011 season. The biggest unanswered question on this team, both in 2012 and in the long-term, is at quarterback.
So, while the loss of practice reps will no doubt be a temporary setback to the Seahawks' 2012 starter, identifying the right man for the job is worth letting this battle linger deep into August. Even if that means a steady stream of quarterback competition stories between now and whenever Carroll makes a final decision.
Just remember, you've been warned.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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