RENTON — Tarvaris Jackson can’t let himself think back and wonder what might have been had a few things gone differently in an up-and-down career. He knows that wondering “what if?” is an exercise in futility.
“It is what it is right now,” the Seahawks’ backup quarterback said. “I don’t want to look back and say, ‘If I had done this, if I wouldn’t have gotten hurt, if this hadn’t happened.’ I mean, you’ll kill yourself, you’ll go crazy if you do that. My career is what it is right now, and I’m just trying to make the best of each opportunity I get, and that’s pretty much it.”
Yet even if Jackson won’t do it, it’s hard not to ask “what if?” when it comes to his career, especially when the Seahawks are playing in New York for the first time since Jackson suffered a torn pectoral muscle against the Giants in 2011.
What if the Vikings hadn’t landed Brett Favre in 2009, would Jackson have succeeded with a very talented Minnesota offense? Or what if Jackson hadn’t played half of the 2011 season with an injury that severely limited his ability to practice and for that matter, to throw a football, which is kind of important in his line of work. Would he have played better, causing the Seahawks or some other team to view him as a viable starting option in 2012?
“Whether it’s been injuries or just situations, he’s shown great toughness physically and he’s shown great toughness mentally,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who also coached Jackson in Minnesota. “He’s really been through a lot in his career. Whether it’s not playing, then he’s starting, then he’s on the bench, then he’s back in again, and then he’s injured, I mean he’s gone through a lot and he’s handled it like a pro every single time.
“I’ve never seen him flinch, I’ve just seen him handle it exactly the way that you want a guy to. I mean he’s respected as a teammate in the locker room because of how he played, what he played through, what he did for the team, and then who he is and how he handles himself in all of those types of situations.”
Jackson has had his chances to prove he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL, to be sure, yet he’s also fought through some unusual circumstances throughout his career. Nobody is suggesting he was the better option than Favre in 2009 and 2010, or that the Seahawks aren’t better off for going with Russell Wilson last year, but still, it’s hard not to imagine how with a few different breaks, Jackson’s career could have gone differently if not for all of that Favre retirement drama or that injury he suffered in New York two years ago.
When Jackson suffered a partially torn right pectoral muscle against the Giants in 2011, he only sat out one game, then came off the bench the following week when it was clear an injured Jackson was a better option than a healthy Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson wasn’t great the rest of that year, but he played pretty well, especially considering the injuries on Seattle’s offensive line that season, and more importantly the fact that he was barely practicing during the week.
“You don’t really know how much you miss until you’re not practicing, but I really just wanted to play, so if that’s what it took, I was willing to do it,” he said. “I would have liked to get the reps during the week, get the different looks, get the timing down, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that.”
The Seahawks finished the season with a 5-4 record with Jackson as their starter, and while the offense was far from spectacular down the stretch, players on this year’s team have pointed back to the second half of the season, and particularly a stretch of five wins in six weeks, as a turning point that set up the success they’ve enjoyed the past two seasons.
“It was a heroic, stellar performance by a guy who. … he was hurt,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Half of his pec was torn on his throwing side. You just can’t do that. He couldn’t throw during the week. He’d throw five or six balls and then he’d go out and play, and he was tough about it. He never said anything about it, and he gave us a chance to win. He totally won everybody over and we love him for that and we continue to feel really lucky we have him on our team.”
Jackson deserves some of the credit for that turnaround, and he definitely deserves — and has received — and ton of credit for playing through what would be a season-ending injury for most football players. His willingness to tough it out that season didn’t just earn him respect in the locker room at the time, it was also a big reason why teammates openly lobbied for the Seahawks to re-sign Jackson when the Buffalo Bills released him this summer. And most significantly for the current team, Jackson is the reason the Seahawks believe they could be a successful team in the event of an injury to Wilson.
“He’s resilient, he’s a standup guy and he’s going to be there for his teammates,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “He’s always accountable for his actions, and lot of guys respected that. You could tell he was hurt, but he was still doing his best, and if he’d make a mistake he would own up to it. Him owning up to it with people knowing he was hurt, that got him a lot of respect in the locker room.”
Jackson, 30, still believes he can be a successful NFL starter, as do his teammates, but for now, he’s not worrying about that, or thinking about what might have been had he not suffered a serious injury in New York two years ago.
“Everybody has to know their role, but at the same time, I don’t look at myself as a backup,” he said. “I feel I can go out there and make plays and do some of the things I see some of these guys doing every week, but right now I’m just focusing on doing what I can to help the team. … Whenever you’re winning it’s always great, but it’s been a different experience. I’m embrace it and I’m enjoying it.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.