By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — T-Jack is back. Well, OK, he’s not quite back yet, but the Seahawks are expected to sign quarterback Tarvaris Jackson today.
“Not officially,” Jackson wrote on Twitter to a fan asking if he was officially returning to Seattle. “… Headed that way tomorrow to make it official.”
The Seahawks couldn’t announce a move yet because it wasn’t final, but they did go ahead and free up No. 7 just in case, switching undrafted rookie safety Ray Polk from that number to 38. In other words, Jackson isn’t on the roster yet, but they’re getting ready for him.
Ever since the Buffalo Bills released Jackson on Monday, a return to Seattle just made too much sense not to happen. Jackson in all likelihood is a better option as a backup quarterback than anyone currently on the roster. He knows the coaching staff, Seattle’s playbook and many of the players, and as much as Russell Wilson won everyone over last year, Jackson is still very highly thought of in the Seahawks’ locker room.
“It’s great,” receiver Sidney Rice said of Jackson’s expected return. “I don’t think he ever wanted to leave here. It’s a great opportunity for him to be here, he’s got a lot of friends here. Everybody was kind of upset when he left, so we’ll welcome him back with open arms.”
The Seahawks are set at starting quarterback this year and for the foreseeable future with Russell Wilson running the offense, but since trading Matt Flynn to Oakland, the backup quarterback spot has been a big question mark. Former first-round pick Brady Quinn was signed in the offseason and until this week seemed to have the inside track on the job. Then there’s Jerrod Johnson, a player with a lot of physical upside but no NFL regular season experience. The Seahawks also re-signed Josh Portis, then later released him following a DUI arrest.
If Wilson starts 16 games next season, the backup quarterback won’t matter. If Wilson’s sidelined for a start or two, how comfortable would you be with Quinn, a player who has thrown five more interceptions than touchdowns in his career and completed 53.8 percent of his passes, running Seattle’s offense? Maybe a fresh start with little pressure will help Quinn, but again, does a team with Super Bowl potential want to count on him for a few games if necessary?
Jackson, meanwhile, will return to Seattle with more experience under his belt and a better track record than any of the Seahawks’ current backup options. He also has the locker room credibility that comes with having played through a partially torn pectoral muscle for most of the season.
So respected was Jackson that it’s fair to wonder if last year’s three-way quarterback competition only lasted as long as it did because Pete Carroll knew Jackson was too popular in his locker room to just cut loose without a chance to earn the starting job.
“He was a warrior out there, fighting through an injury that most guys would have shut it down with,” said Doug Baldwin, who was Seattle’s leading receiver in 2011 catching passes from Jackson. “Guys looked at that and they respected that and they appreciated that. He’ll be welcomed here with open arms.”
Seattle’s decision to trade Jackson made sense last year. Once the starting job was Wilson’s, there was no need to keep both Flynn and Jackson, so the Seahawks moved their former starter for a seventh-round pick. But now that Jackson is available, it’s something of a no-brainer for Seattle to at least let him compete for the backup job.
After all, Jackson did go 7-7 as a starter in 2011 on a far inferior roster to the current one, and he did so playing most of the season with an injury that severely limited his ability to practice and throw at full strength. Could Quinn, whose numbers are worse than Jackson’s pretty much across the board, have done that on the 2011 team? Seems doubtful, doesn’t it?
Add the fact that Jackson has played for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Minnesota and Seattle, will be familiar with his Seattle’s receivers — even the newly-signed Percy Harvin, with whom he played in Minnesota — and the aforementioned respect Jackson has with Seahawks players, and this had to be one of the easiest roster decisions Carroll and John Schneider have made.
About the only thing that could have gotten in the way of a Jackson-Seahawks reunion would have been Jackson’s unwillingness to come to a team where there was no chance of starting — barring injury, of course. That doesn’t appear to be an issue based on how quickly this process has gone, and even as a backup, Jackson can still help the Seahawks.
“His presence in the locker room is different; he’s a character, but he’s a leader as well,” Baldwin said. “Regardless of his role on the team, he’ll be welcomed back with open arms, because he’s a great guy.
“His knowledge of the game is impressive. He has this vast knowledge of the game, he helped me tremendously when I was a rookie, so it’s going to be exciting to have him back.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.