By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — This week will play out almost exactly like last week in the Seahawks’ quarterback competition.
After giving Tarvaris Jackson the first-team reps Tuesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Matt Flynn will take over with the No. 1 offense starting today, and will start Saturday’s preseason game. Flynn will play most or all of the first half, rookie Russell Wilson will play the second half, and Jackson will stand around wondering what the heck happened.
But, Carroll says, this does not mean Flynn has won the quarterback competition, nor does it mean that Jackson is out of the running, never mind the fact that he’ll go two weeks getting little practice and no game experience.
If this is all a bit confusing to you, well, join the club.
When Carroll decided on a three-man quarterback battle, you may or may not have understood his reasoning, but at least the mechanics of the competition made sense. Jackson, the incumbent, would get the first-team reps one day, Flynn, the free agent signing, would take over the next, then Wilson, the third-round pick, would be the man on Day 3. But by shifting gears last week, then sticking with the Flynn-Wilson duo this week, Carroll is sending out strong signals that the job is Flynn’s to lose, and that Jackson may be on borrowed time in Seattle. Carroll just won’t say it.
“He’s still in the competition, yes,” Carroll said of Jackson. “Absolutely he is. This is just the way I’ve chosen to do it. I’m banking on the 18 games (including preseason) we’ve seen him. He knows the offense, he knows what’s going on, and I watched him play last year practicing one day a week for five weeks, and he could function. I’m using all of that information to allow us the opportunity to see the other guys. … This is what the plan was all along if it worked out, and it has.”
And yes, as Carroll pointed out, Jackson did play for much of last season while practicing once a week because of a partially torn pectoral muscle, but that was after getting starter’s reps in training camp and the early part of the season. Come to think of it, the option last year was playing Jackson with limited preparation, or turning to Charlie Whitehurst, who clearly was not an NFL-caliber starter.
There is no way Jackson can be at his best come September with as little practice time as he is getting right now. Should he somehow end up being Seattle’s surprise starter, Jackson would be throwing to at least a couple of new receivers, players with whom he is building little chemistry while Flynn and Wilson take the bulk of the reps in practice and in games. Plus, was Jackson the caliber of quarterback the Seahawks are hoping for this season when he was the on one-practice-a-week schedule last season?
If Jackson really is in the competition — and fewer people believe he is each day — he needs to be getting some playing time in preseason games. And if the job is indeed Flynn’s to lose, it’s time to end the charade and name him the starter, or at least the front-runner to win the job.
Even as he insisted that the competition is still ongoing, Carroll did offer up that Flynn is ahead of Wilson, which is why Flynn again will play ahead of Wilson Saturday.
“This is where they sit right now,” Carroll said. “This is kind of what I thought would happen. I did consider (starting Wilson) as one of the possibilities, and it was going to be based on making the progress that we’re making.
“Matt’s done a really good job of commanding all of the stuff. He understands the game in great depth, and he gives us a veteran presence even though he hasn’t had a lot of starting time, because he recognizes defense, he’s well into the whole understanding of what’s going on on the other side of the ball., and it’s still a struggle for Russell to catch up with all of that stuff. He’s battling to get that done, and there’s a difference right now.”
So Flynn is ahead of Wilson, but where exactly does Jackson fit in if he isn’t getting a chance other than his once-a-week run with the starters on Tuesdays?
As Carroll would no-doubt point out, his job isn’t to keep us informed as much as it is to do what is best for the team. And there are reasons to be vague about the quarterback battle for the time being.
Maybe the Seahawks are waiting to see if Wilson is ready to be a backup ahead of Jackson so they can save $4 million by releasing Jackson. Or maybe they’re talking to the Jackson behind the scenes to see if he’s willing to take a pay cut rather than look for a new job.
Or maybe the Seahawks are hoping some quarterback-desperate team would offer up a late-round pick for Jackson, though that seems unlikely given his salary and the possibility that he’ll be available for much cheaper soon if the Seahawk do indeed decide to release him. Or maybe, as strange as it sounds, Carroll really does see Jackson as a viable candidate to win the starting job.
If it is that last option, if Jackson really is still in the competition, then one day of practice and no game time isn’t enough. Carroll says Jackson is still part of the battle, but last week and this week tell a different story.
And who knows, maybe things will change next week. Carroll did say Tuesday that Jackson, “Has to just hold for a little bit longer and then we’ll know more in another week.”
But right now, this quarterback battle looks suspiciously like a two-man race with Flynn established as the clear leader.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.