RENTON — No, this isn’t an ideal situation for Tarvaris Jackson.
A year after coming to Seattle and immediately earning the Seahawks’ starting quarterback job, Jackson was splitting reps with Matt Flynn, the man who just might be on his way to taking Jackson’s job. But even if a fight for his job isn’t what Jackson was hoping for, he of all people knows it could be a lot worse.
After all, the last time a Jackson-quarterbacked team added a free agent quarterback, the Vikings were pulling out all of the stops, private jet and all, to hand the job Jackson thought was his to an aging Brett Favre. Then they did it all over again a year later. (I mean, when you get a chance to cater to every whim of an attention-loving 40-year-old, you’ve got to take advantage, right?)
So while Jackson was obviously not rooting for the Seahawks to make a push for Flynn in free agency, he certainly wasn’t shocked by it. Nor will he turn the addition of Flynn into an excuse to complain about the tough hands he has been dealt throughout his career.
“These past couple of seasons and my whole career has been like a teaching tool for me as far as learning what type of person I am myself,” Jackson said. “I’ve got more in touch with myself and understand who I am as a man and as a football player, so it’s been big for me. This is nothing new for me. I’m just here to compete and do the best I can and let things play out and just be the best teammate I can be regardless of the situation. I’m going to be the best guy that I can be for this team.”
Jackson may or may not deserve to be Seattle’s starting quarterback in 2012, that will be determined by — you guessed it — a competition between him and Flynn. But what Jackson unquestionably does deserve is a heck of a lot of credit for the way he has handled his career since coming to Seattle.
Early last season, when the running game was nonexistent and pass protection was more of an abstract concept than it was an element of Seattle’s offense, Jackson didn’t use any of those issues as excuses as he and the offense struggled. When he came back from a partially torn pectoral muscle and was playing through more pain than any of us were probably aware, he showed considerable toughness and dedication to his team. And now, when his team added one quarterback in free agency and another (Russell Wilson) in the third round of the draft, Jackson will handle that with class and professionalism as well.
“It’s understood that we’re here to compete,” Jackson said. “We’re here to help each other as well. We’re teammates, but at the same time I’m pretty sure (Flynn) is going to give it his all to win the starting job with Josh (Portis), me and Russell. So we’re here just to compete and do the best that we can and let the coaches make the decisions.”
Though Jackson did, in a rather funny moment of honesty, add with a grin: “I’m not a G.M., I’m not a head coach, so I can’t go and pick who they want or say, ‘Don’t get a quarterback.’ If I could I would, believe me.”
Hey, sometimes handling a tough situation well means having a sense of humor about it too.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has made it clear over and over again that Flynn, despite being the top free agent quarterback this offseason not named Peyton Manning, will not be given anything. In case you hadn’t heard, Carroll enjoys himself a good competition, and even if everyone outside of the organization fully expects Flynn to end up as Seattle’s starter, Carroll will give Jackson every chance to keep his starting job. And according to Carroll, Jackson, despite having another hurdle thrown in front of him, is handling the situation about as well as anyone possibly could.
“They’re fiercely going to go battle for what they want and what they feel they own,” Carroll said. “But at the same time, this is about team and they do have to work with one another. T-Jack has done a great job of helping Matt. … T-Jack’s helping Matt understand what’s going on. When Matt brings something up, T-Jack will answer it to help him. That’s the epitome of what you’re looking for. I don’t expect anything less from T-Jack in his direction or Matt in his direction. I know they’ll help one another. It’s kind of like — it’s a great duel in a sense. There’s a gentleman part of that thing, but they’re going to fight their tails off when it comes time to show what they can do.”
Now, none of this is to say you should feel sorry for Jackson — well, unless they actually duel and he looses, because that would be unfortunate. There are worse fates in life than making $4 million to be a backup quarterback, and Jackson of all people knows that if he had done more with the chances he has had, he wouldn’t again find himself battling for a job. Even so, it’s hard to imagine some part of Jackson isn’t wondering who he wronged in a previous life to repeatedly find himself in these situations.
But whether he loves the current situation or not, Jackson, a quarterback who lost his job with the Vikings to Gus Frerrotte, and who not once, but twice though he was finally going to get his chance to start in Minnesota, only to have Favre show up at the last moment both times, won’t give up another starting job without a fight.
“I’m just here to do the best I can and compete with whoever is brought in, compete with my teammates, compete with myself and just be the best I can be and improve from last year,” he said. “I’m healthy, I’m looking forward to it.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.