Who made the better QB deal, Seahawks or Cardinals?

RENTON — Tarvaris Jackson will start his 14th game on Sunday, the most he has started in a season during his six-year NFL career.

And while Jackson has hardly been spectacular, he has been good enough that, barring an unexpected move this offseason, he’ll start his 15th game in a Seahawks uniform next September. Getting the chance to start an entire season has been big for a quarterback who spent most of his career in Minnesota going back and forth from starter to backup before losing the starting job for good when Brett Favre arrived.

“It gave me confidence in coaches again,” Jackson said of this season. “It was a good situation throughout the whole process of before I came here or when I first got a call from coach — he sounded very confident in wanting me here. We had our ups and downs as an offense early in the season but we stuck together, he stuck with me, and we got better throughout the season.”

What’s shocking heading into Sunday’s season finale in Arizona is that Jackson may be the quarterback with the most job security between the two teams, a development no one expected prior to the start of this season.

When the Seahawks signed Jackson and let Matt Hasselbeck go, the assumption was that he’d have to fight Charlie Whitehurst for the job. And even when Jackson was named the starter, most assumed he was just a placeholder for somebody still in college. His contract — two years, $8 million — was small enough by quarterback standards that Seattle could move on easily enough if things didn’t work out, but now he has to be considered the favorite to be Seattle’s starter next season, whether the Seahawks draft a quarterback or not. Jackson has played well enough to show that, given the team’s success in the running game and on defense, Seattle can win with him, and those wins have put the Seahawks in a position where they won’t be drafting high enough to pick someone who likely would be ready to play right away.

“Yeah, that’s where we are,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when asked if they’re looking at Jackson as their 2012 starter. “We know where we are in that regard. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to look at the draft really hard and all of the opportunities — we’ll always do that at every position — but T-Jack … we know that he can function with our football team, that he can make us move and do a nice job for us.”

Of course, Jackson has seen enough in his career to know nothing is guaranteed.

“I understand how the NFL works,” he said. “This is my sixth year now and I know you guys understand I’ve been through probably the worst. So I don’t really see it getting any worse than that. I’m not complaining or anything, but nothing really surprises me right now in the NFL.”

Which brings us back to the Cardinals, who were anything but conservative in their quarterback search. When they traded a second-round pick and a Pro Bowl cornerback to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb, then inked him to a five-year deal that included $21 million in guaranteed money, they did so assuming they had found a long-term solution at the game’s most important position.

If this were a game of high-stakes poker — and really, what is a bigger gamble than trying to identify that always elusive Quarterback Of The Future? — the Seahawks would be the player who bet the bare minimum. If they decide they don’t like their hand, they can fold. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are all in with Kolb.

Seattle also looked at Kolb in the offseason and decided the price was too high. The Seahawks made a safer move, and while Kolb still could prove to be a franchise quarterback down the road, right now it looks like Seattle made the smarter decision.

Injuries have limited Kolb to nine games this season, and there’s a good chance he’ll be out again this weekend because of a concussion. Even when he has played, his numbers have been similar to Jackson’s, and it’s probably worth pointing out that Jackson has played a good portion of the season with a partially torn pectoral muscle — and doesn’t have the throw-it-to-Larry-Fitzgerald-play at his disposal. Arizona has played well in the second half of the season with backup John Skelton leading the offense, making some wonder if Skelton should keep the job.

Skelton has been diplomatic when asked about his team’s quarterback situation. But the fact that people are asking if he should be the quarterback ahead of a healthy Kolb shows just how tough it can be to find the right quarterback.

“The coaching staff has always been straightforward with me,” Skelton said. “They told me after last year that they were probably going to bring someone in, whether it was a draft pick or through free agency. Really, I’ve kind of had the mindset that whether it’s draft or free agent, I’m still going to work my tail off, I’m going to kind of act as if I’m the starter.”

The crazy thing is that Skelton just might battle for the starting job next season. And if that happens next season, that would be a sign that the Cardinals struck out in their search for a quarterback.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog.

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