BY Art Thiel 08:03PM 05/04/2012

Thiel: Late-game play will choose Seahawks QB

Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson are locked into a joust for Seahawks’ No. 1 QB. So far, everyone is terribly polite about the whole thing. Perhaps they will take a cue from politicians.

Matt Flynn said all the right things Friday regarding competition between him and Tarvaris Jackson for the Seahawks starting QB job. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

Merely for the sake of variety, it would be intriguing to hear two quarterbacks dead-heated for the starting job throw down verbally like, say, presidential candidates.

“As president, my rival would destroy the freedoms and liberties that generations of Americans have given their lives to preserve.” Countered by:

“As president, my rival would be toxic to every life form on the planet.”

You know, really stupid stuff that demeans speaker and audience but fills the conversational marketplace with the empty calories it craves.

Except for boxing, hydroplane and stock-car racing, sports generally try to avoid the inflammatory. As did Pete Carroll Friday, when the Seahawks coach swerved his crew away from rhetorical nonsense to blandness.

Knowing that the most intriguing debate in Seattle sports this spring and summer is the identity of the Seahawks’ starting quarterback, Carroll offered up the decisive metric between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and newcomer Matt Flynn.

“Who said ‘competition’ the most?” Carroll said, grinning. “Whoever said that
word the most when they were up here (getting interviewed), he’s ahead right now.”

Players’ quoting of Carroll’s mantra is a clear path to brownie points and journalistic amusement,  but it sheds no light. Which is, of course, the point. No voluntary practice in May will be decisive in a final call that could await the completion of exhibition season in August.

That is the polar opposite of a year ago, when, without a single Seahawks practice, Jackson was declared the starter over Charlie Whitehurst, who backed up Matt Hasselbeck.

The decision to hand Jackson the job, rather than earn, Carroll explained then, was because the shortened pre-season, due to the belated resolution of the NFL lockout, left no choice but to slam in the more experienced Jackson. The free agent from Minnesota acquitted himself better than most observers expected. But all that bought Jackson this spring was two competitors — Flynn and third-round draft choice Russell Wilson — and the nominal No. 1 position in practice this week, where he gets the most snaps.

In his first meeting with reporters since free agency and the draft, Jackson predictably shrugged off the threats to his livelihood, although he did hint that he would prefer otherwise.

“I’m not a GM, I’m not a head coach, so I can’t go and pick exactly who they want, or
say, ‘Don’t get a quarterback,’” Jackson said, then he smiled. “If I could, I would, believe me. But that’s not how things work, so I’m just here to compete and may the best man win.”

Flynn joined Jackson in assuring that nothing so far seems pointed toward to a cat-fighting TV reality show, “Real QBs of Renton.”

“We hit it off as soon as I got here and we’ve got a good relationship,” Flynn said. “It’s kind of cool. We’re in meetings and we’re kind of learning off each other.

“I think we’re trying to push each other and, when the time comes, I know that we’re going to lean on each other.”

Based on contracts alone, the conventional wisdom is that the Seahawks invested three years and $26 million, including $10 million guaranteed, in Flynn because he can get them farther than Jackson, who is making $4 million in the last of a two-year deal. But Jackson, 29, has played in 51 NFL games, including 34 starts. Flynn, 27 next month, has only two starts and minimal play in 32 other games as backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Carroll nevertheless endorsed Flynn’s capacity for quick study.

“He’s really bright and he has no problems,” he said. “He’s out here on the field handling stuff right off the bat – handling the checks and helping guys with adjustments already. So he’s gifted. He understands ball and he’ll be able to pick it up. There’ll be no issue about that.”

“Understanding ball” may be the key phrase in interpreting Carroll’s words for clues. Jackson acknowledged obliquely that that may have been his biggest shortcoming.

Asked what drew most of his off-season work, Jackson said, “Things like the two-minute situations and the end-of-game situations I could have done a lot better job of not turning the football over, finishing with points and just being more consistent.

“We didn’t have any drives to win the game at the end of the game and that’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do. So that kind of irks me a little bit. During the off-season I’ve been trying to get better at that.”

Friends for life or ruthless foes, the better QB in that phase of the game will start in September.

Instead of what happened last year, Carroll is thrilled to be have a full summer to make the call.

“There’s no timeline,” he said. “The format is really just to do everything I can to organize it and orchestrate so that they get a legit shot at showing what they can do
with all of the guys that are available. Just make it a real cool process and hopefully it will show itself somewhere down the road.”

Not since Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer had a little back-and-forth for the starting job a decade ago has there been much of a quarterback debate in Seattle. Even then, the mentor-student relationship defined what was going to happen. Last year, no one much cared whether Whitehurst, who in March went back to San Diego in free agency, was given a shot.

But now, not only are the two more experienced guys locking horns, third-stringer Josh Portis is back and will attempt to hold off Wilson, the rookie from Wisconsin who makes Carroll swoon when talking about his ability to overcome his 5-foot-11 height.

So far it’s all gentlemanly and sporting. We can only hope that they aspire to the same rhetorical recklessless that marks the national political leadership. It’s an election year, and people must be made to pay attention.


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    I expect Flynn to emerge as the starter by midseason, although I wouldn’t count Jackson out just yet…he really didn’t have a training camp last year and had to spend the entire season learning a new playbook under new coaches with new teammates.  The brainlock he’d have on some “HAVE to do it here” plays is a real concern, but it’ll be interesting to see if Jackson shows he’s more ready to play for the Seahawks this season.  Lack of knowledge or experience with his team is no longer an excuse, if it ever was.  Even though I don’t envision him starting beyond the earliest games in Seattle in 2012, I like Jackson and hope he can contribute.

    The REAL long-term competition may be between Portis and Wilson for 3rd QB.  If Jackson is gone after this year, one of those guys should be expected to step in for Flynn next year if he gets hurt.  I love Portis’ athleticism, but Wilson’s a great athlete, too, and off-the-charts as a locker room guy in college.

  • RadioGuy

    I expect Flynn to emerge as the starter by midseason, although I wouldn’t count Jackson out just yet…he really didn’t have a training camp last year and had to spend the entire season learning a new playbook under new coaches with new teammates.  The brainlock he’d have on some “HAVE to do it here” plays is a real concern, but it’ll be interesting to see if Jackson shows he’s more ready to play for the Seahawks this season.  Lack of knowledge or experience with his team is no longer an excuse, if it ever was.  Even though I don’t envision him starting beyond the earliest games in Seattle in 2012, I like Jackson and hope he can contribute.

    The REAL long-term competition may be between Portis and Wilson for 3rd QB.  If Jackson is gone after this year, one of those guys should be expected to step in for Flynn next year if he gets hurt.  I love Portis’ athleticism, but Wilson’s a great athlete, too, and off-the-charts as a locker room guy in college.

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  • Fision

    Radio Guy. Not to rain on your parade too much, but Jackson was named the starter as it mentions in the article above because of the shortend off season and his experience with the incoming OC who was also his coach at Min. While there may have been some changes in the playbook, the scheme was almost exactly the same as it was in Min. I wouldn’t count on TJ suddenly being able to grasp the playbook and game to the point where he is making the quick desion throws that he simply was not able to make last year. TJ is gone after this year anyway if not sooner.

  • Fision

    Radio Guy. Not to rain on your parade too much, but Jackson was named the starter as it mentions in the article above because of the shortend off season and his experience with the incoming OC who was also his coach at Min. While there may have been some changes in the playbook, the scheme was almost exactly the same as it was in Min. I wouldn’t count on TJ suddenly being able to grasp the playbook and game to the point where he is making the quick desion throws that he simply was not able to make last year. TJ is gone after this year anyway if not sooner.

  • Bobby

    Get rid of Tarvaris now as he is taking the snaps Flynn should be taking! Why waste time as we know Tarvaris isn’t the player we need at Quarterback! Flynn should easily be our starter and let the 2nd & 3rd stringers battle  for #2! Seems silly to keep him…

  • Bobby

    Get rid of Tarvaris now as he is taking the snaps Flynn should be taking! Why waste time as we know Tarvaris isn’t the player we need at Quarterback! Flynn should easily be our starter and let the 2nd & 3rd stringers battle  for #2! Seems silly to keep him…

  • johntheonly

    As far as Jackson not having a pre-season last year; he had 5 or 6 of them in Minnesota, and he has reached his ceiling as a QB….kind of a 7-9, 8-8 guy. There were something like 13 teams between 7-9 and 9-7 last year, after the last few (yawn-grumble), exciting seasons of football, I want to see someone outstanding playing the most important position on the field. It should really be Flynn, I heard that he hates losing so much that he wins. Russell Wilson is really good at that “winning thing” too.

  • johntheonly

    As far as Jackson not having a pre-season last year; he had 5 or 6 of them in Minnesota, and he has reached his ceiling as a QB….kind of a 7-9, 8-8 guy. There were something like 13 teams between 7-9 and 9-7 last year, after the last few (yawn-grumble), exciting seasons of football, I want to see someone outstanding playing the most important position on the field. It should really be Flynn, I heard that he hates losing so much that he wins. Russell Wilson is really good at that “winning thing” too.

  • D_Hawk

    It is bad enough when part-time bloggers state “the Seahawks invested three years and $26 million” in Flynn. They didn’t. $7 mil of that is escalators and bonus money, and if he ends up earning all $26 mil it will be a steal for Seattle because it likely means he’s made a couple Pro Bowls and won some playoff games.

  • D_Hawk

    It is bad enough when part-time bloggers state “the Seahawks invested three years and $26 million” in Flynn. They didn’t. $7 mil of that is escalators and bonus money, and if he ends up earning all $26 mil it will be a steal for Seattle because it likely means he’s made a couple Pro Bowls and won some playoff games.