A task made difficult—even more so than a 1,000-piece puzzle of a Jackson Pollock painting—by the daily "Look what I can do, Coach!" or "Look what he can't do, Coach!" efforts from each quarterback involved.
Though similar in multiple ways—both remain toss-ups at this point, and both feature an incumbent, career backup and rookie—the battle in Seattle holds more intrigue than its counterpart (unless, of course, you're a Dolphins fan) for three simple reasons: playoff implications, unknown commodities and the element of surprise.
Before we get to that, let's take a closer look at each situation.
Who: Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson
Jackson, the incumbent and current leader by a nose hair, threw for 3,091 yards, 14 touchdowns (13 interceptions) and posted a 79.2 rating in 2011. He proved himself as an adequate starter but lacked the consistency needed for a playoff push.
Though unproven, Flynn has shined when given an opportunity—usually mop-up duty and two career starts. In his last start, a victory over Detroit in Green Bay's season finale, he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns. The potential is there, as is the potential to be Kevin Kolb 2.0.
Then, there's Russell, a third-round selection in April's draft with a cannon for an arm—perhaps, the biggest of this group. Drafted to provide depth at the position, Russell has quickly surpassed expectations, impressing enough to warrant consideration for the starting gig.
"He's showed us enough," coach Pete Carroll told reporters, according to ESPN, at the team's rookie minicamp. "He's in the competition. And that is going to tax us, as you know. It was already going to be taxing with two. But he's shown us enough that we need to see where he fits in with these guys."
Who: Matt Moore, David Garrard, Ryan Tannehill
One would assume it to be Moore's job—after leading the Dolphins to a 6-3 finish and earning team MVP honors—to lose, but that's not that case—not in Miami. Garrard, who sat out all of last season recovering from back surgery, took the majority of first-team reps in OTAs. But there's plenty of time for coach Joe Philbin to figure things out and for the other competitors to assert themselves.
Moore and Garrard are both steady, middle-of-the-pack veterans with contrasting styles of play. Moore is more of a natural drop-back passer, and Garrard, though able to stand in the pocket, tends to scramble and make plays outside the pocket with his legs and arm.
Tannehill is the unproven rookie, a converted wide receiver at Texas A&M, with little experience as a starting quarterback. He's big and athletic—6'4", 220 pounds and runs a 4.62 40-yard dash—and has the highest ceiling of the group but may need time adjusting to the position at the NFL level. This is a tough call considering his high draft status—eighth overall selection—and physical attributes.
With just two spots available under center—one in Miami, one in Seattle—and six players vying for it, expect a heated contest on both ends of the country. My focus, however, will be geared on the Pacific Northwest, and again, here's why.
Look for both teams to improve in 2012 but only the Seahawks—7-9 last season—to contend for the postseason.
As members of the AFC East—with the New England Patriots, New York Jets and an up-and-coming Buffalo Bills—and road games at San Francisco and Houston, the Dolphins face an uphill climb to reach the playoffs.
The roster, though talented, lacks the depth to make a realistic run. And the quarterback—whoever gets the nod—will not be relied upon for much other than force-feeding a potent rushing attack led by Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller.
The Seahawks have the smoother path (albeit still steep) and a less-grueling schedule (albeit still grueling). They're a young, confident and well-coached team that needs solid quarterback play to get over the hill. Carroll wants to win now and starting the wrong guy will throw a wrench in his plans.
We know what Moore can do (and can't do), and we've seen what Garrard brings to the table. Tannehill is the lone question mark of the trio, likely to remain unanswered until further development and proper coaching.
Moore is an unequivocal leader with limited arm strength and mobility; Garrard is a fighter and scrappy playmaker on the gridiron. Neither wows with his abilities, but there's a consistency in the way each one approaches the game. Like a movie you've already watched.
Seattle's three-person race is more of a Let's Make a Deal episode than anything. What's behind doors one, two and three remain a mystery, and we're inching closer to the edge of our seats to find out. Jackson is the only one known among the group, but even he's a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde on the field. Jaw-dropping plays quickly followed by head-scratching decisions.
The million—well, multi-million—dollar question is if Matt Flynn is ready to be a starting quarterback. Five years in the league and multiple brief appearances later, we still don't know. Being on the same team and playing the same position as Aaron Rodgers can do that. Now, he's on a new team, with a new offense and new teammates. How he adapts is already intriguing enough.
Standing 5'10"—shorter than most of his peers, especially those at the quarterback position—but playing much larger is Wilson—the rookie—the one yet to throw an NFL pass.
His stature and tight spirals draw comparisons to Drew Brees, but until he steps onto the field on Sunday, he's just an unknown commodity.
Element of Surprise
Tannehill has already been dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart—allowing him to sit, watch and learn—leaving Moore and Garrard to wrestle for No. 1.
Few surprises there.
But when—and if—the losses pile up, Tannehill's tenure may be sooner than later.
Over in Seattle, anything can happen—with a photo-finish, all three stretching, reaching as far out as possible toward that Sept. 9 finish line—the likely end result.
Length of neck may be the tiebreaker.
An article like this is incomplete without a prediction.
So, who wins?
With training camp and preseason games to factor into final decision, I'm making the early prediction that Matt Flynn—money talks—and Matt Moore win their respective battles. Sounds like a good day to be a Matt.
What are your thoughts?
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