A number of polls taken over the Internet have revealed that the 12th man is ready to see Charlie Whitehurst take over as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. However, we learned on Tuesday that Pete Carroll is officially sticking with Tarvaris Jackson.
So how big of a dilemma is this?
Based on this Seattle PI poll from Monday, only seven percent of fans think Jackson should remain un-judged after his two preseason games.
Based on my poll, taken from Monday into Tuesday—albeit a much smaller sample—under 11 percent (as of this writing) of fans want to see Jackson start Week 3; 77 percent want Whitehurst. Josh Portis garnered the rest of the votes.
On Monday evening, I dove into Pete Carroll’s book Win Forever to see what his anecdotes about football experiences past and his team-building philosophy could offer to the situation.
Given the disparity in opinion between the 12th man and Carroll’s postgame comments, I decided this was as good a place as any to look for some insight.
Some of his thoughts presented in the book struck a chord in relation to his postgame comments that he wasn’t currently in the mindset of thinking about or having a competition; they simply needed to get better to help Jackson.
I thought that if he was truly intent on sticking with Jackson, he would play Jackson for most, if not all, of the first-team snaps in Denver. He wouldn’t jump ship to Charlie Whitehurst, not after two preseason games. Come Tuesday evening, I wasn’t surprised by his comments.
Per The News Tribune, on Whitehurst playing with the first team, Carroll said, “It depends on how the game goes. I have got to wait and see how it works out. Right now I don’t know that yet. But I’m not worried about that. Charlie is functioning beautifully. He’s doing fine right now, and he’s pushing hard. He’s farther along than I thought he’d be this early. He’s very comfortable with what’s going on, and it just makes us stronger at the QB spot.”
He has already said he thinks Jackson gives the Seahawks the best chance to win now. In theory, whenever he feels Jackson doesn't give the Seahawks the best chance to “win now” is when he’ll open a competition. But because he’s already given Jackson the chance, he’s following his “philosophy” in how he handles Jackson.
Jackson was the starter before practicing with the team, which was surprising, but now I’m a little less surprised. A little back story about why:
When Carroll went to USC, he unveiled his football philosophy to his team during a late-night practice in the L.A. Coliseum, which ended up being an offense versus defense battle of tug-o-war, used as a tool to help explain the “buy in” mentality he would demand from his players.
How long will it take Carroll to change his mind, if play continues as is?
He told the team that their answers should be thoughtful and informed; all they needed to do to accept was drop a slip of paper in his office or leave a message with the words “I’m in.”
Before the lockout ended, Jackson went on Minnesota radio and called Seattle a good opportunity for him because of Darrell Bevell in particular. He theoretically bought in via the public airwaves before he even signed his contract. If Jackson did indeed come to Seattle coachable—“I’m in”—it makes sense why Carroll will go to great lengths to make sure that Jackson remains confident.
While Jackson hasn’t been impressive, he has been continuously under duress, constantly showing his strength and scrambling ability as a result. He played better in game two than in game one, but he hasn’t shown consistency or his capability in the downfield passing game. We have an incomplete, less than ideal sample.
To get the best information possible for learning Jackson's upside, Carroll may decide to preach a message about unity and trust to his team. He will put Jackson in positions where he can succeed—as he has with Charlie Whitehurst and learning the offense—instead of putting pressure on him not to fail.
Pete Carroll is a believer in self-affirmation and self-actualization. His focus is primarily on the positive, which is no secret.
If Carroll thinks that Whitehurst could be the answer soon, there's no reason to rush him until he truly shows that he is ready. Carroll publicly praised Whitehurst Tuesday, saying Whitehurst is doing everything he needs to. There is no reason to interfere with that “functioning beautifully,” for now.
Carroll admitted Whitehurst is coming along more quickly than he thought he would. I’m a believer in the argument that Whitehurst needs reps, something Whitehurst himself talked about in this postgame interview (towards the end).
But he needs his reps when he's ready to take advantage of the opportunity. Until Whitehurst reaches that point, will Carroll be afraid to fail in trying to get the absolute best out of Jackson?
No, because it’s not a given that Whitehurst will get to that point. Two games with presumably limited responsibilities and little success in the downfield passing game, against reserves, is not enough evidence to truly suggest he will get to that level. He’s surely improving, though.
Furthermore, considering the impact of the Brett Favre situation in Minnesota and the Seahawks’ acknowledgment of that issue, these two games are not reason to pull the rug out from under Jackson’s feet. Right now is Tarvaris' shot without competition; we don't know how long that will last.
As Carroll noted, he doesn’t know if Whitehurst will play with the starters in Denver. It's just speculation, but if Jackson plays well, he may get all the first-team reps since there isn’t a competition right now.
Plus, if Jackson is in a position to succeed late in the game, Carroll may jump at the opportunity to build Jackson’s confidence and improve the “learning” environment—a plan of action in line with the mindset of not thinking about a competition, instead trying to put his current starting quarterback in a position to win now.
If Carroll really is intent on giving Jackson the chance to start on Opening Day, the plan appears to be right on course—even if that means continuing to go against the grain or, in this case, agreeing to disagree with the majority of public opinion.