It is becoming more and more clear as we near the kickoff of the 2011 NFL season that the Seattle Seahawks will not be serious contenders in any definition of the word. The parting of ways with longtime veterans such as Lofa Tatupu and Matt Hasselbeck, as well as the decision to start an incredibly inexperienced offensive line ensures that this year will be a rebuilding year. However, the most obvious attribute to what will be a subpar year is Pete Carroll's insistence on Tarvaris Jackson being the Week 1 starter at quarterback.
When this signing was first announced, I didn't think much of it to be honest. It's true that Hasselbeck was getting old and that it was time for a new era in Seahawk football. I never confused Tarvaris Jackson as our quarterback of the future, just as a stop gap replacement between either the development of Charlie Whitehurst or the drafting of one of many viable franchise quarterbacks in next year's draft. When Vikings fans began to warn me of how bad Jackson is, I ignored them, believing that all he needed was a fresh change of scenery.
I was wrong.
Let's face it, Seahawk fans: Tarvaris Jackson sucks. Even when working with his old offensive coordinator as well as his favorite target in Sidney Rice, his preseason numbers are abysmal. It might not seem fair to judge one's future performance solely through preseason statistics, but 55 attempts in about six quarters of work is a large enough sample size that you can come up with a pretty fair estimation of a player's talents (or lack thereof).
Now there might be a way out of this misery.
Yesterday, long time Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was released and replaced by career back-up Luke McCown. Much like the Seahawks handled the Hasselbeck situation, Garrard became expendable when they drafted Blaine Gabbart early in the first round this year. Unlike Hasselbeck, however, Garrard still has plenty left in the tank. His overall mileage is low in comparison to other 33-year-old quarterbacks, he has a nice overall skill set, his accuracy is very high and in general, he does a great job in limiting his turnovers (most notably in 2007 when he only threw three INTs).
Yet when approached with the possibility of signing David Garrard to at the very least compete with Jackson and Whitehurst for the starting job, Carroll said:
“We know him really well and he’s a really good football player and I have a lot for respect for him, but we’re very set with what we’re doing at quarterback.”
The question remains: Is this Carroll trying to give confidence to whomever becomes our starter? Or is this Carroll being stubborn in his refusal to admit that the signing of Jackson has already been a bust?
Whatever positivity Tarvaris Jackson poses as the starting quarterback for the Seahawks, Garrard dwarfs him in that same area.
This entire offseason, Carroll has been preaching a need for familiarity within his system, a need that he has lived up to. After hiring Darrell Bevell to replace Jeremy Bates as offensive coordinator, he brought in Jackson and Rice to be used in their old system. After hiring old Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable to run the o-line, fellow Raiders Robert Gallery and Zach Miller followed suit in order to help teach the much less experienced members of the Seahawks trenchmen Cable's schemes.
If signed, Garrard would fall under this realm of familiarity as well. The Seahawks current quarterbacks coach, Carl Smith, has served as Garrard's offensive coordinator in the past, so any issues regarding learning plays and the like can still be quickly rectified.
One reason Jackson supporters claim that he is the man for the job is his above average mobility out of the pocket. They say that his ability to avoid the rush can help the young o-line gel more quickly. However, Garrard is just as capable, if not more so, to fulfill this need. Last season, he ran for five TDs, which is a good indicator that he at the absolute minimum, he won't be a sitting duck in the pocket. The reason that he was given the starting job in the first place was due to his supreme mobility in comparison to the stiff Byron Leftwich. Plus, there is a fine line between being reliably mobile and only relying on being mobile. Far too often this preseason, I've seen Jackson resort to trying to make something happen with his feet rather than take the time and actually look and see if there are better options available to him.
There is a silver lining just in case Jackson ends up playing poorly (which seems more and more inevitable as I watch him perform). He's only costing us $4 million a year for two years, which, in comparison to the gigantic contract unproven back-up Kevin Kolb signed with the Arizona Cardinals, doesn't seem too costly.
Yet, how much more would it cost to give the reigns to Garrard instead for a season or two? The Seahawks still had over $15 million. in cap space before roster cuts, so the actual problem of giving him money wouldn't be an issue. It would be a worthwhile investment to give a moderate veteran quarterback a deal similar to the one given to Jackson, and the results would undoubtedly be more favorable.
Folks, I'm not a general manager. I understand that this is a rebuilding year for our team and that as of right now it is more important to look towards the future than settle for the now. Yet if last year proved anything, it's that you can have a mediocre team and still make a run towards the Super Bowl. Last year, we had a team that was significantly weaker on both sides of the ball, minus the quarterback position. All we need is a game managing quarterback who can get the ball to our 6'4" or taller receivers and the division is all but ours. David Garrard fits that prototype. Tarvaris Jackson simply doesn't.
Some may say that this season might be better if we simply tank it on purpose in order to land one of the Andrew Lucks, Matt Barkleys or Landry Jones in next year's draft class. Why take that risk? There are plenty of serviceable QB's out there that can serve as a quality field general for years to come. We don't need to sacrifice this season just to ensure we may or may not be great down the road. If the Seahawks want to stay relevant, they need to try their best to sign David Garrard.