Handicapping the Seattle Seahawks' Quarterback Competition
This summer in Seattle, training camp for the Seahawks can't come soon enough.
Between the Mariners going nowhere fast and the Zombie Sonics heading to the NBA Finals, the Seahawks are perhaps the only thing worth getting excited about at the moment.
This year, expectations are higher than a year ago, which is a good thing, but one big question remains following the 'Hawks' second consecutive 7-9 campaign...
Who will play quarterback?
No small issue in a league where running the football seems like an archaic means of moving the football. Like it or not, today's NFL demands greatness from a team's signal-caller, as the alternative is mediocrity or worse.
The cycle is vicious and one that the Seahawks, for better or worse, have fallen into since Pete Carroll took over the team. Given the options, it's hard to blame Pete and general manager John Schneider. They've certainly tried to find answers, but have yet to come up with a meaningful long-term solution.
Could that change this summer?
We all have ideas, thoughts and theories; here are my two cents on the issue...
Josh Portis: The Project
Before we get started, let's make sure we cover all the bases.
It's easy to forget about Portis given how much has happened over the past few months.
With the departure of Charlie Whitehurst and the signing of Matt Flynn during free agency, it appeared that life for Portis wouldn't change too much, but the drafting of Russell Wilson certainly added a level of complexity to the situation.
Bad enough that Wilson was drafted with one of the Seahawks' early selections; making matters worse is the potential for Wilson to partake in the competition for the starting job.
Regardless of where Wilson ends up on the depth chart by the end of training camp, the question for Portis is whether he's part of the long-term plan for the 'Hawks.
Portis was once the team's pet project at quarterback, but it's hard to see how he will get much of a shot with three candidates presumably in front of him. In regards to snaps in training camp and preseason playing time, I'm skeptical that he will get much of an opportunity to show us or the coaching staff anything meaningful.
Chances are that by end of summer, if everyone stays healthy, Portis is either cut loose or just barely clings to a roster spot.
Russell Wilson: The Rookie
For me, here's where things start to get confusing.
After signing Matt Flynn, I assumed the 'Hawks would still draft a quarterback, but never gave much consideration to Wilson.
Nothing personal, but Wilson is a contradiction to all of the things we're led to believe about franchise quarterbacks.
While he may be athletically gifted, at the end of the day, he's not terribly tall standing at 5'11".
As someone who always sat on the bottom row of class pictures, I fully understand the stigma that Wilson faces, but want to see more before I'm convinced he's anything more than a future backup in the NFL.
For this year, I'm not sure how much we really will get to see.
But why, then, would Pete Carroll put Wilson in the frying pan with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson?
It's a question we've all probably asked ourselves at least once over the last few weeks, and I'm still divided on the issue.
Part of me believes that Carroll falls in love too easily.
He's that guy who thinks it's true love when a girl so much as says "Hello" to him. Wilson is his latest infatuation, but come August, that could change once he's working alongside Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn on a daily basis.
In other words, Wilson would really need to be doing amazing things each and everyday in order to separate himself from the vets.
Is it possible? Sure, but today, I'm not betting on it.
With that, I'm led to believe that Wilson is really a smoke screen playing a part in Pete's end game.
Of course, we will hear Pete Carroll gush about Wilson being "the next Drew Brees" or something to that effect once camp starts, but I believe it's Pete's way to help motivate the Flynn and Jackson to raise their games against a rookie.
So there might be three horses in this race today, but I'm guessing it comes down to two pretty quickly.
Tarvaris Jackson: The Incumbent
Honestly, I feel bad for Jackson.
I know I shouldn't, but I do.
A year ago, he was handed the keys to an offense that had some talent, but offered no protection. Just when things started to click, he got hurt.
After Charlie Whitehurst's forgettable stint as starter, Jackson returned not quite 100 percent, but certainly gave it everything he could.
By the end, though, the results were mixed.
Jackson managed to hold things together on an offense that was largely led by Marshawn Lynch during the season's second half, yet somehow seemed to be at the epicenter every time things fell apart.
To Jackson's credit, he never really complained or made excuses and often owned up to his mistakes. At times, he was his own harshest critic.
At the same time it's hard to deny that T-Jack seems to have a ceiling. Can he improve upon last season while feeling healthy and with all of his experience?
It's certainly possible, but a lot of things would have to go right for Jackson to lead the 'Hawks to the playoffs.
Could he end up being the team's starter at some point this season?
I wouldn't rule it out, but it would also mean that someone else fell well short of expectations...
Matt Flynn: The Free Agent
No pressure, but if the Seahawks intend of doing anything more than grabbing a wild-card spot, Matt Flynn will really need to show us something.
In time, Flynn will either become the toast of the town, or just plain toast.
'Hawks fans are hoping Flynn is the real deal, but today, it's hard to say with any certainty where Flynn will net out.
Pete Carroll may be claiming there's an open competition, but deep down, he has to figure that Flynn gives him the best chance to win.
Fact is, both men are going to need each other to succeed to keep their jobs.
This year, both the division and the overall schedule will be tough. Nine wins may get you a wild-card, but it will probably take more than that to get guarantee a trip to the postseason.
So how will things turn out?
You never can tell with Pete Carroll, and in many ways, I feel like we've been here before, but on September 9, I'd be surprised if anyone other than Matt Flynn is under center against the Cardinals in Arizona.
This assumes that Flynn doesn't look downright atrocious this summer.
With that solved, what else should we be looking for?
To be honest, I'm more intrigued to see how the depth chart behind Flynn will shape up.
Will Tarvaris Jackson put up enough of a fight against Flynn to keep Russell Wilson from grabbing the No. 2 spot?
Is Wilson going to stick around the competition to make things really interesting?
Is Josh Portis going to stick around at all?
Through it all, I think Wilson has the least to lose and the most to gain. If he looks good, he should get the No. 3 gig over Portis; if he looks great, the No. 2 spot in place of Jackson.
Conversely, T-Jack and Josh Portis are likely to be drawing straws to see who stays come the end of camp.
The smart move would be to keep T-Jack just in case. He has experience, knows the offense and its players and should be more than capable to sub if necessary either for a quarter of a game or a quarter of a season.
Of course, things will change in the coming weeks, but if Pete Carroll wants to get this team past .500, he'd be best served by making a smart decision sooner rather than later.
Drama for the sake of drama is not good for business, especially when the window for success in this league gets smaller with each passing year.
Until then, let the best man win.