Seattle Seahawks: Has the 12th Man Fueled a Quarterback Quandary?

Charlie TodaroAnalyst IIIAugust 22, 2011

SEATTLE - AUGUST 20:  Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass under pressure from Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on August 20, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Vikings defeated the Seahawks 20-7.(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - AUGUST 20: Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass under pressure from Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on August 20, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Vikings defeated the Seahawks 20-7.(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Two weeks in a row, same result; Tarvaris Jackson spent his time scrambling and simply trying to survive, while Charlie Whitehurst impressed with the second team. Now, members of the 12th man are clamoring about a budding quarterback quandary—but according to Carroll, Jackson will remain the starter.

While I watched the Vikings take care of business in the first preseason game at CenturyLink, I also happened to browse various chats happening on the mainstream Seahawks’ blogs and news sites.

Based on what I read, I believe opinions are across the board in regards as to what should happen at the quarterback position.

But, one of the most prevalent opinions—but certainly not the only—is that Charlie Whitehurst deserves snaps with the first team; or at the very least, he's proving that he deserves a legitimate shot at the starting quarterback position in the near future, especially if Jackson falters.  

Even former safety Lawyer Milloy gave his vote for Whitehurst via twitter during the game.  

While Jackson is simply surviving, Whitehurst is thriving; the first unit line has looked overmatched and the backups have been solid. But, the differences in game speed and other variables don’t equate to an equal comparison, and that fact shouldn’t be downplayed.

In his second post-game presser, Carroll got up to the podium and expressed a general negativity about the teams’ play; a reporter quickly asked about Charlie Whitehurst’s play as bright spot.

Carroll raved, going as far as to say a 14-of-19 Whitehurst could have been 18-of-19. At the least, let's give him 16-of-19, as his receivers didn’t help him late in the game.

Either way, Whitehurst made life pretty easy on himself and looked good in the process.

When talking about Jackson, Carroll said the team had to do more for him, particularly take care of the miscues and penalties. Carroll did not express disappointment about Jackson’s play and offered the first half was much harder to play in than the second half; they are two different games.

To take a step back from the situation, it's not as though the Seahawks quarterback situation was settled going into the preseason anyway.

Now, after only two games, the situation appears as muddled as ever; Carroll already had to defend the decision to name Tarvaris Jackson as starter and the team is only days removed from training camp.

There is no doubt the organization is attempting to build a contender, but a notable portion of the 12th man gave their anti-Jackson opinion on Saturday—at the game and on the web.  Given the potential magnitude of the relationship between the fans and the organization, it’s an opinion worth acknowledging.

What is the importance of the relationship between the fans and organization throughout this transition?

Based on the need for continuity and command in the huddle, Carroll believes that Jackson currently gives the team the best chance to compete because of his prior experience; at least as of his comments prior to the game.

In the greater context, let’s not forget who Jackson is “replacing”. Matt Hasselbeck was the face of the franchise for a decade and I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say a decent portion of fans wanted him back.

In acquiring Jackson, the Seahawks have two situations to juggle; the transition within the locker room and organization, and maintaining the relationship with the fans throughout the shift—it’s important to acknowledge that Lofa Tatupu was cut in the days following Hasselbeck’s departure.

Obviously, the effect on the innards of the organization has a greater impact on the franchises success than the opinion of the fans; plus, passionate reactions of fans are par for the course.

Home field matters on game day; the external forces of the fans can affect the result–more so in certain stadiums than others and we have no doubts about the doggedness of Seattle’s home environment.

For the organization, losing the home field advantage provided by the 12th man should not be a part of their grand plan.

Pete Carroll is a believer momentum; he understands the importance of a strong fan base and home-field advantage.

As a fanbase, they are currently witnessing a full-fledged culture change within the organization and rapid turnover to a locker room that has been firmly established over the past decade.

The NFL is a business, and if the lockout has taught us anything it's that a lot of fans take the NFL personally.

The difference in play between Whitehurst and Jackson has invoked a “personal” reaction from many fans; the Seahawks’ program is driven by competition, yet the backup—who at one time was “50-50” to go into training camp as the starter—is thriving in the preseason and there is no competition.

And with the fans chanting the backup quarterbacks name in only the second preseason game, is there reason for concern; is the lack of quarterback competition something that could potentially hinder the relationship with the fans?

Ironically, this isn’t the first time in 2011 the organization has faced confusion from outside opinion surrounding their approach to finding a starting quarterback.

Is there a way to "meet at the 50”? 

About four months ago, the organization found themselves in a similar situation. After the draft, the national media ripped the Seahawks’ draft and many fans were confused by their approach of not drafting a top quarterback.

In my article Celebrate at the 50 and the  Seattle Seahawks’ vision will run strong, I used the concept of the totem to highlight that the Seahawks are an organization driven to represent themselves and their fans to the fullest extent; the organization wants to be a major factor in the NFL.

The totem is a symbol of expression for a group or clan; a physical mark of personality and embodiment. Those who represent a given totem represent the principals of the group. The more effort those within a given group give towards representing and abiding by the “totemic principals,” the greater possibility there is for widespread success.

Pertaining to the draft; regardless of whether or not the fans liked the draft approach, they must acknowledge the tough task at hand and the hard work the team put in. The fans don’t need to agree with every move the organization makes; they simply need to continue their boisterous ways and meet the organization at the 50.

The organization said they had a plan to execute once the lockout was lifted, and they claim to have executed their plan.

There is one main difference between now and then; then, the dust could settle as the lockout was in full swing; now, there is a constant dialogue between the organization and the 12th man. Instead of having weeks or months to convince the fans, the organization has a matter of weeks or a month. 

They have no obligation to listen to those outside of their meeting rooms; in fact, listening to “white noise” can get in the way of success. But they must be cognizant that the decisions will ultimately affect the atmosphere on game day.

Because Pete Carroll and the Seahawks openly care about their relationship with the fans and rely upon them to provide extra incentive, they’re potentially a bit more vulnerable to the energy of the fans.

I’ve previously highlighted how the totem has worked in the Seahawks’ favor. But in this case, could the totem be working against them? After all, it’s a concept that believes success for the greater good is much harder, if not impossible, to come by without solidarity.

Will the Seahawks remain firm on the Tarvaris Jackson-starts-Week 1 course?

Before Hasselbeck’s departure, there wasn’t widespread solidarity as to how the Seahawks should handle his situation; the signing of Jackson didn’t bring solidarity among the 12th man, either.

Even though the organization has high expectations, they are an extremely fresh group. They have two 28-year-old quarterbacks, creating one of the more "experienced" positions on the roster.

The Seahawks are early in the rebuilding process and they want the fans to be a major part of the experience; there is an added factor throughout this transition.  

Heck, Pete Carroll even used Twitter to decide the teams’ first offensive play of the 2011 preseason.

The organization has theoretically invited outside input, something unique to professional sports. Unconventional seems to be a way of life for this organization.

Hence the question; how much does continuity of public opinion through controversy matter to this organization, if at all?

I believed Game 2 would provide valuable information about quarterback “competition”; at least from his snap judgment, we learned that Pete Carroll is "not in that mindset” of having a quarterback competition or making a switch; and that Charlie Whitehurst is winning the competition with himself.

The simple fix to this fan-driven controversy is for the first unit to play better next weekend at Denver. If Jackson starts hot, let him ride the momentum and build some confidence; which is easier said than done.

Think of it this way; we’re halfway through a four-round match play, head-to-head golf tournament. Whitehurst is playing from the middle tees and Jackson is playing from the tips. Thus far, Whitehurst has outscored Jackson considerably, but Whitehurst has an obvious advantage. To find out who the better player is, you don't move Jackson forward to the middle tees; you move Whitehurst back to the tips and see how their results compare.

Does Whitehurst see time with the first unit next week? Will Carroll wait for one more strong performance from Whitehurst before he considers a change of plans? Or does Jackson remain the unquestioned starter and get as many first-team reps as possible?

If the Seahawks are truly intent on letting Jackson do-or-die as the starter, they must have a clear vision for how to keep him in an environment geared towards success and make sure this doesn’t turn into a true quarterback quandary; especially if they return home to finish the preseason with the 12th man calling for a change to Charlie Whitehurst.

If their vision falters, there’s little doubt the fans have already come up with a backup plan. It’s one thing to disagree with an idea and not have an alternative solution; but what about when there is a substitute that has shown promise, and appears to be improving?

If the Seahawks wait one more week, and Charlie Whitehurst continues to trend up while the first team and Jackson remain somewhat stagnant, how much longer does the organization have before the discontinuity between fans and football team is potentially damaging to the transition inside the locker room?

This was a game-by-game situation after Week 1 and it remains that way after Week 2. The Seahawks have already made it known that when Whitehurst is ready, there will be a competition. According to a growing number of the 12th man, the clock is ticking and the alarm is about to sound.    


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