2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part VII: Quarterbacks
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This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.
State Of The Position
Tarvaris Jackson. Charlie Whitehurst. Just mention their names to any Seahawks fan, and you will get an earful. Whitehurst entered the year with an ardent group of supporters that believed his performance in the 2010 finale against the Rams had earned him a shot at the starting job in 2011. He even enjoyed the spotlight of that role for about 24 hours before Jackson was signed. Whitehurst had his best game as a pro when he subbed for the injured Jackson in New York against the Giants, and led the team to one of the season’s best victories over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. It was a mirage, though, and Whitehurst destroyed his career in the two subsequent starts in Cleveland and at home against the Bengals. Pete Carroll decided the team was better off playing a quarterback with a pectoral muscle that was 50% torn than to suffer through more of Whitehurst. The player that takes his roster spot next season will be more scrutinized than any other move the front office makes, or has made.
Jackson came in with the best kind of expectations: none. Just being able to say, “Hike,” and handle a snap would have been a pleasant surprise to some fans. There was almost a shame associated with being the fan of team that might be casting their lot with a player who was so clearly limited. The modest contract Jackson signed (two years at backup money, with no guaranteed money in year two) was the best signal that the front office was not blind to what Jackson was. He earned his teammates respect by not pointing fingers when the offensive line was getting him killed in the pre-season and early regular season. His toughness was undeniable as he took shot after shot, and kept getting up. He was voted team captain by his teammates, but did little else of note the first few games of the year. Jackson hit his stride during the second half of the Atlanta Falcons game, and nearly led the team to a massive comeback. Many of his worst habits (indecisiveness, slow release, locking onto receivers) seemed to melt away when the team went no-huddle. Jackson has a great arm, and can make throws that not every NFL quarterback can make. His touch on deep passes is possibly his best asset. His performance against the Giants put the team in position to win, and who knows how his year would have completed if he had not injured his chest in the first half?
There is little doubt the Seahawks need to upgrade the quarterback position, but the need is not as urgent as some might imply. Jackson can do much of what Alex Smith did for the 49ers last season, and a little more. Jackson ended the season 7-7 as a starter during a tumultuous, injury-riddled year for him and his line. Once the team committed to the run, starting @Dallas, they were 5-2 over the next seven games. If the line can stay healthy, the team can add additional fire power at running back, and Jackson is at full strength, there is no reason to think he could not lead this team to 10+ wins next season. His play was not good enough to guarantee his spot next season, nor was it bad enough to require an immediate switch. Odds are better than 50% he opens the season as the starter.
Josh Portis is the forgotten player. Much has been made about how Carroll and John Schneider have not drafted a quarterback since they took over. They didn’t draft Doug Baldwin, but is anyone arguing over his contributions? Portis flashed undeniable athleticism, and surprising touch on intermediate routes during the pre-season. His progress from practice #1 to the final pre-season game was encouraging. Nobody knows for sure what the team thinks of Portis, but it is not entirely out of the question that the young quarterback everyone has been looking for is already on the roster with one year of development under his belt. Don’t count on it, but don’t forgot it, either.
2012 Seahawks Free Agent Quarterbacks:
QB Charlie Whitehurst
Seahawks Quarterbacks Under Contract:
QB Tarvaris Jackson
QB Josh Portis
Goodbye Charlie. Thanks for the 2010 division title.
History proves that drafting your franchise quarterback is the best way to go. There are notable free agent exceptions to this rule with players like Drew Brees, Jim Plunkett and Kurt Warner who all won Super Bowls. The chances of finding a player good enough to lead your franchise to the Super Bowl on the free agent market are close to zero. Teams do not let great quarterbacks walk without any compensation. Even so, there are some options that will get considered, especially since it would free up the first-round pick for a different position target.
QB Matt Flynn
My read on Flynn to Seattle has not changed. Flynn has better options elsewhere. Miami might be the most logical fit. Washington and Cleveland also make more sense if you are Flynn, since he would step-in as the no doubt starter. Laugh if you’d like at Jackson keeping Flynn at bay, but ask yourself why Flynn would choose to come to a team that has a young starter who was voted captain by his teammates and outperformed expectations while being injured. Flynn is not Brees. He cannot expect to be given a free pass by fans if he struggles at the outset. Does he hold the job six games in if he is playing poorly and Jackson is sitting beside him? I’d only take that risk if Seattle paid me a premium over the other teams interested in me, and even then…
QB Alex Smith
Adding Smith would be moronic. Mediocre (Smith) + Mediocre (Jackson) does not equal good, and certainly does equal great. Pray the 49ers bring Smith back, and spend some money doing it. He will never win a Super Bowl, so what would be the point of signing him?
QB Vince Young
Believe it or not, Young is going to be 29 next season. He flashes some potential, but has a nickel head on his shoulders. He is not the kind of player to waste cap room on.
QB Dennis Dixon
Dixon is a guy nobody talks about, but he’s only 27, and has been sitting behind Ben Roesthlisberger for years. He played one game against the Falcons last year and played reasonably well. He does not scream QBOTF, but could be an interesting talent to add to the pile.
QB Peyton Manning
Oh yeah, that Manning guy. Manning had major surgery on his neck and is trying to regain strength in his arm and shoulder. No matter what you read in the media, this is a total crapshoot. The chances that Manning ever steps on a field again are slight, and the chances grow even smaller that he will stay on the field if he ever makes it back. If he is certain to be healthy, Manning would be a great addition. Manning, however, probably would pick other spots with more certain Super Bowl pedigrees and better receiving targets. Only hold your breath on this one if you enjoy it.
Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III. Say their names to any Seahawks fan, and you are certain to get an earful as well. The practical plan would be to wait out the process until the right player falls to you at the right time. This Seahawks roster is a great quarterback away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender. If the front office believes those two players are head-and-shoulders above the other quarterbacks in this class, they should spend whatever is required to land one of them. Sit back and think about whether you would be more skeptical/concerned if the Seahawks spent four first-round picks to get RGIII or if they chose a player like Kirk Cousins in the 2nd round. This is not a team with holes all over the place. It is a team with one position that needs to make a large step forward, and a few places that need patches/upgrades. You cannot win the raffle if you do not buy a ticket.
The way Carroll and Schneider handle the QB spot vacated by Whitehurst will define their legacy in Seattle. History favors those that draft their franchise quarterbacks, and develop them within the system. Flynn could end up being as good as his two career starts indicated, or he could be the next Kevin Kolb. Matt Barkley is the guy that would have made this a far different equation. His presence in the draft would have made it three Top 10 QBs instead of two. The Seahawks chances of trading up for one would have greatly increased. Without Barkley, the Seahawks are left with the choice of betting the future on one selection, or trying to play their hand out a little longer. It would seem their future is going to be tied to this selection no matter who it is, so my suggestion is to go all in on a player they really believe in.