Carroll's quarterback ways definitely not conventional

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RENTON — There are plenty of ways to describe how coach Pete Carroll has handled quarterbacks in Seattle.

Conventional, however, is not one of them, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that people across the NFL are cocking their eyebrows skeptically at the three-headed monster of a quarterback competition that’s currently underway in Seattle.

Ever since he arrived in Seattle in 2010, Carroll has shown he knows exactly one way to handle that position: his own way.

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That was true two years ago when Carroll introduced a quarterback competition when no one thought there was much of a comparison between Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. Then a year later, when everyone expected a competition, Carroll named Tarvaris Jackson the starter before he was eligible to practice.

And now, Jackson, Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson are alternating days with the first-unit offense, a round-robin competition that Carroll is doing everything he can to highlight without discussing the specifics of when — or how — a decision on the starter will be made.

“It’s going to be interesting to watch,” Carroll said. “I’m not going to tell you the specifics of that.”

This is not how things usually work in the NFL where most coaches view a quarterback controversy as if it were a dental procedure without Novocaine. At the very least, it’s going to be uncomfortable, and it might turn out downright excruciating.

Coaches have all sorts of ways around it from downplaying the competition to denying it entirely. It’s a handbook of sorts on how to cool the question about competition.

In Miami, the Dolphins are sorting out a three-way competition between incumbent Matt Moore, first-round choice Ryan Tannehill and veteran David Garrard. Practice repetitions with the first-unit offense are determined day to day, handed out as they are earned, according to new coach Joe Philbin.

In Tennessee, the Titans have a heads-up competition between the starter last year, Matt Hasselbeck, and the first-round choice last year, Jake Locker. Things are even, coach Mike Munchak said last month, with fans divided between something old and something new at that position.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is using competition as a firepoker of motivation for incumbent starter Kevin Kolb.

But Carroll leads the league in adjectives to describe his competition.

The schedule for evaluation? “Very strict,” said Carroll.

The criteria for a decision? “A big-time formula,” he said.

The fact he’s offered no specifics on either the timetable or rationale being used in the evaluation isn’t surprising. He’s a football coach not an elected official. His job is to pick the best quarterback, not to be transparent while he’s doing it. Besides, scrutiny is just part of the job description for a quarterback.

“This is for a starting spot in the NFL,” Flynn said. “So it’s going to get more attention and you see that all over the NFL.”

But while most coaches would attempt to turn down the temperature on the quarterback competition, to dilute the suspense and the scrutiny, Carroll is trying to make Seattle’s pocket boil.

Pressure can bust pipes, but it can also produce diamonds, and by staging a three-man, musical-chairs competition at quarterback, Carroll is getting a chance to see which player can make the most of his limited reps against a defense that ranked among the league’s top 10 last year.

“We are not going to cater at all and make it easy for quarterbacks,” Carroll said this week. “We are going to stress them as much as possible.”

That is one way to pick a quarterback. More specifically, it’s Carroll’s way.

Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or

On Twitter @dannyoneil

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