Tarvaris Jackson signed with Seattle on Friday and won't practice with the team until Thursday but has spent five years using the new offense coordinator Darrell Bevell is installing.
RENTON — The question was answered before it was ever really asked.
Tarvaris Jackson will start the season at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. That declaration from coach Pete Carroll on Saturday morning sapped all of the suspense out of the biggest question facing the team entering the season.
Any head-to-head comparisons between Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst were headed off before they really got running, and instead of judging a winner Carroll was able to chalk it up to circumstance.
“In this situation, I think to make it the most competitive for our team, Tarvaris needs to be our starter right now,” Carroll said.
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Carroll left open the possibility of a competition between Whitehurst and Jackson later this season, but the coach was unequivocal that Jackson will be the starter. That decision came as a disappointment to Whitehurst.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into camp with the quarterback situation,” Whitehurst said. “I just wanted a chance, and I’m here, I’ve got a chance. It’s not necessarily how I wanted to start out, but I respect the fact that he was direct with me and told me.”
So why make that decision now before a training-camp competition? It all has to do with familiarity because while Jackson is new to Seattle, he has five years of experience in the offense the Seahawks will run.
“Tarvaris brings so much continuity to us,” Carroll said.
When Carroll uttered those words, Jackson had been a member of the Seahawks for less than 24 hours, which underscored the odd circumstances of this unprecedented NFL offseason.
Jackson, who signed Friday, has more familiarity with Seattle’s offense than Whitehurst, who is entering his second year as a Seahawk. That’s because Jackson played the past five seasons in Minnesota under Darrell Bevell, who is Seattle’s new offensive coordinator, while Whitehurst was prohibited from contacting the Seahawks’ coaching staff for all but one of the 132 days of the lockout.
“It’s a very unusual situation,” Carroll said.
It’s not getting any more normal. While Jackson signed a two-year deal Friday, the current regulations prohibit him from practicing with the team until Thursday when the league year is scheduled to begin. That is exactly one week before Seattle’s first exhibition game, scheduled Aug. 11 in San Diego.
That meant at practice Saturday, Jackson was wearing a red shirt, which didn’t even have his No. 7 on it, watching quarterback drills that included Whitehurst and two undrafted rookies.
And what does this decision say about Whitehurst? After all, this is a quarterback the Seahawks acquired from San Diego just a year ago, giving up 20 spots of draft position in the second round of the 2010 draft and a third-round pick this year simply for the privilege of giving him a two-year contract. Now that Carroll is turning over the offense to a quarterback who has yet to practice for him, does that mean the team no longer sees Whitehurst as a viable candidate to be the starter?
“In my mind, nothing has changed,” Carroll said. “This is just a competitive decision because of the time frame that we’re dealing with. It’s strictly that. This is not the purely competitive situation that I would like it to be. But the other side of it, I think to compete for our team, this is the right thing to do.”
Seattle hasn’t faced this kind of uncertainty at quarterback in more than a decade. Matt Hasselbeck entered 2001 as the starter though the team had just acquired Trent Dilfer, and Dilfer was going to be the starter in 2002 until he was injured and replaced by Hasselbeck.
After Seattle closed the door on Hasselbeck’s return, the expectation was that there would be a quarterback derby between Whitehurst and Jackson. They are two players from the same corner of the country with similar two-year contracts, who both entered the league in 2006. Jackson was a second-round pick out of Alabama State, Whitehurst a third-round choice from Clemson.
Whitehurst is the son of an NFL quarterback while Jackson said he credits his strong throwing arm to his mother.
“She was a shortstop playing softball,” he said.
Whitehurst is a classic rock ‘n’ roll man, a fan of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. He wears his hair long, sports a beard and counts a ’67 Mustang as his favorite car. It’s his touch on the deep pass that stands out most in his passing game.
Jackson is more hip-hop and R&B, and he said an old country truck is more his style than a muscle car. If it comes down to a footrace for the quarterback spot, Jackson would have the edge.
“I kind of consider myself more of a football player than a quarterback,” he said. “A lot of guys like to slide. I’m not really a slider.”
Seattle is a fresh start, and wide receiver Sidney Rice — Jackson’s teammate first in Minnesota and now in Seattle — predicted it will be a great stage.
“It’s going to be great for Tarvaris,” Rice said. “I felt like in Minnesota, he was never let loose, never allowed to play comfortably like I know he can play. I feel like he’ll get that opportunity out here.”
That will happen sooner than some expected in Seattle. For the past two years, Jackson was the guy bumped down Minnesota’s depth chart when Brett Favre decided to give it another go. Now, it’s Jackson who has been given the starting job before he had the chance to practice after Carroll took the podium without warning and named Jackson the starter.
“We’ve got to get ready in a very condensed time frame,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t allow it to be as purely open. I can’t be that patient right now.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org