It's a little bit hard to look too much into statistics when you're looking at a guy that's started twenty games compared to another who has started two. But, we'll give it a shot anyway. Pete Carroll made some waves amongst the Twelves by pronouncing Tarvaris Jackson the Seahawks starter even before he's able to suit up and practice, but if you look at the numbers available, there's a pretty good reason for it.
The most obvious reason would be the experience factor. As I said above, Jackson has started 20 games in his career, with a 10-10 record. When he hasn't been starting, I think mostly he's been the backup so he has gotten the reps over the years that Charlie has missed out on sitting at third on the depth chart.
Let's take a look at the statistics and see if perhaps the numbers had something to do with it as well. Friend of the blog Tyler Choe put these graphs and statistics together for me and gave a basic explanation of each, but I'll try and analyze what they could mean.
First up, let's take a look at the basic numbers for the last few seasons. Tarvaris Jackson has played in 32 games since 2007 (he also played in four games and started two his rookie year but those were thrown out in for this first box); Charlie Whitehurst has played in 8 in his career. Jackson has started 18 games in the last four seasons, Whitehurst 2. The two quarterbacks have similar completion percentages -- Jackson with the slight edge at 58.8 compared to Charlie's 57.6. Both are south of the 60% mark that you'd hope to see your starting quarterback have, but nonetheless Jackson is closer to sniffing that threshold.
Jackson's yards per pass average is better than Whitehurst's at 6.6 to 5.1. This discrepancy would be more substantial if Charlie had more throws but since he's only completed 57 passes, ever, it's not as damning. The Hawks ran a lot of screens and dumpoff passes in Charlie's marquee game last year in Week 17 vs the Rams, and this probably skewed the numbers downward. Tarvaris' 6.6 yards per completion average is not overly concerning -- Matt Hasselbeck's career number sits at 6.9 yards per completion as a comparison. If you're talking about a West Coast oriented offense you'd expect these types of results.
Jackson has thrown 22 TD to 18 INT in the last 3 seasons; Charlie, 2 TD to 3 INT, all in 2010. This type of excuse can be thrown out for anyone really, but Charlie's numbers should actually be 3 TDs to 2 INT, because Mike Williams dropped a pass in the endzone that was intercepted against the Giants. Not making excuses for Charlie, because dropped passes are an inevitability, but it should be noted.
Jackson's rating is significantly better than Whitehurst's at 85.88 to 65.5. I don't put much stock in Passer Rating but this difference is pretty substantial.
Jackson's rushing yards per carry is much better as well at 4.4 yard per carry to Charlie's 2.5. They scramble/rush about the same amount on a percentage compared to pass attempts basis -- Jackson has about 5 times as many passing attempts as Whitehurst and about 5 times as many rush attempts as well. Jackson just has better success when he decides to tuck and run.
Jackson takes more sacks on a sacks-to-pass attempts scale, but not by much. He does lose more yardage per sack than Whitehurst though, losing 5.4 yards per sack to 2.6 yards per sack, which is a little bit concerning, I suppose. Could be due to a lot of factors, but could indicate an inability or refusal to step up into the pocket. Not sure.
The next box is pretty self-explanatory. Jackson, throughout his career, averages 1 interception for every 27.4 pass attempts. Whitehurst, one interception per every 33.0 pass attempts. Similar numbers, though tough to compare because Whitehurst has so few career attempts.
If you compare Jackson's ratio to that of Aaron Rodgers in 2010 though, you see he's off the pace of being a top-tier QB in that regard by quite a ways.
Again, the table below is pretty self explanatory.
Now, we've broken up the field into zones and illustrated below where each quarterback thrives or struggles, based on Passer Rating (sorry, I know Passer Rating is a less than perfect statistic, but it can give you an idea of the QB's efficiency in each zone). See the legend and raw numbers below.
As you can see, Jackson has a good QB rating in the redzone, which is something the Seahawks have really struggled at in recent years. He struggles more between the 20s, but overall is much more effective than Charlie has been in 3-4 zones of the field.
The numbers can't tell you everything, but Tarvaris' career numbers are much better than Charlie's. Do I think that this had much to do with the Hawks decision to go with Jackson to start off? No, not really. I think it had a lot more to do with the fact that Jackson has more experience, knows the offense, knows Sidney Rice, and is probably a better athlete. Charlie's numbers are based on much too small of a sample size to make a judgement on, but they're not helping his case anyway.
It's important to look at stats when comparing two players, but like I said, it's not everything.