"I GET TO START?! OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY!"
Let me be clear: Tarvaris Jackson is not a good QB.
He's not a good QB in the sense that he has never passed for 3100+ yards or 20+ TDs in any season of his career. He's not good in the fact that he lost the starting job at Minnesota to Gus Frerotte. GUS FREAKIN' FREROTTE for chrissakes. His DVOA for last year ranks at a mere 2.2%, and everyone remembers the fumble he had against the 49ers that crushed what slim playoff hopes we had left, back in December. Tarvaris Jackson is not a good QB, and no doubt Seahawks fans don't want him to stick around, let alone be the starter for the next few years. He's not the QBOTF we're all clamoring for, and yet, it appears that we're stuck with him in the meanwhile.
Currently, the offseason has shown little indication that our QB situation could be fixed in just one year. Peyton Manning, the hot commodity, is close to retirement. Andrew Luck is out of the question. Matt Flynn, while scouted by JS himself at Green Bay, does not fit the vertical offense the Seahawks run and will probably be expensive. Likewise, trading up for Robert Griffin does not match the FO's modus operandi and Brett Farve is still busy somewhere doing...something. Not much left in the cupboard.
By now, you're thinking to yourself, "You're saying that I have to deal with this guy again?" Unfortunately, this seems to be the most realistic, if not forthcoming, conclusion. And who would've thought? When Tarvaris was first signed back in July, many thought that it was because he had a familiarity with Darrell Bevell's offense. And under a extremely short preseason, he naturally became the offense's leader and identity. Teammates backed him up too, voting him a captain for the season.
By season's finish, Tarvaris ended up starting 14 (almost 15) games. The results were, unsurprisingly, up and down, with some fantastic games against Philadelphia and Atlanta, and horrible ones against Arizona and the Niners. Still, he finished with career-best for every major statistical category, but that's not really saying much. The question still remains though - how high is his ceiling, and will he continue to show promise?
Let's go backward in time, back in 2006. The scouting report published is from Rob Rang at CBSSports:
Positives: Has good overall muscle development, quick feet and fluid mobility on the move … Shows good arm strength, generating velocity and accuracy on his short and intermediate throws when he sets his feet … Can make the deep out when given time to throw and has good command of the huddle … Light on his feet and has a compact release … Puts good zip on his underneath throws and is effective at carrying out fakes …
Has the body control and balance needed to keep his feet when forced to tuck the ball and run with it … Effective throwing to the sidelines on the move and shows no wasted motion in his release.
Negatives: Will pull the ball down and run with it when the pocket is pressured in the past and tried to show more patience in this area as a senior. However, the result was more sacks, as he seemed to lock on to his primary target and was then late getting the ball out … Needs to do a quicker job with his progression reads in order to locate his secondary receivers …
Struggles to read coverages and does not have great anticipation for the receivers coming out of their breaks (will force the ball and try to overpower it, making it tough for the receiver to adjust. The receiver is then in poor position to gain yardage after the catch) …
Misses wide open targets when pressured and lacks pinpoint accuracy throwing long, as his passes tend to scatter when attempting to go down field … Not the type to throw into coverage, but while he can gain some positive yardage, is not really a threat to run long distances when tucking the ball … Needs to protect the ball better when running with it (had 19 fumbles the last three seasons).
Back then, the general consensus was that Tarvaris was a developmental QB, in a similar vein to Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow. Many, if not all of his strengths we still see today, including mobility, quick throwing motion and a strong arm. That's what makes Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson. (That was weird.) So that part still checks out.
But like many before him, the things he was missing are the reasons he was projected to go in the later rounds. "Raw, but talented" was what most scouts ended up agreeing on, and concerns were listed as having little to no pocket awareness; running the football as his first, not last option under pressure. He doesn't have secondary reads. Not very accurate. All signs point to a career-backup role, but these things are, as they say, correctable. These things can be taught and coached, maybe putting him in low risk games or transitioning his style to the NFL. A coach can't do that with arm strength or speed.
That was what the Minnesota Vikings were thinking when they traded up all the way to the 2nd round to pick him when most scouts projected him in the 4th or 7th at least. Brad Childress saw Tarvaris as their QBOTF:
"I think you judge quarterbacks a little bit differently. We had this discussion during our meetings last week. When you see what you want at a quarterback position you need to go get it, and that’s exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson — a guy who is a piece of clay, that has all the skills that I just mentioned in terms of, No. 1, what does he look like throwing the football? I’m buying that throwing motion. I’m not expecting to change it or move it around." - Brad Childress, May 1st, 2006.
You might be quick to say that, in the end, Childress didn't model the clay very well. He expected a magnificent sculpture, and what he got was some play-doh piece made by some 4 year old kid. Mind you, Minnesota had all the pieces a QB wants to succeed - All-Pro Adrian Peterson at running back, a solid O-Line led by Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson (bleh), and a healthy Bryant McKinnie, and some good receivers in Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice. And yet, after two mediocre seasons later, he was quickly abandoned in favor of Brett Farve. Coach Childress and his staff has been praised by players and other coaches alike for developing QB's alike, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt when the spoke as highly as they did on Tarvaris a few years back. There are many theories as to what went wrong, but I won't list them here.
Which brings us back to the present. Is Tarvaris Jackson still developing? Could he still reach that ceiling he was projected for six years ago? This is his big chance, and no doubt it can be argued that he wasn't given much of a chance with the Vikings. Statistically he has also shown some improvement towards his concerns as well. The forthcoming season just might be his final step towards success.
But what has he shown this year that suggest he deserves a second chance?
There are several factors which suggest that this year was not him playing at his best, including 1) a nagging injury to his throwing arm, 2) a patchwork offensive line that could get the ground running until mid-season, 3) multiple injuries to receiving targets. While it may be true that these are just excuses to hide the fact that he is a sub-par player, it does back the notion that he shouldn't be written off so quickly. Keep in mind this is also not necessarily a defense for Jackson either.
The Arm Injury - Back in Week 5 at the New York Giants, word broke out that Tarvaris had a high-level his pectoral muscle on his throwing arm. The strain also led to a few torn muscles near the arm area, which only caused the injury to be more nagging and painful. An injury as serious as this requires 2-6 weeks of rehibilitation, or even surgery.
Tarvaris returned to the starter role after 13 days.
Obviously, the injury led to a downward turn for him, as his accuracy got worse and more often than not he was forced to throw off his back foot, a no-no for QB's. Yet his numbers did not suffer much, and his deep ball was still there. To put it in perspective, this guy completed 58.7% of his passes for 2079 yards on half an arm, a feat that can't be taken for granted.
As of right now, he has not undergo surgery, but the extended time period from now until July will definitely help him return to full shape.
The Offensive Line Woes - As a former offensive lineman myself, I firmly believe that a good O-Line is not only important but vital to a offense's success. This was why 2008 and 2009 failed - and why JS and PC spent three of their highest draft picks in the last two years on two Tackles and a guard.
However, experience is also a key driving factor towards an O-Line's success, so when we were assured that we would begin the year with a two rookies, one second-year player, one third-year player and only one veteran, we knew there we going to be some rough patches. The Seahawks O-Line ended the year with 50 QB sacks allowed and 114 QB hits allowed, tied for 4th worst and worst overall in the league, respectively.
And caught right in the middle of the chaos was Tarvaris Jackson. It's no secret that a good O-Line will create a better QB. The young line gave him a lot of flack, and such adjustments can quickly deprive a QB of his game and composure - this is why so many promising QB's were quickly deflated.
But as the season went, the line improved - to a certain extent. While all four players except Unger were bothered with injuries and Okung, Carpenter and Moffat went on injury reserve, the line continued its slow, gradual progression, and their blocking significantly improved as the season went on. Perhaps with another year under their belts, the protection will be sturdier, allowing Tarvaris to make the best out of what he can do.
The Wide Receivers Injuries - As the season began there were lots of optimism surrounding the Seahawk's WR core. We had Sidney Rice, who was our first legitimate deep threat since Nate Burleson. Mike Williams came off a breakout year. Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu shown flashes. Even Doug Baldwin, who had a great game against the Niners, looked promising. And let's not forget Zach Miller at TE.
And like many other Seahawks fans dreams, reality quickly begins to take its toll. Rice fought off injuries before finally being IR'ed and undergoing surgery. BMW, who had a disappointing start, fell to the same fate. The ineptness of the O-Line's struggles against pass blocking limited Miller in the receiving role.
Tarvaris's late arrival and the limited time with the team in the offseason led to him frequently targeting Rice, even though when plenty of open targets were there at the time. Making due of who's left on the depth chart, Tarvaris eventually made connections with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Such connections and coordination with the receivers is important - just ask Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, or Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, etc.
Even after six years since Rang's initial report, we have no idea how good Tarvaris is or how good he can be. The general sense and opinion in this community seems to downplay on his ability, but I have a feeling, like it or not, that he's going to stick around for a while. In football and in life, there are rarely many effective quick fixes, and the chance of replacing Tarvaris after this year is again, slim to none. So don't write him off so quickly folks (we'll be seeing him again next year!) - he may have something more to show.