It's the off-season. The Seahawks aren't playing football games. For that matter, no football teams are playing football games. We, as a fanbase, turn our attention to roster construction and to the shuffle of personnel. This off-season in particular, we are focused obsessively on the quarterback position. We're entering year three of the PCJS rebuild and it appears to me that the majority of my fellow 'Hawks fans believe that our current management regime is due or past-due to find its franchise quarterback.
Some advocate signing Matt Flynn to whatever deal it takes to get him. Others are pissed off that Peyton Manning snubbed us and feel that any money spent on him would have been worth it. Others take the opposite position and profess relief that our franchise won't have the opportunity to blow a Peyton-sized load of money on an aging player that may or may not ever return to the form of his prime. Some would welcome Flynn conditionally, provided that his deal wasn't for much more money than we're currently paying Tarvaris Jackson. Some - albeit a small minority - think that Tarvaris deserves another year as a starter, given that he played through significant injury last season. Some think that the only solution this season lies in drafting one of Osweiler, Cousins, Tannehill, (insert non-Luck, non-RGIII quarterback name here).
I have a point and it's coming soon, I promise.
The point is that there is absolutely no consensus. I don't have a great football mind. I can't break down film because I don't understand the game well enough. I didn't play at any level worth mentioning. I have no particular football insight to offer here. What I can offer is a pretty solid ability to synthesize. Despite my relatively amateur appreciation for the game, I am a lifelong Seahawks fan and I suspect that I am as devoted to the idea of this franchise winning as is any other of you. When it comes to matters in which I have no particular expertise, I make it a point to track down those who do have such expertise and to defer to their wisdom.
In the case of the Seahawks' QB situation, I've done that very thing. I have made it a point to follow, as best as I can, the wisdom of those who understand these things better than I, most and maybe all of whom are the same bloggers and analysts that the rest of you follow. The distressing thing is this: they can't reach consensus either. Rather, they seem to reach the consensus that there is no clear-cut answer and each one tends to have his own preference which doesn't really match with that of anyone else.
What I'm able to ascertain from all of this is that there is no consensus because there is no objectively correct answer. When I say that there is no objectively correct answer, I mean that there is no situation such as (hypothetically): New Orleans doesn't franchise Drew Brees, he hits the free agent market and he makes it clear that he has no particular preference as to where he plays, so long as the money is right. In such an instance, obviously there would be consensus that out-bidding every other club for Brees' services is the clear-cut best choice for the PCJS regime to make. Manning would have been the closest analogue to that situation for us this year if a) he hadn't completely cold-shouldered our attempts to negotiate with him and b) we could be certain that he is healthy. Neither of those things is the case. If we were in any reasonable position to maneuver ourselves into drafting one of the two presumed "can't-miss" prospects in the draft, that would also be a clear-cut best choice but that was very obviously never in the cards for us.
Consider that paragraph for a moment, though. Those are the three scenarios (four if you can imagine for a moment the idea of NO letting Brees get away) that would have led to a clear-cut easy consensus move to address the quarterback position. At the bottom of this post, I am listing the 32 NFL teams with their 2011 QB depth charts in an effort to illustrate the scarcity of what I am calling "consensus quarterbacks" in the league. When you consider that list, there are seven teams that objectively need to address their QB situations, eight depending on how one feels about Alex Smith. That's fully a quarter of the league. Those teams are: Miami, Cleveland, Denver, Oakland, Washington, Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco, depending on how one feels about Alex Smith.
Dig in a little further and start to look at guys like Flacco, Ryan, Fitzpatrick and Sanchez. If the 'Hawks were to somehow magically acquire a guy from that tier, consider how you would feel about it. Relative to, say, signing Matt Flynn or drafting Ryan Tannehill, how would you, personally, feel about suddenly acquiring Mark Sanchez? Relative to a healthy Tarvaris Jackson starting next year, how would you feel about a healthy Joe Flacco? Rather than drafting whichever of Osweiler/Cousins/Tannehill/Other you feel is the best QB prospect that will be available for us to draft, how would you feel about the addition of Josh Freeman or Matt Ryan?
What I'm getting at is that there is a limited number of "no-brainer" quarterbacks in the league. That number is substantially fewer than 32. I would say that the "no-brainer" quarterback list goes as follows: Brady, Roethlisberger, Schaub, Peyton-if-he's-healthy, Rivers, Romo, Eli, Cutler, Stafford, Rodgers, Brees. I could be persuaded to add Newton assuming he progresses and Vick assuming he can stay healthy. That's a list of between ten and thirteen quarterbacks that would be a don't-think-twice upgrade over our current situation. To put it another way, that's between ten and thirteen teams that wouldn't at least consider trading quarterback situations with us. If you think that Gabbert, Locker, Dalton, Ponder and Bradford are all going to pan out, you can make it a maximum of 18 teams that inarguably have a better situation at QB than we do. That leaves 13 teams that are not considerably better off at quarterback than we are.
Of those 13 teams, three will split up Luck, RGIII and Peyton. The other ten will be in essentially the same position that we are: trying to patch together the best situation they can out of what's available. The fact of the matter is that there just aren't 32 franchise-caliber quarterbacks playing professional football at any given time.
What I'm really driving at is this: it is very easy, as Seahawks fans, to be discontent with the current quarterback problem. It is very easy, as discontent Seahawks fans, to presume that there is some relatively simple solution to that problem, if only the front office would pull the trigger. It is extremely difficult, as discontent Seahawks fans, to accept that quality quarterbacks are a scarce and limiting resource in the economy of the NFL and that all 32 teams will never all simultaneously have a no-brainer quarterback.
Take the entire list below and add to it the potentials of Luck, RGIII, Osweiler, Cousins, Tannehill, Weeden, Wilson and whomever else you like from the coming draft class and try to decide which 32 of those quarterbacks are, without significant hesitation, better options than a healthy Tarvaris Jackson going into next season. For that matter, which 22 of those quarterbacks are better options? I welcome your feedback.
J P Losman