Seahawks facing potential dilemma at quarterback

Tavaris Jackson's reaction to Brett Favre's ninth retirement

While I think the Seahawks deserve praise for their work during free agency, there is one issue that could linger in the background. Are they going to become one of those teams that has everything but the quarterback? 

We’ve seen several cases of this in the NFL… a talented team filled with potential yet lacking at the most vital position in football. Even an above average starting quarterback would’ve been enough, they didn’t need Manning or Brady. So close, yet still so far away. 

I’m not intending this to be a negative piece on Tavaris Jackson. I actually think the Seahawks have done a great job making life easy for their quarterback and while I’m not getting carried away, I don’t think there’s any need to be so over-the-top dramatic about the quarterback situation. Jackson can help the Seahawks back to the playoffs via the NFC West title. He couldn’t wish for much more in terms of the supporting cast delivered in free agency. 

Yet until we’ve seen several performances, it’s hard to invest anywhere near the kind of faith that the unthinkable happens and Seahawks fans actually start to consider other positions in next April’s draft. Right now it’s QB, QB, QB and rightly so. People still see Jackson as a bridge option only – which is perfectly understandable. Even if the Seahawks went 13-3 next season I’d still suggest serious investment in a young quarterback. After all, Derek Anderson made a Pro Bowl. 

But everyone assumes that Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley will be within reach, either because the Seahawks are bad enough to draft them or because they’ll trade up. In both cases it will be really difficult. All of the positives moves this off season have created an offense that’s on the brink of being excellent but for remaining question marks at quarterback. There are teams not even close to owning the level of talent Seattle has brought in recently – and they don’t play six games in the NFC West either. 

Andlet’s not forget that even with a pretty mediocre season, a losing record andpoor play both offensively and defensively – last year the Seahawks earned themselves the #25 overall pick. They have improved from last year, in some areas significantly so. And while we sit hear and rightly applaud, you do just hope that this won’t become a team that is so good in every way but the quarterback. Minnesota fans experienced a bit of that with Jackson previously. 

I had a look at the top ranked quarterbacks from last year based on passing yards. It’s not a perfect science for judging quarterbacks, but it’ll do for now. Philip Rivers was ranked #1 for yards, he is a former 4th overall pick. After that came Peyton Manning (1st overall), Drew Brees (32nd overall), Matt Schaub (3rd rounder), Eli Manning (1st overall), Carson Palmer (1st overall), Aaron Rodgers (24th overall), Tom Brady (6th rounder), Matt Ryan (3rd overall) and Kyle Orton (4th rounder). 

Of the ten most statistically productive quarterbacks last year, half were former top five picks. All but three were first rounders. Good luck finding another Tom Brady in this lifetime. 

As I said not an exact science because there are other mitigating factors to production (talent on team, schedule, coming from behind a lot etc) and of that group only half made the post season. Picking early is never going to guarantee anything, especially at quarterback. However, having your pick of the top talent does give you a great chance of finding a productive player. An obvious statement perhaps, but crucial nonetheless. 

If the Seahawks are perennially too good to avoid picking early enough to tap into the top quarterbacks, they’ll have to be creative. Being better everywhere else potentially creates a vicious cycle of frustration where you’re not good enough to win a title, but equally not bad enough to solve the equation. Talent gets wasted, so does time. 

I would much rather build a foundation, as the Seahawks are doing, and then be pro-active to find a quarterback. Believing your team at least has a shot at being competitive on a Sunday is a much better feeling than simply biding time until the combine. Yet some of the best franchises and contenders at the moment had to hit rock bottom before they grew. When Seattle hit rock bottom, they spent $140m on linebackers. 

For the purpose of fairness, let’s say Jackson does have an incredible year and makes a big statement. The Seahawks march into the playoffs, shocking the league with Jackson running the show. Can you really justify a big splash at quarterback then? What message does that send to what would be your starting QB in 2012? Do you pass up the chance to perhaps improve another area of the roster (DL? DB?)? That in itself is as much a dilemma as any. Is one year’s production enough to go ‘all-in’ on Tavaris Jackson and pass up the chance to make that ambitious move for one of two quarterbacks with such incredible potential coming out of college? 

It’s going to be really fascinating to see how this plays out. Jackson will have to perform beyond even the most advanced expectations (perhaps unfairly) to make this an avoidable subject in the new year. If the Seahawks are too good to be natural candidates in the Luck/Barkley sweepstakes, do they get aggressive? Would you spend multiple first round picks to move up? Or do you move on to a Kirk Cousins, Austin Davis or Landry Jones? Each have their qualities, yet each may not offer the kind of mid-round value that Tampa Bay discovered with Josh Freeman. I’ve compared Cousins strongly to Kevin Kolb, Davis is a dark horse with real potential and Jones carries a round one grade at the moment but needs to shine through his system at Oklahoma this year and be more consistent.


  1. Misfit74

    One thing that bothers me about the rookie wage scale:
    Teams may be less inclined to allow other teams (like Seattle) to trade up for a QB. The money invested at the top of the draft is nothing like it used to be. And, teams can afford to take QBs at the top where the cost could sometimes scare other teams into taking a different position given the inherent risk QBs have.

    • Attyla the Hawk

      That’s really a non issue. Teams don’t pass on QBs because they balked at their price. Ultimately they take players due to personnel needs reasons.

      When you see teams move out of the top spots, it’s because they can typically solve their personnel needs without a top pick. So the bonus of getting additional draft picks makes the move pretty easy to make. I can’t really recall any team balking at a QB early in the draft because they felt the price was prohibitive. I do however recall teams passing on QBs, because they had significant risk associated with them, or didn’t have a need at the position to begin with.

      Rookie scale or not, teams aren’t going to invest the draft capital wastefully. And as with most QBs, one can rarely get a solid read on whether one is really a bust until 4-5 years down the road. The new agreement (with the club option 5th year), still means teams are on the hook for that duration for big cash at the end. Even Tim Couch warranted an extended look for Cleveland.

  2. Michael

    Well though I do love reading your article and this site in general I have a qualm with your theory. Look at atlanta with matty ryan, indy with manning, chargers and rivers denver and chicago with cutler and orton, texans and schaub, farve and the vikings … The list is huge all qbs with teams that are good if not better than average and only one superbowl appearance there? Why does it have to be a better than average or top pick qb to get playoff bound? Why cant a team with homefield advantage and a game manager get a few superbowl runs in? Alexander and the running game got us to sb XIV and a d that won the turnover battle almost every game.

    • Rob

      Hi Michael,

      I think it’s mainly my own ambition – I want to be a consistent contender. Game managers and stop gaps don’t tend to get you to that point. The teams that challenge every year have top end quarterbacks and more often than not those guys are drafted early. I’m not saying it’s beyond Seattle to have a deep playoff run without that elite QB, but in order to be in a position where every year the Seahawks demand that fear factor from the rest of the NFC, you’re going to need a QB that can perform with the game’s best.

      And in fairness, I could add some other QB’s to that list and take the number of SB appearances up considerably. It’s also only fair to relay that Manning has been to two SB’s and while Favre didn’t make it in Minnesota, he came within one play and had plenty of success in GB.

      • Michael

        Again though farve wasnt a first round draft choice and although I expect no tom bradys I also could throw out names like alex smith akili smith leaf palmer sanches stafford harrington losman all big hype first rd qbs I think that building a team like the pats or cowboys or seahawks 05 is stay young and stay healthy while building chemistry. you say fear like people would fear us going 0-15 east coast kinda thing? Im not saying I wouldnt take a franchise qb if one arises im just bantering the notion in the headline that its the biggest problem. 89 yds ave rushing and negative turnover ratio hurt way worse to a teams moral. Id take a game manager with a strong arm ala rothlisburger than a take all like manning. The up side to not over paying a qb is a franchise de and a few shut down corners that would scare a few teams with a good running game are the ways to let a signal caller growth into a manning or brady or rivers or brees or warner or … Agian all started with good running games and mostly consistent offensive cordinators. Success is winning at home and bring teams to you in the playoffs look at the steelers and patriots thats their constant mo is more my point.

        • Rob

          Favre went #33 overall, so he would be the first pick of round two today. He was also drafted in 1991 coming out of Southern Miss, I think it’s very fair to say in 2011 we have a lot more access to these players.

          I’m not arguing that every early pick is a franchise QB or that you can’t find starters outside of the top five. The point is that the chances of finding a legit QB are much improved picking very early – and that’s no revelation. Stop gaps and ‘game managers’ only get you so far. Roethlisberger is not a game manager.

          • Michael

            My point to contend is to be a healthy team and thats what im loving of the schneider carroll era. If you cant stay healthy you cant start and help so why over pay you? They have been active bringing in a fighting group that will earn nfc respect. I understand we are ACTIVELY searching for a FRANCHISE QUARTERBACK but not at any cost and not taking the low road to just wait till 0-16 either. I personally believe in tjack to be better than average and thats all we need and you can see that leading to a player falling to seattle in a few years like the pats have year after year. So dont stress or start stress we are a 10-6 team getting better.

    • Brandon Adams

      You can’t judge a QB by how many SB appearances he has.

      • Rob

        Michael, not sure how health and over paying correlate. The point isn’t any QB at any cost, it’s whether the Seahawks will a.) be in position to draft a QB should they desire next year and if not b.) do you make a move up the board.

      • Glen

        Packers put to bed the notion of health last year…15 players on IR and 10 starters…depth and internal player development with a solid QB make the difference…

        I don’t mind giving up a pick (3rd or later) to get a superior talent (ie Osi) because this team needs to solidify it’s base and then build depth behind it, but I believe that is what we are going to see this year, and maybe next, then the depth w/a QB of future that may not start til 2014…and I love it.

  3. Glen

    NFL is a copy cat league and we all like to look at other teams and compare the state of our team. Although I’m not intimate with the pre-Sanchez Jets I do know that they had a solid core and made a bold move to get their guy. I think that maybe what we are looking at. I have long been against reaching for the QB of the future because this team has needed so many other pieces…I’m starting to buy into making such a move next year if PC & JS believe in a QB coming out.

    If Jackson has a solid year and leads them to the playoffs you at least know worst case scenario you have a guy to lead while a rookie learns to be a pro which I think a L. Jones or K. cousins may need. Certainly the front office is going to face a tough decision when it comes to QB of the future but each day that passes I am more comfortable that they are ready to make that decision…they’ve already made a few of them to get us all excited again…

    • Rob

      Great points Glen and I think that’s a fair summary. The Jets didn’t take a second mortgage to pay for Sanchez either, so I wonder if Seattle can be similarly creative if such a circumstance permits?

  4. Glen

    Oh…and brilliant caption on the photo above rob!

  5. Bjorn


    Any of your sources from your “Carson Palmer” story earlier in the year mention anything new on the possibility of obtain him? Is that completely dead?

    • Rob

      It will not happen before the start of the season. If it ever does happen, I think you’re looking at just before next year’s draft.

      • Rugby Lock

        Would we want to do it at that point? I would suppose it would depend on how much they would ask for him. If we did how many years would he be able to play do you think?

        • Rob

          Anywhere between 1-3. It depends whether he becomes a preferable bridge option to what’s already on the roster.

  6. John

    This exact problem, Rob, is what’s been keeping me up nights. The seahawks have become too good, too fast, to reliably believe they’ll have a shot at drafting a quarterback high next year. Forget Luck completely. And we may have to trade a current 1st, a future 1st, and a current 2nd or 3rd to jump from the 15-20 range to the top 5 in order to ensure we get Barkley or Jones, depending on how the college season shakes out. That’s if we can find a trading partner. It’s a tough situation.

    The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that our only real hope is Carson Palmer. His value to us has increased based on the moves we’ve made, and I’m starting to believe that if we could get him for one first, we should do it.

    • Bubba Gill

      Why not and if we cant attain it, why not add a great MLB that will be there for years to come, Iam so high on ASU LB Burfict. If T-jax has a great year, continue to use him, Trent dilfer won a SB , why cant T-Jax?

    • akki

      Not sure about the getting too good too fast assumption. The offensive talent level’s certainly a heck of a lot higher, but it’ll be hard to jell with 8 new starters, only 6 weeks of preseason, and uncertainty over who the new leaders will be. Fortunately I hear that other than contributing his skill set, Miller was also a locker room leader with Oakland.

      If you go 7-9 this year and don’t make the playoffs (as would normally be the case with that record), then you’re probably drafting around #10 or so and still be in trading range to get a top QB. But I have to agree with Misfit’s point above, that it’ll become more expensive to trade up with the rookie wage scale. If you somehow go better than 7-9 then maybe Jackson’s looking pretty good. If you do a couple games worse, then you’re in position to replace the QBs.

      However, I think the final addition of Miller takes us out of the running for the Luck sweepstakes, even if things go horribly wrong with injuries. The teams that end up drafting #1, they usually have only a few points of failure in that only a few key players have to go down to kill the offense – see Carolina with the passing game shutting down with Steve Smith’s injury because their other WRs were rookies.

    • Glen

      Too good too fast? It’s August… This team has a extremely green OL, and a average (at best @ this point in his career) QB…the schedule is brutal early…a 1-5, 2-4 start is not out of the question…do I believe this team is significantly better than last year? Absolutely without question…but we lost a whole off season to get a very young team together…I believe that 8-8 wins the NFC West, and if that’s not us we’ll draft in the teens.

  7. Hawksfan33

    Next years draft is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and anticipated drafts EVER for seahawk fans. I mean think about it, we are just starting training camp and every seahawks blog has begun talking about the race for Luck, and saying things like, ” Imagine this team once we get our QB next year!”.

    IMO next years draft will be the most important draft in the Pete Carrol era and will ultimately define his tenure in Seattle.

    • Rob

      That could be the case Hawksfan, but if nothing else I want to stress realism on this blog regarding next year’s class. It’s not as cash-rich in the QB department as some think. Luck will go #1. Barkley may or may not declare, that’s in the balance depending on his year at USC. Then you have a group of others fronted by Landry Jones. It could be that two QB’s go in round one next year, seriously. And in that instance it’ll be difficult for Seattle to fill their biggest hole.

  8. Karlos

    1st off I’d like to say that it feels so good to be talking positively about this season because before free agency we were considered to be a team hurt by the lock-out. Seems like all Hawks fans are now behind the team as talented & legitament contenders. Although we still don’t have an identity, we present matchup problems & nightmares for DC. In year 1 after the draft Pete explained he didn’t feel that we could afford to draft a qb basically because our team wasn’t ready for one. I am riding in the backseat with Pete & John in the front now these guys are aggressive & their masterpiece is almost komplete. I expect them to continue to be aggressive in their approach & I honestly believe our qb doesn’t have to be a college stud just a strong armed, mobile, game maneger who limits turnovers. we seen what Pete & John will do when they want a player (Overcomphensate) so I wouldn’t be shocked if we made some crazy jump up the draft board to secure a decent qb. Before free agency I felt we were in the bottom 1/2 of the league now I feel like true contenders with players you actually have to gameplan for. I can’t remember a Seahawks team in the last 10yrs this potent with potential and yes that’s even put against our Superbowl team (Experienced but not explosive). This will be the year we establish an identity but, by next year is when I think all the parts & ppl will be in place for a…. Checkmate.
    Like you said Rob I see 3 positions we really need & if 1 of our corners proves to be a diamond that’s 1 down. I am kind of worried about the kicking game though.

  9. woofu

    Another thought or two on Qb’s.

    Plan (insert letter), was to upgrade the OL’s potential and focus on the run game knowing that the pass-pro would take some time to “gel”. That is a general consensus when dealing with most new linemen. The next timetable superimposed on the above is the timetable for the unit as a whole to “come together”.

    Whats that add up to? To me it would be the 2012 season before you could hope to protect a franchise Qb out of the draft without subjecting him to the Carr treatment. Enter the mobile Qb. One that can get to the edge when needed so as to avoid the punishment and loosen the box on the running game. TJ might be perfect in that role and comes with the Bevel Bonus. If he’s the long term guy, great. If not, the whole team is upgrading to meet ” Mr. next”.

    Plan(insert another supprise letter).
    Nobody could have predicted the Orton fiasco in Denver. The outcome of which is a payroll disaster and apparent disparity between Orton and Tebow. They may need to unload Tebow at this point and bring in a Fox like guy behind Orton. Now if we want that mobile Qb guy as in the above plan then Tebow would qualify. Only one problem, he doe’nt seem to be as good as Orton in THAT system but is a huge competitor. If Charlie does’nt improve soon we might be wise to bring in the lefty considering our bookend OT’s can protect either handed guy.

    I am no T-boner fan by any stretch but if the Charlie,”struggles” continue I would not be waiting much longer for another arm to show up.

  10. D

    You play to win the game. Hello!? You-play-to-win-the-game.

    I have been playing football and team sports many seasons and it is crystal clear that when an organisation builds a culture of winning it has success. This culture makes every single man on the team better.

    It might be a bit of a knee yerk reaction from me and in that case I am sorry but; Could we please stop lamenting the possible loss of draft position? JS and PC are trying their damndest to install a winning culture and getting after players that can get the job done. Are you saying we shouldn’t have signed a 25 year old pro bowler?

    Drafting is risky buiness. Wanting to win and getting people to kick the opponents arse is not.

    • Misfit74

      I agree with this. We are consistently adding the best talent available that fits some criteria of a young, up and coming team that’s building toward the future with a plan in place. We’re not overpaying for vets or short-term fixes, which I LOVE. We’re snapping up the YOUNG, QUALITY TALENT that we can. Guys like Miller and Rice don’t hit the market all the time. Get them while you can, regardless of positions of bigger ‘need’. The have positional value in mind and the long-term landscape of the league in mind. We have plan and the bottom line is that the teams with the most talent win. There’s a plan for QB, I’m sure. Even so our talent will carry us only so far until that #1 position is suitably fixed. For now, we’re making the strides we can and a lot of good, quality moves. I love this team.

  11. Don

    In a perfect world, the Seahawks would be lucky enough to do what Pittsburgh did on ’04. Even the Steelers had to have one bad year to get their franchise QB.

    They go 6-11, pick 11th and get Roethlisberger. Now re-loaded with a new QB, they go on to win the SB the following year. When you already have the talent, you can insert a quality QB and continue on with the dynasty.

  12. Frank

    I hate to play the yes man role, but it’s worth two first round picks if you belive the franchise guy is there.

  13. Don

    Hi Rob,

    Great article Rob. Interesting, I will be paying more attention this season to other teams losses than their wins. Could you please give us an analysis of how many teams may draft ahead of the Seahawks and which of those may need a QB?


    • Glen

      I’m gonna try to do this without reasearching but here are the teams that TODAY won’t be in the QB market next year (alot can happen between now and next April):

      St. Louis, Arizona, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, New York Giants, Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, New England, NY Jets, Houston, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Tennesee, Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, Kansas City

      These teams will:
      Buffallo, Miami, Washington, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle

      Miami may still trade for Orton, Chan Gailey may really love Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jim Harbaugh may turn Alex Smith into Peyton Manning or maybe he thinks he did…who knows….and then there is Oakland…

      In all honsesty there are plenty of scenarios where a team like Carolina or Denver drafts in the top 10 ahead of some of the 6 teams I listed above and would allow a team like Seattle to move up and get a QB for picks…

      • Rob

        I disagree that Cincy and Denver won’t be the in the QB market, Glen. A second round pick on Dalton is no stringent handcuff and certainly they aren’t going to pass on Luck/Barkley/etc to stick by him. Carolina showed how quickly you can move on from a R2 pick at QB this year.

        Josh McDaniels picked Tebow for Denver, and he’s not there anymore. What’s more, John Elway will be looking for his own guy soon enough. He adores Luck.

        • Glen

          Well I was going more so on how things look today…Of course Elway adores Luck they are Stanford guys, and they haven’t been too shy in trying to get Tebow on the field this year by shopping Orton, maybe they get there look at Tim late in the year and move on…who knows maybe Peyton re-injures his neck and thrust Indy into the market….lots of variables to determine who will be in the market next year

  14. Mike

    I love all of the moves in free agency–we are a better, more intriguing team because of it. But some people have taken this excitement a bit too far. I think a 6-10 season is in the works.

    All of our offensive moves have taken the focus off how bad our defense is. Our defense line is middle of the pack, at best. The linebackers, once the perceived strength of the team, are now all question marks to some degree. Wow, could we use a cornerback or two? Trufant is declining, Thurmond is an unknown quantity as a starter, and Kelly Jennings is, well, Kelly Jennings. Kam? Legree? Could be ok…we’ll see. Thank god for Earl Thomas. We might be younger, deeper, and more athletic, but we’re going to give up a lot of points. Only 5 teams gave up more yards last year. Only 7 teams gave up more points. I don’t think we’ve done anything to really improve this.

    As far as the QBs go, I think Carson Palmer was plan A. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, Tavaris was our backup plan based on his experience with the offense and his mobility. If he does well this year, fantastic. We can draft a QB (almost certainly not a Luck or Barkley) and roll will TJack for year two of his contract while the rookie learns (the future of our franchise being groomed by Tavaris Jackson is a somewhat scary thought). If Tavaris is average (which I expect) or plays poorly, we have a ton of options. We would still likely draft a QB, but then also look for a new bridge QB. Palmer could be back in play. Vince Young will be a free agent again and I can see him in Seahawk blue. Someone like Matt Flynn (Whitehurst redux?) could be interesting to John Schneider. Heck, I can even imagine a scenario where we sign Alex Smith for a year or two. In any event, Whitehurst will be off the books and TJack’s contract isn’t unwieldy.

    Bottom line, I think Pete and John know what they’re doing here, overpaying for Whitehurst now withstanding. It is quite conceivable that we could have Carson Palmer starting for us next year with Landry Jones holding a clipboard. A boy can dream can’t he?

    As an aside–is Palmer somewhat like Lofa in that there name value is greater than their actualy abilities at this point? Might a year off be good for his arm? Thanks, Rob, for getting us to obsess over Palmer for the last few months.

    Glen, you don’t think San Francisco feels like Kaepernick is there QB of the future?

    • Don

      You are right abot the defense being an unknown. I really ( I mean really really) don’t want to get another bridge QB next year with Palmer, and delay the selection of the franchise QB. Next year’s draft should be QB no matter what happens. It will take a few years of experience for the QB to learn the system and get familiar with the players, and the sooner he is chosen the better.

      Judging from the teams that are worse and will be picking a QB, I have aleady given up hope about getting the big three (Luck, Barkley, Jones), and hoping the Seahawks can still get Cousins. Cousins could also be gone by the time Seahawks pick.

    • Glen

      Good point I was going off my memory putting that together…

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