You may remember last year’s Seattle Seahawks season post-mortem, when the re-signing of free-agent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was listed as the team’s top priority.
If so, you’ll understand the wisdom of only loosely interpreting pronouncements about personnel matters made by NFL coaches or executives this time of year. Perhaps especially in regard to the quarterback position.
Shifting factors of expense and availability change the placement of the pieces on the board in ways that can’t be predicted at this point. And there’s still months of contract posturing and roster politics before free agency even starts. Then comes the draft.
So, they still express love for everybody they’ve got, and fervently wish to keep anybody who might be eligible to get away. Simply, it does no good to publicly marginalize guys you may end up having to count on later if other options don’t pan out.
While re-upping stars such as Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant are obviously critical to Seahawks success in 2012, much of coach Pete Carroll’s Tuesday season-ender news conference focused on returning quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Carroll expressed his appreciation for Jackson’s toughness and leadership. He fairly pointed out that some of his struggles (79.2 passer rating and inability to generate late-game scoring drives) was at least partially influenced by factors other than Jackson.
Carroll stressed from the start that he expects to challenge every player at every position. And that obviously includes quarterback.
But how? The question was put to Carroll, as it relates to quarterback, do you have a preference – bringing in a veteran or a young prospect?
In essence, the question is whether he’d rather have a soon-to-be free agent such as Matt Flynn of Green Bay, or a draft pick he can shape from the start.
He was emphatic: He is intrigued by young guys. And it’s clear he’s given it a great deal of thought while flipping 180 degrees on the issue.
“My opinion in the last few years has changed on what the quarterbacks can do coming out of college,” he said. “I would have told you in years past, as an NFL coach, that young guys can’t do it and there were only a couple that ever did, and that wasn’t enough to make that an expectation that you could count on. But I think that’s totally shifted. I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”
He saw rookies Matt Ryan (Atlanta) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore) lead their teams into the playoffs in 2008. The next year, Mark Sanchez took the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game.
With further success by rookies Cam Newton of Carolina and Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, Carroll said he’s convinced “there’s a carryover in the upbringing of quarterbacks that now is allowing them to transition much more quickly.
“I think it’s all a product of the whole football world growing in the confidence and belief in the throwing game.”
He used USC’s Matt Barkley as an example of how quarterbacks are being developed at an earlier age. He could not comment on Barkley as a prospect since Barkley did not declare for the draft, but his experience is relevant.
Barkley, he said, has been throwing the same routes and reading defenses since seventh grade. And complex college schemes make just about any of them more NFL-ready now.
The Hawks could have taken Dalton in the first round last spring, but went with Alabama tackle James Carpenter, hoping to shore up the offensive line before bringing in a young quarterback.
Dalton took the Bengals into the playoffs and looks like Cincinnati’s long-term quarterback at a bargain rookie contract of $5.2 million over four seasons.
Meanwhile, Arizona went the other route, trading a second-round draft pick and a starting cornerback to Philadelphia for veteran backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, and then committing $21 million in guaranteed money in a potential $63 million package.
In contrast to Dalton, Kolb has been limited with injuries and was unspectacular at a high price.
Seahawks GM John Schneider, Carroll assured, is well into the evaluation process of all quarterback options already.