Tarvaris Jackson: How do you like me now?!

Dec 22, 2011, 1:56 PM | Updated: 3:59 pm

After the Week 2 shutout loss to Pittsburgh, anti-Tarvaris Jackson sentiment was at an all-time high in the Pacific Northwest.

Most Seahawks fans were still suffering a hangover from their decision to not re-sign Matt Hasselbeck, and everyone wanted to see backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. A few of us were willing to give T-Jack more time, but the most common complaint was that Pete Carroll’s mantra –“always compete”– was ditched, and the job was handed to a largely unproven quarterback.

I agree that every other position was open for competition except quarterback, and Whitehurst had not been given a fair crack at the job. But because it’s such a unique position where reps in practice are precious — especially with no off-season practices — Carroll had to name a starter early on.

Twelve games later, it’s clear that Pete was right.

At that point in the season, Jackson was playing behind a very young offensive line (sacked ten times in two games) and had no support from the running game that was averaging a meager 47.5 yards per game.

I was still on the bandwagon and trust me, it was lonely!

There were still things to like about him. He had only one interception (a ‘Hail Mary’ at the end of the first half against San Francisco), was just two completions short of being a 65 percent passer (something Mike Holmgren would’ve been happy with), and got absolutely no help from the rest of his offense. The fact that he had thrown a shoulder-high crack back block on 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis during a reverse gave him some credibility too.

Fast-forward 12 weeks to Tuesday’s “Brock and Salk Show” where callers were nearly 100 percent in favor of Carroll’s decision on T-Jack. Some went so far as to say that the Seahawks may not need to burn an early draft choice on the quarterback position. What a difference three months make!

Jackson has endeared himself to Seahawks fans with his physical toughness. He’s played hurt and withstood being folded in half on a number of occasions, while the offensive line worked out their problems. But it’s his emotional and mental toughness that Seahawks fans admire, and last Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears was a great example of that toughness. During those tough times, we never heard any whining or complaining from T-Jack. He never slammed the ball down in frustration or yelled at his teammates or sulked on the sidelines.

The sack and fumble for a touchdown he took in the second quarter at the hands of Julius Peppers was extremely frustrating. T-Jack holds on to the ball too long, and that particular play was a prime example. But there’s a side of me that admires him for that play. He knew that Paul McQuistan — who was lined up on his blind side at left tackle — was playing at right guard the week before. He knew that one of the most fearsome and athletic defensive lineman in the league was rushing from that same blind side. Yet he was so focused on trying to make a play, he blocked all of that out.

I know, it was a dumb play and it cost the Seahawks a touchdown. But you can’t say he wasn’t brave. That’s a different type of toughness.

His mental and emotional resolve is what allows him to forget about that bad decision. He came back in the second half and went 15-for-19 for 176 yards and led his team to a victory. A lot of quarterbacks would’ve gone in the tank after that first half performance.

As a player, it’s easy to get down on yourself after a play like that. I experienced it many times during my nine years in the NFL. I remember the feeling after missing a tackle or two, getting blocked, or blowing an assignment. You sit there on the bench and self-doubt starts to creep into your mind. You think, “Am I good enough? How’s that play going to look on film tomorrow? Will the coaches decide to replace me?”

The good players have a short memory and are able to let those plays go and concentrate on the next play. That’s what Jackson did last Sunday, and it’s something he’s done all year. He’s tough physically, emotionally and mentally.

Is Tarvaris Jackson the Seahawks quarterback of the future? The jury is still out on that one. There’s no question that the Seahawks need to get a quarterback or two to develop for the future.

But Jackson’s play as of late gives the Hawks some breathing room so they don’t have to stretch themselves in the draft and end up with a guy like Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars, who flinches every time the wind blows. They don’t have to break the bank and spend $63 million on a backup free-agent like Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, who is being outshined by a no-name like John Skelton.

The Seahawks are building this team the right way. You build a team with depth at offensive and defensive line, develop a ball-hawking, physical defense, learn how to run the ball and plug in a quarterback that you can win with.

Certainly we’d all love to see the Seahawks acquire one of those elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Those are quarterbacks that you win because of and they’re hard to come by.

But the Tarvaris Jacksons of the world are a little easier to find and they’re the kind of quarterbacks that you can win with.

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Tarvaris Jackson: How do you like me now?!