Daily mailbag: The power of perception

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Tom of Los Angeles, home of new Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and a few million other people, writes:

I'm a HUGE Vikings fan living in Los Angeles. One of my employees and his brother know T.J. Houshmandzadeh. When asked why he passed on Minnesota, he told them that it was all good until they brought Tarvaris Jackson into talk to him (and basically signal to him that he is their starter). ..."

We have to be careful about passing along news tips, but in this case Tom's information is verified. ESPN's John Clayton reported the same sequence of events last Saturday on ESPN radio. Houshmandzadeh himself said that the presence of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle played a big part in his decision.

The news here is not so much Houshmandzadeh's reaction to meeting with Jackson. Only two people know first-hand what they talked about. Regardless, the meeting was only part of the overall process of a free-agent visit. It's not fair to blame Jackson for Houshmandzadeh's decision to sign with Seattle.

To me, the larger point is that the Vikings portrayed Jackson as their 2009 starter rather than as a competitor for the job along with Sage Rosenfels. Or, at the very least, that's the way Houshmandzadeh perceived the situation when the Vikings offered to put him and Jackson in a meeting room. It's very possible that Rosenfels wasn't in the building that day. But for Houshmandzadeh, the message was clear. High-profile free-agent visits are planned and choreographed, and the Jackson meeting probably wasn't a last-minute arrangement.

Much of this is a matter of perception. I believe the Vikings will go through the process of a formal quarterback competition, as they have stated since acquiring Rosenfels from Houston. (That, of course, is barring any further additions to their depth chart.) But many of us are perceiving the situation the same way Houshmandzadeh did: That, at the very least, the Vikings remain committed to developing Jackson as their long-term starter and that he will win the job in 2009 as long as his performance is close to Rosenfels' during the competition.

I don't know what the Vikings told Houshmandzadeh about that competition. But from his perspective, actions spoke louder than words.