Taking a closer look at Jackson's performance during a 23-17 defeat to Washington in Week 12 brought to mind a question for our consideration: Should the Seahawks shut down Jackson and use the remaining games to see what third-stringer Josh Portis has to offer?
A few factors entering into such a decision:
Health: The pectoral injury seemed to affect Jackson's throwing ability to a degree it had not previously. The team has already said Jackson might require surgery. Jackson has had trouble practicing on consecutive days. His performance has declined over the last few weeks. What is there to gain by leaving him in the lineup at well less than full strength?
What's at stake: The playoffs aren't a realistic option. Official elimination from the postseason will come with the Seahawks' next defeat or the San Francisco 49ers' next win or tie. Trying to squeeze out an extra victory or two while exposing Jackson to more serious injury makes little sense. The team needs Jackson to be ready for training camp. The defeat to Washington called into question whether Jackson can squeeze out another victory or two, anyway.
The process: This season was about discovery at the quarterback position and building other positions before drafting a QB in 2012. The Seahawks have seen enough from backup Charlie Whitehurst, who likely will not be back next season. Jackson proved he's tough and capable enough to serve as a bridge to the team's next starter. Portis' talents have intrigued the coaching staff. When else will the team have a chance to give Portis a look in real games?
Health permitting, Jackson probably needs to start against Philadelphia on Thursday night. His experience will help during a short work week. If Jackson were to enjoy a strong game, Seattle could reevaluate. Otherwise, the team could consider starting Portis at home against St. Louis in Week 14. In the meantime, make him the No. 2 option against Philadelphia.
Your thoughts? I did not raise draft order as a primary consideration because tanking the season shouldn't be a primary motivation. But if the team could protect Jackson from more serious injury, find out more about Portis and gain a few spots in the 2012 draft, that would be OK, too.
2011 NFC West: Total QBR by Week (0-100 scale, with 50 being average)
Quick thoughts on how NFC West passers graded out in Week 12 according to Total QBR, with NFL passer ratings in parenthesis as a reference point:
Sam Bradford, Rams (39.3 QBR, 85.8 NFL rating): Bradford completed 17 of 31 passwes for 203 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and two sacks during a 23-20 home defeat to Arizona. He did not carry the ball as a runner. He fumbled once and the Cardinals recovered. Decent passing stats gave Bradford a relatively high NFL passer rating. The fumble he lost and the Rams' overall ineffectiveness, particularly on third down, worked against him.
Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks (24.7 QBR, 69.3 NFL rating): Jackson completed 14 of 30 passes for 144 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and two sacks during a 23-17 home defeat to Washington. He did not carry the ball as a runner. He did not fumble. Jackson got little help from his wide receivers. Mike Williams dropped passes and failed to come back to the ball when Jackson was scrambling early in the game. Zach Miller also had a drop. Jackson has been willing to hold onto the ball in an effort to make plays. His injury hasn't allowed him to make enough of those plays.
Alex Smith, 49ers (15.8 QBR, 61.1 NFL rating): Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 140 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and nine sacks during a 16-6 road defeat to Baltimore. He gained 12 yards on two rushes. The 49ers recovered his lone fumble. Smith's teammates shared responsibility for some of the sacks Smith took against Baltimore. The QBR formula places some of the blame for sacks on quarterbacks. Smith's minus-7.3 expected points for sacks stands as the lowest score for that category in Week 12.
John Skelton, Cardinals (18.1 QBR, 30.0 NFL rating): Skelton completed 12 of 23 passes for 114 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks. He gained 18 yards on three rushes. Skelton did not fumble. His QBR for the season has now dipped below that of injured starter Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals have won three of their last four game, all with Skelton as the starter. They needed punt returns for touchdowns in both victories over St. Louis. Beanie Wells' 228-yard rushing performance was another key Sunday.
The chart below shows how quarterbacks from games involving NFC West teams fared in Total QBR for Week 12.