It is time to see what Charlie Whitehurst can really do. The backup quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks has finally started to show why General Manager John Schneider signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract before the 2010 regular season.
In Saturday’s 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Whitehurst completed 14 of 19 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. In their opening preseason win against San Diego, he helped lead the Seahawks to a comeback 24-17 victory while going 14 of 20 for 115 yards in the second half. If not for a dropped pass on a perfectly thrown ball in last Saturday’s loss, it looked like he might complete another dazzling second-half comeback without the help of starter Tarvaris Jackson.
Despite facing mostly second-string defenses, he has shown why he could be a serviceable NFL quarterback for the first time in his career. At six-feet five-inches, 225-pounds, Whitehurst’s right arm could be mistaken for a Howitzer cannon. In two preseason games, he has improved upon the accuracy problems that plagued most of his young career. He looks more confident, and the happy feet he showed in the pocket in limited mop-up duty last season appears gone.
Whitehurst is, without question, a more polished passer than Jackson. Plus, have you seen that beard? The guy is Seattle’s football version of San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson.
The University of Clemson product isn’t going to come in and immediately lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl this season, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t help earn another playoff berth in the wide-open NFC West. After all, in 2010 Whitehurst beautifully managed Seattle’s win-or-go-home division championship game against the St. Louis Rams. With former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck watching from the sideline, Whitehurst completed 22 of 36 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown en route to a 16-6 victory.
His ability to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate, well-thrown ball before taking a hit should help the Seahawks as they rebuild an inexperienced offensive line. Jackson, in contrast, has already shown a tendency to force throws into double coverage. Next week against the Broncos, Head Coach Pete Carroll should give Whitehurst a chance to play against first team defenses.
It’s doubtful he will put up worse numbers than Jackson has in the first two preseason games. With the Alabama State graduate under center, the Seahawks haven’t scored a point yet this season. There is a reason why in 2009, nearly half the Minnesota Vikings made multiple trips to Brett Favre’s home in Hattiesburg, Miss., to beg him to come out of retirement.
Simply put, they didn’t want Jackson running their offense. With his career 76.6 quarterback rating, I can understand why. It’s conceivable why Carroll immediately named Jackson the starter after the NFL lockout ended. He is familiar with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's system after spending four years with him in Minnesota. In theory, Jackson would seem like the right guy for the job. But after seeing him play just twice, there is little doubt the former USC coach should reopen the starting quarterback competition.
There is no reason for Carroll to run around preaching his “Always Compete” mantra before shutting down the competition for a job that should by no means be secured. Give Whitehurst a season to prove he is NFL-worthy or start Jackson and enter into the 2012 Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. It’s your call, Pete.