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Old habits doom Jackson; Seahawks need to upgrade

By Mike Salk

There are times when we as sports fans have no idea what is really happening, especially in football. The gameplans are so complex and the results of each play are determined by the intricate interplay between so many players and coaches that it feels impossible to understand and assign responsibility.

There are other times, however, when we see EXACTLY what is really happening -- when we know what is going to happen before it even takes place because we know the team so well.

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Tarvaris Jackson's fourth-quarter fumble ended his attempt to lead his first game-winning drive of the season. (AP)
We all know Tarvaris Jackson holds the ball too long. We have watched it all year and no matter how you feel about him and his long-term role with the Seahawks, you just know that he holds the ball too long.

That's why it just didn't shock any of us when his Achilles heel showed up at the worst time.

We have seen Jackson in plenty of situations this year and we have learned a lot about him. He's not a bad quarterback. He's not the guy that everyone thought they were getting from Minnesota -- a mistake-prone loser that couldn't cut it at the NFL level.

Jackson, as we have learned, is an incredibly tough player who generally understands the importance of not throwing interceptions. He is a good leader and his toughness has rubbed off on his teammates and has helped give this team its personality. It's no accident that a team Pete Carroll says "will never back down" is led by a quarterback who stands his ground in every situation.

It's why I've supported him throughout this season.

We saw Jackson succeed in some situations (controlling the ball late against Baltimore, taking over when Chicago took away the running game, etc.), but we still haven't seen him bring his team back with an important two-minute drive late in a game. He's had opportunities to do it, but has failed twice at home, against both the Falcons and Niners.

It is OK to be a game manager. Alex Smith has won 12 games this year in that capacity and surely we know the stories of Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and even a young Tom Brady winning Super Bowls. Game managers win by controlling the ball, understanding the importance of field position, and getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers.

But they also have to lead important drives late in games because their teams typically haven't scored enough points to win it handily.

Tarvaris Jackson has not done that this year.

In limited opportunities, he has failed at that important skill. And I think it will be the reason his time in Seattle will end sooner rather than later.

The Seahawks need a franchise quarterback. That quarterback doesn't have to have every skill of the truly elites like Brady, Manning, Rodgers or Brees. But he does have to be able to win games for you late.

It's not going to be easy to find that guy.

Andrew Luck is a pipe dream, especially if St. Louis ends up with the top pick in this draft. For the record, I would happily trade four first-round picks for Luck, but the point may be moot. Robert Griffin is likely to be gone long before the Seahawks pick and his risk-factor may keep the Hawks from trading up for him. With no Matt Barkley (and possibly no Landry Jones) in this draft class, the chances of finding that franchise quarterback has dropped considerably.

The Seahawks can try to continue with Tarvaris Jackson and they may win eight or nine games and make an occasional playoff appearance. If they do, I'll happily support him because I admire certain things about his game and his personality.

But I'm now convinced that they need someone else to help them reach their ultimate goal.

The question is how to find him.

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