If the Seahawks are smart, they'll ask Jackson to compete with Charlie Whitehurst (and others) as the organization searches for its next long-term starter behind center. And that will be the point: searching for the next quarterback.
Jackson, who reached agreement with the Seahawks on a contract that cannot be signed before Friday under league rules, may or may not succeed in the role. He's one option for a team that remains early in the process. Seattle could still draft or otherwise acquire its future quarterback in 2012, making Jackson only one part of this story.
The bottom line, of course, is that Hasselbeck should have finished his career in Seattle. I think he would have finished his career in Seattle if Mike Holmgren, the man responsible for acquiring Hasselbeck in 2001, had remained in a leadership position with the team. Holmgren is long gone, however, and the current leadership team is doing what Holmgren sought to do when he arrived in Seattle back in 1999: move on with an eye toward the horizon.
Back then, Holmgren turned his back on an aging Warren Moon even though Moon had tossed 36 touchdown passes with 24 interceptions while starting 24 of the 25 games he played in Dennis Erickson's final two seasons as head coach. Moon was 42 years old at the time and would start only one more regular-season game, with Kansas City.
Hasselbeck turns 36 in September and should have more of a future than Moon had way back when, but then as now, Seattle didn't have an obviously superior alternative lined up. The team simply wanted to move on.
Matt Hasselbeck spent 10 seasons with the Seahawks and led Seattle to its first Super Bowl.
Seattle did offer a contract to Hasselbeck, but the quarterback wanted a stronger commitment -- something that would give him more security beyond the 2011 season. It's questionable whether Hasselbeck will command such a deal elsewhere. He could wind up taking an underwhelming deal from another team. But if the Seahawks felt more strongly about wanting him back, they could have found a way.
Getting a deal done with Jackson days before the signing period opens tells us Seattle's interest was lukewarm. It's unlikely the rest of the league was lining up for a shot at Jackson.
Hasselbeck will leave Seattle as the arguably the best quarterback in franchise history. Dave Krieg matched Hasselbeck in Pro Bowls and won a higher percentage of his starts, but Hasselbeck helped lead Seattle to its first Super Bowl. Fans will remember him for playing a leading role in the most successful run in franchise history. He's a lock for the team's Ring of Honor and a Seattle sports icon.
Those things didn't guarantee him the starting job after a rough three-year run, of course. Hasselbeck started 35 games over the past three seasons. During that span, the team was 12-23 (.343) when he started and 4-9 (.308) without him in the lineup. He's one of 19 quarterbacks with at least 35 starts over the past three seasons. The other 18 had higher passer ratings during that stretch.
The Seahawks fell apart around Hasselbeck over the last three seasons, a big reason for his struggles. They went into full rebuilding mode with a new coach and new general manager last year. And yet they never took an extended look at Whitehurst even while Hasselbeck struggled through injuries and behind a constantly reconfigured offensive line. I thought that was the Seahawks' biggest failing last season, mitigated by the team's surprise showing in the playoffs and Hasselbeck's stellar performance in the wild-card round.
ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck, speaking about his brother on 710ESPN Seattle, said he expected the Seahawks to take criticism until the next quarterback proved to be a superior alternative.
"Strictly as an analyst, it's hard to say that they improved at the quarterback position by deciding to go in a different direction [with Jackson]," Tim Hasselbeck said. "If they signed Kevin Kolb, we are probably having a different conversation. But that is how I see it and how I think a lot of people will see it."
No doubt. Tim Hasselbeck said his brother appreciated hearing directly from coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider when the team told Matt Hasselbeck it was moving in another direction. He also said his brother was disappointed.
"The way it went down was, I had been talking with him throughout the day, trying to get some information to see what was happening," Tim Hasselbeck said. "Matthew has been talking to me about teams that had been contacting him throughout the day. There were a lot of teams. The Seahawks weren't one of those teams. A little before Danny O'Neil had reported it, the Seahawks, in a very classy move, Pete Carroll and John Schneider called Matthew and said, 'Listen, we appreciate what you have done for the organization, but we are going to go in a different direction and signing another quarterback.' "
Jackson is that quarterback, Tim Hasselbeck said, affirming John Clayton's expectations and a report from Dave Mahler of Sports Radio 950 KJR AM. I have since confirmed the Seahawks' agreement with Jackson through a source who said the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback was expected to sign with Seattle on Friday.
Jackson becomes what Jon Kitna was to Moon years ago -- one of the next guys, but not necessary The Guy.