Monday, August 15, 2011

On Tarvaris Jackson, Part 3

Part 1: Low expectations for Tarvaris Jackson.

Part 2: Why he was still Seattle's optimal choice at QB.

First off: I am posting numbers comparing Tarvaris Jackson against Matt Hasselbeck, not to start more anger or debate about Hasselbeck's decision to go elsewhere, but because many here are very familiar with the progression of his career and the improvement he began to show in year 4 of it.

Tarvaris Jackson and the recently departed Great Bald One have some astounding similarities to their careers. All the following stats are from the first 4 years of Matt's career and the first 5 of Tarvaris'. This is because the number of attempts are roughly similar.

Tarvaris Jackson has had 603 passing attempts for his entire 5 year career. People can get hung up on the number of years he has had in the league, but in reality 603 attempts is a season and a half for many quarterbacks, and barely more than a season for some. Philip Rivers had 541 attempts last season, and Peyton Manning had 679. Point is, Jackson is young in the area of experience, and he shows promise. And a couple of big negatives.

Sides of the Field

Numbers wise, his career is eerily similar to Matt Hasselbeck's first four years. For instance, both at some point sat behind Brett Favre, both sported a completion percentage between 58 and 59%, both target the right side of the field predominantly, and both, while throwing for dramatically less yards to the left side of the field, are still far more likely to throw interceptions to that same side. We want the ball and we are going to score! Left side, pick 6 anyone?

Tarvaris JacksonMatt Hasselbeck
Area of fieldTDINTTDINT
Left7117 9

Even in Matt's best year, 2007, he was very average to the left side of the field, with 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions to the left. By way of comparison, he threw 20 touchdowns and 5 picks to all other areas of the field in 2007. Tarvaris has 7 touchdowns and 11 picks to the left side thus far in his career.

This lack of field balance is really what separates the elite quarterbacks from the 2nd level guys when you look at the statistics. Lots of quarterbacks have a portion of the field they throw to less often. This is more a critique of where they make their mistakes. Jackson and Hasselbeck make a disproportionate part of their mistakes to the left side of the field. I am pretty sure defensive coordinators scheme with these trends in mind as well.

Throwing to the right side, however, both show similarly positive instincts. In his 603 attempts, Tarvaris has 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to the right side. Matt, in his 759 attempts, had 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

If you are paying close attention, you notice that Tarvaris makes more big plays, and more mistakes. Run the percentages, and in a 500-attempt season, Tarvaris would throw about 6 more interceptions that Matt (at least, Matt in his first 4 years), and about 5 more touchdowns as well. The term "playmaker" can slice both directions, can't it?

Play by Quarter

Now for some numbers that suggest Tarvaris gets better (kind of) as the game goes on. First, I will start by saying that Jackson is staggeringly bad in the 3rd quarter. Scratch your eyes out bad:

Tarvaris Jackson by quarter
QuarterComp %TDINT1st

Maybe he just takes a while to respond to halftime adjustments, because his 4th quarter numbers are incredible: 11 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. His first half stats are very bland; he has thrown for as many touchdowns in the fourth quarter as he has in the first two quarters combined.

Now for one number that is astoundingly good in favor of Matt: the 2 minute offense. Neither quarterback is highly successful at the end of games, with Tarvaris having 1 TD/4 INT and Matt 1 TD/3 INT in the final two minutes of the second half. No doubt this is because hail mary interceptions as games conclude lead to the interception totals. But Matt was astoundingly good at the end of the first half, with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in the first 4 years he was in the league. Jackson has had very little success or failure running the two minute offense at the end of the first half.

By way of a 3rd comparison for the above two paragraphs, Kevin Kolb in his 11 games has 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in the 2 minute offense, and has 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in the final quarter. Haha, Cardinals. Here is hoping that trend continues...

Game Situation

And now for the biggest difference between the two, one that will both discourage you and give you hope. The stats show that Matt played best with a lead, was still decent when the game was tied, and stunk when playing from behind for the first 4 years of his career. It is what I would expect from any starting quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson, on the other hand, is very good/above average both when playing with a lead and when his team is losing, but is astoundingly bad when the game is tied. For his career, Jackson has only thrown 143 passes in a tied game, completing 55% for 2 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Small sample size, but OUCH!

This suggests to me that when defenses present more neutral/base defensive looks, as you might expect in a tie game, he really struggles to make reads. When defenses present him with more unbalanced looks, as you would expect when trailing or playing with a lead, he gets dramatically better because the reads are easier. So, early in his career, he is better than Matt when trailing, but worse when tied. Strange, I know.

A final misconception to debunk. Tarvaris is not as good at running the ball as most Seahawk fans are assuming. His career rushing average sits at 4.4 yards per attempt. Through his first 4 seasons, Matt's average was 4.25 per attempt. Jackson is more likely to run, but that extra .15 yard per rush is hardly a staggering amount. So either the Great Bald One was a lot better runner than I remember, or Tarvaris is not quite the runner many have imagined.


If I had to sum the two signal-callers up in a paragraph each, it would go like this:

Tarvaris will probably not become a 3-read kind of player, unless those reads are greatly simplified, which Pete Carroll does do with called bootlegs. Jackson struggles to read base defensive looks, but give a look that suggests blitz or single coverage, and he goes from very bad to pretty decent. He will likely struggle with pure zone looks. Like his predecessor here in Seattle, he struggles to throw to the left side. His comfort level grows by leaps and bounds in the 4th quarter, but seemingly evaporates in the final two minutes as the tempo increases. He is better playmaker than Hasselbeck, but he makes more mistakes as well.

Matt Hasselbeck was more leader than signal-caller early in his career, but when he began to get it, his improvement was rapid. He too was not really a third read kind of player, at least not early in his career, but the timing of Holmgren's system didn't really demand that anyway. At no time in his career was he really comfortable throwing to the left side. His first half two-minute prowess did not translate to the second half. The accuracy he showed in the middle part of his Seattle career was slow to develop.

I hope you enjoyed these stats. They don't fill me with positivity about Tarvaris as Seattle's quarterback, but there are other factors at play. Perhaps Carroll's positive nature will be good for Tarvaris, because Brad Childress' stifling control issues probably were not. Perhaps he has learned from watching Favre, but since Favre has never struck me as a mentor type player, and Favre was a gambler, I kind of doubt it.

Then again, Seattle only signed him to a 2-year deal, so maybe they aren't as filled with positivity as they sound when they describe him as the starter.

*all situational statistics courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Part 4: How Carroll's handling might maximize Jackson's potential.


  1. Good read! We haven't had a QB situation like this in a while. Loved your point about Matthew playing from behind. Never handled it well. Always seemed to get very frustrated and would force balls.One thing to consider when talking left side right side throws is the QBs favorite target, formations, match up, & the offenses use of routes with branches that put them on the right side. That could skew some charted throw stats IMO.

  2. MUZ, you are correct, scheme plays a role. Josh Freeman thus far in his career also throws less targets to the left. However, he also doesn't throw picks to the left disproportionately. That is where Matt has always lacked, and where T-Jack thus far lacks as well.