The Bills acquired Jackson a week before the season to be the backup quarterback. He threw one pass in the final preseason game and hasn’t been heard from since. Jackson simply can’t be trusted to run Chan Gailey’s offense. Hasn’t had enough of those “reps.”
So he must be dumb, right?
“I don’t care,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I know that’s not the problem. You can ask any coach I ever played for. I don’t have a problem learning the offense. That’s never been a problem.”
That’s how it looks to the outside world, though. Jackson’s intelligence might not be the problem. But his own coach – who hasn’t exactly been the smartest guy in the room lately – is making it look that way.
“Well, I’m just going to be quiet,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Jackson said this has been the most frustrating season of his career. The Bills are paying him $1.75 million this season to be the third-string QB, to carry a clipboard. This Sunday in Toronto, he’ll almost surely be inactive against his former team, the Seahawks.
Early in September, he looked ahead to meeting his old team, and perhaps a chance to prove himself on the field. Instead, he’ll have to be content with offering the coaches his insights on the Seattle players.
“Not scheme, but more personnel and what he feels about their guys and strengths and weaknesses,” Gailey said Wednesday.
Why would Gailey ask Jackson about the Seahawks’ schemes when he can’t trust him to execute his own? You can spin it any way you like. Jackson, who was good enough to start for Seattle and win seven games last year, couldn’t master Gailey’s intricate offense in three months.
Gailey’s explanation hasn’t changed since September. The old professor has imparted his wisdom. The seven-year veteran hasn’t had a chance to master it.
“He knows what’s going on,” Gailey said. “There’s just no opportunity during the course of the season to get a guy reps doing things with the speed of the game. You can go out there and let him throw individual routes and things like that but just the speed of the game in a new offense is very, very difficult.”
This is what happens when coaches get wrapped up in their own mythology. They talk about countless hours spent in the office, breaking down game film, searching for that tiny edge. They want people to feel they’re in the grip of some profound football intelligence, beyond the ken of mere mortals.
But it hasn’t seemed that way on recent Sundays, has it? Really, how smart must a quarterback be to run Gailey’s stuff? How hard is it to hand off in this offense, or to be more specific, to concede that seven rushes a game is enough for C.J. Spiller?
Jackson isn’t exactly Drew Brees. But he threw for 3,091 yards for Seattle last season. His rating for the season was 79.2. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s was 79.1. Jackson’s yards per pass was 6.87. Fitz’s was 6.74. How many reps does Fitzpatrick need before the Bills realize he’s not the answer?
I’m not pushing for Jackson to unseat Fitz. Seattle coach Pete Carroll had great things to say about Jackson on Wednesday. But he wanted an upgrade at QB so he traded for Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson, who has been a revelation as a rookie.
But come on. Jackson can’t get a sniff of the Bills’ backup job in practice? He can’t get those precious second-team “reps,” so they can find out what he can do? Why did they bring him to Buffalo in the first place if they didn’t intend to give him a chance?
It’s enough to make you think the Bills don’t want anyone who might threaten Fitzpatrick’s job security (Vince Young, for example). When a team is struggling, they say the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in town. No one is clamoring for Tyler Thigpen, though.
Gailey, borrowing a page from Wade Phillips, said Monday that the Bills were out of the playoff race. He revisited the gaffe later, but they’re essentially done. They might as well elevate Jackson to second team, give him those backup reps, and put him in a game at some point.
Darrell Bevell was Jackson’s offensive coordinator at Minnesota and followed him to the Seahawks last season. Jackson said it was an advantage, having experience in Bevell’s rhythm offense.
“Being in the offense for six years, compared to three or four months, is a big difference,” Jackson said, “but for the most part I feel I’ve got the grasp of the offense. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was just told to come and learn the offense as fast as possible. That was pretty much it.”
Evidently, it wasn’t fast enough. There are so many complexities, so many mind-bending choices: Should I throw this 3-yard flat pass to Donald or Stevie? Gailey was flummoxed when Phillips put eight men in the box in Houston. Who’s the dumb one here?
So Jackson will do what he’s done for three months Sunday in the Rogers Centre. He’ll be holding a clipboard.
“If they need my help, I’ll be there,” Jackson said. “But I’m not going to interfere with those guys unless they ask me. So I’m just going to stand there like I usually do, chart the plays, and that’s it.”
Jackson will be a free agent after the season. Gailey wouldn’t rule out bringing him back. I’m guessing Jackson has other plans. The smart ones, after all, are generally the ones who get out of town.