Tarvaris Jackson not only couldn’t get on the field for the Buffalo Bills last year, he couldn’t get a jersey to wear on game days.
New coach Doug Marrone, however, wants Jackson to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback job.
The Bills re-signed Jackson to a one-year contract Thursday, and Marrone delivered his first insightful comment about how he intends to approach the Bills’ most important position.
“I spoke with Ryan and Tarvaris and told them we will have an open competition at the quarterback position, similar to what we will do at all positions on our team heading into our offseason work,” Marrone said in a statement distributed by the team. “I believe that our players will embrace this challenge. We are looking forward to working with our players as we prepare for the 2013 season.”
Jackson, a healthy scratch for all 16 games last season, merely wanted the opportunity to show what he could do.
“Coming from my situation last year and not playing at all,” Jackson said on a conference call, “getting a chance to compete is very important, it’s about all you can ask for.
“It’s going to be an open competition. Understanding how the NFL works, I know that whenever a new coach comes there’s going to be a lot of positions that’s up for competition.”
The Bills ended 2012 with only one quarterback under contract. The incumbent, Ryan Fitzpatrick, hasn’t had an honest competition since he replaced Trent Edwards in September 2010.
Fitzpatrick won’t be insulated anymore.
The Bills need to bring at least four quarterbacks to training camp. The Bills signed free-agent Aaron Corp, who has no NFL experience, Thursday. They’re almost certainly going to draft one in the first or second round in April.
“Somebody’s got to go if that’s the case,” Jackson said, referring to him and Fitzpatrick competing against a high draft pick.
Jackson provides veteran depth with experience in a West Coast offense, which was the basis of Marrone’s system at Syracuse University and previously with the New Orleans Saints, where Marrone was offensive coordinator.
Jackson has started 34 NFL games for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
He has a 17-17 record as a starter for mediocre teams. He has completed 59.4 percent of his passes with 38 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. He can be a running threat.
“We haven’t really talked too much about the offense,” Jackson said of conversations with Marrone. “But I’m a fan of college football. So I went back and watched some stuff on Syracuse and the stuff they were doing.”
Jackson was the Seahawks’ starter in 2011 but became extraneous after they signed free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson.
The Bills acquired Jackson in a trade with the Seahawks prior to the final 2012 preseason game. The Bills gave up a 2013 seventh-round draft choice that could have become a sixth-rounder had Jackson dressed for at least six regular-season games.
Jackson played in that Bills exhibition game against the Detroit Lions, replacing Tyler Thigpen with 6:34 to play. Jackson attempted one pass, which was intercepted. Thigpen came back in to finish the game, and Jackson didn’t play another down for the Bills in 2012.
Former Bills coach Chan Gailey often explained – with exasperation – that circumstances prevented Jackson from getting enough meaningful practice reps to learn the offense. Jackson instead ran the scout team in practice.
“I just try to learn something from every situation and be patient,” Jackson said. “It was a tough year for me. I’d never been traded or been through a situation of moving across the country. That was a shock for me.
“It was a long process, but I would never say that I wasted a year.”