John Froschauer, Associated Press
Seattle Seahawks' Tarvaris Jackson drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.

RENTON, Wash. — When Tarvaris Jackson was told Thursday that Seattle coach Pete Carroll intends on Jackson being his starting quarterback when 2012 begins, Jackson gave a sheepish reply about not even thinking about next season yet.

It's understandable Jackson isn't thinking too far into the future when considering his past.

Jackson will close out his first season as Seattle's starting quarterback on Sunday when the Seahawks play at Arizona. It'll conclude a season where Jackson has set career highs in games played, yards passing and touchdowns, while enduring a painful pectoral injury that slowed him for part of the season.

It hasn't been perfect and it's not a surprise Jackson will likely be the starter in 2012 with the only other quarterback on the roster under contract being rookie Josh Portis. But for Jackson the stability is far better than the roller coaster he endured during his first five seasons in Minnesota.

"I understand how the NFL works. This is my sixth year now and all you guys understand I've been through probably worse," Jackson said on Thursday. "I don't see it getting any worse than that. Not complaining or anything, but nothing really surprises me right now in the NFL."

Jackson enters the season finale against the Cardinals with 2,869 yards passing, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was selected the starter at the beginning of training camp and Carroll remained true to his word even when Jackson struggled early. The only games Jackson didn't start this season were due to a strained pectoral muscle.

He's been a major part of Seattle's turnaround from a 2-6 start to a potential 6-2 finish with a win on Sunday. As Seattle's running game improved with Marshawn Lynch putting together the finest season by a Seahawks running back since 2005, Jackson's been asked to do less in the passing game. The result is a formula the Seahawks hope can continue next season.

There remain criticisms of Jackson. He regularly locks on to receivers and has struggled with holding on to the ball too long and trying to make a play happen when throwing the ball out of bounds would be the better choice.

There's also the times he's faltered in the fourth quarter of winnable games that will ultimately come back to be the reason why Seattle is not going to the playoffs.

Most notable were losses to Atlanta early in the season, a midseason loss to Cincinnati and late-season defeats to Washington and San Francisco — all four at home. Had any one of those gone the other way, Seattle would likely enter the final week of the season with playoff hopes.

But looking at the numbers, Jackson is smack in the middle of the league when it comes to his fourth quarter performance. According to STATS LLC, Jackson ranks 14th in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 84.3, ahead of Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, Jackson's fourth-quarter passer rating is the highest of any of the quarters.

That doesn't erase his mistakes: the inability to get a drive started after Washington took its lead with 6 minutes remaining; his turning the ball over on downs and later throwing an interception that was returned for a TD in the final 3 minutes against Cincinnati; and his fumble last week against San Francisco with less than 90 seconds left and Seattle needing just a few more yards to reach field goal range in a two-point loss to the 49ers.

It's a specific area that Carroll wants to see improved for next season.

"It's not just one guy or one aspect, but I'd like to see him come through and make some of those — take us down field and win a game at the end. We've had a few chances where we didn't get that done," Carroll said. "We've really come up short on both ends — defensively and offensively in those situations. So those will be focal points for us — making sure that we execute really well at the last drive, last opportunity."

Jackson said Thursday the belief is his injured pectoral muscle will not need offseason surgery to completely heal. He hopes that'll mean a full offseason where he can work with Seattle's receivers and get a better relationship developed after this year's truncated training camp.

And he's appreciative to have the support of his head coach.

"I haven't really thought to August or July of next year yet, but that's a vote of confidence," Jackson said. "That's good. But I know how fast things can change. I understand that part of the game."

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