You could argue he had little choice, but Pete Carroll is absolutely correct to name Russell Wilson as the starter against Kansas City. Having talked about an open competition at quarterback all summer, it would’ve been a major contradiction to keep starting Matt Flynn in pre-season. Without doubt, Wilson has earned the opportunity to start.
A few people have reacted badly to this news. There’s been a fair amount of fist clenching and moaning, simply because this is the sacred ‘game three’ of pre-season. You know, because it’s written in stone that game three is the most important game in the NFL this time of year. Please. Carroll and John Schneider have been anything but conventional since arriving in Seattle, yet people still act surprised at the latest example of this?
I understand the thought process that argues if Matt Flynn is expected to start against Arizona, it makes sense to give him as many first team reps as possible. That is a water-tight argument. But at what stage was Flynn named the starter? Did I miss that press conference? Some members of the media – local and national – have assumed Flynn will get the nod, but that doesn’t make it true. The guy who makes the decision – the head coach – has preached competition from day one. So when one quarterback (who starts) plays okay-ish and the other (who doesn’t start) lights it up, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the competition remains open.
Carroll spoke to the media after practise today and admitted he was searching for more information. He’s absolutely 100% correct to do that. Why on earth would the Seahawks choose not to look at Wilson against a first-team defense? It’d be like your future wife-to-be taking the first wedding dress she tried on, after a shrug and muttering ‘this’ll do, I guess‘. As idealistic as that sounds, why wouldn’t you consider a potentially better offer? What if Russell Wilson is a better quarterback? Don’t you want to start the better quarterback? Wouldn’t it give Seattle the best chance to win games if they start the best quarterback on their roster?
And the only way to find out if Wilson is superior to Matt Flynn is to start him in a pre-season game. Simple as that.
Today’s announcement doesn’t mean Wilson is guaranteed the job full time. Hey – he could struggle and Flynn could look the part in the second half. It could be a role-reversal this weekend. But at least then you know. You’re not left wondering if Wilson is better. The fans won’t be calling for Wilson every time Flynn throws a pick, because they too will know Wilson needs a bit more time. On every single level, starting Wilson in this game makes absolute sense and is more important than giving Flynn more first team snaps. And the only person who would disagree with that is the person that invested too much in Flynn having this in the bag before any decision was made.
I have no idea whether Wilson will rise to the challenge and keep scoring touchdowns. That’s another reason why I’m so fascinated with this next game in Kansas City, to see how he performs in a tougher environment with a better supporting cast. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the game to the Chiefs and carried on where he left off against Denver. He’s that type of guy. Even his catchphrase, “never afraid to excel” is ideally suited to his personality and play. It reeks of class.
If Wilson performs well against Kansas City, he should be the starter in the final game against Oakland. Who knows what will happen, but we should at least prepare for the rookie to win this job. Why not? What has Flynn honestly shown you so far that makes you feel like you have to start the guy even if Wilson continues to impress? Sure, Wilson might be a bit more inexperienced (but not a lot). Does he look like the kind of first year starter who will be fazed with leading this team? Or does he look more like Cam Newton? A quarterback who actually thrived in the starting role and benefited from real experience on a football field, not watching from the sidelines.
One misconception that has been repeated time and time again is that Seattle are paying Flynn so much money, he pretty much has to start. That’s not true. Here is the breakdown, courtesy of NFL.com’s Albert Breer:
Year one: $6m signing bonus, $2m base salary, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus
Year two: $5.25m base salary of which $2m is guaranteed, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus
Year three: $6.25m base salary with no guarantees, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus
Now clearly, that’s a lot of money in year one. But the Seahawks pay $8m of the $10m guaranteed to Flynn in the first year of the contract. When you consider Seattle paid TJ Houshmandzadeh around $7m to play in Baltimore, is a lump sum to try and find the team’s future starting quarterback a handcuff deal? More from Breer:
Though Flynn was a big name on the market, Seattle’s financial commitment to its first two quarterbacks isn’t much different now from where it was last fall. In 2011, Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst pulled in about $8 million, while the club will sink between $9 million and $10 million on Jackson and Flynn this year. Flynn was initially looking for a deal in the neighborhood of what Matt Cassel got in Kansas City, but the Seahawks’ message is clear through the finances: A starting job isn’t promised.
Jackson is expected to be traded sooner rather than later, again easing the financial commitment to the position with Wilson and Josh Portis joining Flynn on the final roster. If Flynn wins the job, it’s a modest salary for a starting NFL quarterback. If Wilson wins the job, Flynn becomes an expensive back-up for one year but it’s hardly earth shattering particularly if Wilson wins football games. Nobody will be talking about Flynn’s salary or Pete Carroll’s judgement if Wilson can get the team into the playoffs and look good doing so. If you truly believe Carroll will let finances play any part in this process, you don’t know Seattle’s head coach well enough.
People should roll with the punches on this one. For the first time in years Seattle appears to have a young, talented quarterback and the fact he will start the next pre-season game should be celebrated and not criticised. Matt Flynn had two games to nail this job, and he didn’t. Russell Wilson took his chances against weaker opponents and it’s now his turn to try and win the starting gig. Let’s see if he can do it.