A few days after Seattle drafted Russell Wilson, I made an argument for the third round pick starting as a rookie. The point being – Seattle’s situation at quarterback remains unclear and they may still need to prepare for a bigger investment next year. So if the situation arises where there’s little between Wilson, Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson in camp, why not see what the rookie can do? The financial investment placed in Flynn and Jackson is, in my view, less of a commitment than the third round stock placed in Wilson.
The piece created a fair old debate, with strong views for and against. Yet most sections of the media still see this as a non-issue and that Flynn will be the presumed starter. After signing his contract early, Wilson participated in mini-camps between over the weekend. He threw around 400 passes and took substantially more snaps than any other player over the course of the three-days. Carroll made a point of studying the offense on Friday and talked afterwards about putting the workload on Wilson to see how he performed.
“He’s going to be in the competition; he’s shown us he needs to be,” @PeteCarroll said of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ 2012 QB battle
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) May 13, 2012
There’s no reason to jump the gun here. After all, Carroll admitted on Friday that things will be different when ‘the varsity‘ arrives. Wilson is going to have to beat out two veterans, including the incumbent starter, to start as a rookie. People were right to list him as an outsider in this race, but they’d be wrong to assume anyone’s a clear front runner.
Eventually people will take Carroll on his word and accept this is a competition. A lot of teams use that word when talking about their quarterbacks – Cleveland are still maintaining they’ll have a competition despite drafting a soon-to-be 29-year-old rookie in the first round. When Carroll says competition, he means it. When he wants to crown a starter, he will do (see: Hasselbeck, 2010 & Jackson, 2011). This is wide open.
And while nothing will be decided this weekend as rookies and free agents try out, this was Wilson’s chance to get into the equation. Struggle this weekend, and he was probably looking at a red-shirt year as the team’s #3 quarterback. He’s cleared the first hurdle.
I’m interested to see how the Seahawks go about this over the upcoming months. It’s difficult to conduct a full-blown three-way competition, splitting snaps evenly. Pre-season games are unfairly weighted against whoever takes the opening series or two when the veterans are on the field. Carroll will need to have an angle on who’s most likely to be the starter going into that first game.
Flynn is the favorite in many people’s eyes, but I’m still sceptical. This is a player who was expected to generate mass-interest in free agency. Peyton Manning helped take some of the edge off that, but none of the big players for Manning were ever expected to pursue Flynn (Denver, Arizona, Tennessee). Cleveland basically decided Colt McCoy and taking their chance on a 29-year-old rookie being available was a preferable alternative. Miami had a meeting with Flynn, but never really seemed to be in aggressive pursuit as they tried (and failed) to entice Manning to Florida. Why was his market so quiet? Does the league still carry doubts about his potential to start? And maybe if they do, those doubts are justified?
Seattle took an opportunity to add to the QB competition at a modest price, but I’m not sure they would’ve shown quite as much interest if a Miami or Cleveland got the chequebook out in hour one of free agency. People don’t see it now, but the salary commitment to Flynn is a pure bargain compared to the figures people were talking about after his performance for Green Bay against Detroit. If he is as good as that display suggested, the Seahawks took no gamble in finding out. This is not a Kevin Kolb contract.
Sure, the team has committed $10m in guarantees to Flynn. But let’s not forget that it’s only $2m more than the team has paid Tarvaris Jackson over the course of a 2-year deal. Flynn’s contract, if he ends up being a backup, is comparable to that of Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. If he succeeds, the incentives are greater. I appreciate there’s still a good chance Flynn starts for Seattle in 2012, but he’ll almost certainly have to earn that spot just like anyone else. And if Jackson or Wilson looks better, then they’ll get the nod.
As for Jackson, despite a lot of supportive language about his future and ability to compete, the additions of Flynn and Wilson are hardly an endorsement of his 2011 season. Seattle’s quarterbacks combined for 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 2010 and 2011. They really need someone who can score 26 touchdowns in a single season and have a lot less turnovers. Jackson earned a lot of respect in the locker room for toughing it out last season and he’s earned the right to compete this year. But there can be no complaints from anyone if he’s a casualty further down the line.
In all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson takes the job. Sure, he’d be be the first third-round rookie to start since 1973. Yet I’d argue he’s the more dynamic player out of the three. Physically he fits the ‘point-guard’ role better than the other two players. The Seahawks front office has done nothing but rave about him since the draft. And if he performs better than the other two quarterbacks, then why wouldn’t he start? The Seahawks believe in this guy. The presence of Flynn and Jackson gives them a reason not to start him if he’s not ready. But at the same time, their presence doesn’t prevent him from starting if he is.