These are exciting times for the Seattle Seahawks.
For years the team has been crying out for an injection of youth and quality at the quarterback position. Matt Hasselbeck carried an injury-hit offense to the playoffs in 2007, but was never quite the same after that. Charlie Whitehurst never seriously challenged to be the long term successor and Tarvaris Jackson was a convenient stop-gap. Matt Flynn arrived with some degree of expectation but may not get his chance in Seattle. It’ll be 20 years next April since the team last invested a first round pick at quarterback – an abnormally long time for a NFL franchise. After announcing Russell Wilson as the starter today, Pete Carroll will be hoping to extend that run to 30 years.
Naturally some perspective is required because Wilson remains an unproven commodity. The decision today isn’t so much exciting because it guarantees success. Far from it. Wilson will have to tackle some tough opponents this year, learn to deal with adversity, master the speed of the pro-game and cope with teams game-planning him specifically. Weeks 3-8 in Seattle’s schedule look particularly difficult, including games against Green Bay (H), Carolina (A), New England (H), San Francisco (A) and Detroit (A). The Seahawks need to start fast against Arizona (A) and Dallas (H) and there won’t be any time for rookie mistakes.
What’s more, Matt Flynn isn’t going to go away. If Wilson doesn’t start particularly well, I don’t think Carroll will hesitate to review today’s decision. Despite winning a fiercely contested competition this off-season, really the hard work starts now.
Despite all of this it is still an exciting time. Wilson hasn’t just looked like a potential starter in pre-season, at times he’s looked like a seasoned veteran. While other rookies like Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden have struggled, Wilson has excelled. And he isn’t going into this thing alone – Seattle ended last season with a productive running game and top-end defense. As long as Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over, he should get enough support to at least feel comfortable.
Since the Kansas City game I’ve read multiple articles talking about the struggles of rookie starters in the NFL. That’s great – you can always find a statistic somewhere to back up whatever argument you want to make. The fact is Russell Wilson’s fate is yet to be determined and whatever has happened in the past will have little influence. If no rookie starter had ever been successful in the NFL, it still wouldn’t stop Wilson having a shot to be the first. If Wilson fails, it won’t be down to conventional wisdom. All we can go off for now is the pre-season tape, and Wilson has shown veteran qualities in the three games so far. He’s earned this chance.
More importantly, he’s shown playmaking qualities. And that is what the Seahawks are crying out for at quarterback. You get the feeling Wilson is capable of making things happen, that he’ll be an asset to this offense rather than just the guy pulling the strings. Teams will be working out ways to stop him, rather than working out ways to stop the guy he hands the ball off to. Wilson brings a dynamism to the quarterback position not often seen in Seattle’s history over the years.
And who knows… maybe he won’t be a flash in the pan. Maybe – just maybe – this is Seattle’s next franchise quarterback? Perhaps this is the beginning of an era, the moment we’ll look back on in a decade and recall the day Russell Wilson was given the starting job. Instead of looking at a variety of different college quarterbacks this year in a vain search to find that elusive starter, maybe we’ll be looking for a complimentary receiver, tight end or offensive lineman? Instead of debating that big move up the board ‘because we have to’, Seahawks fans will be debating who is the best player available?
The 2012 season may be a year early for this team to fully deliver on its promise. Even so, nobody can deny that Carroll and Schneider have injected so much energy into this franchise. People are talking about the Seahawks, not just in Seattle, but nationally too. The players appear hungry for success, they have the kind of swagger usually associated with Ray Lewis’ Baltimore or Tom Brady’s New England. And maybe, just maybe, the most important question mark remaining on the team was answered today. Whether you think Russell Wilson is the long-term answer or not, it’s going to be exciting finding out what happens next.