I think Russell Wilson has every chance to become the rookie starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.
A lot of people think the job is Matt Flynn’s to lose. I understand that – Flynn was the high profile free agent quarterback until Peyton Manning gatecrashed the party. Instead of needy teams chasing Flynn, half the league was trying to get Peyton on a plane. After weeks of discussion about how much Flynn will earn on the open market and which teams would be interested, the phone didn’t ring. The market was ice cold. A few days went by and the Seattle Seahawks invited Flynn for a visit and work out.
It turns out the market remained cold and so the Seahawks agreed a modest deal. Flynn’s contract included a $6m signing bonus, with $10m in guarantees. In 2012 he received the $6m and will get a further $2m in base salary. It means he’ll be guaranteed just $2m next year, making him expendable if necessary. The bulk of their investment in Flynn was made the day he signed. From now on, his salary is modest. This team aren’t going to be dictated by money spent on a signing bonus when it comes to choosing a starter.
Flynn was one of the biggest names on the open market, largely due to his six-touchdown performance in week 17 against Detroit. But in raw terms his cap hit is similar to the two guys he’s trying to replace. Charlie Whitehurst’s salary was similar but he actually cost a 2011 third round pick and a significant fall in round two in 2010. Despite that commitment, Whitehurst never overtook Matt Hasselbeck or Tarvaris Jackson to top the depth chart. He never came close. If no guarantees were made to Whitehurst, what changes for Flynn?
The point I’m making here is – there’s no reason to believe this is Flynn’s job to lose. I see his signing as opportunistic on Seattle’s behalf, taking another chance on a guy who was available at the right price due to a weak market. But if Tarvaris Jackson or Russell Wilson performs better in camp, I have absolutely no doubt at all that Flynn will be the backup. Seattle has carried an expensive backup quarterback for the last two years, after all. They’re prepared to go with the right man, not the man who cost the most money.
“We feel like we have four quality guys to go compete.” That quote is from John Schneider yesterday when he spoke to Adam Schein. I firmly believe it’ll be the open competition discussed in that interview. Jackson vs Flynn vs Wilson vs Portis. And I believe the Seahawks want Wilson to win that battle.
Some further quotes from Seattle’s dynamic duo over the last few days…
“When you write a report on this guy, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s just short. His personal character is ridiculous. He almost makes you feel bad when you talk to this guy, he’s got way better character than me. You just cant pass on this guy, did we have other guys who could have impacted our roster, sure. But he’s just so good. This is a guy we had to have.”
“More than anybody else that was alive in the draft, this guy gives you a chance to have a great player. It’s going to be really exciting to see what he can bring. All he’s ever done is be great.”
What you can’t see from these quotes, are the ear-to-ear grins Schneider and Carroll sport every time they’re asked about Wilson. It’s kind of in-between ‘proud father’ grin and ‘we know something you don’t’ grin. In both cases, that could be the case. Schneider and Carroll love this guy. They took him in the earliest round that was logical and didn’t risk him falling to round four. As Kip noted yesterday, “You don’t always have to take a top talent early if you know you don’t have to… there was no need to take Wilson earlier than this. John Schneider and Pete Carroll badly wanted Wilson, and got him at essentially the latest possible moment they could have.” At no point since they made the selection have they tried to control their excitement.
Is it an elaborate ruse to make the rest of the league believe Seattle has its QBOTF? You know, for draft leverage in 2013 when the likes of Matt Barkley enter the league? That sounds a bit too conspiracy theory-ish for my liking and I think there’s a genuine belief that Wilson can negate the need to attack the quarterback market next year.
There’s been no reference to patience with Wilson, just a lot of talk about how he’s beaten the odds. I get the feeling they truly believe Russell Wilson could be the quarterback not just for the future, but maybe even for now. After all, hasn’t Carroll talked about young quarterbacks starting early in the modern NFL? Has he not discussed his willingness to play young players, even at the most important position? Has he not backed that up by thrusting rookies into starting roles with some impressive results?
It could be argued that Wilson even has a slight edge, given the investment of a valuable third round pick in his services. That to me is more of a commitment than the salaries due to both Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn in 2012.
If the Seahawks are as excited about Wilson as they suggest, I think they might as well start the guy. Hey, they’ve talked the pick up to the extreme so let’s see what he has. Rookies start early in this league, and had the Seahawks drafted Wilson in round one a lot of people would expect him to be the quarterback in 2012. I get the impression that Schneider and Carroll see Wilson as a round one talent who fell due to height anyway.
Wilson is familiar with the terminology having worked in both a west-coast system at NC State and a run-based offense in Wisconsin. Seattle uses a run-focused WCO. He’s shown he can adapt and succeed in moving schools and guiding his new team to the Rose Bowl.
But more than anything I just think the Seahawks need to know what they’ve got. Whether it’s Flynn, Wilson or Jackson starting next season, if the quarterback performance is still inadequate there’s going to be increasing pressure on the team to draft a quarterback in round one, even if it requires a Robert Griffin III style trade. If the Seahawks go 7-9 again next year with the quarterback again throwing more picks than touchdowns, it’ll be difficult to justify why the guy who couldn’t beat out the struggling 2012 starter is now the right man to lead the team. Fans and media will grow impatient as the next free agent or mid-round pick is trotted out as the starter.
And quite frankly it’s about time Seattle had some direction at the position. If they need to go big for a Matt Barkley or Logan Thomas next year, then let’s find out if that’s the case.
The teams run game and defense will help Seattle win another 7-8 games. The difference between sticking in that range and progressing to 9-12 wins will be improved quarterback play. So let’s see if Wilson is up to the job.
I know… it’s never ideal to start a rookie. Some would say it’s unfair. If the Seahawks wanted to groom a quarterback and start Flynn they should’ve drafted a different offensive player in round three and taken a quarterback later. Selecting Russell was a pro-active move. They say they had to have this guy. Let’s find out why.
Flynn knew he wasn’t being handed the starting job when he signed in Seattle. I have no idea if the interest from Miami would’ve ever resulted in a contract, but it looks to me like his best options were to come to Seattle and have a shot, or go to Miami to be the bridge to Ryan Tannehill or even be a backup-for-life in Green Bay. A 25-35% chance of being the answer in Seattle is possibly better than any chance he was going to get elsewhere.
The Seahawks need some long term planning at the position. They can’t change the quarterback every year. First Hasselbeck, then Whitehurst, then Jackson. Will it be Flynn this year and if he fails, Wilson next year? Having a revolving door at quarterback will hold this team back. Eventually, they need to commit.
Next years class could have the answer. Barkley, Thomas, Wilson, Bray. It still stands to reason that eventually Seattle might have to go big on a quarterback. If Flynn produces a performance comparable to Jackson, and Wilson doesn’t start as a rookie, there’s going to be some pressure to be proactive again but this time in round one… to get a quarterback that can give this regime a chance to deliver a consistent playoff challenger.
And next year might be a good year to focus on QB’s. Cleveland are seemingly committed to Brandon Weeden. Washington now have their quarterback and so does Miami. Denver drafted Brock Osweiler as a future starter when Peyton Manning retires. The number likely to target a first round quarterback is getting smaller. Of course, others will emerge – but there could be a window opening in 2013.
It’s another reason why Seattle has to be prepared next year. They need to know if the big move is necessary or if they’ve maybe already found the answer. They’ll only find out that answer by starting Russell Wilson. So why not?