I’ve found the analysis of Seattle’s first pre-season game pretty interesting. I listened to some of Brock and Salk on ESPN 710 today and heard a promo for a different show asking whether the Seahawks quarterback competition was now over. Certainly the tone suggested Flynn had done enough to warrant the job already. After one half of football. This is an opinion I sense is growing among the media… and the fans are starting to buy into it.
My own feeling after Saturday’s victory over Tennessee was that we weren’t really any wiser. It would’ve been ideal for one candidate to really blow the competition out of the water and allow the coaches to make a quick decision. Both Flynn and Wilson showed positives, but there were also negatives. Contrary to what a lot of people assume, I don’t think either did enough to completely eliminate Tarvaris Jackson from the race.
Flynn looked the part at the line of scrimmage. I liked his control, his confidence and as advertised he looked like a guy that had been coached well in Green Bay. Sometimes this can be deceiving because looking part doesn’t necessarily equate to success. His first drive was solid – taking what was on offer before settling for a field goal. At that point I’m sure a lot of fans felt very comfortable and were ready to invest their faith in Flynn winning this job.
However, that drive wasn’t repeated. Flynn had a turnover, blamed by Pete Carroll on a rookie error by the running back failing to sell the play action. He also had two avoidable sacks. Here’s the concern I have. If Seattle’s run game is working, this kind of possession offense based around timing and short passes can function. If the Seahawks are able to get ahead early in games, I can see Flynn growing into a functional game manager. But what if a team successfully takes away the run or develops an early lead?
The Seahawks are going to face some good quarterbacks this year. Before the bye week, Seattle meets Dallas, Green Bay, Carolina, New England and Detroit. There’s every chance they’ll have to keep up in those games (particularly away from Century Link) and won’t be able to just chip away. We could end up seeing games where Seattle dominates time of possession, but loses comfortably. It’s too much to ask a defensive unit to keep things tight against the Green Bay’s, New England’s etc to keep the offense in a game.
I’m not totally against conservative quarterback play, especially if you can provide a great running game and elite defense. I am concerned Flynn will be the type of quarterback who’s permanently second guessing a downfield throw and checking down. In his two starts for Green Bay he didn’t show any evidence of this problem, but in Seattle he won’t be seeing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson in 1v1 coverage. At times on Saturday I sensed he was a little too keen to take an easy 2-3 yards instead of a difficult ten. When he isn’t featuring in a wide open spread offense with multiple talented receivers, can he still make the key plays to keep a defense honest? Can he snap back from play action and take a shot in the same way he can sitting in the gun lofting one down the sideline for Nelson?
That’s the big question mark for me, and it’s why I feel like we need to see more from Flynn in pre-season to make a proper judgement. One game isn’t enough.
Then there’s Russell Wilson, who appears to have some degree of command even for a rookie (if not at Flynn’s level of poise/confidence). When he was flushed out of the pocket on Saturday, he moved around to find a passing lane. He showed he was prepared to take a shot, even if one pass into the endzone flashed rookie judgement and led to a disappointing turnover. Really that one pass prevented a full-on Wilson love-fest this week and it’s perhaps tempered expectations (not a bad thing).
My experience is Seattle’s fans have always preferred safety from the quarterback position. There’s perhaps a little too much fear at times that going away from safe, solid and middling is too much of a risk. How many other franchises would tolerate multiple years of mediocrity without a single first round investment at quarterback for approaching 20 years? I think fans see a risk in starting Wilson ahead of Flynn, even though the difference between the two is a couple of NFL starts. Sure, Flynn has been around the NFL. But Wilson has been a pro through his baseball roots and seems a lot more prepared for this opportunity than most young rookies.
I suspect Wilson is capable of managing in a similar way to Flynn while also providing a bigger upside. He can extend plays in a way Flynn cannot, he can avoid pressure and he appears to have a better arm. As we saw with the 32-yard touchdown run, he will provide the kind of X-factor that will allow Seattle to score cheap points and not rely too much on a ground-and-pound style that merely chips away. In a game where the quarterback has to put quick points on the board – and this will happen – Wilson might be a better bet than Flynn.
Yet there are still things to worry about starting the rookie. Will he look quite as good against a first team NFL offense? If you start the guy and he struggles, how damaging could it be considering the intense pressure that will develop to turn to Flynn? Again you feel obliged to demand more evidence on tape – is this guy truly capable of starting now? Is it worth risking the potential controversy if he does start over a guy the mass media – and most fans – expect to win the job?
And amid all of this discussion, Jackson remains on the roster waiting to see what happens. What if Flynn doesn’t take enough chances to warrant the gig? What if Wilson cannot prove he’s ready to start? Everyone knows what Jackson brings to the table – and quite rightly most people hope the two new guys will offer more. Yet until Jackson is actually cut and taken out of the race, can you rule him out? His position is beneath a guillotine, waiting for the blade to drop. As soon as Flynn or Wilson convince they are worth the start, it probably will drop. But they have to get the job done. And if they don’t, Jackson could win this job without taking a pre-season snap.
For Flynn to win the job he has to prove he’s not captain checkdown. For Wilson to win the job he has to show he’s sufficiently ready to be worth the hassle of starting him over two veterans. For Jackson to keep the job, he maybe just has to hope the other two fail on both counts. Three quarterbacks came into this competition and I don’t think Carroll has been dishonest about this process. Therefore, it seems to me that three quarterbacks remain in this competition and we need to see much more before judging who is going to be the winner. People will pick their favorites and manipulate their arguments to suit. I think we should wait and see what the Denver game brings, because we need to see more from both Flynn and Wilson.