Russell Wilson has a quote: “I’m never afraid to excel”
It perfectly sums up the 23-year-old’s rise to prominence. He could, theoretically, be a starting NFL quarterback in a couple of weeks. This despite being 5-10 in height. This despite having to change schools in college. This despite seemingly being destined for a career in baseball.
It’s just a shame the Seahawks fans don’t have the same attitude.
I don’t want to be too critical because there’s a reason for the ’12th man’ moniker. Nobody can match the noise inside Century Link field and truly this is a fan base that deserves more than one bitterly disappointing visit to the Super Bowl. But I do question whether they’re prepared to accept a bit of risk taking to get back to the big game.
I keep hearing the same comments over and over again this summer, and they sound like this: “Well, I really like Russell Wilson. But the conservative side of me says start Matt Flynn.”
I’ve listened to media pundits and fans alike question whether Wilson should even be in the running to start. Some assumed it was Flynn’s job all along, despite repeated statements from the team that this was a competition. Some have even blown a fuse that Flynn isn’t the zoned-in focus going into week three of the pre-season. A lot of people want to play it safe. Whatever that means.
Personally I’m more than prepared for either quarterback to start. I feel like this coaching staff has earned our trust and while we are right to question certain aspects, I think we also owe it to Pete Carroll and co. not to go over the top. People questioned the trade that brought Chris Clemons to Seattle. People questioned the move to put Red Bryant at defensive end. People questioned the trade for Marshawn Lynch. These are just a few examples. If Flynn is the starter in week one against Arizona, we can all assume Wilson just isn’t ready yet. Fair enough. Let’s see how Flynn rolls against the Cardinals.
But if Wilson gets the job, people should be equally – if not more – excited. Don’t question it because it means they’ve decided Wilson is simply the better quarterback. Most people assume he has the higher upside because he almost certainly does. If he’s ready, why hold him back? To play it safe? What does that get you? Sure we can talk about Aaron Rodgers sitting in Green Bay, but that’s perfectly plausible when you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer as your quarterback. What’s more, Brett Favre never missed a game. Seattle doesn’t have that luxury.
It makes so much sense to see what they have tonight against the Chiefs rather than simply assume the ‘safe’ position of just going with Flynn because, you know, he’s been around a little longer. If Wilson struggles against Kansas City, they will almost certainly go with Flynn against the Cardinals. But what if Wilson succeeds? What if he’s flat out better? It’s not improbable. What a wasted opportunity it would’ve been to simply go with Flynn as the conservative option if all along you had this superior quarterback on the roster. Yet some people believe that’s the way to go. And I don’t get that.
Russell Wilson will be 24 in November. So while he’s a relative novice in the NFL sense, he’s actually played a ton of games at NC State and Wisconsin. Matt Flynn has attempted 569 passes in his entire career at LSU and Green Bay. Wilson threw 527 passes in one season for NC State in 2010. I appreciate that Flynn has valuable experience in the league as a backup and that does come with some value. We can’t ignore that. But while he’s been riding the bench at LSU and Green Bay, Wilson has been playing football games. And winning football games. And putting up big numbers in football games. So let’s not ignore that completely either.
This is a different level for Wilson now, but does he look like a guy who needs to sit and watch for a year or two? Does he look out of his depth in the NFL? He’s drawing Denver off-side, he’s pointing at linebackers to distract them on the run, he’s shown tangible improvement to his play action fake in the space of one week’s work. He’s led five touchdown drives. The guy appears to know the offense and how to conduct himself as the central focus of it. He looks like a NFL quarterback.
Maybe I’m tempting fate before tonight’s game. Maybe I’ll look pretty dumb if he struggles against the Chiefs. But even then, at least we’ll know he’s not ready. Those who are calling the decision to start him tonight ‘crazy’ were not speaking from a position of authority – they were just being overly cautious. If Wilson has issues and they say ‘I told you so’, they should be ashamed.
Had Russell Wilson played it safe he’d probably be a baseball player now at whatever level. He didn’t. He wanted to be a NFL quarterback. It’s time Seahawks fans craved dynamism rather than conservatism. Craved elite rather than average. Took a chance or too to be great. And more than anything, don’t be afraid to excel.