Pete Carroll to start Russell Wilson (and he’s right to…)

You could argue he had little choice, but Pete Carroll is absolutely correct to name Russell Wilson as the starter against Kansas City. Having talked about an open competition at quarterback all summer, it would’ve been a major contradiction to keep starting Matt Flynn in pre-season. Without doubt, Wilson has earned the opportunity to start.

A few people have reacted badly to this news. There’s been a fair amount of fist clenching and moaning, simply because this is the sacred ‘game three’ of pre-season. You know, because it’s written in stone that game three is the most important game in the NFL this time of year. Please. Carroll and John Schneider have been anything but conventional since arriving in Seattle, yet people still act surprised at the latest example of this?

I understand the thought process that argues if Matt Flynn is expected to start against Arizona, it makes sense to give him as many first team reps as possible. That is a water-tight argument. But at what stage was Flynn named the starter? Did I miss that press conference? Some members of the media – local and national – have assumed Flynn will get the nod, but that doesn’t make it true. The guy who makes the decision – the head coach – has preached competition from day one. So when one quarterback (who starts) plays okay-ish and the other (who doesn’t start) lights it up, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the competition remains open.

Carroll spoke to the media after practise today and admitted he was searching for more information. He’s absolutely 100% correct to do that. Why on earth would the Seahawks choose not to look at Wilson against a first-team defense? It’d be like your future wife-to-be taking the first wedding dress she tried on, after a shrug and muttering ‘this’ll do, I guess‘. As idealistic as that sounds, why wouldn’t you consider a potentially better offer? What if Russell Wilson is a better quarterback? Don’t you want to start the better quarterback? Wouldn’t it give Seattle the best chance to win games if they start the best quarterback on their roster?

And the only way to find out if Wilson is superior to Matt Flynn is to start him in a pre-season game. Simple as that.

Today’s announcement doesn’t mean Wilson is guaranteed the job full time. Hey – he could struggle and Flynn could look the part in the second half. It could be a role-reversal this weekend. But at least then you know. You’re not left wondering if Wilson is better. The fans won’t be calling for Wilson every time Flynn throws a pick, because they too will know Wilson needs a bit more time. On every single level, starting Wilson in this game makes absolute sense and is more important than giving Flynn more first team snaps. And the only person who would disagree with that is the person that invested too much in Flynn having this in the bag before any decision was made.

I have no idea whether Wilson will rise to the challenge and keep scoring touchdowns. That’s another reason why I’m so fascinated with this next game in Kansas City, to see how he performs in a tougher environment with a better supporting cast. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the game to the Chiefs and carried on where he left off against Denver. He’s that type of guy. Even his catchphrase, “never afraid to excel” is ideally suited to his personality and play. It reeks of class.

If Wilson performs well against Kansas City, he should be the starter in the final game against Oakland. Who knows what will happen, but we should at least prepare for the rookie to win this job. Why not? What has Flynn honestly shown you so far that makes you feel like you have to start the guy even if Wilson continues to impress? Sure, Wilson might be a bit more inexperienced (but not a lot). Does he look like the kind of first year starter who will be fazed with leading this team? Or does he look more like Cam Newton? A quarterback who actually thrived in the starting role and benefited from real experience on a football field, not watching from the sidelines.

One misconception that has been repeated time and time again is that Seattle are paying Flynn so much money, he pretty much has to start. That’s not true. Here is the breakdown, courtesy of’s Albert Breer:

Year one: $6m signing bonus, $2m base salary, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus

Year two: $5.25m base salary of which $2m is guaranteed, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus

Year three: $6.25m base salary with no guarantees, $200,000 Pro-Bowl bonus, $200,000 NFL MVP bonus

Now clearly, that’s a lot of money in year one. But the Seahawks pay $8m of the $10m guaranteed to Flynn in the first year of the contract. When you consider Seattle paid TJ Houshmandzadeh around $7m to play in Baltimore, is a lump sum to try and find the team’s future starting quarterback a handcuff deal? More from Breer:

Though Flynn was a big name on the market, Seattle’s financial commitment to its first two quarterbacks isn’t much different now from where it was last fall. In 2011, Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst pulled in about $8 million, while the club will sink between $9 million and $10 million on Jackson and Flynn this year. Flynn was initially looking for a deal in the neighborhood of what Matt Cassel got in Kansas City, but the Seahawks’ message is clear through the finances: A starting job isn’t promised.

Jackson is expected to be traded sooner rather than later, again easing the financial commitment to the position with Wilson and Josh Portis joining Flynn on the final roster. If Flynn wins the job, it’s a modest salary for a starting NFL quarterback. If Wilson wins the job, Flynn becomes an expensive back-up for one year but it’s hardly earth shattering particularly if Wilson wins football games. Nobody will be talking about Flynn’s salary or Pete Carroll’s judgement if Wilson can get the team into the playoffs and look good doing so. If you truly believe Carroll will let finances play any part in this process, you don’t know Seattle’s head coach well enough.

People should roll with the punches on this one. For the first time in years Seattle appears to have a young, talented quarterback and the fact he will start the next pre-season game should be celebrated and not criticised. Matt Flynn had two games to nail this job, and he didn’t. Russell Wilson took his chances against weaker opponents and it’s now his turn to try and win the starting gig. Let’s see if he can do it.


  1. SalukiHawk12

    Finally! A voice of reason…

  2. Turp

    Amen, Rob. Finally, someone who says it’s OK to be excited to have a real QB prospect in Seattle.

  3. Misfit74


  4. NickW

    It is so refreshing to read something with some balance and reason to it. I’ve read so much that PC and JS are foolish to even consider Wilson. Honestly, they should consider who ever is the best QB, regardless of experience and pay. I honestly believe that Wilson has looked the most explosive and seems to really tilt the field more. I am glad they have decided to play Wilson with the ones on Friday and can’t wait to see how he does. Regardless of what the media thinks, I really hope PC will start the best QB on the roster, not necessarily the one that the media thinks should be the starter. I personally prefer the style and moxie that Wilson brings to the table, but if Flynn is truly better than I will gladly have him as our starter.

  5. Colin

    Wilson can’t make mistakes. Period. Flynn may not have made a ton of big plays to this point, but he hasn’t turned the ball over (much), and to a Defensive minded coach like Pete, that is going to be a sticking point. Resourceful, as Brock Huard says over and over. Props to Pete and his unconventional methods. They’ve turned this football team around.


    Amen! A reasonable analysis of the situation! I am really tired of the “experts” talking about how you have to play your starter the most in the third preseason game and that Flynn should be getting all the reps in practice. Sando did a great little piece on how Flynn and Wilson actually have more game reps this preseason than any other quarterback in the NFC West. They have both played an entire game! That can’t be said for Bradford or Alex Smith! I would argue that these are the most import type of reps. I honestly haven’t made my mind up about who should be the man. Even though I’m a Wisconsin fan, I was leaning toward wanting RW to sit for a season. He’s looked so good, that I’m not even sure that’s in his best interest or the best interest of the Hawks. I’ll simply say…may the best QB win.

  7. dmason24

    I also don’t understand why people find it shocking that Wilson is getting a shot at starting since this is a competition. The only problem I have is that TJack never had a fair chance. People will argue that they know what they have in TJack but does he really have a shot at starting if he doesn’t play at all? He was used as a pawn in this process and it really has to suck for him. Carroll and Schneider felt they had to include him because of the loyalty the team feels towards TJack.

    I am happy with whoever gives the team the best chance to win now. Conventional wisdom says you give the job to the guy you signed as a FA, who has 4 years of NFL experience, and lit it up in the 2 games he’s started and allow the rookie to develop because he has time on his side. People or throwing a fit because Carroll is going against conventional wisdom. Surprising. Wilson has more play making ability than Flynn but can he be consistent and avoid costly turnovers? If he makes plays and avoids mistakes this Friday the job is his.

  8. Michael (CLT)

    Right On Brotha! Can y’all feel it!!! Feel that 2003 Hasselbeck season. Can you EFFING feel it!

  9. Michael (CLT)

    By the way… I’m all in 🙂

    • Rugby Lock

      We kind of gathered that… 🙂

      • Michael (CLT)

        Well, I referred to Wilson as a midget in February. We all make mistakes. I am happily eating my crow.

        • Rob Staton

          Me too.

  10. Belgaron

    Well written with great points. I enthusiastically agree with every point of this post except one. To say that one must start or even play would be to say that T-Jack did not get a chance in this competition. I think they watched him very carefully during camp and while they saw he was doing a few physical things better because he was injury free, he clearly still had the same limitations that have held him back from being a good NFL starter. I think he did have a chance, and had he shown a different more improved ability to read progressions and make wise decisions in a limited time, he would have gotten pre-season game time to show it was legitimate. He was in this competition, but lost early on by not showing growth in the areas he has been weak in the past.

    By contrast, Wilson showed outstanding ability in practice earning game time over T-Jack. And now he has shown enough legitimacy with his game performance to warrant a 1st team audition. This is a great problem for the organization to have. They truly have 2 quarterbacks who look like NFL starters. If Wilson is to be great in the NFL, he might as well start showing it now. I had posted not long after they got him that he strikes me as a guy who will not give back the starting role when he gets it. I still believe this, so as long as he avoids a pair of untimely interceptions and has a great day in terms of leadership, reads, yards, and scoring–he may be the guy. Hopefully, his supporting cast can show up big to help him out. How could any real Seahawk fan argue with that kind of legitimate success? If he does well, he will gain full fan support just as Paul Allen, Pete Carroll, and John Schneider have.

  11. Rick

    Amen best analysis I have read yet

  12. dmason24

    I agree that TJack has been given his opportunities in practices and scrimmages but I think to stay true to the mantra of competition, it’s only fair to see how he compares to the other guys in live game situations in the present. TJack is the most established of the 3 obviously and it would be very unlikely that he would turn into a different player all of a sudden and that’s Carroll’s basis for not giving him playing time and wanting to see as much as they can from the other two as possible. On that I agree, but as an observer it doesn’t look like TJack really ever gotta a fare shake. The only way he would have had an opportunity is if either Flynn or Wilson completely struggled and that definitely hasn’t been the case.

    It’s hard not to get excited about Wilson leading this team. He doesn’t look like a rookie to me. He is composed during the game and is reacting very well to situations. I can imagine that he has put a lot of work to get himself ready for this opportunity. He says as much when he interviews. It’s sad that so many overlook him just because of his height. Honestly, he’s essentially an inch shorter than Brees and nobody points to his lack of height (it was a concern though when he came out of Purdue, though). So Wilson is not going to set a trend by being the first short QB to succeed. Brees has done it and heck you go back to Tarkenton and say it has been done. There isn’t a long history of successful short QB’s because there just aren’t that many that come out of college who are short and have the necessary tools. Wilson shows all the tools and has the intangibles to succeed at this level. He has a passion to excel at his craft and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. I want to root for a guy like that. Schneider and Carroll were ecstatic to draft him and I understand way. They both have a vision for where Wilson can take this team and he’s been proving them right up to this point.

    One final point I want to make is that if anything we have learned from Carroll and Schneider is that they will bring in any number of guys to compete and see who gives them the best opportunity to win. Flynn was brought in and Wilson was drafted to see if either of them could prove to the organization that he gives the team a better opportunity at success than TJack did. Wilson was not a top 10 pick and Flynn didn’t get Kolb type money. They don’t have to be committed to any one of these guys. They still can have visions for what these guys can do and where they can take the team. I believe Carroll and Schneider believe Wilson can take this team farther than Flynn or TJack but he has to prove it and he has to show that he is ready for that opportunity now.

  13. Michael

    Just for fun, let’s say for a second that Wilson wins this job and keeps it all year… Will he be the winningest rookie QB this season? With the support of what should be a solid Seahawks run game, and a top 10 or maybe even top 5 defense, I would say he’s got a pretty good shot even if he doesn’t play absolutely lights out!

    I know the Hawks have a pretty tough schedule, and I haven’t looked at who the other rookie QB’s will have to face, but as a team I think the Seahawks were definitely ahead of Cleveland, Miami, Washington and Indianapolis as of the end of last year. So unless Luck, Weeden, RG3 or Tannehill get some really improved play around them, they may struggle to win games even while perfoming well.

    One last question, and now I am getting way, way ahead of myself. Is the NFL like the other leagues where you maintain “rookie status” based on playing time rather than actual years in the league? (see Blake Griffin, Mike Trout, etc…) would Jake Locker or for that matter Matt Flynn be eligible to win rookie awards this year?

    • Rob Staton

      Hi Michael – they would not be eligible. Rookie awards in the NFL are given strictly to players competing in their first year in the NFL.

  14. phil

    I agree that Wilson deserves a shot with the #1s against KC. The only flaw I’ve seen in his pre-season work goes back to the Titans game. The Seahawk defense gave him 2 possessions that started within the Titan’s 30-yd. line. On the first possession, it was 3 downs and a FG. On the second, it was an interception. We’ve got to get more production in those situations!

  15. JC

    Is Flynn’s Pro Bowl bonus really being paid in pounds?

    • Rob Staton

      Sure… that’s just how Pete rolls. SO unconventional.

  16. Attyla the Hawk

    Just because this post really resonated with me at the time. I think it’s worth giving it a reread now:

    Very well done Kip!

  17. dmason24

    Here’s another great post from Kip taking a closer look at Wilson after all the criticisms:

    It’s fun to look back (even though it’s only been only a few months since the articles were written) and see how Kip has been right on with his evaluation. I honestly didn’t know much about Russell prior to the draft but I started to get excited about what he could be after reading Kip’s evals and watching some of Russell’s game film. It sounds like there were plenty of NFL execs that wouldn’t come close to drafting Russell and only saw him as another Seneca Wallace, career backup. I’m really glad that Schneider and Carroll saw more.

  18. Joe the Jarhead

    I really thought this would be a miserable year for me considering everyone here knows I’m Charlie Checkdown’s #1 Fan, but what a blessing in disguise this year has become. RW3 has blossomed so quickly and looked really squared away and exciting. A True Blue Hawk and someone who is a class act you are not ashamed to cheer for. I am rooting for his continued success this week and I believe we will see what he has already displayed translate into on the field impressiveness on Friday. It seems like many more of us are getting more and more excited about seeing RW3 win this job

  19. Stuart

    Jon Gruden has got to be smiling ear to ear. The word is that if you give this kid a shot (Russell Wilson), he is not going to give it back. As much as I love the Hawks, game 3 of the p-s wasnt first on my calender. Now that Russell Wilson is starting, I wouldnt dream of watching it in it’s entirety.

    I was OK to start Flynn for the season and let Russell learn and still am OK with that but if Russell lights it up in KC, how can you not name him the season opener starter? I love this kid and he add’s an added dimension to my Seahawk love that has not excisted since, maybe forever.

  20. kevin mullen

    Reminds me of when PC chose Barkley over Mustain and Corp back in 2009. If you think about it, both situations are very similar: upstart rookie having a fantastic preseason with two “sophmores” (vets) and one being from another high profile program who, by the media, believed had a hold on the starting position (Mustain).

    History kind of repeating itself…

  21. James

    Pete and John are trying to build a championship team, not just a playoff team. A QB needs a minimum of two years as a starter to reach championship-caliber play. So, Russell Wilson needs to start now so that he is at that level in two years. The Seahawk’s window of peak performance will be from about two years out, to about five years out, so this is the time to build a champion brick-by-brick. In my view, Matt Flynn’s ceiling is a Dave Kreig career, good but not good enough. Russell Wilson’s ceiling is a Fran Tarkenton/Drew Brees career, good enough to win a Super Bowl. To start Flynn for the next year or two is to waste Wilson and wreck the time-frame. If Russell can prove on Friday that he is ready to start, Pete will go with him against Arizona, for he knows what he has in the rookie.

  22. Brokejumper

    It’s not just about the game. I think the biggest problem here is that fans will be judging almost entirely by the preseason game performance and the staff will not and should not. Pete will put the best quarterback out there that has emerged from the whole process. I have faith in this organization to put the best guy on the field.

    The danger here is for fans and public relations. If the process dictates the winner is Flynn, but for whatever reason Wilson has a good day tomorrow and Flynn doesn’t, they are setting themselves up for a firestorm of people second-guessing them and divisions within the team from that. That is the problem.

    • Rob Staton

      I don’t see this as much of a problem at all. They’re starting Wilson because as part of the whole process, they clearly think he’s in with a very good chance of winning the job. So if, when given the chance, he excels – I would tend to agree with Adam Schefter and the like who believe that will virtually win him the job. It seems like we’re second guessing the process and suggesting if Wilson blows it up again on Friday that somehow Flynn will still get the gig. I think that scenario is very, very unlikely. If Wilson performs in KC – for me he will win the job.

  23. The Ancient Mariner

    One question on RW — what do you do with Danny Kelly’s observation that “not one time, in two games, has Russell Wilson stepped up and climbed the pocket under pressure to throw the ball”? Is this a significant problem in your judgment?

    • Rob Staton

      No, because he’s led multiple touchdown drives and been extremely productive. It becomes a problem the moment that stops happening.

      • Colin

        Friday night in KC against the 1’s will tell us far more than anything he has done against the 2’s and 3’s.

        • Rob Staton

          Yes it will. But there’s nothing to say we won’t see a continuation of his good form.

          • The Ancient Mariner

            Or improvement, as the case might be . . . wow.

      • James

        Exactly right. “Climbing the pocket” as an essential part of NFL QB play is pure conventional wisdom. It is a method developed so these tall, slow, but uncannily accurate QBs such as Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, can evade the rush. They are far too slow to run away from DEs, so the OLs create an interior wall and push the DEs up-field, and these slow QBs step up, or climb the ladder, to buy that extra second or two. The ideal scenario is to have a QB so fast that he can dodge and run away from the rush, but still deliver the pass on time and on target. The pass rushers will exhaust themselves chasing him all over the field, as the defense breaks down from having to cover so much ground. This is the future of the NFL, as the Giants have figured out how to collapse the pocket by inserting 4 DEs so it can’t be “climbed” and since this is a copy cat league, the “climbing the pocket” will soon be outdated and the urgency will be on to find the Cam Newtons, RG IIIs and Russell Wilsons.

        • peter

          Plus if youre-watch the Denver game, there is either a clear pocket to stand an deliver, or absolutely blown assignments and the complete lack of pocket to “climb into.”

    • The Ancient Mariner

      I should correct myself on one thing — that was Davis Hsu, not Danny Kelly.

      Thanks for your answer. The one thing is, though (and I think Thomas Beekers has the same concern), won’t he have to develop better discipline to keep the production coming?

      • peter

        Or he could get a chance to play with a much more stout line, and use the tired “better weapons argument,” and see if his production stays the same or even rises. I love field gulls, but the played out “russell wilson concerns me argument vs. the Matt Flynn reads defenses,” has become tiresome. Sorry I’m ranting here. I absolutely love the work that they put in over there for the most part, but none of the writers are football operational people or definitve football minds, and at times the writing comes off as it is spoken, so thus it must be so. Rarely do I see a point counterpoint to the writers themselves in which the say, “hey folks I got it wrong.”

        Sorry for the small beer rant Rob, I just always appreciate the “here are the facts as I see them….but I may be wrong, and I’ll gladly let you know when I am,” vibe this site has.

        • The Ancient Mariner

          To clarify, I think RW’s going to be brilliant. But everyone needs to grow; the key is a) to correctly identify where and how and why, and b) to be willing to humble oneself to accept that and put the work in to follow through on it.

  24. rrrhawkout

    The other thing about Flynn’s salary that people forget is that a portion of its value was allowing us to get Russell Wilson in the first place.

    If we had headed into the draft with only T-Jack at QB, it would have been obvious we needed a QB badly in the draft, and any other team who had Wilson on their radar would have seen our need and been motivated to leapfrog us for his services.

  25. Richard

    We could be sitting here wishing we had a new quarterback and hoping T.Jack is better this year. Thankfully our front office is full of ” take action ” guys. P.C./J.S. are the M.V.P.’s of this franchise. As long as they’re running things we will have quality at every position. Nuff said.

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