Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Let the debate rage: Flynn or Wilson?
By Mike Sando
Russell Wilson was the most impressive quarterback on the field upon reporting for Seattle Seahawks minicamp in June.
The question was whether the rookie would do what rookies often do: bog down during training camp and the exhibition season, playing his way out of consideration for immediate playing time.
Wilson did encounter a few bumps during camp, but he worked through them impressively. And when the exhibitions began, Wilson was again usually the most impressive quarterback on the field. That helps explain why coach Pete Carroll plans to give Wilson the start against Kansas City when the Seahawks play their next exhibition, set for Friday.
"Wilson has earned his first start in the team's third preseason game, and a strong performance could elevate him into a starting role for the 2012 regular-season opener," ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Tuesday.
That last part -- "could elevate him into a starting role" -- will get people excited.
Matt Flynn's signing to a three-year deal averaging $6.5 million in free agency created the strong impression that Flynn was the Seahawks' quarterback of the future, and present. We've become accustomed to money equaling job security to the extent that teams will give the players they pay -- and particularly quarterbacks -- every advantage to succeed.
That was the approach Seattle took with Matt Hasselbeck a decade earlier. The team stuck with Hasselbeck through up-and-down years, never using an early draft choice for a potential replacement. Then-coach Mike Holmgren believed in picking a starting quarterback and providing unwavering support for that player to the extent possible. There is merit to that approach. It's more comfortable for all involved. But it's not the only way to go.
Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider have kept an open mind about the position. They liked Flynn, but their commitment to him did not preclude the team from using a third-round choice for Wilson, another quarterback. And if there was evidence Wilson might be the better quarterback, Carroll wasn't going to stick to the script with Flynn. There was no script, anyway. The best player was going to play.
Flynn still might go into the season as the starter, even if Wilson plays well Friday night.
Flynn has been in the NFL longer. Early evidence, limited as it might be, suggests he could run the offense efficiently. He would be the safe choice from a public relations standpoint. Carroll and Schneider don't seem to care much about that, though. They didn't flinch when critics blasted them for using first-round choices on James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin. They've flaunted convention across the board -- Red Bryant, Brandon Browner and J.R. Sweezy provide three recent examples -- and come out looking smart most of the time.
Carroll is going to pick the quarterback he thinks is best, even if it's at the expense of the accepted narrative.
My mind keeps flashing back to a play Wilson made during the second half against Denver last week. Two defenders were driving Wilson to the ground when the quarterback, his body at a severe angle, threw a perfectly placed pass from his own 45-yard line to his receiver near the sideline at the Denver 45. That type of play cannot be coached. The awareness Wilson showed was impressive enough, but the physical ability to deliver that pass set him apart from the vast majority of quarterbacks.
Wilson stands only 5-foot-10 and five-eighths inches. That's too short for an NFL quarterback, conventional wisdom says. The Seahawks aren't saying conventional wisdom is wrong, but with Wilson showing so much promise in so many other areas, they're eager to find out whether he's the exception to the rule.
Update: Carroll has announced the decision to start Wilson against the Chiefs.