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Originally published Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 8:05 PM

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Pete Carroll's decision to start Russell Wilson has painted Seahawks into a corner

Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson is making rookie mistakes his team can't afford if they are to make the playoffs.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Welcome to Wilson vs. Flynn, the quarterback competition that because of the Seahawk offense's staggering start has become the quarterback controversy.

Every week we are told that the Seahawks are trying to give their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson the best chance to win.

For the first quarter of this season we've seen the Hawks' offensive caution. The game plan has looked as conservative as a Tea Party convention. It's practically a play-not-to-lose philosophy.

In the pass-happy NFL, the Seahawks have been run first. They've practically put the start of this season on the back of their relentless running back, Marshawn Lynch. They've tried to stay out of third-and-long situations so Wilson doesn't have to make too many difficult decisions in the face of a rampaging pass rush.

Third-and-longs for a young quarterback are like 10-foot par putts at the U.S. Open. Leaving yourself too many is a prescription for disaster.

It is natural to protect the rookie. It is understandable that in his growth process, Wilson is going to stumble. He's going to make mistakes that can change the outcome of games.

But why, in a season this important, with a defense this dominating, has coach Pete Carroll chosen to go with the rookie Wilson instead of the veteran Matt Flynn, who spent his first four seasons in the Green Bay Packers' sophisticated offense, preparing himself for the opportunity that should have come to him this summer?

Why should Carroll be worrying about protecting a rookie quarterback, when he acquired Flynn, who has dazzled in his limited appearances with the Packers?

Why has Carroll settled for a 2-2 start, when maybe, just maybe, the Hawks could be 4-0 if Flynn were the starter?

It certainly can be argued that the Hawks would have beaten Arizona in the opener. And it is likely Flynn wouldn't have made the same mistakes the rookie made Sunday in St. Louis.

These September losses can be the ones that haunt the Hawks in December.

What was the rush with Wilson? Why did Carroll feel so compelled, in a playoff-possible season, to go with a quarterback so raw?

Wilson is enormously talented and charismatic and smart. He should have a bright future in the game. That future is not now.

And now it seems Carroll painted himself into a corner.

What happens if Lynch goes down with a high ankle sprain, forcing the Hawks to throw more? What happens if Wilson, faced with a lot of third-and-longs, loses in Carolina?

Teams are collecting tape on Wilson. They are game-planning for him. They see that he has become too predictable. Of course he has. He's a rookie.

He almost always rolls to his right. He hasn't done a good job of buying time in the pocket, especially when the Hawks are threatening.

These aren't meant to be criticisms. They are correctable flaws. But the corrections take time, time the Seahawks don't have in a tight playoff race.

Carroll said Monday that there still is a quarterback competition. But, if at some point he does make a change, he has made the transition very difficult for Flynn.

He should have started with Flynn.

A quarter of the season is gone. The NFC West is markedly improved, but the promising Seahawks have been mediocre.

When we look back on this season, will Carroll be considered a visionary or a villain? Will he win forever, or be .500 forever?

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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