Russell Wilson and Seahawks' Unexpected Journey
Seattle Times reader Andrew Rothgery has been a lifelong Seahawks (and Sonics) fan since he grew up on Bainbridge Island in the 1970s and '80s. The 43-year-old lives in Springfield, Ore., and teaches Spanish at the University of Oregon.
Call it Russell Wilson and "The Seahawks: An Unexpected Journey".
Hollywood’s blockbuster, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, has nothing on Wilson, the diminutive quarterback of the Seahawks.
Say what you will about Wilson’s 5-foot-105/8 stature, yet he’s a giant compared to the story’s unassuming hero Bilbo Baggins of the hobbit race. J.R.R. Tolkien describes hobbits as “about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves.”
Nonetheless, Wilson is definitely smaller when measured against his NFL quarterback brethren (who average 6-3), as he stands in the pocket among the towering orcs and tattooed beasties that opposing defenses unleash on him every Sunday.
But stature is about more than height.
Wilson’s stout build and warrior arms hint at his strength, and his work ethic and belief in himself allow him to lead a band of 11 taller men on 97- and 80-yard quests like the last two drives that finished off the Chicago Bears in overtime, 23-17, on Dec. 2.
During the critical moments of that 97-yard drive, here is how Wilson fared:
- Third-and-14 (1:41 left in regulation): 11-yard pass to Doug Baldwin.
- Fourth-and-three (1:11 left): 7-yard pass to Zach Miller for a first down.
- First down (34 seconds left in regulation): 14-yard pass to Golden Tate for a touchdown.
Then, after Chicago tied it on a potentially demoralizing 46-yard field goal at the end of regulation, here is how Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense responded when it mattered most:
- Third-and-two (12:11 in OT): Wilson 5-yard rush for first down.
- Third-and-five (10:12 in OT): Wilson 12-yard rush for first down.
- Third-and-10 (8:15 in OT): Wilson 12-yard pass to Doug Baldwin for a first down.
- 1st and 10 (7:40 in OT): Wilson 13-yard pass to Sidney Rice for game-winning touchdown.
Quite a story, but it’s neither the beginning nor the end.
Wilson’s Seahawk journey started before the season. That’s when an unconventional wizard named Gandalf - er, Pete Carroll - first picked Wilson, a rookie third-round draft choice, to lead the team ahead of free-agent prize Matt Flynn.
Carroll and Seahawk coaches must have suspected early in training camp that they had hit upon a quarterback who could “tilt the room,” in the words of general manager John Schneider. Wilson turned out to be exactly the kind of player Carroll and Schneider were seeking to lead the football team. To find a franchise quarterback, that most rare and necessary ingredient of any championship team, as late as the third round is a major coup and has the potential to set up a franchise for years.
And if there are those who still doubt Wilson is a franchise quarterback, they’re awfully quiet these days.
Think Bears coach Lovie Smith doubts it?
What about Jim Harbaugh?
The San Francisco 49ers head coach recently benched steady and dependable signal caller Alex Smith for unproven, second-year player Colin Kaepernick. As the leaders and heavy favorites to win the NFC West, the 49ers have a lot more to lose than the Seahawks by starting a young quarterback over an established veteran.
So should the 49ers have done it? It’s not farfetched to imagine Harbaugh felt the pressure to keep up with a division rival in the quarterback race. Wilson’s short frame has cast a big shadow, indeed, and not only in the NFC West.
Where the national debate around Rookie of the Year has revolved around Nos. 1 and 2 draft picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the spotlight now has had to make room for a third, legitimate candidate. Not the No. 3 pick, but a third-round pick, No. 75 overall, a 5-105/8 quarterback out of Wisconsin.
This has been an Unexpected Journey for the Seahawks. The quarterback most thought too short to successfully lead an NFL franchise appears ready to lead them on their quest of the playoffs. And he’s still in his rookie year, Chapter 1 of this Seahawks fantasy.
What next? Is Russell Wilson destined to slay the biggest dragon the NFL has to offer, become the Ringbearer and lead his team, “There (Super Bowl) and (perhaps) Back Again”?
If you’d like to write a Take 2 post, email Sports Editor Don Shelton at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org