In appreciation of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
You know what I hate about quarterback competitions and controversies? It seems that you always have to put down one guy to lift up the other. Even when you like them both, sports arguments have a way of making you go overboard in petty attempts to make the strongest point.
I hope I have maintained throughout the Seahawks QB battle that, while I think Matt Flynn is the safest route to success this season, I love the talent and potential of Russell Wilson. That's the way I feel, even when I'm explaining why Flynn would be my choice. I'm not sure what I think about Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's decision to continue the competition into Friday night's third preseason game, but there's no question that the longer this goes on, the more open Carroll is to the idea of starting Wilson. And no matter where you stand on this issue, the thought that Wilson, as a rookie, could be good enough already to start should leave you anywhere from intrigued to fascinated.
Even if you disagree with Carroll, you should be intrigued, at least, by Wilson, who is defying conventional NFL beliefs about size. Me? I'm fascinated by the possibility, though I think there's less risk in starting Flynn.
So, the purpose of this post is to appreciate Wilson and not let his ability and the progress he has made in a short time get lost in the quarterback debate.
Do you realize how hard it is for a rookie third-round draft pick, let alone a small-ish one, to insert himself into a quarterback competition when a team has committed eight figures in money to another quarterback? That should tell you something about how impressive Wilson has been thus far. It's even more impressive when you realize that Flynn has done nothing to lose the job. Wilson is just rising fast.
Wilson is electric at times. He's so much fun to watch. I'm already convinced that his 5-foot-11 height -- Yes, I round up and give him that extra three-eighths of an inch! To everyone who doesn't, stop being petty! -- won't hinder him from being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Wilson could wind up being the greatest of all of general manager John Schneider's great middle- or late-round draft picks.
Wilson shows signs of being both efficient and capable of making big plays. That's a special combination. We talk about quarterbacks needing to be game managers first, and Wilson can do that. He came from a system in Wisconsin that demands it. That's the baseline expectation for a playoff-caliber quarterback. But what separates bad from average, average from good, good from great and great from legendary is how much responsibility a quarterback can carry on top of the game-management requirement. Wilson has the potential to be a driving force as well as a complementary quarterback.
He has a great arm. He is already one of the swiftest quarterbacks in the NFL. He's a threat in many ways, and he has the confidence to use all those skills. It's also clear that he has a good football IQ, and he isn't having any trouble with the playbook.
In addition, as I've written before, Wilson wears the quarterback position well. He's very presidential when he represents the team during media sessions. He's quite the politician, capable of giving an engaging interview without saying anything newsworthy. He has the personality to own a locker room.
Most important, though, is that Wilson has been exceedingly effective. He has played in the second half of two preseason games, against defenses featuring anywhere from backups to guys who will be cut soon, but look at the numbers: 22 of 33 for 279 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and 92 rushing yards, including a touchdown. Yes, he must show that he can do that against a first-team defense, and he'll get that chance against Kansas City. But efficient is efficient. Wilson can throw the football, bottom line.
Carroll lauded Wilson's efficiency this week, noting that he showed it in college and during preseason practices. Let's be clear, though: Flynn is still the most efficient quarterback on this team if you factor in practice performance, too, but Wilson has been more effective making plays down the field. Wilson needs to prove he can be more consistent in the pocket; he's a great improviser who makes his best plays on the move and outside the pocket. And Wilson should get that chance to stay in the pocket and prove himself Friday because he'll be playing with the Seahawks' best offensive linemen. But it should also be noted that great mobility is a plus in the Seahawks offense because of all the bootlegs and rollouts.
It is becoming easy to speculate that Wilson is the Seahawks' quarterback of the future. I'd be shocked if he isn't a long-term solution by next season or 2014, at the latest. The question of this competition is which quarterback fits best now, on a team that has a roster talented enough to make the playoffs and needs competency from its quarterback more than spectacular performances. Carroll would take spectacular, of course, but he's not desperate for it because he's built this team in a manner that takes pressure off the quarterback.
I hope Wilson performs well, even though it could cause this quarterback competition to drag on and make it more difficult for the eventual Week 1 starter to be truly prepared. The flip side is that you might clearly know who won the job.
Once again, the longer this goes on, the more Wilson benefits. The rookie has the talent and charisma to be a big-time star if he can put it all together. It's impossible to root against that, even if you'd handle the quarterback situation differently than Carroll has.
This is a QB battle of two good options. Perhaps we can suspend the argument long enough to agree on that.