Banner day for the Seahawks' way as Russell Wilson takes quarterback job
It was just another wild day in the hyper-competitive world of the Seahawks.
They canceled the T.O. Show because future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, though he can still run, can't play at a high level anymore.
They agreed to trade Tarvaris Jackson, last season's starting quarterback, to Buffalo.
And most striking of all, they named rookie Russell Wilson their starting quarterback.
It had become clear that the Seahawks needed to do all of those things, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider still have a way of making your jaw parachute to the floor. Their dramatic flurry of Sunday activity further legitimized the way they're committed to building a winner.
Most notably, the Seahawks exhibited an integrity of mission. Carroll preaches competition. Schneider vows to explore all options and to think differently in finding talent. They leave plenty of room for public debate as they go about their business. Nevertheless, their way works.
On Sunday, their way amounted to a banner day.
Wilson turned a difficult decision to an obvious one. He won the much-debated three-man quarterback competition, and Carroll had to recognize it to maintain credibility. But in doing the fair thing, the coach made a statement that will endear him to the locker room.
Earn Everything. Always Compete. Those themes took on a special meaning when Carroll made the risky decision to open the quarterback competition and let it linger deep into the preseason. But the benefits could prove to be more important than the wait:
1. The competition allowed the best player to emerge. While Carroll is certain to revisit the decision if Wilson struggles or Matt Flynn starts kickin' his butt in practice, the coach improved his chances of getting it right the first time by resisting the urge to make a call prematurely.
2. Wilson, the winner, truly earned the job, and in doing so, he revealed a kind of character that could help him galvanize this team. You saw the sideline during Friday's 44-14 preseason victory over Kansas City. It looked like Carroll was at USC all over again. The Seahawks showed a great spirit, and it was because Wilson was making big plays, embracing the competition and turning it into his showcase. The enthusiasm the players have for Wilson is real. Several players were even giddy on Twitter last night in congratulating the quarterback. And we all know that Twitter giddiness is the highest form of honor these days.
3. Now, the entire team knows that everyone gets a fair shake. Do you realize how easy it would have been for the Seahawks just to go with Flynn? He's a veteran. The Seahawks signed him to a three-year contract during free agency that guarantees him $10 million. Most of the time, in professional sports, it's as simple as that. But Carroll and Schneider kept an open mind, even though owner Paul Allen now must be wondering why they needed to invest so much in Flynn. But the Seahawks still aren't paying much for their quarterbacks, considering it is the most important position in sports. Flynn was worth the investment, and he was playing well enough to be a starter. Wilson just jumped higher, in essence. Now, the Seahawks have two starting-caliber quarterbacks, which is a huge bonus in the NFL. Almost as important, though, is the statement. There shouldn't be a player on this team who doesn't grind. There's always opportunity in Seattle. If you're hungry and prove yourself, Carroll will find playing time for you.
The Seahawks didn't mean to do this, but it was so fitting that they quit T.O. on the same day that they committed to Wilson. Owens is an exaggerated, cartoonish symbol of the egotistical pro-sports attitude that big-name players are owed something, even when they stop playing at a high level. The Seahawks aren't about that, and fortunately, they feel their wide receiving corps is good enough not to have to deal with the Owens distraction, especially when he's dropping balls, failing to get sufficient separation and providing less than ideal body language.
On the other hand, Wilson is the ultimate symbol of who the Seahawks want to be. He's a 5-foot-11 quarterback, who was the 75th overall player taken in the 2012 NFL draft and created his own expectations. Many teams figured he would be lucky to be a career backup because of his height. Others liked him but feared making the investment because of, again, the height issue. Schneider considered Wilson a must have, ignored that he's undersized and focused on what he can do.
Now, the Seahawks could have the steal of the draft. They might have just found their long-term solution at quarterback. If he thrives, Wilson will be a special kind of face of the franchise. He has superstar potential, complete with crossover appeal.
You should resist getting too animated and going too far because Wilson hasn't proven that much yet. I still want to see how he responds to struggling; the ability to adjust is always the measure of a great professional. But what Wilson has shown thus far ... wow.
Let the Russell Wilson era begin.
He seized an opportunity and won the job in stunning fashion. He's now the poster child for Always Compete. And the team is about to buy into it on a whole different level now.