Jesus Montero demotion was a no-brainer 5/24, 11:12 AM
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ditched fear of playing a rookie quarterback even before Russell Wilson
I've been digging around -- reading old notes and such -- over the past few days because I'd like to write something lengthy and memorable about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson before the season starts. I'm exploring a lot of different angles, including Wilson's stellar college career at both Wisconsin and NC State.
I'm also looking at the evolution of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's philosophy about playing rookie quarterbacks. As usual, you can trace some of what Carroll has learned back to his USC days. His decision to start Matt Barkley as a freshman was a seminal moment. Since then, Carroll hasn't expressed much doubt about what a young quarterback can handle in today's game.
In fact, after last season ended, Carroll thought aloud about how he has changed his stance on rookie quarterbacks over the years. At the time, it felt like he was preparing for the chance that the Seahawks might need to solve their quarterback problem through the draft. We thought it would be with a first-round pick back then. Who would've guessed that Wilson, a third rounder, would be deemed the answer?
Back in January, the rook idea was rumbling through Carroll's mind.
"Well, my opinion in the last few years has changed on what the quarterbacks can do coming out of college," Carroll said then after a 2011 season that featured a few breakout rookie quarterbacks, including Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. "I would have told you, in years past as an NFL coach, that young guys can't do it, and there were only a couple that ever did, and that wasn't enough to make that an expectation that you could count on. But I think that's totally shifted.
"I don't think that's the case anymore. I've changed my attitude about it just based on the results of the guys. (Joe) Flacco and Matt Ryan came out, and those guys, both in the same year, played great winning football. And Mark Sanchez found his way to do it, and guys are doing it in Detroit (with third-year QB Matt Stafford)."
I wrote this column in January about the trend of young quarterbacks succeeding earlier in their NFL careers. Included in the piece was this line:
It's an encouraging thought as the Seahawks examine whether they should use a high draft pick to select a quarterback in April. There's a chance that, if they choose the right player, he could avoid stunting the team's growth.
Is that not what Wilson might do?
I'm sure there will be rocky moments, but I'm growing more convinced by the day that Wilson is special and will only enhance the Seahawks' chances to become a playoff team this season.
Carroll, who tries to stay on the cutting edge, can talk at length about the differences in how quarterbacks are developed now. He'll tell you about the passing camps they go to at an early age, and the sophisticated offenses they run even in high school. When they get to college, they're more polished than ever. When they get to the NFL, they're not overwhelmed as much.
Danny O'Neil, our Seahawks beat writer, wrote a nice piece about NFL-ready rookie quarterbacks the other day, highlighting that five rookie QBs are expected to start Week 1.
Carroll saw this coming. And he recognized it early enough to be more open-minded in his quarterback competition, and it appears Wilson is prepared to reward the coach for it.
"There's a carry-over in the upbringing of quarterbacks that now is allowing them to transition much more quickly, and I think you can go with a young quarterback," Carroll said in January. "A few years ago, I'd have said that you can't. I don't believe that anymore, and I think it's all a product of the whole football world of growing in the confidence and belief in the throwing game."
It's kind of eerie to read those words now, isn't it?
Carroll wasn't just answering a reporter's question seven months ago. Whether he knew it or not, he was practicing some serious soothsayin'.