Seattle Seahawks: Head Coach Pete Carroll Has a Decision to Make at QB
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A debate continues to rage on this preseason between two quarterbacks and which one should take on the role as the next starter for the Seattle Seahawks.
Matt Flynn, who many have presumed to be the starting quarterback, started with the first-team offense for the first two weeks of the preseason. Rookie Russell Wilson received the start Friday and played most of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs with Flynn sitting out due to a sore elbow. Tarvaris Jackson, who has been rumored to be on the trading block, saw preseason action for the first time this week, but completed only three passes for a total of one yard.
When Flynn signed with the team, nobody could have predicted how quickly Wilson would develop into a potential starting quarterback for the Hawks (mostly because Wilson had not even been drafted yet). But when Wilson arrived, head coach Pete Carroll was impressed enough to throw him into the competition for the starting job immediately.
Fortunately, the Seahawks have a coach who is going to base his decision primarily on performance. Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of in-game performance to easily speculate a winner or for the coach to make a decision.
What should not be a part of the debate are two things: how much the quarterbacks make and whatever perceived "height advantage" there may be between the two. Neither one appears to have an impact on each player's physical ability to play quarterback.
Flynn played outstanding in two games with the Packers last season, including a six-touchdown performance against the Lions. Six touchdowns is impressive for anyone and is primarily something only achieved by the most elite quarterbacks.
But for anyone who has watched the Seahawks the past few years, fans know all too well this team has trouble finishing drives in the red zone. This trend has continued in the preseason with Flynn at the helm; of his 10 drives, the Seahawks have scored only four field goals.
Wilson, playing with and against second-string players, had led Seattle to five touchdowns and a field goal in his 10 possessions coming into this most recent game against the Chiefs. Against Kansas City, the Seahawks did not have to punt the ball away until Jackson came in at the end of the third quarter. On the seven Wilson-led drives, the Seahawks scored three touchdowns and attempted four field goals (kicker Steven Hauschka was 3-of-4).
Among those seven drives, Wilson also had the opportunity to show what he can do with the two-minute offense. Two passes for more than 20 yards to tight end Anthony McCoy, two roughing the passer calls against the Chiefs and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Martin got the Hawks down the field quickly and into halftime with a 23-7 lead.
For those of us who love Carroll, a good part of it is due to his eye for talent on defense while another is for his somewhat unorthodox style. Every time I think I can predict what he might do, he proves that he's not easily predictable.
I was incredibly surprised when Carroll announced this week that Wilson would start the preseason game against the Chiefs. (Although now that Flynn is battling a sore elbow, it probably would have happened anyway.)
Flynn has not done anything to show he's not capable of running the first-team offense, but he has not wowed us in the same way he did in his starts with Green Bay last season. Some of that might have to do with more conservative play-calling, though, and a dropped touchdown pass by Terrell Owens in the Aug. 18 game against Denver did not help his cause, either.
Many reporters, announcers and fans have commented on the tremendous amount of poise and confidence that Wilson shows for a rookie. He also has shown that he has the ability to escape pressure and make a big play.
Sure it's easy to get caught up (as some have been) in bashing the coach for not making a decision earlier, but this is not an obvious decision. Carroll has truly needed this preseason to make a solid evaluation.
Even with his performance against the Chiefs, making Wilson the starter for the season introduces a big question. Is Jackson the best person to have up on the trading block? He would be a less expensive backup than Flynn, and Flynn's trade value would be considerably higher.
But there's another argument that the Seahawks should keep Flynn around in case Wilson were to struggle in a starting role. But if there's the expectation that Wilson could struggle, why start him in the first place, and why not give Flynn a year to prove he can be the team's quarterback of the future?
Despite his higher trade value, it would be good to keep Flynn around in case the rookie quarterback were to get injured in the starting role. When you look around the league at mobile quarterbacks, it seems to be only a matter of time before it happens.
If Coach Carroll already believes Wilson is a capable starter, then why not start getting him experience now as a rookie? It's a very difficult (and sometimes circular) argument. Whatever the decision is, it's one that we're going to find the answer to soon—there’s only one preseason game left!
The good news is it appears both quarterbacks are better than Jackson, and considering he led the team to a 7-9 record with a torn pectoral muscle and behind a young offensive line that struggled the first half of the 2011 season, this is a good problem to have. It’s a problem completely unlike deciding who to start between Stan Gelbaugh and Kelly Stouffer.
With "Russell-mania" now catching on in Seattle, even if Flynn starts he may not have the support of Seahawks fans for long.
Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the Military Sea Hawkers, the military chapter of the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit www.militaryseahawkers.com. Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.
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