I am the first one to remind people to tamp down their expectations when they get particularly excited about how well an unknown player or a rookie does in the preseason.
Often, it’s just a case where a guy who has a slim chance of actually making an NFL roster stands out when surrounded by opponents who have absolutely no chance of achieving that goal.
So get excited about that running back that got 92 yards in the fourth quarter at your own risk. Yeah, he did it against 11 guys who will be at best practice-squad players but most likely will be on the couch when the ball goes on the tee for real in Week 1.
So with that disclaimer in mind, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll didn’t really make a choice on Sunday when he announced that rookie Russell Wilson will be his Week 1 starter at quarterback ahead of high-priced free agent acquisition Matt Flynn (per ESPN.com). Carroll didn’t make a choice because Wilson made it for him by simply separating himself from the competition.
Flynn will begin the season in the same role he had for the Green Bay Packers the past four seasons, No. 2.
Wilson is an unconventional choice and not just because he’s a rookie. It appears we’re on target to have at least five rookies under center when the season opens next week, with Wilson joining three top 10 draft picks in Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill as well as first-rounder Brandon Weeden as opening-day starters.
No, in a league that is all about the measurable, Wilson managed to win the job despite a huge physical handicap, one that sent him plunging down the draft board in April.
What is that handicap? Well, he’s not tall. If it weren’t for the fact he’s almost a full five inches taller than I am, I might even have to call him short. But at a shade less than 5-11, he is short for an NFL quarterback.
Carroll said on a conference call Sunday night that Wilson “has taken advantage of his opportunities and has done everything that we have asked for on the field and more than what you guys could know off the field in meeting rooms and with our players and how he’s represented. He’s earned the job.”
What clinched the deal was how he played Friday night against the first-unit defense of the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilson shredded what was believed to be a pretty good defense to the tune of 13-of-19 passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns and added 58 rushing yards for good measure.
It was one thing when Wilson was looking like a star against backups and below in the first two weeks of the preseason against the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. It was quite another when that performance translated despite stepping up in competition.
I give Carroll and the Seahawks credit for letting what happened on the field be the deciding factor because Flynn, as the backup, will be making a little bit more money than the starter.
How much more? According to the sports-salary website spotrac.com, Wilson signed a four-year, $2.99 million contract with a $619,400 signing bonus and is set to earn $390,000 in base salary this season. The same site has Flynn’s base salary at $2 million this year after he signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract in March with $10 million in guaranteed cash.
So, yeah, it might seem odd to have a backup with a contract more than 6½ times larger than the starter.
It might seem odd, that is, until you look at Russell Wilson’s play because he got the job the old-fashioned way.
He earned it.