By Jim Moore
I’ll admit it, I’m rooting for Russell Wilson to be the Seahawks’ starting quarterback.
I also admit that I was initially rooting for anyone but Tarvaris Jackson, even if his name was Josh Portis and especially if his name was Matt Flynn.
And now I have to admit that even though I never thought Jackson should have been in the quarterback competition in the first place, I feel bad for him. If he’s in the battle, he should get a chance to play in the preseason. This Pete Carroll mumbo-jumbo about already knowing what he has in Jackson wouldn’t sit well with me if I’m T-Jack.
But I guess that’s the least significant storyline because the NFL’s a business and if his feelings are hurt and he’s getting screwed over, oh well, it’s part of the deal. It’s been part of Jackson’s deal ever since he entered the league.
Russell Wilson has looked impressive in the preseason, but then again, so did Charlie Whitehurst. (AP)
The biggest and latest storyline is the one that Carroll sprung on us yesterday when he announced that Wilson will start his first preseason game against Kansas City Friday night. Flynn had started the first two games against Tennessee and Denver, but now Wilson will get his chance to play with the first-team offense against a first-team defense.
Along with Carroll, we’ll all be micro-analyzing every pass thrown by Wilson, every run made by Wilson, every decision made by Wilson. We’ll also wonder if he stayed in the pocket long enough to go through his progressions before darting away.
With the first-string offensive line, Wilson should get more time to operate. In general, he didn’t have that luxury with the second-stringers, which if you ask me, makes his numbers shine more brightly. As it was, even under intermittent pressure, Wilson has gone 22 of 33 for 279 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception in his first two games. He’s also rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown and converted more third downs than Flynn, who has yet to lead the Seahawks on a touchdown drive.
Though it looks to me like Wilson is a better and more dynamic quarterback than Flynn, I wonder if I’m right about that. Preseason games are like too many cocktails – they can both distort sound judgment.
A listener sent in a text Tuesday with several words of caution, reminding us that Charlie Whitehurst had his share of brilliant moments in preseason games. Remember? Clipboard Jesus looked terrific at times, a gunslinger in the making. But the reality was different than the perception – Whitehurst wasn’t even good enough to beat out Jackson.
Wilson certainly looks more capable than Whitehurst, but let’s see how he does against the Chiefs’ defensive starters in the highly hostile environment of Arrowhead Stadium.
Here’s what I like about Wilson over Flynn thus far: he appears to offer the same kind of game-management type skills that Flynn has. He also appears to be just as accurate. But he just seems like more of a big play-maker than Flynn – if not with his arm, then certainly with his legs.
And I’m also guessing if his understanding of the offense and recognition of the defense is on a par with Flynn, Wilson gets the nod because he has a stronger arm. I don’t pretend to know this stuff like Brock Huard does, but I tend to think that Wilson can zip it into tight windows faster and more effectively than Flynn can, if all things are equal.
However it shakes out, this will be a quarterback controversy that lasts all year long. Whoever gets the job will struggle at some point, and if he struggles for two games in a row or, heck, maybe even two quarters in a row, the 12th Man will be clamoring for the other guy.
Guaranteed, the starter will struggle at some point. Flynn has started just two games to this point in his career, and Wilson hasn’t started at all. To think that things will go flawlessly with either one? It just won’t happen.
I like to think that Wilson or Flynn will lead the Seahawks to the playoffs this year and the Super Bowl next year. But have you considered the flip side of that?
We love these guys now because they represent an upgrade over Jackson. But what if they’re Whitehurst all over again? To suggest such a thing is ludicrous because we all think that they’re better than that, but how do we know for sure?
Wasn’t Flynn a seventh-round pick and a backup for four years in Green Bay? If he was so good, why wasn’t he chosen higher? If he’s so good, why hasn’t he become a starter sooner in the NFL? (On the latter point, you could argue that it was because he was behind Aaron Rodgers, dummy, and I’d probably have to agree.)
And Wilson? I love it when people say if he were three inches taller, he would have been the third quarterback chosen this year, behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III but ahead of Ryan Tannehill. But he’s not three inches taller, he’s 5-foot-10 and change.
There’s a reason he was drafted in the third round. There are just a handful of under 6-foot quarterbacks who have panned out in the NFL. He might be the exception. But there’s a better chance that he won’t be.
It’s been 39 years since a third-round draft choice started as a rookie quarterback in the NFL – Joe Ferguson did it with Buffalo in 1973. I remember Ferguson, and he was good, not great. If Wilson turns out to be good, not great, I’ll take it because it’s an improvement over Jackson, who was decent at best.
Obviously, it’s a critical decision for Carroll, not just for this season but down the road. For all of the great acquisitions that he and general manager John Schneider have made, they’ve struck out at quarterback so far with Jackson and Whitehurst.
If they strike out with Wilson and Flynn, forget about the playoffs – their jobs will be on the line, too.
Jim Moore also writes for his website, www.jimmoorethego2guy.com, kitsapsun.com, seattlepi.com and cougfan.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo. He co-hosts “The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe” on the podcast page of 710Sports.com and “The Kevin Calabro Show,” weekdays 3-7 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.
Note: Next Thursday, Aug. 30, I hope you’ll join me for a viewing party for Washington State’s first game against BYU at the Village Pub in Magnolia. You can count on drink and food specials galore along with, hopefully, a Cougar win as the Mike Leach era gets under way. Go Cougs!