Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has never been one to shy away from brash statements and radical decision making. Some have cost him his job (his stint with the Jets comes to mind) while others have helped him find wild amounts of success (National Championships, albeit not without controversy, at USC). In his latest high risk, high reward decision, Carroll has opted to start the season with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson instead of Matt Flynn--whom many thought would be the franchise quarterback after inking a contract with Seattle during the offseason.
Wilson, who was a third round selection in April's Draft, has looked more like a seasoned vet than a green rookie during the preseason. In two games against the Titans and Broncos, Wilson looked impressive against the opponent's second team defenses, hurting both with his arm and legs. Wilson had been building momentum, becoming increasingly comfortable in Carroll's offensive scheme and with Flynn out with an injury this past weekend against the Chiefs, Wilson seized his opportunity and showed why the coaching staff--and Carroll in particular--have been raving about the young man from Richmond, Virginia.
Arrowhead Stadium is an intimidating setting for any quarterback (preseason game or not), especially for a rookie making his first start in the NFL and most pundits believed that once Wilson faced a first-team defense he would be exposed. But Wilson showed the same poise that helped him lead the Wisconsin Badgers to a Rose Bowl during his lone season in Madison. The rookie quarterback looked like he was ready for the spotlight, torching the Chiefs defense with a 13-19, 185 yard, 2 touchdown passing performance while throwing in runs of 37 and 21 yards to keep the hype machine rolling. By the time he was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks were up 44-7 and Wilson's legacy had been birthed.
Wilson has the skillset of the new generation of quarterback with his ability to hurt teams through the air and on the ground. At 5'11'' he may not be as physically big or explosive (though he did run an impressive 4.55 40 at the combine) as guys like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton, but he has great instincts and the leadership qualities that coaches dream about.
Starting a rookie quarterback is always a risky move and Pete Carroll's decision to go with Wilson will either make him a hero or a put him on the unemployment line. Fortunately for both Carroll and his quarterback, the Seahawks have some legitimate weapons to help ease the inevitable growing pains that will come during the regular season. Running back Marshawn Lynch is a potential 1,000 yard runner and will take pressure off of Wilson and while wideouts Golden Tate and Sidney Rice have underwhelmed during their stints in Seattle, a new man under center might provide a spark.
Most importantly, the Seahawks have two great options at the tight end position in Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow. During Cam Newton's rookie season in Carolina, the tight end tandem of Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey did wonders for Cam, providing a safety outlet for the talented quarterback helping him build confidence as the season went along. Expect a similar situation in Seattle as Miller and Winslow provide Wilson with reliable hands over the middle and threats in the red zone. When healthy, Miller has shown he can be a trusted receiver and Winslow has quietly been one of the most consistent tight ends in the League (16 games, 75 catches last season in Tampa Bay). Both tight ends will be relied on heavily to help bring along Wilson and their veteran experience will only make their quarterback's transition run smoothly.
Yes, it's only the preseason and yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding an undersized quarterback with one professional start under his belt. But, there is a lot to like about Russell Wilson and he will breathe life into the franchise, providing one of the most rabid fan bases in football a new hope in the Pacific Northwest.