In the piece, I conclude that Russell Wilson has a 60% of starting in 2012. In less than two weeks, things have been said that I believe increase that probability.
But before we review the evidence, understand that everything that follows is based on the assumption that Pete Carroll (PC) will oversea a genuine QB competition, and that he will play the QB he feels has the best chance to win football games. In other words, it hasn’t been decided yet; whoever wins the starting job will do so based on their performance in camp, independent of credentials, experience, draft position or pay check.
Let’s begin with Pete Carroll’s recent interview on 710 ESPN. (Danny provided this recently in the following link, along with the Brett Bielma interview I will reference next):
5:53. PC is asked if Russell Wilson (RW) will have a chance to start. PC responds:
"Everything he [RW] has done up to this point has been extraordinary…He will have an opportunity…Now we will find out…He’s studying like crazy…I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people…I think he’s going to run the offense…I’m not going to be surprised by that because I know how hard he’s been working."
6:17. PC is asked if this is a 3-way competition. He responds:
"It’s up to him [RW]…He’s got to do that. If he can make it that, yeah."
At this point in the interview [6.49], PC brings up Josh Portis, and says:
"Josh Portis has come a long ways, had a fantastic off-season…He’s done nothing to make us think he can’t compete."
When asked to provide some pre-draft nuggets about any of the players they drafted, PC calls out John Schneider’s impression of RW at the Michigan State game:
7:42. "Two good QBs…Cousins there as well…Cousins played a heck of a football game and wins the game, and John comes back and says, ‘One guy tilted the field.’ One guy…it was just amazing his impact on the game. It was like the only guy he could watch. But he was really enthralled by the guy right from the get-go…John’s been around a lot of ball and players and this is his life and world…"
9:11. PC: "[RW] has fantastic all around athleticism."
PC is asked what he is looking for to decide the QB competition: He answers:
10:04. "See how they affect the guys around them…See if they elevate the play of the people around them."
To summarize: PC and JS really like Russell Wilson, and consider him fully a part of the competition as the starting QB.
In addition, remember that PC has changed his mind about starting rookie QBs, and has stated his willingness to do so, under the right circumstances.
And finally, let’s not forget that PC’s history of starting young guys. About Matt Barkley:
After graduating from high school a semester early, Barkley enrolled at USC in January 2009 so he could participate in spring practice. With the early departure of the previous season's starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, and with no clear successor, a three-way quarterback battle emerged during spring practices between Barkley and quarterbacks Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, both of whom had held the second quarterback spot at various times throughout the season; the latter had been the starting quarterback at Arkansas for eight games. Barkley quickly adapted to the Trojans offense and gave strong performances during spring practices: trying for and making big plays but also throwing several key interceptions. Impressing his coaches, Barkley climbed to the number two spot at the end of Spring behind Corp. On August 27, during fall practices, Carroll named Barkley the starter for the 2009 season opener against San Jose State. He is the first true freshman quarterback to ever start an opener for the Trojans, and also the first true freshman to start the opener for a preseason top-five team since Rick Leach did it for No. 3 Michigan in 1975.
Bottom line: PC’s is not shy about doing something that’s never been done before, like starting a 3rd round rookie.
What we have next is Bret Bielema (BB), Russell Wilson’s head coach at Wisconsin. He was interviewed by Dave Mahler (DM).
DM asks for a defining moment in RW. BB provides the following:
2:25. "First practice…helmets only…FB runs a wheel-route…play breaks down…RW fake scrambles…then throws off his back foot…55 yards on a rope…hits the FB in the chest in the endzone. From that day forward, he would do something in practice every day that amazed me."
3:30. "In four weeks voted team captain overwhelmingly." (I have heard this before, but Bret makes it sound extraordinary.)
5:30. At the combine, one of the GMs asked RW about his main weakness. "RW said, ‘Perception; I can’t battle a perception.’"
6:08. Question: was RW’s height ever a concern for your offense? Did you have to tailor your offense to compensate?
"Never. Zero…I’ll tell you why. In practice I had Scott Tolzien, who in many practices had multiple balls batted down…RW had 4 batted down the entire year…RW finds a way…has a high delivery…it was a non-issue."
6:55. "I will tell you this; the first time I met him walking off the plane I was looking for the other four inches."
7:30. "I would bet a large amount of money…that he would be a multi-year starter, and my guess is would play that team into a championship."
7:50. "We put 14 guys in the NFL last year…13 this year…I’ve never seen a kid more ready to play professional football…Had 6 first-rounders in the last six years, and none of them are as ready as this kid."
8:20. Asked about his running ability, BB said: "He runs to stay alive…Biggest play of his career…4th and 8…they broke through the line…he scrambled around…threw the ball about 40 yards for a first down and eventual go-ahead score. There’s very few QBs who can stay alive and do that."
10:00. Question: Would you be surprised if he started as a rookie? BB: "Not at all…He’s so special, it’s unbelievable."
11:18. "I’ve never seen a more capable person for a job than RW."
Comments: Those of you who wish to discount the words of a former coach might consider the full context. Bret has a reputation to consider, and he will be accountable for what he publically says. While he could be mistaken, there is no doubt he is sincere. He is not a salesman or a politician, and has every reason to maintain his credibility within his profession.
Now that we have taken a closer look at Russell Wilson, a few words about his competition.
I think Matt Flynn is a decent QB who has the potential to be a good NFL starter. Given the QB-friendly team PC has developed, I believe he would succeed well enough in 2012. Even so, I don’t believe he can match Russell Wilson’s talent or athleticism. There are plays that Flynn simply can’t make, with his arm or his legs, that Wilson can, and this will show up a half dozen times a game. I think Wilson clearly out-plays Flynn in the next few months.
Regarding Tarvaris Jackson, consider what he had to say in a recent interview:
1:32. "I’m not a GM, not a head coach, so I can’t go and pick exactly who they want or say don’t get a QB. If I could I would, believe me."
Are these the words of a man ready to win any kind of competition? Can you imagine a starting QB worried about a FA signing or a draftee? If they do, it’s because they lack confidence, and I think that is clearly the case with Jackson.
Given everything we know about these four QBs, and the recent comments of PC, JS and Wilson’s former head coach, I think it becomes even more probable that Russell Wilson wins the job of starting Seahawk QB.
If that happens, Flynn will likely be the number two, and Seattle will have arguably the best back-up QB in the league.
As far as Josh Portis is concerned, it sounds like he is progressing well, and we know they like his potential, so I think he locks up the developmental spot.
That would leave one of two possibilities: either the Seahawks carry four QBs on the roster (something I consider highly doubtful) or they trade/cut Tarvaris Jackson.