Danny O'Neil is reporting that 'there were multiple indications' following last night's player meetings that Russell Wilson has been named the Seahawks' starter for preseason week three against the Chiefs (UPDATE: This has been confirmed by Pete Carroll). Wilson has played well with the second- and third- team units over the first two preseason games, and in four quarters, has led eleven drives that have resulted in 38 points, and have broken down into five touchdowns, one field goal, one interception, and four punts. It would appear the quarterback competition with Matt Flynn is still alive and well and the Seahawks want to see what the rookie can do with and against starters.
There is naturally going to be sports-outrage about this in a lot of places but I'm intrigued. Pete Carroll has said all along that this quarterback battle was going to go a lot longer than we'll be comfortable with, and that the Seahawks are going to buck convention and do what they feel is the right way of doing it. Carroll has said there's a specific and detailed plan in place to orchestrate this competition and that they're well aware of the fact that the splitting of reps over the preseason and OTAs is a sacrifice. Carroll believes that, as Jerry Brewer framed it, "the benefits of competition -- of putting a kind of pressure on the quarterbacks that attempts to mirror what they'll feel on Sunday -- is worth sacrificing the consistent reps that a predetermined starter would receive to prepare for the season." Brewer continued - "Carroll thinks watching the quarterbacks fight will keep his team hungry, not confused. 'To have competition, which is the central theme of our program, go directly to the heart of the team is perfect,' Carroll said. 'That's exactly what we stand for.'"
Not conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom states that preseason week three is the 'dress rehearsal' to the regular season opener. I don't get the impression that Pete Carroll and John Schneider really see it this way, and they've already done this preseason differently than most teams, playing their two quarterbacks for full halves, rather than a quick two or three series to start the game, like most teams.
As Mike Sando put it this morning, "Wilson has done enough... to get a look earlier in games. But if Flynn is the presumed regular-season starter -- no sure thing -- then taking away first-team reps from him would come with a short-term cost. That cost could be overrated, however. Ten or 20 or 30 preseason snaps aren't going to make or break a quarterback. Carroll could be more concerned with the bigger picture -- what exactly does the team have in the seemingly dynamic Wilson? -- than with a few snaps here or there in the preseason. And if Wilson truly is a legitimate candidate to start in Week 1, the first-team reps would be particularly valuable to him."
And, as Sando illustrates, Flynn and Wilson have far surpassed their division rival peers in snap counts already -- Wilson with 69, Flynn with 59 - compared to Rams starter Sam Bradford's 35 and 49ers starter Alex Smith's 33. Interestingly enough, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and the Arizona Cardinals, another team in the midst of a quarterback competition, have already played three preseason games, and their rep counts are just 33 and 32, respectively. Perspective, anyway.
At the end of the day, this isn't just some capricious and whimsical decision by the coaching staff. It's a calculated move - some say it is risky, yes, but I don't think Pete Carroll sees it that way - and that's all part of this unconventional yet methodical competition. I'm not worried about it. It will be interesting to see how Wilson functions behind a line that can provide better protection to him and offer a cleaner pocket. It will be meaningful to see how Flynn fares behind a line that gave up 11 pressures in 25 passing snaps last week for Wilson (per Davis Hsu, and his soon to be published in-depth breakdown of Russell's game last weekend).
Doug Farrar and Greg Cosell made note too this morning that in Denver, the Broncos switched to a heavy zone in the 2nd half after playing with man-to-man principles in the first, so the defense that the two players were seeing was totally different. Situational factors like this do matter -- the game score, and opponent, and stats, and boxscore lines cannot be taken as a whole - the things that matter on a play-to-play, micro-basis are a player's decision making, accuracy, reaction to different looks during the pre-snap phase, ability and willingness to make throws into tight windows, and a multitude of factors that go into quarterbacking.
This game three start for Wilson may be just a look at how each quarterback reacts and plays under differing circumstances, or, it may signal a shift in which player is leading the race. We'll find out, I guess. Either way, making the correct decision on who should start is more important than who starts a third-week preseason game. The Seahawks' coaching staff wants more information so they can choose which player is best-equipped to quarterback this offense, and if you assume that player is most likely going to be at the helm for at least the first three or four games before any plug is even considered being pulled - I think debiting 'convention' is an acceptable cost to getting there.