Russell Wilson has already overcome the notion that he can't be in an amazing photo.
So like I've been saying all along, of course Russell Wilson will be named starter. Duh. Doy.
Realistically, the news does come as a shock if you had told me this was going to happen all the way up until two weeks ago before the Seahawks had played the Broncos. Even until then, I was ready to put all of my money on Matt Flynn and it's lucky that betting is illegal in most places. If you had taken my money, I would have turned you into the police and we'll both go down for this for a long time. But Flynn seemed like the safe choice, the smart choice, the best way to transition into the future of Wilson if he had developed like we had hoped.
After the Denver and Kansas City games though, development became less of an issue. Now it was just a matter of seeing whether or not Pete Carroll had the intestinal fortitude to actually start a third round rookie over the medium-profile free agent with the $10 million guarantee. If Flynn never takes a snap in Seattle, just imagine that it could have been you or I to get that $10 million instead and damn it! I would have been such a good mentor to Russell. Except that at this point I'm not sure how much more Wilson has to do. Of course he has to get better. Aaron Rodgers is working to get better right now. That's what great players do. But as of now, he's going to do it on the job and that's the most exciting news to come out Seattle since the Experience Music Project.
Yeah, the Experience Music Project.
The news that Russell is the starter just brings so many thoughts to my head and finally pushes out all of those bad thoughts. "No Scratchy, I won't light it on fire! Not anymore! Not with this news about Wilson!" I spent awhile last night watching more of Wilson's game tape from Wisconsin and of course, just came away even more impressed. Some of the fears that I still have about Wilson are somewhat alleviated by more of the game tape I watched.
After doing that for awhile I ended up watching the greatest college football moments of the last decade which led to watching motivational speeches by Ray Lewis and then somehow winding up on amazing rescue videos and so on and so forth. I started with Wilson and I ended with "crazy 911 calls" so the lesson here is to never go on YouTube. The good news about YouTube.com is that it allowed me to re-visit more of what Wilson had done while at Wisconsin and think more about why I am so excited for this season.
I am ridiculously excited for this season. A lot of that has to do with Wilson so I want to get some thoughts out right now, including what I love about him, the significance of naming him the starter for Pete Carroll and John Schneider, the draft, and whatever else happens to pop in my head.
My calmer, more-collected head that is now making this a safer place for all of us because of Lord Wilson.
- "The story of my life" on Wilson is never going to change. He was a great high school quarterback that was a two-star recruit and it would be great if he could say that he turned down Duke for basketball but that's not true. He turned down Duke for football so he could play at NC State. I almost wish he had gone to Duke so that we could have actually seen what would happen if a great college football player went to Duke.
He dominated college football and "the story of my life" didn't change much for the NFL draft. You don't want to downplay being a third round pick because that's truly an amazing accomplishment, but it still came down to concerns on his height that made many people non-believers and skeptics. Count me among the skeptics, absolutely. Wilson had a hurdle to overcome and I was concerned that the hurdle was two-feet high in the air, making it physically impossible for Wilson to jump over it.
Re-visiting his senior season for the Badgers, it seems quite foolish for us to have doubted him.
It's pretty impressive for any player to just go to another team and immediately start, let alone to start like he did. Wilson and the Badgers started 6-0 and won by an average score of 50.2 - 9.67, including a 48-17 win over #8 Nebraska. I was really impressed to see Wilson lead the Badgers to comebacks against Michigan State and Ohio State. Comebacks that failed when the defense was unable to stop the Spartans and Buckeyes.
Just as impressed as him leading Wisconsin to a comeback in a re-match against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. It would be easy to get pigeon-holed into a bad Tebow-esque term like "winner" on a guy like Wilson. I think it would be better to just say that Russell Wilson plays the same football in the fourth quarter in front of 105,000 screaming Ohio State fans as he does in the first quarter against South Dakota at home. Pressure doesn't seem to effect him.
Wilson also played for a great school that was coming off of a Rose Bowl appearance that had another player, Montee Ball, that finished fourth in the Heisman in 2011 and to say that Wilson racked up numbers against bad opponents. All great football players at great schools rack up huge numbers against the bad-quality opponents that all major D-1 schools face. Including Wilson. But that doesn't mean he didn't do work against quality opponents too.
Here are his combined numbers against Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship, and Oregon in the Rose Bowl:
103 for 151 (68.2%), 1,400 yards, 9.27 yards per pass attempt, 14 TD, 3 INT, 3 rushing touchdowns for an NCAA QB rating of 172.71. That's just in the five games against ranked opponents and the sixth at Ohio State.
It's almost as if Wilson has no ability at all to be cognizant of the situation, which is probably why he just won a job as an NFL starter only four months after being drafted. (Literally today is the four month anniversary, so he managed to become an NFL starter technically a day short of four months.)
That last paragraph leads me to a whole myriad of other thoughts...
- First of all, his play at Wisconsin and what I saw on tape.
What I think really stood out to me this time, after we have seen him play some NFL opponents, is the "scrambling" ability of Wilson. Some of us had concerns that Wilson was so athletic that he'd immediately bail when the pocket collapses, forfeiting the value of hanging tough in the pocket and making a pass instead of tucking and running.
If you watch him at Wisconsin, you will see Wilson scramble from a collapsed pocket and indeed, gain a few yards because he's fast, shifty, and elusive. Not a bad thing, but not your first option unless technically that was the designed play call which Wilson is also capable of running. However, was he really going through progressions?
More and more as I watch the film from Wisconsin, I notice that Wilson keeps his eyes exactly where they need to be: downfield. At times, yes, Wilson can get himself into trouble, but I absolutely noticed that he keeps his eyes on the prize until the moment where he decides he has to take it himself. Several times though I saw him bail for a moment just to get a free second to make a nice throw.
I think that we tend to judge athletic QBs for not being smart enough to do the right thing. What the hell in Wilson's background would make us believe he's not smart though? In those six games that I detailed before where Wilson dominated with his arm, the most rushing attempts he had in any of those games was eight. The most yards was 36. He's an athletic quarterback with a strong arm, not a running quarterback. However, I won't be surprised if once or twice this season you see Flynn come out for a trick play with Wilson lined wide, because he is athletic enough to make a catch and go with it.
- The draft.
Has anyone ever improved their draft stock this quickly? There's nothing more valuable to NFL teams than
money quarterbacks and there's a reason that Wilson is the lowest drafted QB to start week one of his rookie season since Kyle Orton in 2005. A team would never think that they could draft a starter that quickly after the first, maybe early second. But Wilson won a job over a good QB, he didn't have it fall into lap because of injury or disaster. He legitimately won a job by playing potentially the most exciting football of anyone through three weeks of preseason.
Forget about the future for now and just think about today. Where would Wilson go if he was drafted today? There's no way he gets past Cleveland at 22, right? There's no way he gets drafted after Brandon Weeden. Does he get past the Jets at 16? Does he get past the Seahawks at 15? (Obviously not.) Does he get past the Cardinals at 13? Does he get past the Chiefs at 11? The Bills at 10? The Dolphins at 8? Higher than that even?
It's a reasonable question because almost everyone seemed to agree that if height weren't an issue, Wilson would have been a much higher pick. Chris Weinke thought that if he was 6'5", he could be the number one pick. A bit of an overstatement considering the other two quarterbacks, but if he were 6'5"? Yeah, maybe so. The point is that the biggest, and maybe only considerable knock on Wilson was height. If that weren't an issue, than we have to change our entire position on his draft stock.
How much of an issue does it seem like today?
Nobody drove home the height issue more than I did. I said that if Wilson became a good NFL starter, he'd do something very rare not only for being under six feet, but for being a third round pick.
Rules were made to have exceptions. Or to keep you from running with scissors and shit. Don't do it. Unless you're Russell Wilson I guess because he throws rule books out the window, like House.
- A great time to be John Schneider.
If you watched most of the 30 for 30 series on ESPN, or if you didn't, they were just released on Netflix. It's awesome. Especially because who really had time to just sit down and watch a movie whenever ESPN told you it was going to be on or to take up all this space on your DVR. They had to be released on Netflix, damn it, and we are lucky that they were.
One of those is "The Dotted Line," a movie about being a sports agent, directed by Morgan "I'll do anything to be famous" Spurlock. It's decent enough, nothing special but an interesting look into some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Particularly interesting to you is that John Schneider makes an appearance when the crew follows an agent to the NFL Combine to start pimping his clients to the teams back in 2011. We are lucky because we only get to see his meetings with two teams: a player scout for the Ravens and then the actual Schneider.
I kind of loved the fact that the Ravens sent "some guy" (I could be really under-estimating the guy that the Ravens sent) but Schneider met with this agent himself. This was not a big agent. He had a couple of clients and neither was considered an early pick. Both had chances to not get drafted at all. But Schneider personally met with him and was nice, cordial, and complimentary of the players that he was being told more about. The Ravens scout was a dick.
Much of the talk from Pete lately was about how John has been pushing hard for Wilson this entire time, raving about him to Pete from text messages at a Wisconsin game this past year to making sure that the organization was also behind Russell as their QBOTF in the draft. Nobody seems to make any bones about the fact that this is Schneider's guy.
Well, holy shit, well done, John.
It was actually a particularly risky move by John not only because of anything to do specifically with Wilson, but just in general a GM is taking a risk when he ties his reins to a QBOTF. Right now he looks like absolutely great for it. These things can change over time, but as Jacson Bevens would say:
Between watching Schneider talk kindly to an agent that it doesn't seem like many GMs would take the time to talk to and just having absolutely splendid drafts during his Seahawks tenure, there isn't a GM that I'd rather have. I absolutely love the way that this organization conducts itself and I think reward is coming for that. I have to say the same for when I met Pete earlier this year and he took a few minutes to talk to a blogging schlub when T.J. Simers was standing right behind me waiting his turn.
I really love these people and I'm so happy that they're Seahawks. It does, in fact, get me a little choked up. We're doing it the right way. This isn't meant to be "Rah Rah, Blind Faith!" These seem like good people who are trying to bring in good people, like the character of Wilson. It's a great way to see your team run.
- Finally, the significance of this decision is a major stepping stone for the organization.
It's a bold move to put in a rookie right away because you know that you're leaving the door open to pull him at some point and risk hurting his confidence. The moment that a young QB gets pulled, it doesn't matter how young you are or what the reasoning is. If you're not injured and you got pulled for performance, the national media and perception will be that you are a bust. If Wilson started week one and got pulled by week two, just at the beginning of his NFL career, the perception would be destroyed until it was repaired.
That's a lot for a young person to handle.
Except that I also think that it re-affirms the character of Russell Wilson and probably a part of why Pete named him starter is that he believes Wilson could handle a benching and it would only make him work harder rather than do anything to his confidence. Since when does Russell let anything effect him?
He doesn't care if you say he's too short. He doesn't care if he's playing in front of 100,000 opposing fans. This isn't me trying to make sweeping observations about Wilson and amp up the fanbase about the Seahawks rookie QB, which wouldn't need to be done anyway. The evidence shows that these characteristics are likely true.
Am I excited about this decision? Of course. You'd have to be Joe Buck to not be excited. I'm "Gus Johnson excited" about this decision. I still have skepticism, mostly with the accuracy on some of his deeper throws and other things that come with being an NFL rookie. But every day has been like a new surprise in regards to Wilson's ability to do something to make me feel stupid about my skepticism, yet I know enough about the NFL to know that he'll have to do things that haven't been done before.
He's already been through that though. That's the story of his life.