I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this because, obviously, Matt Flynn has not yet been traded nor is it an inevitable outcome. That said, it might be worth discussing who would back up Russell Wilson in 2013 if Flynn is indeed dealt. Major caveat: this is an exercise in the theoretical. Remember that.
I have always sort of assumed that the 2013 Seahawks 53-man roster will be conspicuously Matt Flynn-free; on the running mock roster I keep updated for next season, I had, up until recently, penciled in former free agent quarterback Josh Johnson as Wilson's backup. The criteria I used were: he's mobile, has a strong arm, has run a similar offense to what Seattle runs in college (and was very efficient in it), but now that Johnson has signed on in Cincinnati, other avenues must be explored.
For the purposes of this article, we'll talk about free agency. Obviously, the Seahawks could draft a quarterback or sign one in rookie free agency, and that may happen, but at this point I feel that it's possibly a little more likely that in 2013 specifically, Seattle will sign a free agent to back up Wilson and develop a third, drafted QB on the practice squad, a la Josh Portis last year.
So, let's just jump right in. Front-runners, in my mind, at this moment, and then we can add to the list. Again, it's preliminary and is not in any real order:
This is the name du jour for Seahawks' fans and while it pains me to say it, it seems to be a little bit .... realistic? Ok, maybe 'plausible' is a better word. We know Young's history with Pete Carroll so it will be interesting to see if Young's 2005 BCS Championship Game performance of the ages left a lasting impression on USC's then-head coach in Carroll. Would Pete overlook Young's somewhat disastrous career in the NFL and see some unlocked potential there as a backup to Russell Wilson? Maybe. Juuuuuuuust maybe. He'd come cheap, anyway, I'd assume. He seems motivated. That would help.
Young worked out at Texas' pro day on Tuesday and as Gregg Rosenthal wrote, drew rave reviews from NFL Combine Godfather Gil Brant:
Brandt was ... effusive in his praise, saying Young "put on a show" and was "magnificent" passing the ball in the pocket and on the run. Brandt touted Young's accuracy; a few of Young's long tosses to Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin drew "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd.
"That's my craft. ... That's all I do in the offseason. Mechanics. When it's time for me to get ready for the season, I'm so focused on the plays, the preparation, you don't want to be thinking about footwork when you get with the team."
As for the real possibility of getting back into the league?
"My agent is working on it," Young said. "All I know is we got some teams with interest, so that's the good part about it. Just hoping for that blessing and opportunity."
Now, I'm not necessarily lobbying for this signing, but just knowing Pete Carroll and his history of reclamation projects on guys he's either faced or previously coached/recruited, it wouldn't surprise me much.
Thigpen, the Original Gangster of the NFL Pistol formation. Thigpen and the Chiefs, under Chan Gailey, were the real Pistol pioneers back in 2008 and even had some success running it (the Chiefs ended up with an awful record but Thigpen ended the 2008 season witha 21:12 TD to Interception ratio and 2,994 all-purpose yards). Thigpen thrived, relative to a 'pro-style' offense, in the spread-style looks from Pistol, while handing the ball off to Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Doug Farrar wrote about it back in 2010, and Thigpen seemed optimistic that the Pistol could work at this level if a team committed to it:
"I don't know. I think it could be run," he said. "I mean, the only thing that changed was me standing back in shotgun, and we called our plays the exact same way. The only thing you can't do is line a fullback up in I-formation. You probably could do that, but it's tough on the fullback with the formation distance. It was just me being in the shotgun and calling the plays the same way, whether it was 35 Base, or 36 Power, whatever the case may be.
"I think that's what teams do a lot -- they'll run different formations to get to the same exact play. That's the way you fool defenses. If you see a certain formation ... say it's bunch, and the defense is thinking toss. So maybe you motion to bunch with the 'Y' receiver up tight, and a fullback in the backfield, and in all actuality, that's a bunch play right there. There are so many different things you can do to mess with a defense. And a lot of the time, while you want to give the defense credit, you just have to know what you're doing and go out and execute it. We feel that as an offense, we can win those one-on-one matchups."
Farrar: The elements of play action and power running separate the Pistol from the standard spread attack, which Thigpen caught onto pretty quickly.
"The play action part, where you could boot out of it -- for some reason, that gave defensive ends a lot of trouble," he said. "A play like Gun Zero Near Pistol, or 337 Roll Right Z Comeback, something like that. It was definitely about getting out of the pocket and putting stress on the defensive ends because they couldn't see if it was a good fake, and they're trying to close down on the runner. That allowed me to get out of the pocket and work our receiver one-on-one with the comeback.
"It wasn't an option read; I would turn my back. It would look like I was coming from the line of scrimmage when I was doing the fake, but I was catching the ball in shotgun. More times than not, I'd come out scot-free on it."
Thigpen is talking about a lot of the concepts we have brought up here - about multiplicity within schemes, getting matchups you want in order to create advantages, using read-option as a glorified naked bootleg, and 'blocking the defensive end' simply by freezing him with the threat of a run.
Now, it's important to remember that the read-option and pistol formations make up a small percentage of the Seahawks' overall offensive plays (in other words, let's find a guy that can throw, first and foremost) - but Pete Carroll did specifically say, during his post-season presser, that it would be nice to find a quarterback that can do similar things to Russell Wilson. I forget Pete's exact language, but it was something along those lines. Find a guy that can run the same offense as Wilson. Is Thigpen that guy? He is certainly athletic enough to run Pistol and read-option looks and has experience with them, so he's on the list.
Remember when we were all excited about the possibility of trading for backup Eagles' QB Kevin Kolb? I do. Man I'm glad that never happened. Here's the thing: He's a free agent now. Would he work as a serviceable backup that can come in and theoretically run your offense and give you the chance to win games? Ask the Seahawks, circa Week 1 2012.
Kolb may not be a starting QB in this league (I mean, he's not a starting QB in this league) but he has the skillset to be a dependable veteran backup, at least. He might be worth a look.
Strong athlete, strong arm, theoretical dual-threat QB that ran a 4.61 at the NFL Combine in 2008 at 6'6, 235. Former 3rd round draft pick out of San Diego State by the Patriots. Was described by San Diego State "Air Coryell" godfather Don Coryell as a guy that 'runs like a deer.' Coryell: "He has plenty of arm. He's smart. He comes from a great background. He has a wonderful personality. He's a leader."
That said, O'Connell has passed for 23 yards in his five years in the league. The Seahawks tried him out last season, which is really the only reason I bring him up.
He ran the read option. That's literally the only reason to have any interest, because there is little evidence to suggest he's much of a thrower. The question you have to ask yourself is: When planning to use a backup quarterback, do you think you can just revert to a read-option offense centered around running the football?
In other words, in the unfortunate event that Russell Wilson gets hurt, do you think it's a viable strategy to move to a read-option ball-control style offense that mainly runs and then occasionally throws using play action?
This is an idea that some scoff at (cough*PetePrisco*cough), but there are whispers that some coaches believe this is a 'safe' option to use in the case one of these fabulously talented dual-threat QBs gets hurt.
In more other words - is going to a read-option based attack 'safer' than trying to ask your backup quarterback to throw the football? It's an interesting philosophical question, because let's be honest, most backups suck at throwing the ball and will more quickly derail an offense than lead it. The read option won't work as well without the REAL threat of throwing the ball, but will it work better (or: will it work at all?) than some backup throwing the ball with crappy accuracy and zero confidence? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Otherwise, it doesn't.
Rumor has it McCoy is going to be released. If so, he'd be a viable option as a veteran backup, I'd think.
Webb's time in Minnesota may be ending. We all know that Seattle takes all the Vikings, so here's his name. I'm not super excited about this option, having recently re-watched the Minnesota-Green Bay Wildcard Playoffs game.
Here are some other names: