Who Will be the Starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks?

While most of us would love to know who will be the starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, none of us do. I don’t believe anybody does, as the decision has yet to be made.

However, given the nature of fans and our interest in discussing things that can never be conclusively proven, I would offer the following assessment and prediction.

But first, let’s review some assumptions (and of course, should you question any of the following, you can logically be expected to question the results):

1 – Every Seahawk fan wants to see their team win a bunch of exciting football games, make the play-offs and win the Super Bowl. Every year.

2 – The head coach, GM, owner and the entire Seahawk organization wants win a bunch of games, make the play-offs and win the Super Bowl. Every year.

3 – Fielding the most highly skilled and effective players at every position increases the odds of winning football games.

4 – Pete Carroll will oversee competition at most positions, and this year in particular, at the QB

5 – Pete Carroll has a process and the expertise to evaluate a players performance, and to determine the most effective person playing the QB position

6 – Pete Carroll will start the player at the QB position in 2012 who demonstrates the most effectiveness in camp, and gives the team (in his assessment) the best chance to win football games, both in the near and long term.

There are currently four QBs on the roster (not counting the recent UDFA):

1 – Josh Portis. UDFA from a couple years ago. Has all the athleticism and seems to fit the PC/JS mold: big arm, plenty of mobility. Flashed last year during pre-season.

Advantages: not many aside from his athleticism. He played in a small school against questionable competition and has never started an NFL game.

Disadvantages: While we don’t know exactly how he is currently rated by PC, or how well he has developed, the signing of Flynn and the drafting of Wilson strongly indicate they don’t feel he is ready to back up the starter, let alone be the starter himself.

Chance of starting: 1%

Explanation: It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for Portis to be the starting QB in 2012, but I can’t consider it impossible as long as he is on the roster.

2 – Tarvaris Jackson. Signed in FA last year during shortened off-season as he was familiar with Bevel’s offense, the same he had played in as a Viking. Mid-level contract commitment.

Advantages: tough player whom some Seahawk fans like at the position, and most of us respect. Has the athleticism and the arm-strength that fits the PC/JS prototype. Respected by his team-mates. Understands the offense. A known quantity.

Disadvantages: not an effective starting NFL QB. Has difficulty making good decisions. Hasn’t demonstrated the ability to perform under pressure (very few come-back victories in his career). Likely at, or near, his ceiling.

Chance of starting: 9%

Explanation: The signing of Flynn and the drafting of Wilson express in no uncertain terms how PC/JS view Jackson: he is not the future. And if he is not the future, it’s highly unlikely he is the present. There is a fair chance he doesn’t make the final cut (largely depends on Portis, and how much he has developed, and how willingly PC is willing to risk putting him back on the PS). Jackson is so poorly considered that if he gets cut, he will be lucky to get signed elsewhere. It is no certain thing, anyway.

3 – Matt Flynn. Signed in FA. Two NFL starts. Drafted several years ago by Greenbay in the 7th round. Started his senior year at LSU, winning a national championship.

Advantages: Made it through the most crucial period of an NFL QB: the first couple of years. Mastered Green Bay’s offense and executed it to near-perfection last year against Detroit. Smart, accurate, poised, good decision maker. In my opinion, he has demonstrated the most important attributes of a winning NFL QB: his on-field demeanor and decision making. Hasn’t reached his potential, one that I would rate in the same class as Matt Hasselbeck.

Disadvantages: He doesn’t fit the PC/JS prototype for the position; he doesn’t possess the arm-strength or the mobility they would like. He was not coveted or pursued by PC/JS, but instead, fell to them after Miami decided to draft Tannehill (at least based on recent reports). Perhaps Miami didn’t rate Flynn that much higher than Matt Moore. I think they made a mistake, but the impact on Seattle was that they signed a guy that was available, not necessarily a guy they wanted. (Doing so, however, certainly helped them in the draft, and will help them in camp.) Only started 14 games in college and 2 in the NFL. Unfamiliar with Seattle’s offense and personnel.

Chance of starting: 30%

Explanation: if this was Green Bay, I’d flip his and Wilson’s percentages, because Flynn has played in that offense for so long and with the likes of Jordy Nelson that he would enter camp with a huge advantage. But he doesn’t know Seattle’s offense or personnel any better than Wilson, and that puts them even ground in that regard.

4 – Russell Wilson. Drafted in the 3rd round. Four-year starter.

Advantages: Drafted by JS/PC. Fits their prototype perfectly. Great athlete with an excellent arm and superior mobility (he ran a 4.55 40, second only to RGIII of the QBs, and 4.09 shuttle, the 24th fastest of any player at the combine). Very intelligent and very high football IQ. Started (by my count) 49 games in the past four years. Demonstrated pocket poise, excellent decision making, accuracy, and the ability to come from behind. If he successfully makes the transition to the NFL, has the potential to be a top franchise QB in the league.

Disadvantages. Unfamiliar with Seattle’s offense and personnel. A rookie with zero NFL experience. Has not yet demonstrated a successful transition from college to the pros. He is the only NFL QB prospect under 6’.

Chance of starting: 60%

Explanation: While Flynn and Wilson have the same disadvantage of being unfamiliar with Seattle’s offense and personnel, Wilson has played far more competitive football games than Flynn – 49/0 games (college/pro) to Flynn’s 14/2. While there is a qualitative difference between college and pro, Wilson has more raw experience at the position, in addition to having played in two disparate offenses (WCO at North Carolina State, and a pro-style offense at Wisconsin). That, coupled with his superior athleticism and the selection-bias working in his favor, will likely result in his winning the camp-battle for the starting position.

The selection-bias will come into play if Flynn and Wilson’s camp performance is rated near equal, as Wilson will be considered the higher upside player, and worthy of a starting investment. This is an important point, because neither Flynn nor Wilson have played a full season in the NFL, an experience generally considered necessary to fully develop an NFL QB. In other words, we can expect, as fans, both players to struggle their first year. If Wilson is deemed the future, it makes more sense to suffer his struggles than a guy whose upside is considered lower.

Conclusion: I think Flynn is a good football player, but he wasn’t signed as the QBothF. I believe Wilson was drafted with the idea he might be. If that is the case, and if Wilson plays in camp with all his confidence and ability, I think we can expect he will be the day one starter in 2012.