BY Art Thiel 04:51PM 08/27/2012

Thiel: Best man wins (and so can second-best)

Here’s the beauty of the Seahawks’ quarterback situation — Schneider and Carroll have idiot-proofed themselves at the game’s most important position.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have pulled off a clever thing. / Rod Mar, Seahawks.com

Here it is in two sentences:

If pro sports teams let contracts dictate playing time, then they are the NBA or MLB and, more specifically, the Mariners. Who wants that?

GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll believe starting rookie Russell Wilson at quarterback gives the Seahawks a better chance to win right now. The fact that they have already invested $10 million guaranteed in another quarterback, Matt Flynn, as part of a $26 million deal he signed as a free agent, is a negligible consideration.

Think of it this way: A year ago after the lockout, the quarterbacks were Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Think they’ve upgraded?

The fact that the Seahawks were able to take two steps forward at their most important position is another reason why the NFL is more successful than other pro sports leagues. The relatively small part of player compensation that is guaranteed allows NFL teams a degree of roster manipulation found nowhere else.

Not to pick on the Mariners — they are handy, however — the baseball team hasn’t hasn’t  upgraded their 3-4-5 spots in the lineup since 2001. Think about that. Whether by incompetence or market constraints, they’ve been inert offensively for more than a decade. Obviously there are differences in the sports, but the NFL’s deal with its players union allows clubs to more freely obtain (and unload) players who will produce nearly immediate results.

One could argue the Los Angeles Dodgers have just done that in mid-season with their blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. But the Dodgers ownership could take on the risk of a quarter of a billion dollars in salary obligations because of their enormous, new TV deal in the nation’s second-biggest market.

The Seahawks have upgraded their key position by risking Flynn’s $10 million guarantee — or $1 million more than the Mariners are paying Chone Figgins this year as well as next year NOT to play much — that Flynn won’t be a complete bust. That’s a smart bet.

The football aspects of starting Wilson ahead of Flynn are more readily debated.

It can be argued that Carroll is engaged in a foolish “bromance” with Wilson, the outlier. It can be argued that Carroll has undervalued Flynn’s pro experience. It can be argued that once defenses game-plan against Wilson, he won’t get away with what he’s done so far in preseason. And it can be argued that no matter his potential aptitude for the QB job, now is not the time to introduce Wilson to the large, skilled, mean, sweaty men of NFL defenses. Plus — he’s short.

But it can’t be argued that money or ego is disrupting the Seahawks’ thinking.

Setting aside Russell-mania for a moment, the Seahawks do look superficially silly for investing potentially $26 million in a backup. But if Wilson should flop, or have a rookie slump, or get hurt, the Seahawks are in better shape than nearly any team in the NFL to transition relatively seamlessly to another good quarterback — without making a spendy midseason acquisition.

Because of guaranteed contracts in other sports, franchise bosses wind up investing their own egos in acquisitions too. They hang on to Jim McIlvaine or Vin Baker or Ichiro well beyond their athletic expiration dates because the the bosses look like idiots when the players fail. It took Ichiro himself to summon the wisdom to demand his exit from the Mariners to keep the owners from shooting themselves in the head with a contract extension for him.

But Carroll and Schneider and their peers around the NFL can make more mistakes and take more risks than their comtemporaries in other sports.

So as much legitimate excitement as there is about Wilson’s present and future as a performer, it is worthwhile to note that the Seahawks, barring injury calamity, have idiot-proofed themselves at the game’s key position.

Yes, Wilson is a rookie, but he plays for a team in which defense comes first, the running game is second and the passing game is tied for third with special teams.

The Russell Wilson narrative is a splendid saga. But as you get your yippee on for the NFL season, don’t forget to offer an admiring glance at the football architecture too.


YourThoughts

  • PokeyPuffy

    Just mentioning the names Jim McIlvaine or Vin Baker snaps me back to Seattle sports reality.  Wait, is this Wilson thing really happening?

  • PokeyPuffy

    Just mentioning the names Jim McIlvaine or Vin Baker snaps me back to Seattle sports reality.  Wait, is this Wilson thing really happening?

  • D Hawk

    “The Seahawks do look superficially silly for investing potentially $26 million in a backup.” Not as silly as you look for saying the Seahawks might have invested $26 million into a backup. It is a $19.5 million contract with escalators that could get to the top-end. Flynn can’t hit those escalators if he’s a backup.

  • D Hawk

    “The Seahawks do look superficially silly for investing potentially $26 million in a backup.” Not as silly as you look for saying the Seahawks might have invested $26 million into a backup. It is a $19.5 million contract with escalators that could get to the top-end. Flynn can’t hit those escalators if he’s a backup.

  • dinglenuts

    I know this is off-topic a bit, but was that Clipboard Jesus I saw slinging the ball around for San Diego on Sunday? I assume it had to be based on the prominent ‘stache.  Wonders never cease.

  • dinglenuts

    I know this is off-topic a bit, but was that Clipboard Jesus I saw slinging the ball around for San Diego on Sunday? I assume it had to be based on the prominent ‘stache.  Wonders never cease.

  • RadioGuy

    I wouldn’t write Flynn off just yet.  He’s proven at both LSU and Green Bay that he has a LOT of patience and can stand and deliver big-time when called upon in a pinch.  Wilson has rightly earned the starter’s role so far, but we’re more than a week away from a 16-game regular season.  Let’s see how things go when the games start counting.

    Art nails one thing for sure:  How can anyone look at Wilson and Flynn and not consider them a major upgrade over Jackson and Whitehurst?

  • RadioGuy

    I wouldn’t write Flynn off just yet.  He’s proven at both LSU and Green Bay that he has a LOT of patience and can stand and deliver big-time when called upon in a pinch.  Wilson has rightly earned the starter’s role so far, but we’re more than a week away from a 16-game regular season.  Let’s see how things go when the games start counting.

    Art nails one thing for sure:  How can anyone look at Wilson and Flynn and not consider them a major upgrade over Jackson and Whitehurst?

  • Soggyblogger

    Wilson/Flynn or Flynn/Wilson – I don’t care. While QB may be tied for third in priorities for this team, QB play remains the single most important position played in the game, and PC/JS know it. I’d hate to see Pete use early hooks on either starter, while at the same time, I am highly confident both could carry us to more wins than losses. Wilson has us all salivating like a St. Bernard, and has the tools to be great. Let the dynasty begin. Once we have sowed up the conference championship and cemented home field advantage for the playoffs, we can insert Flynn for the last couple of games to showcase him for a trade to one of the many teams with lesser talent at QB for appropriate draft choices. 

  • Soggyblogger

    Wilson/Flynn or Flynn/Wilson – I don’t care. While QB may be tied for third in priorities for this team, QB play remains the single most important position played in the game, and PC/JS know it. I’d hate to see Pete use early hooks on either starter, while at the same time, I am highly confident both could carry us to more wins than losses. Wilson has us all salivating like a St. Bernard, and has the tools to be great. Let the dynasty begin. Once we have sowed up the conference championship and cemented home field advantage for the playoffs, we can insert Flynn for the last couple of games to showcase him for a trade to one of the many teams with lesser talent at QB for appropriate draft choices. 

  • Matt712

    One fact that seems to be overlooked a lot is that Flynn was acquired more than a month before the draft. At that time, no one could have known if a Russel Wilson would be available. I remember the consensus being that the Hawks got a pretty fair (as in not exorbitant) deal for Matt Flynn given the cost of free-agency. But when they found themselves looking at the board in the third round and Russell Wilson is still there…

    I mean, the question – and I remember it being asked often – was why go after a QB when you already got what you wanted? And the only answer now seems to be, “Because this one’s even better.”

  • Matt712

    One fact that seems to be overlooked a lot is that Flynn was acquired more than a month before the draft. At that time, no one could have known if a Russel Wilson would be available. I remember the consensus being that the Hawks got a pretty fair (as in not exorbitant) deal for Matt Flynn given the cost of free-agency. But when they found themselves looking at the board in the third round and Russell Wilson is still there…

    I mean, the question – and I remember it being asked often – was why go after a QB when you already got what you wanted? And the only answer now seems to be, “Because this one’s even better.”

  • 3 Lions

    Don’t forget about how much they spent on Touchdown Jesus & how excited Pete was about him too
    (great competitor no doubt)

  • 3 Lions

    Don’t forget about how much they spent on Touchdown Jesus & how excited Pete was about him too
    (great competitor no doubt)

  • None

    Another great article. Thanks.

  • None

    Another great article. Thanks.

  • Artvintage97

    Nice article.  I just don’t see how a QB who is somewhere between 5′ 8″ and 5′ 10″ can be successful over the long term.  His game will involve running around, and two things happen when one is running for ones life…  Injury and a decrease in completion  percentage.

    • Jtkxyz

      The difference in height between Wilson and Drew Brees is about the length of your finger nail.  And if you take into account hand size and arm length, Wilson’s release point is probably “taller”.  The height issue should really be put to rest.

      And as for “running for ones life”, I don’t think anyone would describe Wilson’s running style that way.  He has a deliberate running style, his head always up and eyes looking down field, and he’s smart enough to slide or run out of bounds before contact.  He is not a reckless runner, nor does he have happy feet.  He’s a pass first QB–in the KC game when the pass protection was better with the first string offense notice how he stayed in the pocket all game with the exception of the two break downs.        

  • Artvintage97

    Nice article.  I just don’t see how a QB who is somewhere between 5′ 8″ and 5′ 10″ can be successful over the long term.  His game will involve running around, and two things happen when one is running for ones life…  Injury and a decrease in completion  percentage.

    • Jtkxyz

      The difference in height between Wilson and Drew Brees is about the length of your finger nail.  And if you take into account hand size and arm length, Wilson’s release point is probably “taller”.  The height issue should really be put to rest.

      And as for “running for ones life”, I don’t think anyone would describe Wilson’s running style that way.  He has a deliberate running style, his head always up and eyes looking down field, and he’s smart enough to slide or run out of bounds before contact.  He is not a reckless runner, nor does he have happy feet.  He’s a pass first QB–in the KC game when the pass protection was better with the first string offense notice how he stayed in the pocket all game with the exception of the two break downs.