BY Art Thiel 07:24PM 10/01/2012

Thiel: No Seahawks’ QB controversy — or not?

Backup Matt Flynn is on a ‘pitch count,’ says Pete Carroll, meaning the QB’s elbow is too sore to be the starter. But what happens if Wilson can’t go? “Don’t know,” he said. What?

Russell Wilson's inexperience was always going to be a problem, but the Seahawks' protection and receivers contribute heavily to the No. 29 ranking for the offense. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

When a team is ranked 29th in the NFL in offense, when is there not a quarterback controversy?

When the controversy is whether the team has a second quarterback over which to have a controversy.

Which is different than having no quarterbacks, but that is the New York Jets controversy.

After the Mess on the Mississippi, a k a the Seahawks’ 19-13 loss to the Rams in St. Louis in which three interceptions were magnum buzzkill upon the work of semi-wunderkind QB Russell Wilson, the predictable conflagration ignited over whether Matt Flynn should assume the position.

Flynn, as even the dimmest chilluns know, has been the backup to Wilson since mid-August, when the veteran free agent from Green Bay lost the competition to Wilson, the upstart third-round draftee. Now some will argue that Flynn didn’t lose the job as much as it was given to Wilson because head coach Pete Carroll was so smitten with Wilson’s outlier upside; a full-fledged gridiron bromance.

But as the in-for-Flynn crowd grew, Carroll threw them off Monday morning when he told ESPN 710 radio that even if a change were needed, Flynn’s chronically sore throwing elbow limits his availability.

To which the general response was: Huh? Since when? You’re making stuff up, Pete!

So at his usual Monday media chat, Carroll was asked about 15 ways the same question: “What’s up with that?”

Carroll patiently went to some length — when does he not go to some length? — to explain that he has no plans to switch QBs, and that Flynn’s elbow soreness is sufficiently unknowable to make it even less likely. Carroll:

“Matt has been the backup throughout this time, and right at the last preseason game he had a sore elbow. So when Russell took over we gave him all the turns that we could give him. He took all the work. So Matt hasn’t had a lot of work. We’ve hoped that would help the elbow situation. He’s never thrown a lot in any of the practices, he’s done the things we’ve asked him to do.

“We’ve counted on him to play in every game. We haven’t had a third quarterback on the roster because Matt can play. But we have had a pitch count for him in a sense, and made sure we didn’t work him (in practice) past what we thought was the right way to do it. The one week we did, which was the Packer week —  we called on him because of the familiarity — he had a very good week. But we still never had him throw the amount of throws that a starting quarterback does. I think we’ve brought him along fine and he’s been ready and anxious to play in every game.”

What that means — and feel free to to take up your own Rosetta Stone here — is that Flynn could play in relief, but no one knows what would happen. Nor is it known what would happen if Wilson came down Tuesday with the creeping crud and was declared out of Sunday’s game in Charlotte against Carolina.

In fact, that’s what Carroll said later:  “I don’t know that. I don’t know what would happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if (the elbow) would act up or not because he hasn’t had to do that. He was OK after the Packer week when we increased throws then.”

I guess the part I don’t get is having so many “don’t know” answers for the one of those rare “heartbeat away” jobs like the vice  presidency. Given the protection problems the Seahawks demonstrated Sunday that had a larger impact on the outcome than Wilson’s rookieness, I would think Carroll is scared spitless to be so vulnerable.

This is largely the same protection that allowed Tarvaris Jackson, last year’s starter, to be struck 102 times (sacks and hits), the NFL high in 2011. Sure, the line is a little older and smarter, but it is still playing a rookie at right guard, J.R. Sweezy, and at right tackle is Breno Giacomini, The Madman of the VMAC.

Based on Carroll’s description, it would seem wiser to activate the third-string QB, Josh Portis, whom you know can eat innings, instead of a guy whose arm may be good only for a bubble-screen pass or two.

Obviously, Carroll knows Flynn’s condition better than outsiders, but he owned up to “don’t know” four times in a single answer. He did say that Flynn has not had the problem before, and there appears to be no damage that would cause Flynn to be placed on the NFL-mandated weekly injury report. Still . . .

At stake here is Carroll’s credibility, because a number of Seahawks’ followers have believed that Wilson was not ready to start and is getting the start primarily because Carroll had so much ardor for Wilson’s intangibles, makeup and against-all-odds story. Flynn, by dint of NFL service time and experience, is better suited to get wins now.

The argument has merit, although I leaned 51-49 to start Wilson because defense, special teams and Marshawn Lynch were sufficient to carry him through his training-wheels period. And it’s still about that close. Despite the travail, the 2-2 Seahawks are a little closer to 4-0 than they are  1-3.

All three of Wilson’s picks Sunday were more on others than him. The issue with Wilson is not what he’s done but what he doesn’t do — find his checkdown receivers faster and make better decisions about when to run. Both are functions of inexperience that would be less of an issue for Flynn.

But now, Carroll has created a controversy when many Seahawks fans were willing to give the benefit of the doubt on Wilson. His inexperience combined with protection failures and the absence of game-changing receivers has made a hash of the offense, failing to get more than one touchdown off an ordinary Rams’ defense in a half-empty road house.

Unless Carroll activates Portis until Flynn heals, the Seahawks run a fairly high risk of disaster. Unless, of course,  he wants to make another deal for the return of Charlie Whitehurst,


  • They beat the Tigers.  Might want to fix the headline.

    • Steverudman

      Got. Dumb on us. Thanks, Jake

      • Haha, no worries, just wanted to fix it real quick.

  • Pezgallo

    Your headline confuses me.  Didn’t they play the Tigers?

  • jafabian

    Why this team can’t hit at Safeco Field but hit in Comerica Park is beyond me.  Again, Figgins goes hitless and Ichiro hits like a leadoff hitter, leaving 4 on base.  But he wasn’t the only one with a lot of LOB’s.  I guess can’t complain when the team wins.

  • Tim M.

    I totally agree. Flynn would have been running for his life behind that same line, and actually may have been sacked more than Wilson. At least one interception was because Wilson got knocked from behind. I’m all for keeping Russell in…no time to panic now.

  • PokeyPuffy

    thanks Art, good effort reading the tea leaves! I wonder how much happens behind the scenes in terms of internal politics. If the mediocrity continues will Paul Allen finally pick up the phone and mandate they plug in the 10 million $ QB?

    For my entertainment dollar I’m ready for Flynn, i’ve seen enough of this offense under Wilson. It was painful even watching the green bay game in the second half, less the Rams which was a total head banger.

    One thing you mentioned is Wilson’s “intangibles” which in NFL-speak should = leadership. I have not been aware of any strong leadership at least outwardly towards the media. i.e. its the QB’s job to call out weaknesses and poor performance (including his own). Perhaps this is happening in the locker room, but who knows?? All I hear from PC and Wilson is that we as fans should be expecting the same. “Stay the course” as another W liked to say……

  • Will

    As the curtain opens a wee bit more, we find Oz Pete dispensing coach-speak so nuanced even he is clueless.

    Someday we will look back on the ’12 season and we will repeat the word, “huh?”

  • Blah

    The O-line played really well in this game and if you don’t think so go back and watch the game. They had a solid pocket on almost every passing down, but Wilson is so short that he can’t see over the o-line and so he actually backs out of the pocket and guys that should be a yard or two too deep when they get the corner are actually getting hits on Wilson. If Wilson can’t step up into the pocket and deliver, Bevell has to be smart enough to roll Wilson out and have Cable change the blocking scheme to block for rollouts. Flynn would be stepping up into the pockets this line is creating and still be able to deliver the football. Therefore, either the QB needs to change or Bevell and Cable need to adjust and allow this offense to be successful, Wilson can’t play the conventional pocket passing game and that is showing week in and week out.

  • maoling

    I read this column twice and still have no idea what Pete is saying.

  • notaboomer

    why didn’t anyone ask PC at the presser about the Sidny Rice “it sucks” comment about the seahawks offense?

    • eYeDEF

      Because the Seattle sporting press is generally not up to snuff to conduct basic journalism. This has been apparent for ages.

  • 3 Lions

    I am not so sure if Pete is capable of recognizing a great quarterback. He is infatuated w intangables, guys that compete or practice well. I would rather have a QB that can dissect the red zone, throws TD’s & keep defenses guesiing. This offense is rudimentry & painful to watch. Unfortunately, Pete has made his bed. If he had done it the other way @, started Flynn & let Wilson watch & learn it would have been a smoother transition. Now he has to admit he was wrong from the get go (aside from blaming the elbow) & risks crushing Wilson’s confidence (not likely) for unknown results from Flynn. If you look at the schedule he is in a hell of a mess!

  • zip

    except in the rarest of cases, life is rough for a rookie NFL QB- even more so if he is a midget (by NFL standards). I was rooting for Russell- but if he can’t put up 200 yards passing and get 20+ offensive points next game, its time to try Flynn– Marshawn is working way too hard to not get more points on the board—doubt Flynn is long term answer at QB, but he isn’t a rookie.

  • zip

    except in rare cases, life for a rookie NFL QB is rough -even more so if he is a midget (by NFL standards). Carrol was hoping this was a rare case, but it apppears not. I was rooting for Russell myself, but if he can’t put up 200 yards passing and 20+ offensive points next game, it’s time for Flynn. Marshawn is working way too hard to have no air support. I doubt Flynn is long term answer, but at least he is not a rookie.
    And please, no more midgame onside kicks, for Pete’s sake!

  • Bayview Herb

    Every talking head in the country, hell, even the couch slouch blames the non call on Green Bay’s loss. Not one…Not one, pointed out that GB only scored 13 points and no offensiver touchdowns. Tey were losing tnroughout the game. The official just gave the cry babies slomething to grasp.

  • Bayview Herb

    Even a 6’3″ QB can’t see over leaping 460 lb 6’9′ Linemen. The offensive line needs to learn to move the pocket to give the QB options. There have been many successful QB’s that weren’t over 6′ tall. Let’s look at a verhy conservative play calling, probably so as not to overload the rookie and play calling that isn’t fooling anyone. Football is a game of deception. You don’t deceive, you don’t win.

  • Bayview Herb

    If Pete wants a good receiver that knows how to get open and is blazing fast, he just needs to look at his practice squad where ther 2nd most prolific receiver in Husky history, is languishing.