There will be a series of articles, both local and national, within the next few days or weeks that will announce that Matt Flynn has won the Seahawks quarterback competition. These articles will tell you that Flynn had the job as soon as he signed that contract. They will poke fun at Pete Carroll’s competition mantra, or call it an outright farce. They will be wrong.
It is important to share this now, when local radio and some prominent national writers are talking up Russell Wilson. Tarvaris Jackson is still at the top of the depth chart. No pre-season games have been played yet. I have absolutely no stake in who wins this job other than wanting this team to kick as much ass as possible. It was this blog that predicted that Jackson would be released, and then turned around after getting new information and told you Jackson was actually winning the job heading into training camp. That was confirmed by multiple sources inside the organization who wished to remain off the record. The signs were there if you paid close attention. Pete Carroll and John Schneider started reminding people that Jackson had been a warrior and played well last year. The receivers all went to Jackson’s house on the surprise off day when the team lost a couple practices for hitting too hard. Flynn and Wilson had not outplayed Jackson. The unthinkable, Jackson repeating as starter, was possible.
The first day of practice did little to change that. All three quarterbacks were bad. Then, everything changed. Flynn dominated practice when getting his turn to get snaps with the starters. He was the best quarterback again the next day when taking the third string reps. Today, he was not as strong as the last two days, but was still the clear leader of the position.
Flynn is winning this role. He knows it. The coaches know it. The players know it. That matters. He did not come in and have it handed to him. There have been plenty of doubters that called him Kevin Kolb II. The locker room will always form around the starter, but the belief is that much stronger knowing that they have the best guy on the field. What happens if Flynn is handed the job and Jackson never gets a chance? The team saw what Jackson sacrificed last year to get on the field. They witnessed how he kept his mouth shut when the offensive line was a disaster. They also know he is not Tom Brady. These are men, and like other men, they will fall in line with a new leader who earns it far better than one that is imposed on them. Nobody that is watching this competition unfold could argue the three players were not given a fair shot. Flynn is simply a better player.
Think about how this process impacts Flynn. He did not come in here with a big contract and get handed a role. In fact, he started down in the depth chart. How do you think it will effect his play to know that he was the best quarterback on the field? He is taking this team over in July so that he can lead them in December.
Some will ask about Wilson. He continues to get a lot of press and accolades. It is true. He is playing well. The gap between him and Flynn is far larger than most are reporting. Flynn is making tough throws down the field for chunks of yardage. Wilson is choosing shorter and more reliable routes. He is not throwing with anywhere near the level of anticipation that Flynn is. Forget being able to see if a receiver is open. Flynn is seeing receivers that are on their way to getting open and putting the ball where they will be.
Beginning the season with Wilson does not make a lot of sense almost any way you slice it. The rookie quarterbacks that start in year one are given every rep possible in camp, and still operate with training wheels through their first season. Wilson is a special talent, especially in terms of preparation, but rolling him out as a Week 1 rookie starter when he has been splitting reps does very little good for him or the team. The coaching staff and front office know it. We saw signs of that today, when for the first time, some of the quarterback rotation skipped Wilson. The first team drills went Jackson, Flynn, Jackson, Flynn, and then Wilson. Carroll and Schneider have been on the radio the last two days setting the stage for the quarterback competition to change and giving Wilson some air cover for an inevitable step back. Both mentioned the challenge of splitting reps for a rookie.
Flynn winning this job does not mean Wilson has lost it in the long run. The organization’s belief in Wilson is real. His talent is real. The question will be whether Flynn ever opens the door for Wilson to overtake him.
Seahawks fans are going to see a quarterback they can be proud of when Flynn takes the field. The mistakes Jackson makes by holding the ball too long or throwing into coverage show up on the practice field. Flynn does not make those mistakes. His biggest downside so far is a lack of mobility that could lead to a few sacks. He has been sacked eight times in his two starts. It will be important to see how he reacts to getting hit, and how he performs as the game wears on. Making the throws he is making in practice is one thing. Doing it after getting hammered a few times and playing a few hours of football is entirely different.
Flynn will be a quarterback that dissects defenses, and makes chunk plays that gets fans off their feet. He will not make many head-slapping decisions. He may even be a Top 10 quarterback before all is said and done. So prepare yourself for those articles that will break once the coaching staff and front office decide it is time to make this official. Prepare for those people that will say the job was Flynn’s all along. Know better.