It was the best of times and the better of times. Last Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans did nothing to temper my optimism for the upcoming season. I saw a defense that was ready to run roughshod over anybody brave enough to stand in their way and an offense that, working with the defense, should win more than eight games. Matt Flynn started the first half and Russell Wilson played the second half. I saw two very different quarterbacks with very different skillsets, mindsets, and playing styles. I’m going to try to break them down a little bit and offer my opinion on what should happen should nothing substantially change going forward.
First up is Matt Flynn. He played with the first offensive team and did alright. He didn’t knock the socks off of anybody, but I didn’t expect him to. I don’t think anyone else should expect it either. He is a quarterback that is going to manage games, play within his abilities, stay in the pocket, methodically run the offense, and minimize mistakes. Flynn is similar to Matt Hasselbeck in that he is a game manager, but he isn’t naturally going to try to take it over and make deep throws unless he needs to. A lot of the called plays during Flynn’s time were rushing plays as well, which will be typical once the season starts. The Seahawks were trying to get Robert Turbin some experience in its run-first offensive scheme. Flynn’s game stats show this with 11 for 13 completions, 71 yards, and an interception.
Russell Wilson played with the second unit and after most of the Titans’ first defensive players were out of the game. That being said, Wilson looked very good. He was exciting, well prepared, and showed amazing speed. Wilson is somebody that will create and make plays happen instead of just methodically managing the game. Wilson also has a hard time staying in the pocket. His first tendency is to roll-out and see the field from there. Fortunately, he’s hard to catch once he’s off and running, but it also means he is harder to protect. Wilson’s height is definitely going to be a factor in his quarterback abilities. His one interception is an example of how he struggles a bit. It was straight downfield and he had to drop the ball in the last 10 feet of the end zone, over a defender’s head. Wilson didn’t give it enough lift and it was easily picked off. Wilson had to look over the line, downfield, and beyond another defender to drop a ball in a very tight window. This is something he will have to learn to compensate for. Overall, Wilson’s stats were good, completing 12 for 16 for 124 yards, rushing for 59 yards, two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) and an interception.
I know Wilson has his diehard supporters and didn’t see everything out of Matt Flynn that they needed or wanted, but I still think Flynn is the person to start the season as the Seahawks’ number one quarterback. The Seahawks offense is built more to Flynn’s abilities than to Wilson’s. We don’t have a huge deep-threat receiver. We are going to most likely be running two TEs and a lot of short-to-medium routes oriented toward getting first downs instead of the big play. This is better-suited for Matt Flynn since he has trouble throwing the ball deep but is very accurate in the short and middle distances. Flynn is also a pocket-passer which is preferential to our line since they are generally still developing. You could argue that we need a mobile QB to stay alive in this situation, but I really think our offensive line would benefit experience-wise from a more traditional QB.
Lastly, I see Russell Wilson being capable of becoming Seattle’s future quarterback. He is a rookie with a growing team. One could argue that he should develop with the team as a starter, but I would encourage him to learn on the sideline for a few seasons. If Flynn doesn’t pan out, Wilson will undoubtedly get a chance. I just don’t really believe in the whole baptism-by-fire mindset of starting rookie quarterbacks their first year. (There are obviously special cases, Andrew Luck being one, but I have no doubt that Luck will have struggles during the season as well.) Flynn is the right quarterback as the Seahawks exist right now. In a few years, after Seattle has to retool its receiving corps and other parts, they can make it a more Wilson-oriented offensive unit.
No matter what, though, I see the beginnings of a great team. I am looking forward to it being the best of times when it comes to Seattle football.