RENTON — Pete Carroll is the optimistic type — to say the least — but even he has to admit that the development of Russell Wilson in 2014 has been something of a pleasant surprise.
Earlier in training camp, Carroll talked about his quarterback’s control and command of the offense, and said that while Wilson is already a very good quarterback, “he’s got a couple more years, maybe three or four more years of continuing before he really reaches it.”
Three preseason games later, Carroll might have to reevaluate his timetable for Wilson reaching his pinnacle. Either that or the rest of the league might as well concede another Super Bowl or two to the Seahawks in three or four more years if Wilson is still that far from his peak.
Since that first preseason game when Wilson played behind a patchwork offensive line that was missing three starters, he has been nearly perfect. Overall this preseason, Wilson led the Seahawks to nine touchdowns and two field goals in 13 possessions. The Seahawks punted on their first possession the preseason, missed one field goal, and scored every other time Wilson was on the field.
Yes, those were only preseason games, but by all accounts Wilson looks ready to take a big leap in Year 3, which is saying something considering how good he has been in each of his first two seasons. And if Wilson truly is headed for a season in which he cements himself among the true elite quarterbacks of the league, what better way to start than tonight’s season opener in primetime against the Green Bay Packers, a team led by Aaron Rodgers, who is undoubtedly one of the game’s top quarterbacks.
“I’m thrilled about what we are seeing,” Carroll said. “I didn’t know how much farther he would go from last year to this year. It seems like he is really, really in control of what’s happening. … I hate to tell him that I’m a little surprised at him doing well, but maybe that’s the case.”
And maybe by now we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Wilson does in his career. He was an overlooked, third-round pick. He was said to be too short to win in the NFL. Yet from winning the starting job as a rookie to leading the Seahawks to the playoffs that year to winning a title in Year 2, Wilson has made a habit of exceeding expectations. So what in the world will he do for an encore?
Moments after a heartbreaking loss in Atlanta two seasons ago, Wilson told Carroll that the Seahawks were going to the Super Bowl the next season, and they did. Now, Wilson talks about wanting to be legendary, about wanting to win multiple titles. Are you going to doubt him, especially after seeing him play this preseason?
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who faces Wilson in practice on a regular basis, says he has seen the young quarterback coming into his own, says he’s more decisive this year, while safety Earl Thomas says Wilson and the offense are now just as good as the Seahawks’ defense. And receiver Percy Harvin says of Wilson, “The sky is the limit for that guy.”
If last year’s Super Bowl title was a one-time deal for the Seahawks, that 2013 team will be remembered as one that won it all on the strength of a historically good defense. If the Seahawks can repeat this year, or win three or four titles over a five or six-year stretch, that dynasty not only will be remembered for Carroll and John Schneider, who built the team, but also for Wilson, the would-be face of a dynasty.
And that is what’s really at stake for Wilson, beginning today and this season. He already has proven he can be a very good NFL quarterback and that he can win. But now he’s on the precipice of greatness. If he really does take another step forward, he’ll bury the silly notion once and for all that he’s a “game manager” and put himself among the ranks of Rodger, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Wilson is still rattles off the same clichés, from “championship mindset” to “100 yards is 100 yards” to “the separation is in the preparation” to “constant quest for knowledge.” However, beyond his go-to sayings, he also can sense that he’s ready to do big things this season. Some of that has to do with the players around him, most notably a healthy Harvin, and the expanded playbook that comes with that, but Wilson knows some of that growth will be is own.
“(The playbook) definitely has grown a lot, in terms of all things that we can do,” Wilson said. “A lot of it is because of our personnel, but also because I’ve grown a lot more in the checks that I can make and in learning the game. That’s my goal. I’m only going into Year 3. This is going to be the beginning of Year 3 for me, so I’m excited about continuing to get back on the field every opportunity I get whether it’s practice or a game.”
Wilson figures to be spectacular this season, and there’s no better way for him and the Seahawks to get started than on this stage and against this opponent.
“It’s a great matchup, we have a fantastic opponent,” Carroll said. “It’s everything you can ask for on opening night.”
That’s true both for the Seahawks and for Wilson, their quarterback who is ready to make a big leap in 2014.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.