RENTON — Faced with the choice of getting it right in the long run or getting it right for right now, Pete Carroll is choosing the former, even if it means ignoring conventional wisdom to do so.
The Seahawks coach is gambling that what could be detrimental to his team early in the season will pay dividends over the course of 16 games and beyond.
By naming Russell Wilson his starting quarterback for Friday’s preseason game, Carroll admits he is making a choice that is unusual by NFL standards. While most teams will use the third preseason game to give their starters a final, prolonged tune-up for the regular season, the Seahawks will use the game in Kansas City as an opportunity to continue to their competition to name a starter at the most important position in the game.
Yes, Carroll is well aware of the fact that whoever wins the starting job, be it Wilson or Matt Flynn (and no, no matter what Carroll says, I’m not including Tarvaris Jackson in this equation) would be better off getting all the reps in practice and all of the work with the first-team offense in preseason games. But Carroll is more interested in identifying the long-term answer than he is getting a quarterback ready for the season opener. You may not like that line of thinking, and I may think it has potential to backfire, particularly with such a tough schedule in the first half of the season, but the man making the decision doesn’t really care what we think.
“This is about competition, that’s what we’ve always been about,” Carroll said. “And if somebody doesn’t see it that way, then they just don’t understand us, and I can’t do anything about that.”
It is most definitely Carroll’s prerogative, if not his duty to the team, to worry more about doing what he thinks is best for the Seahawks than how people outside the organization will react to his decisions. However, by going off script, by limiting the preparedness of his eventual starting quarterback, Carroll also is opening himself up to a lot of criticism if this doesn’t work out.
“I know that there’s a traditional thought, conventional wisdom about Game 3 (of the preseason) and all of that, and I understand that,” Carroll said. “… Neither (general manager John Schneider) nor I feel like we have to operate under that kind of guidance system, so we’re not, and we haven’t since we got here.”
In what is Carroll’s first season in Seattle with legitimate outside expectations to succeed, he is taking the risk of having his “always compete” mantra be the team’s undoing, at least early in the season. But in a way, starting Wilson is the move he had to make if he expects people to take his theme of competition seriously.
Carroll declared the quarterback job up for grabs in the spring, but after starting Flynn in the first two preseason games, giving Flynn the start this week would all but signal the competition over before anyone else had a fair shot to win the job. And plenty of people would have been fine with that plan. Name the former Green Bay backup the Week 1 starter now, get him as ready as possible for the season opener and feel comfortable knowing that you have a talented young backup in Wilson, who has been very impressive in two preseason games.
Instead, Carroll decided to keep the competition going, to, in his words, “Do the right thing, to get it right.”
To Carroll’s credit, ignoring conventional wisdom has paid off quite often since he arrived in Seattle. While the jury is still out on surprise first-round draft picks James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin, it’s hard to argue with some of the other unusual decisions Carroll, his coaching staff and the Seahawks’ front office have made.
Since Carroll and Schneider took over, they turned a little used defensive tackle, Red Bryant, into an oversized end who might be this defense’s most irreplaceable player. They took a too big safety (Kam Chancellor) in the fifth-round and paired him with an undersized ball hawk (Earl Thomas) forming one of the best safety tandems in the league. They went to Canada to find a 6-foot-4 corner in Brandon Browner, and watched him become a Pro Bowl player. They found in the fifth round of the draft receiver-turned-cornerback Richard Sherman, who has Pro Bowl potential.
Ah, but you’re seeing the pattern here, aren’t you? Every one of those home-run moves has been on the defensive side of the ball.
There have been sound acquisitions on offense, to be sure, none better than landing Marshawn Lynch for two mid-round picks. But one position where Carroll and company are most open to criticism is quarterback.
Charlie Whitehurst was a bust, the decision to part ways with Matt Hasselbeck in favor of Tarvaris Jackson was questionable and the Seahawks ignored the position in the past two drafts before taking Wilson in the third round this year. So it’s easy to understand why some people don’t want to give Carroll the benefit of the doubt when it comes to taking an unusual approach with his quarterbacks.
Carroll is OK with that, however. He’s willing to risk some short-term hiccups if this competition, however maddening it might be to some, identifies the long-term solution.
“I’m real confident that we’re doing the right thing,” Carroll said. “I don’t have any hesitation in this. I understand that maybe not everyone else feels like that, and I really don’t care. It doesn’t bother me.”
Herald columnist John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.