By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — As far as votes of confidence go, this one was a little odd.
But one thing is clear: Russell Wilson is still the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback. Head coach Pete Carroll made that much clear Monday, but he also pointed out that even if he wanted to make a change at quarterback — and he says he doesn’t — he wouldn’t be able to do so because backup Matt Flynn is limited by a sore elbow, which first became an issue in the preseason.
And this comes a little over a week after Carroll raved about Flynn’s week of practice leading up to Seattle’s game against Green Bay, saying, “This really is the first week in a month that’s he’s been able to throw in practice, so just to get him back on the field and having him gunning the ball down was really great to see.”
Carroll said Flynn has not suffered a setback since then, and Flynn hasn’t been showing up on Seattle’s injury reports because, as a backup quarterback, he wouldn’t be getting any more work than he has been even if he were 100 percent healthy. Flynn has still suited up and served as Seattle’s backup in all three games, and Carroll said he would be able to play if something happened to Wilson, but what Carroll isn’t sure of is whether or not Flynn could handle a full week of practice taking starter’s reps.
“We haven’t done that yet,” Carroll said. “I don’t know that. I don’t know what would happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if it 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.”
And yes, if you’re counting at home, that was four I don’t knows in five seconds. So don’t feel bad if you find this all a bit confusing.
But regardless of the unknowns about Flynn’s elbow, Wilson would still be the team’s starter, Carroll said. That was the case after three games when the Seahawks had won two straight, and it remains true even after a loss that saw the passing game continue to struggle.
“We’re going with Russell, and he’s working his tail off to get it right,” Carroll said. “While all of the focus goes to the quarterback position, there are a lot of guys who figure into what’s going on, and he’s one of them. We’re just trying to get better.”
Quarterback controversies are nothing new to this franchise, or even the current coaching staff. Years ago Seahawks fans chanted Trent Dilfer’s name when a young Matt Hasselbeck struggled. A decade later, they chanted for Charlie Whitehurst when a not-so-young Hasselbeck had his ups and downs. Last year, Tarvaris Jackson was given the starting job over Whitehurst before training camp began, which made a lot of people clamor for Whitehurst to get a shot, right up until he got one, and an offensive debacle ensued.
Carroll again left the door open for criticism when, after signing Flynn, he held an open competition and eventually gave the starting job to a rookie instead of the guy they had just paid handsomely in free agency. Wilson has hardly been a disaster despite Seattle’s unimpressive numbers on offense — the play calling has been about as conservative as possible — but he has certainly not been the dynamic playmaker we saw in the preseason. So of course, a quarterback controversy was topic No. 1 Monday morning as people took to blogs, social media and the sports radio airwaves to suggest that Flynn should be given a chance.
And even if Flynn isn’t ready to take on a starter’s role — you know, if Carroll were inclined to go that way, which he isn’t — Flynn is still competing with Wilson for the starting job.
“I’ve told Matt from the start that we’re not closed on this, he knows it, so does Russell,” Carroll said. “Everybody on our team knows that. You’ve got to keep playing and performing day in and day out. You never know what’s going to happen, so guys have to be ready. So the competition is on, he’s known that from the beginning.”
So the competition is on. Well, it would be if Flynn could throw more in practice. But even then, Flynn would be taking backup reps, so it’d be awfully hard to win the job. Like I said earlier, don’t be alarmed if you find this confusing. You’re not alone.
But even if Carroll’s endorsement of Wilson was a bit strange, what with all the Flynn-has-a-sore-elbow stuff, the Seahawks coach remains committed to his starter. It has only been four games, after all, and as bad as the passing game has been, Wilson is only a part of that along with some at-times shaky protection, a very conservative approach and some inconsistent play by his receivers. Would we be having a different conversation about Wilson if the Seahawks were 3-1 right now? Maybe, but Seattle is also a controversial call away from 1-3, and in that case the quarterback debate would be even more heated. Whatever side of the argument you fall on, Wilson will be Seattle’s starter in Carolina on Sunday, and Carroll believes better times are ahead for Wilson and the passing game.
“He’s not far off from being really, really successful right now as a leader in that position,” Carroll said. “We just have to assess everything that’s going on. It’s not just one guy, it’s not just one person in this thing. I’ve been amazed that he’s done so much and done so well and that he’s played like he’s played. I wish we could have had the reward of those two terrific wins. … We’re that close, so we’re going to keep working hard at it and try to make those plays happen that make the difference and close out the issue and finish these games off and make sure everybody is doing their part. There’s a lot going on. It’s not just one guy.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.