Seahawks Insider

Handicapping the quarterback race

Post by Dave Boling / The News Tribune on June 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm with 24 Comments »
June 18, 2012 3:02 pm

BobbyK requested an analysis of the three Seahawks quarterbacks at this point. I live to serve.

Interesting to note how quickly everybody is to discard Josh Portis, a strong-armed, elusive prospect they liked well enough that they kept him on the roster rather than risk exposing him to waivers on the practice squad last season.

But so be it. We’ve been able to see the three prime contenders – Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson – in certain OTAs and minicamps. But that’s only been a fraction of their practices so it’s not a complete sample. And nothing has been “live.”

I’ve never seen an NFL situation in which three quarterbacks shared the snaps in such equal proportions. This process enhances fairness, but, if extended, reduces the prep time for the guy who is going to end up on the field when it counts. It’s early, but there will be a tipping point where this becomes costly.

Bobby’s question sought an opinion on the leader for the starting job at this point. My opinion only: Flynn. And I’d say that Jackson’s status second-third-gone will depend on the quickness of Wilson’s maturation.

Jackson first. There are times in practice when Jackson fires a pass and you immediately recognize it as the ball-flight of a legit NFL starter. Going on ballistics – muzzle velocity, if you will –  Jackson so often looks big-time. He’s among the toughest guys on the team, took over without benefit of an off-season program last season and was still voted team captain after only a couple weeks in town. At times, though, you wonder where he’s throwing. His timing is sometimes questionable, firing a pass to a receiver who had been open but is covered once the ball arrives. And as much respect that he earned from the staff and teammates last season, he still failed in crucial moments of games. He acknowledged this and said he’s devoted himself to correcting weaknesses in half- and game-ending situations. The problem is that he can’t really show that in something short of real games, making it hard for him to earn that confidence in practices and preseason.

Flynn: I don’t care for his throwing motion. He has a bit of an elbow-first push to it. At first look, it makes him seem a bit unimposing as a passer. Many great quarterbacks have flourished with unique styles, though. Whereas Jackson has the look of a thoroughbred athlete, Flynn is less impressive on the hoof. The difference is in efficiency. Flynn identifies his target, anticipates the opening, and gets the ball into the receiver’s catching-window with great regularity. His timing and accuracy make him look like a quarterback who can move the sticks, and be a very nice fit in the Hawks’ run-balanced offense.

Wilson will be a wild card. He has looked very mature in practices, and is obviously a quick study. He seems to have a rare competitive confidence that might border on the kind of audacity that has pushed some quarterbacks to elite status. At 5-10, of course, he needs that. We’ve seen enough of him to get the feel that he can throw every pass he’ll ever need in the NFL. I’ve been impressed with his ability to break out and find a secondary receiver and get him the ball … several times buying second-chances with quick feet and finding a receiver at the sideline with a perfect fastball. Again, his real value and readiness for play in this league can’t be realized until he’s in live action.

The situation is an obvious upgrade. If it’s Jackson who wins the start, it will be because he beat out two other candidates and was not just named the starter, as was the case last season, because the only other choice was incumbent Charlie Whitehurst. If Flynn proves an upgrade over Jackson, then that will mean a better balance with a rushing attack that was one of the best in the NFL over the second half of last season. And paired with a top-10 defense that returns 10 starters, that’s a promising situation. If Wilson can come in and earn the starting job as a rookie over a pair of veterans, he will have to show the kind of potential that would make him a steal as a third-round draft pick.

Leave a comment Comments → 24
  1. Great stuff Dave, I think all the three QB’s competing is great to motivate each other but like Dave mentioned it comes to a point where needed /necessary snaps for the starting QB are being used up on others when who ever will be #1 will need every snap possible. They need to choose a starter soon.

  2. Dukeshire says:

    Thanks Dave. Question: Do you think it’s Flynn’s throwing motion that gives people the idea that he has a “weak arm”, not unlike Rivers? Or does he really have a below average arm, and struggles to make Dig and comebacks?

  3. Seahawks2620 says:

    If the most recent report of Clemons wanting Cameron Wake type of money, then he is delusional. It’s not happening Chris, suck it up and play out the year.

  4. I actually think Carroll delays the decision until around the third preseason game and the reason is Russell Wilson and what he can bring that the other 2 QBs can not.

    The great QBs are able to elevate the offense and make average teammates look great in game situations. An important part of this is feeling the pass rush and creating more time for WRs, all while being able to maintain the full range of pass receiving options and somehow being able to deliver the ball in only a place where the WR can catch it.

    Jackson and Flynn are both average to below average in this regard. If their teammates aren’t playing at a high level, then neither are they. Flynn isn’t an upgrade to Jackson in this respect but, unlike Jackson, I believe it is purely physical with him. Given enough time and a WR that gets open in the short to intermediate area, Flynn will find him and put the ball where it needs to be. Unfortunately, this merely makes him an average QB at the end of the day.

    Out of the three, only Russell Wilson has that “it” factor to elevate the offense by creating plays the other 2 QBs can not. He has both the mental and the physical abilities needed.

    I expect Carroll will give him until the third preseason game to grow his abilities and defer naming a starter until then. But does a mere 2 more months give him enough time to make the leap?

  5. I really like Jackson, and have since the second half against The Falcons where PC decided to go 60+ on a FG. He came in with no OTA’s, a O-Line that was slowly coming together, took a gigantic pounding that would have killed Hasslebeck gaining the respect of his team, and right now I still feel like he’s the leader. Think of the teams we beat last year with mediocre O-Line, WR play around him for the majority of the season.

    RW is the one I want starting because I think he has the biggest upside. He has a bigger gun the then Chad Flynnington (sorry meant Matt Flynn), and better decision making skills than TJ. I just wonder if RW can withstand the punishment, and still be sharp, fast, upbeat.

  6. DaddyLove says:

    I like Flynn’s anticipation. For all he’s trying to learn, TJ still throws only to open receivers.

  7. Dukeshire says:

    I would be stunned if the decision wasn’t made after the 2nd preseason game (at the latest). Game 3 is nearly always when the ones play into the third quarter, and I have got to believe they want their season starter under center for all of that.

  8. Palerydr says:

    Thanks Dave really good stuff for us to argue about, and we will. The QB spot really brings out the passion here. Jackson just doesn’t seem capable of getting out of his own way. He knows what he needs to improve but just can’t seem to do it. After watching the video of Flynn on you tube I formed an opinion of him that hasn’t changed he can’t throw the ball with velocity. He does however seem to understand this and uses that understanding to make it an asset to his game. Using good anticipation and knowing what routes his WR are running to make plays. Russel Wilson just needs to be 4″ taller and he’d be perfect. If that’s the case then how much does that 4″ matter? He would still be a rookie QB in the league and they rarely can carry a team or lead them to a div title/playoff berth. I see Flynn as the starter by default not who I want but I will support him until we find somebody better to replace him.

  9. seahawk44 says:

    So many people down on Flynn and you haven’t even seen him play a game in a Seahawks uniform. He could surprise everyone and be a legit top starter in the NFL because of his anticipation and accuracy when throwing during game situations. Joe Montana …how many of you watched that great QB play? He had a “weak arm” and all of the anticipation and accuracy you could ever want in a QB. Now, in no way am I saying Matt Flynn will be a Montana, but you have to see how his games go as the starter before you can keep harping on his strength or how “average” he is. He definitely has looked good in his previous NFL starts. Nobody can predict how good he will do until he is given the chance to do it and I’m not talking about “practice”. The unknown is a little exciting to me. If MF is a bust, then RW will be the next unknown in line.

  10. For Wilson to be named the starter, he would not only have to play extremely well in the first two or three preseason games, Flynn and Jackson would have to look terrible. Flynn, especially, needs to just look decent to get the nod over Wilson. I just don’t see Carroll starting a rookie QB when he has a Top Ten defense and so much at stake. A playoff berth would give him some job security; a losing season *might* get him fired, especially if it’s worse than 7-9.

  11. Forgot to say this: Thank you, Dave. Great post — totally appreciate it.

  12. I’ll take a QB with touch and anticipation over an inconsistent strong-arm passer any day…especially if this offense is going to be a balanced run/pass offense.

  13. Dave – thank you. It is very much appreciated.

    Without the benefit of having been at the practices, I’d go:

    1. Flynn

    2. Wilson

    3. Portis (not that I think he’s better than T-Jack, but he’s almost $4 million cheaper per season and it’ll allow more reps for the top two QBs, which is needed – besides they are the ones with upside).

  14. bbnate420 says:

    Canfan, I think that year 4 is probably the make or break year for PC, not 2012. Eric has said that he thinks PC gets to play out his 5 year deal. If he thinks RW can play close to the level of the other 2 in 2012 then IMO he goes with RW. RW has the highest upside ad most potential to bring the Hawks a SB if he meets his potential.

  15. Dukeshire says:

    We don’t know that Wilson has more upside than Flynn. A better athlete perhaps, but that’s not quite the same thing. That said, a rookie QB could find fewer softer landing spots than Seattle. A top defense (and still very young, and improving), and a solid running game. Those are a QBs best friends. I’m reluctant to admit that if the three play at comparable levels, Wilson likely gets the nod. I don’t think he will. But should he, I believe Carroll plays him. (To clarify, I still believe Flynn outplays both by miles, come preseason.)

  16. Dukeshire says:

    And for what it’s worth, I totally agree with bbnate420 in this regard: Carroll’s not anywhere near a “hot seat”. Even if Seatle falls on their face this year, he’ll see the end of his contract. (I honestly believe we’ll look back at theis periodic hot seat talk, and laugh. Seattle is clearly in the right direction.)

  17. bbnate420 says:

    I should clarify what I mean by upside I guess. I primarily mean that he has the superior physical tools to Flynn. By all accounts that I have read, Wilson has a superior arm to Flynn and he is undoubtedly more athletic. RW picked up the offense in Wisc. in one offseason and had the highest QB rating. That would indicate that he has football intelligence. There have been numerous reports about what a good leader he is as well, along with the fact that he was voted captain at Wisc. in his first year. Ultimately, none of this means that he will be a better NFL QB than Flynn. Only time will tell. I just think he has the tangibles, along with intangibles, that allow you to project a higher ceiling for him than Flynn. The only major knock on RW is his height. I like what I have seen from Flynn. There are plenty of QBs that have been good without a rocket arm. I think that intelligence and accuracy are much more important.

    I don’t necessarily care deeply which of the 3 takes the job. I just hope that whoever takes the job runs with it for a long time and takes the Hawks to the promised land. Ultimately that’s what we all want. The thing I like about al three QBs is that they are all underdogs in one respect or another. I like rooting for that.

  18. SeahawkFan12 says:

    Yes, I’m more of a “lurker” than a contributor, but I check in almost everyday and read the great posts by Eric and Dave and appreciate the thoughtful and insightful posts by some of the regulars here.

    When Flynn was first signed, I was all about it. Up to that point, I was very vocally in favor of signing Manning (kinda funny to admit in hindsight, but that’s reality). That said, I find it interesting that Flynn has NOT separated himself yet. With all the fan fair and hype that came with his courting and signing (especially from certain regular posters here) I find it hard to believe he has yet to shake the 3-way share of snaps with TJax (a perennial underachiever) and Wilson, an (over-rated?) rookie (for the record, I’ve come to respect Wilson and think he could be legit).

    Just going on the record with a likely unpopular comment that it appears form the outside (again, never attended a single OTA, etc so what do I know?) that I had hoped Flynn would be the hands-down favorite as the starter and leader of the franchise. From what I see, that is not the case. We’ll see…

  19. The Seahawks could go 2-14 next year and Mr. Happy’s job would be safe, IMO. But in ’13, he’d better win!

  20. RDPoulsbo says:

    SeahawkFan12: The OTAs/Minicamps rules are such that there is nothing any of th QBs can do to distinguish themselves other than show they can grasp the basic plays in the playbook. T-Jack is an underachiever on the field, but has always been great in practice because of his red jersey. He has full command of the playbook, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has looked good up to this point. It’s actually a good thing that Flynn and Wilson are showing themselves to be just as good because it means they’ve picked up the playbook fairly quickly.

    This is why it will take TC and preseason with full contact to see who will separate from the rest.

  21. hawkdawg says:

    Tape on Flynn is limited, obviously. But from what I’ve seen, I disagree that he and Jackson have similar, “below average” ability to sense the rush and escape. Flynn’s skills in this area are clearly better, on our limited sample size. That sample size will get bigger shortly.

    Wilson, though, if his college tape is any indication, is clearly at a different level.

  22. Eegwaybeegway says:

    I’m not a Flynn or Wilson basher, but I do consider myself someone who supports Tarvaris and believes he can move the Hawks deep into the playoffs this season.
    Those who say he’s hit his ceiling are way off the mark. The guy has shown progress every time he’s gotten significant playing time in his career. Once he got the help he needed from the offensive line, Seattle went 5-3 with him under center in the second half of the season. Consider that record would have been 6-2 if Hauschka kicks an easy 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of the finale that he’s supposed to make. That would have essentially sealed that win.
    The team gained a tremendous amount of momentum under Tarvaris to close the season. Again, no offense to Flynn or Russell, but I’m hoping Pete names Tarvaris as the starter and we pick things up where we left off.
    If, and it’s a big if, Tarvaris falters … then go ahead and put Flynn in to see what he has. But I think it’s highly unlikely that Tarvaris falters. It’s his time to shine.

  23. WOW- I can’t believe some of what I am reading. I ‘ll go with the pro. Brock Huard has said multiple times now that Flynn’s arm is stronger than everyone thought- Like Seahawk44 says Montana , Brady and others don’t have guns and they can certainly play!
    TJack will not be good for this team- He has been in the same system with the same O coordinator for SEVEN years , I’m sorry BUT That Is Long Enough. He can’t do his pre sanp reads , read the d after the snap and it’s obvious that a lot of the time he can only see half the field. SO ENOUGH OF THE T JACK STUFF !!!!!
    The other thing I am hearing on other sites is Flynn is throwing his receivers open. That is quality in your QB to do that after 8 ota’s !!!

  24. Eegwaybeegway says:

    I’ll go with the pros myself and put stock in Doug Baldwin, who said he sees no discernable difference between Tarvaris and Flynn, and Leon Washington, who actually believed Tarvaris had the edge through minicamps. Tarvaris will be VERY GOOD for this team. He was a missed Hauschka gimme field goal from being under center for 6 wins in the Hawks final 8 games last year. I’ll take that winning percentage any day. I’m not bashing Flynn, he could be wowsville or he could be mediocre, time (and training camp) will tell. But Tarvaris is not out of the running for the starter’s job and for that kind of depth the Hawks and their fans should be thankful.

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