Thiel: No Seahawks' QB controversy -- or not?


by Art Thiel


Posted on October 3, 2012 at 1:30 AM

When a team is ranked 29th in the NFL in offense, when is there not a quarterback controversy?

When the controversy is whether the team has a second quarterback over which to have a controversy.

Which is different than having no quarterbacks, but that is the New York Jets controversy.

After the Mess on the Mississippi, a k a the Seahawks' 19-13 loss to the Rams in St. Louis in which three interceptions were magnum buzzkill upon the work of semi-wunderkind QB Russell Wilson, the predictable conflagration ignited over whether Matt Flynn should assume the position.

Flynn, as even the dimmest chilluns know, has been the backup to Wilson since mid-August, when the veteran free agent from Green Bay lost the competition to Wilson, the upstart third-round draftee. Now some will argue that Flynn didn't lose the job as much as it was given to Wilson because head coach Pete Carroll was so smitten with Wilson's outlier upside; a full-fledged gridiron bromance.

But as the in-for-Flynn crowd grew, Carroll threw them off Monday morning when he told ESPN 710 radio that even if a change were needed, Flynn's chronically sore throwing elbow limits his availability.

To which the general response was: Huh? Since when? You're making stuff up, Pete!

So at his usual Monday media chat, Carroll was asked about 15 ways the same question: "What's up with that?"

Carroll patiently went to some length -- when does he not go to some length? -- to explain that he has no plans to switch QBs, and that Flynn's elbow soreness is sufficiently unknowable to make it even less likely. Carroll:

"Matt has been the backup throughout this time, and right at the last preseason game he had a sore elbow. So when Russell took over we gave him all the turns that we could give him. He took all the work. So Matt hasn’t had a lot of work. We’ve hoped that would help the elbow situation. He’s never thrown a lot in any of the practices, he’s done the things we’ve asked him to do.

"We’ve counted on him to play in every game. We haven’t had a third quarterback on the roster because Matt can play. But we have had a pitch count for him in a sense, and made sure we didn’t work him (in practice) past what we thought was the right way to do it. The one week we did, which was the Packer week --  we called on him because of the familiarity -- he had a very good week. But we still never had him throw the amount of throws that a starting quarterback does. I think we’ve brought him along fine and he’s been ready and anxious to play in every game."

What that means -- and feel free to to take up your own Rosetta Stone here -- is that Flynn could play in relief, but no one knows what would happen. Nor is it known what would happen if Wilson came down Tuesday with the creeping crud and was declared out of Sunday's game in Charlotte against Carolina.

In fact, that's what Carroll said later:  "I don’t know that. I don’t know what would happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if (the elbow) 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."

I guess the part I don't get is having so many "don't know" answers for the one of those rare "heartbeat away" jobs like the vice  presidency. Given the protection problems the Seahawks demonstrated Sunday that had a larger impact on the outcome than Wilson's rookieness, I would think Carroll is scared spitless to be so vulnerable.

This is largely the same protection that allowed Tarvaris Jackson, last year's starter, to be struck 102 times (sacks and hits), the NFL high in 2011. Sure, the line is a little older and smarter, but it is still playing a rookie at right guard, J.R. Sweezy, and at right tackle is Breno Giacomini, The Madman of the VMAC.

Based on Carroll's description, it would seem wiser to activate the third-string QB, Josh Portis, whom you know can eat innings, instead of a guy whose arm may be good only for a bubble-screen pass or two.

Obviously, Carroll knows Flynn's condition better than outsiders, but he owned up to "don't know" four times in a single answer. He did say that Flynn has not had the problem before, and there appears to be no damage that would cause Flynn to be placed on the NFL-mandated weekly injury report. Still . . .

At stake here is Carroll's credibility, because a number of Seahawks' followers have believed that Wilson was not ready to start and is getting the start primarily because Carroll had so much ardor for Wilson's intangibles, makeup and against-all-odds story. Flynn, by dint of NFL service time and experience, is better suited to get wins now.

The argument has merit, although I leaned 51-49 to start Wilson because defense, special teams and Marshawn Lynch were sufficient to carry him through his training-wheels period. And it's still about that close. Despite the travail, the 2-2 Seahawks are a little closer to 4-0 than they are  1-3.

All three of Wilson's picks Sunday were more on others than him. The issue with Wilson is not what he's done but what he doesn't do -- find his checkdown receivers faster and make better decisions about when to run. Both are functions of inexperience that would be less of an issue for Flynn.

But now, Carroll has created a controversy when many Seahawks fans were willing to give the benefit of the doubt on Wilson. His inexperience combined with protection failures and the absence of game-changing receivers has made a hash of the offense, failing to get more than one touchdown off an ordinary Rams' defense in a half-empty road house.

Unless Carroll activates Portis until Flynn heals, the Seahawks run a fairly high risk of disaster. Unless, of course,  he wants to make another deal for the return of Charlie Whitehurst,

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