Pete Carroll and John Schneider were overjoyed during the April NFL Draft when the Seattle Seahawks were able to grab Russell Wilson in the third round.
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Even they couldn’t anticipate that Wilson would be the Seahawks’ Week 1 starter.
Carroll announced Sunday night that the undersized, but highly successful rookie quarterback from Wisconsin will be the starter when the Seahawks open the regular season on Sept. 9 at Arizona. Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson — in the process of being traded to Buffalo — for the starting gig.
"It’s been a very exciting competition that has gone on and Russell has taken full advantage of his opportunities and has done everything that we have asked for on the field and more than what you guys could know off the field in meeting rooms and with our players and how he’s represented. He’s earned this job," Carroll said on a conference call Sunday night. "It was a legitimate competition as we said from the beginning and with the opportunity he’s taken advantage of he deserves to start."
Wilson has been a dynamic star during the preseason. For the first two weeks, his performance came against backups during the second halves of victories over Tennessee and Denver.
But what Wilson displayed during those two halves were enough for Carroll to give him the start Friday night against Kansas City. Wilson’s response: 13-of-19 passing for 185 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.8. And if he didn’t show enough with his arm, Wilson added another 58 yards rushing.
His total preseasons numbers thus far are eye-popping: 35 of 52 (67.3 percent) for 464 yards, five touchdowns and a league-leading 119.4 QB rating. Wilson’s only preseason mistake was throwing a careless end zone interception against Tennessee.
Otherwise, Wilson’s been almost perfect.
"This isn’t just based on the quarters we’ve seen him play. This is based on the practice and the challenges that he’s undertaken here on the practice field," Carroll said. "We’ve combined everything and with the circumstances that have been presented he won this opening challenge here."
Wilson’s most recent performance had Seattle fans buzzing, with Twitter overrun with "Russellmania" comments Friday night as he picked apart the Chiefs. As the game progressed, most began accepting the idea that Wilson would be the starter.
Carroll said Wilson took the news in stride.
"He expects to be good and he expects to be successful and he expects to make plays," Carroll said.
Wilson has been able to pick up the Seahawks offense quicker because of his experience playing in a West Coast offensive system in college. He spent his first three seasons at North Carolina State before transferring for his final year to Wisconsin. In Madison, Wilson led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and was named the first-team, all-Big Ten quarterback.
"He is so prepared. He doesn’t seem like a first-year player," Carroll said. "He seems like he’s been around. He gets it, he understands and he is a tremendous leader in that way. He doesn’t do anything but the right thing in all of his work and his preparation and his competitiveness has been demonstrated again."
Wilson being named the starter leaves Flynn on the sidelines and according to Carroll understandably disappointed. Flynn was Seattle’s big free-agent splash in the offseason and the most highly sought after quarterback not named Manning after spending the last few seasons as Aaron Rodgers backup in Green Bay. But Flynn failed to show the same flashes as Wilson during his two preseason opportunities and sat out the game in Kansas City with a sore elbow.
Flynn’s injury isn’t considered to be severe, but sitting out against the Chiefs didn’t help his case for the job.
"Matt’s done a great job for us in every way, just the opportunities didn’t seem to come in as big a way as it did for Russell," Carroll said. "He made the most of his."