The full-throated quarterback controversy will begin. The wow factor was missing from Matt Flynn's Seattle Seahawks' debut. He didn't light up...
The full-throated quarterback controversy will begin.
The wow factor was missing from Matt Flynn’s Seattle Seahawks’ debut.
He didn’t light up the twilight with passes that ignited thoughts of a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, he never threw a pass down field.
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In contrast, rookie Russell Wilson, playing the second half against the Tennessee Titans’ second-unit defense, completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in his first NFL possession.
Flynn’s first appearance at CenturyLink Field Saturday night was constrained, a cautious, conservatively-called performance, exactly the kind of show we should have expected.
Wilson’s night was explosive. He led a second-half-opening, 5-play, 73-yard scoring drive, where he was able to show off his fleet feet and his strong arm.
In his first night on the job, Flynn completed 11 of 13 passes for a mere 71 yards. He marched the Seahawks 62 yards in 15 plays on his first drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka.
But he also made one terrible mistake, staring down Ben Obomanu on a crossing route and throwing a pass that was easily picked by Tennessee’s middle linebacker, Colin McCarthy.
In the 27-17 Seahawks win, Wilson supplied some wow, completing 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He ran for another 59 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run. But he also threw a red-zone interception.
Wilson looked like he can be part of the Seahawks’ future. But Flynn has to be the quarterback of the present.
He can’t be judged just off this first half of his first game. Playing against the Titans’ starters, he was hamstrung by a flock of absences in the Seahawks’ lineup, including receivers Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, Ricardo Lockette and Doug Baldwin, tight end Kellen Winslow and running back Marshawn Lynch.
And he was hamstrung by his lack of repetitions with the first-team offense during the first couple weeks of camp.
For Flynn to be a successful starting quarterback — and the smart money says he will have success — he has to be deceptive. He needs a point guard’s cunning, a fighter’s guile, a base-stealer’s timing.
Flynn’s is the art of the unexpected.
He doesn’t have the blazing fastball that Brett Favre had. Flynn’s game is cat and mouse, the quarterback against the cornerback. He is a thinking man’s quarterback. Favre was a knockout punch. Flynn is more counterpuncher.
It’s an important distinction, because to be the kind of quarterback the Seahawks need him to be, Flynn needs more work with the regulars than the team has been willing to give him. He needs more time, a lot more time, to learn the quirks and quicks of his receivers.
Flynn has to excel at the more refined parts of his craft. He has to know his receivers, as well as he knows his family members. He has to understand their routes and the way they run their routes as well as they do.
He can’t telegraph his passes the way he did on the interception to McCarthy. When he drops to throw, his eyes have to look away from his intended receivers. He has to hide his intentions, and he has to throw the ball before the receiver makes his cut.
And it all has to happen in seconds, with the ill-intentioned thundering herd of defensive ends, linebackers and safeties coming at him.
It’s the brave art of anticipation.
Flynn is a finesse pitcher and he has the smarts, the pocket presence, the feet and the accuracy to be very good. But he needs to establish a better understanding with the guys on the other end of his passes.
Every receiver comes out of his break at a different pace and in a different way. Repetition is the only way for a quarterback to learn those differences.
That’s why this quarterback competition among Flynn, incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and Wilson isn’t right.
Yes, it’s unconventional. It has made the Seahawks’ training camp a must-see event. It took the dreary out of Seattle’s sports summer. But it isn’t genius.
If the Hawks truly believe that Wilson is their quarterback of the future, they should give him this season to better learn the game. He doesn’t need to be rushed. He needs to chill.
Quarterback remains the one position this Seahawks administration has struggled to get right. By opening up the position to competition, the staff is tinkering with the offense’s energy, on the field and in the locker room.
It isn’t a coincidence that Flynn, 27, had his best practices in the days leading up to this first exhibition game. He got most of the snaps in practice and his comfort level grew.
Russell Wilson had the wow in his opening drive. But this has to become Matt Flynn’s offense. This has to be Matt Flynn’s year.
Time’s a-wasting, and the time has come for Pete Carroll to announce: “Flynn is in.”
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org