Since Gruden was an early believer in Wilson's promise, he reserves some inspired remarks for the Seahawks' rookie quarterback.
There’s something about the way Jon Gruden talks about Russell Wilson — or anything, for that matter — that demands attention. With his Midwestern twang and the casual manner he massages the language, Gruden would be captivating while reading a grocery list. But give him a subject that ignites his passion, and the Super Bowl-winning coach turned “Monday Night Football” analyst is verbal gold.
Since Gruden was an early believer in Wilson’s promise, he reserves some inspired remarks for the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback.
“I hope he runs for president down the line,” Gruden said of Wilson. “He’s the kind of guy we need.”
Gruden is in town for ESPN’s broadcast of the Monday showdown with the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field. It’s the first time these emerging Seahawks, with their stellar defense and power run game, can test their prime-time worthiness. It’s also the first enormous game of Wilson’s pro career.
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So far, Wilson has done plenty to make Gruden look good. Remember the argument between Gruden and Mel Kiper Jr. about Wilson during the NFL draft? Gruden had mentored Wilson as part of his “Gruden’s QB camp” show. He was adamant that Wilson had the talent to be a starting NFL quarterback despite his 5 feet 11 height. And Gruden turned prophet to make his point stronger.
“If I were Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, I’d be leery of this kid because if you give him a chance, if you give him a chance and look past his 5 foot 11 or 5-10 and a half or whatever it is, if you give this kid a legitimate chance to win the job, he’ll win it,” Gruden said. “That’s how much confidence I have in him.”
Gruden learned about Wilson while attending the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. Barry Alvarez, the Wisconsin athletic director and former football coach, kept raving about this kid who had transferred from NC State. So Gruden met Wilson, was immediately impressed, and then he started to study the dynamo.
Wilson made the same impression on film that he had in person.
“This is a supreme kid,” Gruden said. “His intangibles are off the chart. But let’s talk about him playing the position. He’s very productive and a great athlete. He’s exactly the kind of quarterback I would want to coach. Height doesn’t bother him. He just impressed me in every way you could impress.”
During the NFL draft process, Gruden was among the people who told teams to ignore the height issue. In a league obsessed with prototypical size, Wilson’s height was presented in a frighteningly precise manner: 5 feet 10-5/8 inches. It was if rounding up to 5 feet 11 would set a franchise back 10 years.
The Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round, No. 75 overall, and you kept hearing that he probably would’ve been a first-round pick if he were 6 feet 2. General manager John Schneider had made the pick a priority, and now the Seahawks might have their long-term solution at quarterback.
“I’ve been telling people to throw that out the last seven months,” Gruden said. “Everybody liked Russell Wilson. Every team, every coach. Not having prototypical height was the one hang-up for most of them. It’s a great thing that Pete Carroll couldn’t care less about the prototype measurement. I mean, he has Brandon Browner at 6-4 out there at cornerback. He just wants good football players.”
Of course, Wilson still has much proving left. After a dazzling preseason, Wilson is going through the typical difficult rookie transition. And it’s not just him. He’s a young quarterback on a developing offense, so there are growing pains all around.
Through two games, the Seahawks have the NFL’s worst passing offense. Wilson has completed 61.1 percent of his passes, but he is averaging just 152 passing yards a game. The Seahawks have been ultra-conservative, attempting just 27 passes a game and living off a rushing game averaging 148.5 yards.
Eventually, they’ll need to be more productive throwing the football. Gruden says the flashes of productivity and aggressiveness the Seahawks showed in the preseason shouldn’t be disregarded now that the regular season has begun slowly.
“Russell was exciting in the preseason,” Gruden said. “It’s not like he was playing against midgets. There’s value there.
“He just got here, and there are a lot of new players on that offense. They’re still not playing with all their offensive linemen. John Moffitt has to show he can stay healthy the whole year. James Carpenter has to get healthy. I saw JR Sweezy playing right guard in the first game against Darnell Dockett. He didn’t even play on the offensive line in college. This offense has some growing up to do.”
Gruden is concerned about the receivers. “I don’t know who the No. 1 receiver is in Seattle,” he said. “He hasn’t jumped off the screen to me. Sidney Rice should be, but he hasn’t jumped off the screen. Doug Baldwin has been injured. Golden Tate is back from injury and needs to play to his talent. They were even trying to feature Braylon Edwards on some plays. This team desperately needs these receivers to step up.”
Still, Gruden likes the Seahawks as a playoff contender because of their defense, run game and special teams.
“If they can keep the train on the track, they’ll be in good shape,” Gruden said. “The train — that’s Marshawn Lynch.”
Beast Mode must provide reliable transportation. The future president is riding with him, you know.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.