Rookie quarterbacks are trending in the NFL right now. Russell Wilson is set to be one of five rookies starting the season behind center. This number blows away the previous record of two. It is clearly not just high first round draft picks making the cut either; Wilson was taken by the Seahawks in the third round with the 75th pick. Adding more intrigue to this story is the fact that the Seahawks had already made a splash by acquiring a (relatively) big name free agent quarterback in Matt Flynn. Finally out of Rodgers’ shade and finally paid, Flynn will resume his previous duties as the number one clipboard-holder.

What now for Flynn?

Perhaps we should not be so surprised that Flynn has been ousted from his position as the incumbent starter. The warning signs were there. Joe Philbin, the new Miami Dolphins head coach, worked intimately with Flynn his entire career while he was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. Nobody would know Flynn’s ability and potential better, right? The Dolphins also appeared to be the perfect fit for another reason: they were desperate for a marquee quarterback signing that could lead to hope trafficking for their fanbase.

The Dolphins had already failed spectacularly in their pursuit of Peyton Manning, and the option of trading up to procure the services of RGIII carried with it far too great a price. This left Matt Flynn, an exciting though still unknown quantity. However, Philbin and the Dolphins ultimately passed, unwilling to match the offer made in Seattle. The murmurings since have been that they were never really interested in the first place. This should have been seen immediately as a red flag. The combination of a coach with special insight, and a desperate franchise, did not think that Flynn was worth it.

Granted, Flynn’s only two games in the NFL have been nothing short of incredible. Against the Patriots he threw for three touchdowns and one pick, 23/37 for 254 yards. His start against the Lions was even more impressive, as he set all-time records for the Packers in passing yards (480) and touchdowns (6). But a two-game CV provides an insufficient sample size on which to base a significant financial decision. Just ask the Arizona Cardinals. Kevin Kolb was the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two career starts while in Philadelphia.

Flynn’s contract appears to be sizeable, with $10 million guaranteed. However, when looked at in context, his deal is not extortionate. According to NBC Sports, Flynn’s guaranteed base salary for this season is $2 million, (without taking into account his signing bonus). This is less than 50% of the top of the market. For 2013, only $2 million of his salary is guaranteed again while $5.25 million is not guaranteed. Supplement these details with the fact that Wilson is tied to a rookie contract that runs over the same three-year period, and his base salary will never top $700,000.

Flynn can now wait in the wings, and should the Seahawks struggle he will become the most popular player on the team. His three-year contract will act as an expensive insurance policy in the event that Wilson does not live up to expectations.

Does size matter?

Russell Wilson demonstrated his potential at the University of Wisconsin. An excellent preseason has reinforced this potential. However, his skillset has never been the concern. Russell Wilson is a ‘mere’ 5ft 11in. Many will shrug their shoulders and point to the example of Drew Brees, a 6ft quarterback, to illustrate that shorter players can excel at this position. But to talk about Drew Brees is to exalt the outlier; the ordinary quarterback does tend to be significantly taller.

Drew Bledsoe, 6ft 5in and the overall first pick in the 1993 draft, emphasised on The Thundering Herd the difficulties of making certain passes in the NFL for shorter quarterbacks:

“There are certain throws, particularly some short throws over the middle, that I can’t imagine making if you’re 5ft 11in. You know, if you’re going to make a throw over the middle to your tight end, or you have a crossing route… Some of those kinds of throws would seem to be very, very difficult if you were half a foot shorter than I am.”

Adam Schefter has stated unequivocally that Russell Wilson would have been a first round draft pick had he only been a couple of inches taller. However, sometimes we become so enamoured with physical characteristics such as height, or the speed with which a player can run 40-yards, that we are distracted from what is important. Peter King recently tweeted that Wilson had only 4 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last year, while Ryan Tannehill, (6ft 4in and taken with the 8th overall pick by the Dolphins), had 17.

Russell Wilson has shown himself to be an intelligent quarterback with a strong arm. His terrific performance against the Kansas City Chiefs starting defense on Friday was the icing on the cake.

The Dalton effect

Naming Wilson as their starting quarterback does not mean that the Seahawks are writing off this season. Far from it. The Seahawks have a good defense, with an exemplary secondary. Their offensive line is strong and they do have playmakers for Wilson to work with. Most importantly, the media is not placing any expectations or pressure on this franchise. The 49ers are still the overwhelming favourites in the NFC West, but they were aided last season by a soft schedule and abysmal competition within their own division.

This time last year, Andy Dalton was preparing for his first season as a starter. Insignificance and underachievement were projected for the Bengals, but they would surprise the league and secure a playoff spot. They did this with a rookie quarterback selected outside the first round, and a strong defense. Sound familiar? Russell Wilson may not have an A.J. Green alongside him, but he also does not need to directly compete with the Ravens and Steelers.

The Seahawks are flying under the radar.


Oggy’s Quick Slants

–       Russell Wilson joins Andrew Luck (Colts), RGIII (Redskins), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) and Brandon Weeden (Browns) on the list of rookie quarterbacks that are expected to start in Week 1.

–       The Seahawks have released Terrell Owens. It was only two weeks ago that there was debate as to whether T.O. or Ochocinco would have the more productive season. That debate has now, in all likelihood, been conclusively settled: it’s a tie. Owens Joins Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress on the list of notable free agent wide receivers.