Take away a cluster of Tennessee Titans fans at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night and the only person not thrilled with the performances of Seahawks quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson might have been Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson, last season’s starter, could be rendered competitively irrelevant by the two newcomers to the Seahawks roster.
Flynn’s readiness was somewhat expected; Wilson’s only hoped for.
Flynn showed command and control; Wilson sprinkled the place with magic.
Coach Pete Carroll is to be congratulated for not drooling all over the podium at his postgame press conference. In reserved tones, he noted that he was pleased with the play of Flynn and Wilson.
But you have to think that behind the scenes, Carroll and general manager John Schneider are bouncing off the walls with excitement.
I mean, even more than usual.
Schneider landed Flynn as a free agent – for a reasonable price. And he also targeted Wilson in the third round of the draft out of Wisconsin. Schneider saw in him the kind of playmaking and leadership ability that made his height (5-103/4) not nearly the issue others were convinced it would be.
That Carroll kept from painting rainbows all over the place Saturday night was a good approach. It was only the first exhibition game, and Wilson, specifically, was playing against backups.
But this game created more interest and sense of upward trajectory relating to the quarterback position than the Seahawks have seen in years.
If this 60 minutes of quarterbacking in August is not an aberration, then it appears that either Flynn or Wilson will be an upgrade over Jackson. And on a team with a defense and rushing attack already in place, that factor should mean divisional contention.
All of Flynn’s 13 passes were almost perfectly on target. One was dropped and another was intercepted.
At first sight, it seemed as if Flynn simply didn’t see the linebacker drop into coverage of a slant pattern, but Carroll later explained that the play called for a run-action fake by a back. When the back went elsewhere, it allowed the linebacker to unexpectedly drift back into the path of the pass.
While Flynn threw almost nothing but strikes, Wilson was a high-voltage jolt of electricity.
On his first drive in the NFL, he fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards, and he also later scored on a 32-yard run. He threw from the pocket, threw on the run, escaped pressure almost effortlessly, and made it clear he’s a danger to carry the ball if the pocket collapses.
He’s a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.
Wilson lofted an ill-advised interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Good. Carroll calls those “teachable moments.” They can help temper early fanaticism, as well.
But as Schneider discovered when evaluating him at Wisconsin, Wilson doesn’t need too many teachable moments.
Look at the raw data: The kid started 50 consecutive college games and once went 379 pass attempts without an interception. He completed 73 percent of his passes last season, with 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 309 attempts.
Beyond the numbers, Wilson has a swagger, an audacity, a contagious belief that he can do just about anything on the field. The fans see it and the staff sees it. But nobody is more affected by it than teammates.
Flynn was sacked twice when he needed to get rid of the ball quicker. Wilson had the look of a quarterback who might be even more dangerous when under pressure.
Carroll cited both players’ calmness and poise, and management of the offense – the huddle, the plays, the formations.
Flynn would be expected to display a degree of command, having spent four seasons with the Packers and seen considerable exhibition season experience. But Wilson was stunningly unfazed by his first time on an NFL field.
He was equally composed during his postgame interview.
He faced the usual questions, although it may have been the first time since he was drafted in April that he faced microphones, and no one thought to ask him about his height.
Russell Wilson had a successful first game with the Seahawks. A look at how he stacks up against other noteworthy QBs in exhibition openers last week:
Player, teamCOM. PCTTD/INTYARDS
Russell Wilson, Seahawks75.01/1124
Note: And ran for 32-yard TD
Matt Flynn, Seahawks84.60/171
Note: First drive ended in FG
Andrew Luck, Colts62.52/0188
Note: Threw TD on first pass
Robert Griffin III, Redskins66.71/070
Note: Lost fumble
Peyton Manning, Broncos57.10/144
Note: First pass picked off
Brandon Weeden, Browns33.30/162
Note: Lost a fumble
Tim Tebow, Jets50.00/127
Note: Ran for 34 yards
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins66.71/0167
Note: Penalty nullified TD pass