Ah, nothing stokes the flames of an already passionate fan base like the raging debate over whether to keep two or three quarterbacks on the regular-season roster.
That's how smooth the Seahawks have it right now -- you can knock on your proverbial slab of wood here. Their most compelling issue heading into the exhibition finale Thursday at Oakland is whether Terrelle Pryor makes the team.
The other primary issues of training camp -- who will be the starting right tackle, who will be the punt returner, will Byron Maxwell nail down the cornerback job opposite Richard Sherman -- have already been settled. Rookie second-round draft pick Justin Britt will start the Sept. 4 opener against Green Bay at right tackle, Earl Thomas seems to have the punt-return job (despite many howls here over the risk) and Maxwell has been strong the last two exhibition games after a shaky start to training camp and the preseason.
This was coach Pete Carroll on Maxwell yesterday, with a jab at his personal conditioning being subpar entering camp: "Maxie’s finishing this camp really well. He may have started a little slower. The conditioning stuff that he feature right near the end after the five weeks that we broke I thought didn’t help him as much from some of the stuff that we do. He came in and as always, he’s done everything that we could ever ask him to do. He looks great now and back to full speed. He had a great play last week to show you his burst and play making ability. He’s a terrific football player. The dynamics that he brings is that he gets the football. He gets after the ball. I mean, he knocked the ball on the ground last week again almost got that turnover. He’s just a big play guy that is really strict and discipline too. We love the way he plays."
As for the QBs, it seems obvious now that Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell covet Tarvaris Jackson's experience and popularity within the team -- they don't forget he played games with a torn pectoral muscle a few seasons ago because the Seahawks needed him to. That display of loyalty and guts goes a long way, certainly long enough to be Russell Wilson's primary backup again this season, no matter how much he plays or how well he does or doesn't do two days from now against the Raiders.
The issue at hand is whether Pryor's undeniable athleticism has piqued Carroll's and Bevell's interest enough to do what Carroll had done just once in his previous four seasons in Seattle: Keep three quarterbacks on the active roster to begin the regular season. That roster must be set by 1 p.m. Saturday, after today's seven cuts the Seahawks must make by 1 p.m. to get to 75 players.
There are factors here beyond the fact Pryor would never be active on game days this season as the No. 3 quarterback. Jackson's has a one-year, guaranteed contract for $1.25 million. After that he will be 32 years old with 10 seasons and, for now, 34 starts in the league. Pryor has one year remaining on the four-year deal he signed with Oakland in 2011. It is scheduled to pay him $705,000 this season. He will be 26 after this season, with 10 starts over parts of three seasons with the Raiders before now. So either way, the Seahawks would have to offer a new contract to either one or both of them, or go find a new backup quarterback after this season.
Pryor has a ways to go on accuracy in his passing, but he strikes me as a QB that is yearning for continuity in training and coaching -- things he believes he has found in Carroll's and Bevell's system here.
"I had some great coaches (in Oakland)," Pryor told me yesterday, "but I only had each coach for a year, so it was hard to get a taste and good look at and good feel for an offense."
The fact the Seahawks traded a seventh-round pick for Pryor only a few months ago matters. Schneider and Carroll don't just give away draft choices without getting something useful in return; they've built a Super Bowl champion with mid- to late-round choices as cornerstones (Richard Sherman, fifth round; Russell Wilson, third; starting guard J.R. Sweezy, seventh; key tight end Luke Willson, fifth; K.J. Wright, fourth; Jeremy Lane, sixth). Heck, their Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith, was a seventh-round pick.
I sense that if they think they can use Pryor at all, in any way during the season -- or even as a threat to an opponent that they could use him in any way -- they will keep him. And I believe as of right now they think they can use him.
I alluded to it here yesterday, but this is what Carroll said in full when I asked him for his philosophy on two versus three QBs on the regular-season roster:
"Sometimes you just can’t afford not to have three guys because they’re so good and you just got to have them. We were very fortunate that we made it through with the two-quarterback thing last year. Russell’s young and physical that can handle the pounding. He does a great job. He’s not a guy that puts himself in harm’s way very often.
"The two-quarterbacks thing really helps you because you get another football player on your team -- but sometimes you can’t afford to do it because your guys are too good."
That's the crux of it: Are Carroll and general manager John Schneider willing to keep Pryor at the expense of an extra backup offensive or defensive lineman?
And this is what Carroll said about the fourth quarterback on the roster right now, B.J. Daniels. The Seahawks may end up trying to get him through waivers and onto their practice squad again, but Daniels is getting known around the league and there is a chance another team would claim him onto their 53-man roster instead this weekend:
"He’s done well. We had to make sure and get the good looks to get Tarvaris back and make sure he knew what he was doing. He had to see Terrelle that really took a lot of reps away from him because we knew less about him. In the last two weeks, he’s been getting more reps, showing what he can do and he’s done well with it. We know he’s a really good competitor and he does a lot of cool things for us."
--In today's News Tribune I wrote about middle linebacker Bobby Wagner returning from more than three weeks out with a hamstring injury, how the starting defense is becoming whole just in time (10 days before the opener vs. Green Bay), and how undrafted rookie Brock Coyle has all but won a spot on the team.
Also in that story is the news that 10-year veteran Heath Farwell's career may be over because of a major groin injury that the Seahawks believe will require surgery. Carroll said the backup middle linebacker and special-teams captain last season is flying to the East Coast Thursday to get a second opinion from doctors there.
--Make sure you are done eating your breakfast or lunch before viewing this gem in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Seattle's KIRO-TV on a diehard Seahawks fan's fashionable body part.