August 6, 2014

Fuzzy Preseason Memories: Owens' Drops Bury Matt Flynn

The Seahawks open up their preseason slate at Mile High Stadium Thursday night, and it will probably be like most preseason openers in franchise history: Memorable only to the players who use it as a springboard onto the 53-man roster. It's not always so easily forgettable, though. Seattle last visited Denver two years ago, and it turned out to be perhaps the most pivotal exhibition game the Hawks have ever played.

In Seattle's preseason opener, presumed starting quarterback Matt Flynn turned in a solid (but not spectacular) performance, completing 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards and an interception. So what? Not bad for an initial outing with a new team and a new playbook, right? The problem was that 3rd round pick Russell Wilson TORCHED Tennessee for 59 rushing yards (including a 32 yard touchdown scamper) and completed 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards and another TD. As the Hawks prepared to travel to Denver, there were already whispers of a quarterback controversy brewing in Renton. Of course, I did my best to tamp that down in this space. As I wrote then:

Matt Flynn is just the right mix of demonstrated ability and untapped potential, and he's flashed enough in Renton so far to make him the ONLY choice for QB1 right now. Weirdly enough, this might not be the majority opinion among Seahawks fans- I've seen legions of them pointing at Russell Wilson and screaming "NOW! NOW! NOW!" like they were Veruca Fucking Salt and RW was a Oompa-Loopa. Why? Because he went all Madden Rookie Mode on a bunch of Titans defenders destined for jobs in the CFL or various Arena Leagues? Because he's a better "story" than Flynn? Because (holy shit I've actually seen people say this) he reminds you of Tim Tebow somehow? BARF. Stop it. For the love of fuck, STOP IT.

I'm very excited by Russell Wilson's potential, and I think he's got a VERY good chance at being an excellent NFL QB someday... and if the Seahawks were rebuilding and not shooting for a playoff run right now, maybe I'd be more open to the idea of throwing Wilson out there week 1 and seeing how he responds. Seattle isn't shooting for 6-10, though- They are shooting for (wait for it) #10winsandaplayoffspot. Tossing Wilson out there now could fuck up our season AND RW's career over the long-term. Given the terrible fury our defense is about to unleash upon the NFL, Flynn has an amazing opportunity. He doesn't need to be Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers to lead Seattle to the Super Bowl- If he can reach the level Hasselbeck was at in the mid-00s, he will be a World Champion.

Oh boy. That's the "Dewey Defeats Truman" of sports blogging, isn't it? Hindsight allows us to see how laughably wrong I was, but as the Seahawks headed to the Rockies in mid-August 2012 the future was not set, and the job was still Flynn's to win. Enter Terrell Owens. I managed to get myself pretty excited about PCJS bringing in the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer...

I can see exactly what Pete Carroll sees in Owens: A year of VERY cheap but significant production at WR. Owens doesn't need to be better than (Sidney) Rice or (Doug) Baldwin to help this team make the playoffs- A healthy, focused T.O. gives us a possibly dangerous 6-pack of WR/TE targets for whomever wins the QB scrum: Rice, Baldwin, Owens, Tate, Winslow and Miller.

I thought we all learned from the Ruskell era that an OCD-level of focus on "character" is a recipe for an awful football team. What has Owens ever done to REALLY earn such violent revulsion from so many Twelves? I honestly don't get it.

Against the Broncos Owens would earn the undying hatred of not just the Twelve Army, but probably of Matt Flynn as well. Why? Early in the 2nd quarter, with Seattle trailing 7-3. Flynn lofted a PERFECT 46-yard touchdown bomb to Owens. Here's what T.O. did with it:

It was one of five passes from Flynn that Owens would flub. Flynn would finish the game 6-for-13 for 31 yards and a 53.0 passer rating. Let's say T.O. caught those 5 passes for 85 yards (the 46-yard TD and about a 10-yard average on the other 4 catches). Flynn's day is then 11-13 (again) for 116 yards and a TD. His rating would have leapt to 129! Wilson would put up a 128.3 rating with 155 yards passing, 33 yards rushing, ans two touchdowns. RW3 would puree Kansas City's defense the next week and win the starting job, but I've always wondered how different recent Seahawks (and NFL) history would have been if Owens had hauled in those Flynn offerings.

It's simplistic to argue Flynn would have won the QB1 job if Owens had done HIS job, but the choice to start Wilson over Flynn wouldn't have been nearly as clear or easy if T.O.'s hands weren't slathered in teflon that day in Denver. If PC had chosen to stay with Flynn, he would have had plenty of evidence to back up that decision, and the Seahawks probably would have still been a playoff team in 2012 and 2013 with Flynn under center. Would they have been Champions? No. Without Russell Wilson's ability to create explosive plays with his legs and his arm, Seattle's offense would have been far less productive, putting inordinate pressure on the Seahawks' defense. That probably would have meant early playoff exits in both 2012 and 2013.

My larger points? The preseason doesn't "count," but what goes down can be positively monumental. That's more than enough reason to watch all the action from Denver Thursday night. Also, fuck Terrell Owens- Not just for those drops in Denver two years ago, but for the Sharpie stunt on MNF back in 2002. Prick. Finally, you shouldn't listen to me. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about. That's probably an oversimplification, but it's worth remembering (and owning) when we're dead wrong. It's humbling, to say the least.

What do you think, sirs?

1 comment:

Terry Sinclair said...

Yeah, the taste of crow can really suck. Even though I was an early fan of RW,I thought Flynn should have been the starter on opening day 1n 2012. I was frantic after week 1 when MY LITTLE SEAHAWKS lost a close one because they couldn't complete a pass to win the game. Over time Pete and the rest earned my trust. I wish I had your ability to write so I could express just how much that Super Bowl win means.I too will eat the crow I earned. But will wash it down with the sweet taste of victoty.