SEATTLE – Conventional doesn’t suit Pete Carroll. Never did in college. Certainly doesn’t calling the shots in the NFL.
Since taking control of the Seattle Seahawks, he’s given second chances to those with checkered pasts at previous NFL stops, tried players in nontraditional positions and given lower-round picks plenty of chances to make their mark.
Now comes Carroll’s biggest gamble – choosing to start rookie quarterback Russell Wilson after paying handsomely to sign one of the hottest free agents available in the offseason in Matt Flynn.
If successful, Carroll could be on the brink of turning the Seahawks into the regular contenders they were during a five-year run of playoff appearances in the middle of the last decade that included four division titles.
If he fails, and the Seahawks struggle, Carroll will face increased pressure and scrutiny after going 14-18 in his first two regular seasons in charge.
“We need to always be in tune with conventional wisdom,” Carroll said. “However, neither (general manager) John (Schneider) or I feel like we have to operate under that particular guidance system. And we’re not. And we haven’t since we got here.”
If the Seahawks are going to be successful, Wilson will not be that much of a factor. Yes, he’ll need to make plays if the balanced offense Carroll wants is to be successful. The team is built around the bullying running of Marshawn Lynch – and rookie Robert Turbin – and a young, aggressive and confident defense on the rise.
Pound the ball with Lynch, use arguably the best young secondary in the NFL to create havoc, and Wilson doesn’t need to be a star. And, if Wilson continues his stellar play from the preseason when the season starts, then Seattle may have its next franchise quarterback.
“Even though I’m a rookie, I believe in the fact that I can help this team win and do a lot of great things,” Wilson said. “We have an unbelievable defense, we have a very strong offense and great special teams. We just have to keep improving. It’s a great opportunity. I’m fired up about it, that’s for sure. I can’t wait.”
The three-way quarterback battle between Wilson, free agent Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson stole most of the headlines during training camp. But Carroll also didn’t shy away from generating more attention. He signed wide receiver Braylon Edwards then brought in Terrell Owens for a look, creating a circus around the normally ignored Seahawks.
Jackson is gone, sent to the Bills, and Owens is gone, too. Edwards likely will be a significant contributor.
There was some trouble, too, with Lynch being arrested for DUI in California in July. On the field, his rugged running style made him the most productive back in the NFL over the second half of the season.
Wilson can only hope Sidney Rice and his surgically repaired shoulders can stand up to a full season and a return to form that saw him make the Pro Bowl in 2009, when he caught 83 passes for over 1,300 yards in Minnesota. While Edwards gives Seattle another veteran target, the continued development of young receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will be equally important.
The Seahawks’ secondary is solid, with cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor perhaps one of the best foursomes in the league. Ten of 11 starters are back on defense, with rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner replacing David Hawthorne.
If there’s a defensive concern, it’s the pass rush. Chris Clemons is back, and the Seahawks used their first-round draft pick on rush specialist Bruce Irvin. They also signed defensive tackle Jason Jones from Tennessee.