You can have your quarterback battle in Tennessee — no matter who wins, Jake Locker is taking over within a short amount of time. You can have your quarterback scrap in Cleveland — old rookie or not, Brandon Weeden is still far better than Colt McCoy. You can have your running back squabble in New England — whoever is deemed the starter, coach Bill Belichick is still likely to lean heavily enough on the passing game to render the decision largely moot.
You can even have your quarterback free-for-all in Miami — Ryan Tannehill is really only, or should be, participating in name only, and David Garrard would likely need Matt Moore to fall flat on his face in order to get the starting job.
And you can definitely add the overblown quarterback "controversy" of the New York Jets — no need to explain that one.
No, the best position battle in the NFL is the one that nobody is talking about. Way up nestled against the banks of the Puget Sound in the Emerald City, the Seattle Seahawks have a decision to make that could very well be the difference between a playoff berth and another long, dreary offseason spent dodging raindrops.
In one corner is the incumbent starter, Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson signed with Seattle as a free agent before last season, and although he had a career year, a career year for Jackson is not a typical career year. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,091 yards and 14 touchdowns, but when combined with his 13 interceptions, this added up to a 79.2 passer rating.
In other words, Jackson had the best full season of his life, and was still only the 21st-best quarterback in the NFL. On top of this, the Seahawks stumbled to a 7-9 record and third-place finish in the NFC West.
Seattle, recognizing that Jackson was likely not the long-term solution, went out and signed free agent Matt Flynn in March, who had gained a great deal of acclaim for his two starts with the Packers in 2010 and 2011.
That's right. Flynn was handed a three-year, $26 million deal on the strength of two career starts.
Granted, in those two starts, the former Green Bay quarterback threw for 734 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 67.9 percent of his passes. But it's still a very small sample size, and it remains to be seen what Flynn can do with the weight of the starting job on his shoulders.
So with two corners already set for a training camp battle, coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks organization decided to add another. In the third round of the draft in April, Seattle selected Russell Wilson, the Third Team All-American out of the University of Wisconsin.
After three good but not great seasons at North Carolina State, Wilson had transferred to Wisconsin for his final year of eligibility and immediately lit up the Big Ten. Were it not for two Hail Marys by Michigan State and Ohio State that dashed the Badgers' title hopes, Wilson likely would have been a Heisman finalist.
As it was, he threw for 3,175 yards with 31 touchdowns to only four interceptions. His quarterback rating of 191.8 led the nation, and his completion percentage of 72.8 percent was third overall. He also rushed for 338 yards and six touchdowns.
The rub, however, is that Wilson is not a big guy. Actually, he's rather small for a quarterback. At the NFL Combine, he was measured at 5-foot-11 and 203 pounds. By way of comparison, Drew Brees — the poster boy for small quarterbacks at the moment — is an even six-feet tall and weighs 209 pounds. Doug Flutie, the former poster boy for small quarterbacks, was 5-foot-10 and weighed 180 pounds.
One of those guys is a record-setting Pro Bowler. The other one is a college football and CFL legend, and decent NFL quarterback. The Seahawks don't yet know what Wilson will be, but considering their current situation, it made sense to roll the dice on him.
So, to recap, the Seahawks now face a three-way choice between a proven mediocre quarterback whose best year didn't even put him in the top two-thirds at his position that season, an unproven quarterback who is being paid nearly $9 million per year over the next three years based only on a pair of stellar starts and a late-blooming rookie who is shorter than Drew Brees.
Whoever wins — and reports suggest that Flynn has the inside track — will be inheriting an intriguing corps of wide receivers, led by veteran Sidney Rice and the emerging Doug Baldwin, as well as Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, assuming he dodges being suspended for a DUI charge. And it's very important for Seattle's coaches to make the correct decision, because the NFC West is a great division to be in as far as earning a playoff berth goes.
The Cardinals and the Rams are nothing to write home about, combining for a 10-22 record in 2011. Even the 49ers, who made it to the NFC Championship last season, are a question mark.
Will Jim Harbaugh avoid a sophomore slump? How will Alex Smith follow up his breakout season? It's no secret San Francisco was gunning for Peyton Manning before he signed with Denver, so the trust in Smith can't be rock-solid. Not to mention, their record last year may have been just as much a product of the second-weakest schedule in the NFL as their strength as a team.
Make no mistake, San Francisco is a good team. But they aren't unbeatable.
So if Seattle makes the right choice at quarterback, they could easily be looking at a possible playoff berth. Make the wrong choice, and they likely squander what could have been a great opportunity to make some noise out West.
In all likelihood, the winner will be Flynn. Seattle didn't throw $26 million his way so that he could hold a clipboard on the sidelines — or at least, one would hope they didn't do that. He's proven that he at least has the potential to be a good NFL quarterback, which is more than Jackson can say five years into his own career. It's too early to tell exactly where Wilson fits in, but it would not be surprising to see him ahead of Jackson on the depth chart when camp breaks.
In any event, the face-off between the mediocre veteran, the largely unproven big-name signee and the undersized rookie is nothing if not entertaining. Just because you don't hear about it blared across the TV and Internet doesn't mean it's not worth a watch.
Photo via Facebook/Seattle Seahawks
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