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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

October 2, 2012 at 6:15 AM

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Reading between the lines: Pete Carroll and his quarterbacks

Question at quarterback? Not for Pete Carroll: Russell Wilson ready for breakthrough
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times

Quarterback was the biggest topic of discussion in coach Pete Carroll's press conference Monday.

Actually quarterbacks, plural, as the coach was interrogated about Matt Flynn's health and Russell Wilson's performance.

We've applied the patented Pete Carroll Translator here on the blog to help make some sense of it, providing his verbatim answers followed by a description of what the coach (may have) meant. Now keep in mind that translating Carroll-ese is an inexact science, and the translator has been known to take some liberties.

Q: Can you clarify Matt Flynn's status? Is he still injured?

What Carroll said: "Matt has been the backup throughout this time ever since we came out of camp. Back then, right at the last preseason game, he had a sore elbow, and so when Russell took over, we gave him all the turns that we could give him, and in that, he took all the work. So Matt hasn't had a lot of work, and we've hoped that it would help the elbow situation. He has never thrown a lot in any of the practices."

What Carroll meant: We don't think he's hurt anymore, but then again, given how little we ask him to throw in practice, we really don't know for sure what would happen if we dialed up his workload. Maybe his elbow gets sore again. Maybe his arm catches fire. Or maybe -- probably -- he'd be completely fine.

What Carroll said: "He's done the things we've asked him to do. We've counted on him to play in every game. We haven't had a third quarterback on the roster because Matt can play, but we have had a pitch count for him in a sense and made sure that we didn't work him past where we thought it was the right way to do it."

What Carroll meant: You want to know why our backup quarterback wasn't on the injury report? Because our backup quarterback didn't have an injury that prevented him from doing what a backup quarterback does in practice, which isn't all that much. He was the backup, and if he was really hurt, don't you think we'd have brought another quarterback in here or at least put Josh Portis on the active roster? Michael Robinson may have played quarterback at Penn State, but he hasn't been under center in a hot minute. Flynn was -- and is -- available as a backup.

Q: Has there been any setback?

What Carroll said: "No. We just have not gone beyond the numbers that we've been throwing. So he has been at every practice, he's been available to us and all. But Russell gets all but every snap, and Josh Portis has played a lot for us as our service-team quarterback."

What Carroll meant: A setback? We don't ask him to throw enough in practice for there to have been a setback.

Q: If Russell was unavailable, would you have any concern about how much Flynn could do?

What Carroll said: "We haven't done that yet. I don't know that. I don't know what would happen. I don't know. I don't know if it would act up or not because he hasn't had to do that yet. He was OK after the Packer week when we increased throws then."

What Carroll meant: I didn't say he couldn't handle that. I think he can, but I'd be stupid if I wasn't concerned about the impact of a full workload considering his arm came up sore after three weeks of splitting practice repetitions in training camp, and just to be clear, I'm not stupid. So in case you missed the fact that there's a bit of uncertainty, I said the words "I don't know" four times in four sentences.

Q: So is that injury a determining factor on whether or not you would make a switch at quarterback?What Carroll said: "No, Matt's ready to play. Matt's ready to play. We just don't know what's going to happen when he gets a lot of work, the load of work. He might be all right, we don't know that, but we have not taken him there yet. But no, he's ready to play in every game and he's ready to go in the very next play if we need him. So the competition goes on in my mind as it does in every position on our football team. Our guys continue to compete, but he has not had the opportunity because we give the starter all the reps, and with a young guy, first time, we're giving him every single snap we can. That's how this has gone throughout."

What Carroll meant: We're starting Russell Wilson because Russell Wilson earned the starting job, and not because Flynn had a bum wing, OK? And remember all the hand wringing about how the starter was not getting all the practice reps in training camp? Well, he's getting all of them now, OK.

Q: So you feel like Wilson is the best option at this point?

What Carroll said: "Sure. Yeah. We're going with Russell right now. He's working his tail off to get it right, and where all of the focus that goes to the quarterback position, there's a lot of guys that figure into what's going on, and he's one of them. So we're just trying to get better."

What Carroll meant: You're very lucky I don't wear a W.W.B.D. wrist band (What Would Belichick Do). Not everyone would have the restraint to not ladle some sarcasm over that response.

Q: How did you evaluate Russell's game on Sunday in St. Louis?

What Carroll said: "He did some really good things in the game. Again, his completion percentage is up there. The throws that got away from us, the three turnovers were huge in the game, but all three of them were situations that he kind of, he couldn't do a whole lot about. The ball could've been a little sharper on the throw to Doug. He could've gotten the ball off earlier on the blitz situation when he got hit, but the protection did break down there. Then unfortunately, Anthony fell down on the breakout route late in the game. He was throwing the ball right to him and he slipped and fell. You can't do much about that one. So all of them were, he wasn't sloppy with it. He didn't miss his reads. In particular, there wasn't a big mistake. He wasn't careless with the ball at all. He hasn't been at any time."

What Carroll meant: Oh, you saw he had three interceptions. Me, too. The stat sheet isn't exactly a trade secret. I know I'm kind of a tyrant about the turnovers, and we had three of them. Normally, I'd be looking to nail somebody's hindparts to a wall, but I'm not going to make Russell wear a scarlet letter for it. Not this week. These weren't entirely his fault. They weren't even mostly his fault. He could've made some better decisions, but if I had to count up 99 problems from Sunday, Wilson being cavalier with the football was not one.

Q: Did you find Russell overlooking open receivers?

What Carroll said: "Certainly on the scramble. The one we all want back is the one to Zach. He had a chance to dump the ball to Zach and he throws to Sidney in the back end. The way that turned out, that would have been an easy play, I think, for Zach to make. And he had a shot to Sidney, too, in the backline, but it was easier. That would have been a much easier chance to make a touchdown, I think, there. That's the one that I think we're regretting most of all because it could've changed the game."

What Carroll meant: Looks like somebody watched the game over and over on Sunday night trying to pick out every open opportunity our quarterback didn't see. Well, first of all, let's remember our quarterback can't pause and rewind. Also, he did complete 68 percent of his throws so it's not like he was so determined to rifle the ball up into Row 3 that he overlooked three wide open guys. Not saying he was perfect, though, and if I'm going to be honest about it there was one play where I got a little incredulous. I mean, how does he not see Zach Miller on that third-quarter play, third-and-4 from the St. Louis 12. Wilson rolled to his right, escaped Rams defensive end Chris Long. Zach Miller was being covered by Courtland Finnegan. At least he was until Finnegan left Miller and came charging at Russell, who should have seen Miller wide open not 5 yards away from him. He didn't. He threw to Sidney Rice in the back of the end zone missing high. So no, Wilson was not perfect. But let's not get carried away with this whole idea that he can't see the opportunities right in front of him as he completed two passes for every one he didn't.

Q: You've been pretty clear that you want this team to play solid defense, run the ball and play great special teams while giving a young quarterback time to develop. What do you look at most in determining whether you stick with the young quarterback or if you're sacrificing too much?

What Carroll said: "Well, there's a lot of stuff, you know. We want to make sure we're doing the things we're asking him to do, which he is. He's working really hard at it. We want to see what the success is, you know? We want to see what the results are. We've played all of these games, here's a first-time starter, he has been in every game and had a chance to win 'em. He's won one of them, and two of them got away from us at the end there. He gets all of the credit and the attention for that. We all contribute to that and those situations. But he's not far off from being really, really successful right now as a leader in that position. So we just have to assess everything that's going on."

What Carroll meant: We're 2-2, right? I know when we lost the season-opener, everyone started talking about an 0-3 start, but we've won twice since then and while one of those came courtesy of a dubious call, the other one was a soup-to-nuts thrashing of Dallas.

And those two games we did lose? We had the ball in the opponent's half of the field with a shot to win at the end.

Of the five rookies starting in this league, two of them have two victories, and our guy is one of them. Not only that, but he's only going to get better.

So can we stop with the wringing of hands for just a little bit because this is more like a starting point than finished product. We're 2-2 after playing one-quarter of our games, and I think you can see that if our quarterback improves -- which it's reasonable to expect he will -- then we're going to be in great position to make something out of this season.

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