|Ted S. Warren/Associated Press|
|Pete Carroll encourages competition at every position, making the Seattle Seahawks an intriguing team to watch.|
With less than two weeks until the first game of the 2012 NFL season, I'm ready to officially declare the most fascinating team in the NFL.
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting your never-boring, tradition-bucking, maverick-thinking, wild-man haven in the great Northwest.
Let's see how this reads. The 2012 Seattle Seahawks are the most fascinating team in the NFL. No, really.
The head coach is a free spirit, a USC legend trying to prove the old college try works in the pros. Have a problem off the field and some talent? There's a place for you in a new, zany Seahawks uniform. The third preseason game is the one that shapes the season, eh? The most fascinating team in the NFL starts a rookie backup and punches conventional wisdom in the face.
Is this a six-win team? A 10-win team? A late entry in the Seattle penal league? Let's examine.
The "cool" quarterback situation
Seahawks general manager John Schneider is one of my favorite people in the league. He is smart, passionate and honest. When he appeared on my SiriusXM radio show Wednesday about the quarterback situation, Schneider said, "We are in a cool place right now."
Of course he did.
When Pete Carroll declared the quarterback competition an open, three-way battle with free-agent signee Matt Flynn, rookie Russell Wilson and incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, most people figured Flynn was a shoe-in to win.
Oh, that tricky Pete Carroll.
Wilson gets the start this week in the all-important third preseason game, the one most widely used as a dress rehearsal for Week 1 of the regular season. Flynn started the first two games of the preseason. Schneider explained, "This is not about Matt Flynn. This is about Russell Wilson forcing the issue. He's been dynamic."
I love Wilson. I stumped for him the entire draft process. He was a winner in college, first at N.C. State and then at Wisconsin. The only reason he lasted until the third round was his diminutive height. But Wilson can make every throw and is a natural leader. Still, the thought process was that Flynn would play, Wilson would learn, and Jackson would be removed from the roster.
I believe in Wilson, but not as much as Schneider. After the draft, Schneider told us that he wasn't leaving without Russell Wilson, blown away by his ability and personality. If Wilson plays well, there's a very good chance he is named the starting quarterback of the Seahawks, which will be nothing short of an amazing development.
Give me your quarterback and coach killers, please
Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards? Asked about signing the wide receivers well known for their baggage, Schneider said the Seahawks were blown away with their physical tools. Carroll and Schneider went ga-ga over Owens' workout, in particular. Talent has never been the problem with these cats. Owens has a Hall of Fame résumé. He just wore out his welcome in every single stop. Edwards was let go by the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers when all three clubs needed receivers. That speaks volumes.
They've looked good in a practice, but Carroll can't get duped here. I asked Schneider if he could actually trust T.O. and Braylon to be good teammates. Schneider said, "Adam, quite honestly, we are still evaluating that."
Let's work off the safe assumption that Wilson is going to play this year. The absolute last thing you need in Seattle is Owens begging off Friday practice like he did in Buffalo, driving his coaches and quarterbacks crazy like he did in San Francisco, Dallas and Philly. The last thing you need is Edwards not finishing routes or having an issue off the field. And then you factor in ...
It's go time for Sidney Rice and Golden Tate
The injury-riddled Rice is scheduled to play this weekend, which is a major development. The Seahawks were encouraged by Rice getting popped by Earl Thomas this week in practice and bouncing back up. When healthy, he's the Seahawks' No. 1 receiver.
Schneider says Tate is having his best camp since Schneider and Carroll have been in Seattle. Tate is running better routes, improving his study habits in the film room and realizing what it takes to be a pro.
Rice has been hurt. Tate has been an enigma. But progress is being made. What does that mean for T.O. and Edwards? You never quite know what Carroll is thinking.
Hitting pause on Beast Mode
Marshawn Lynch found himself in trouble with the law, again, picked up on a DUI charge this offseason. The Seahawks are step for step with the league, knowing exactly what they will or won't do for punishment. The drama never ends in Seattle.
But credit Schneider for drafting the physical Robert Turbin. They have a backup plan. But if Lynch misses time via suspension, that's a major negative, especially with the quarterback situation. Seattle desperately needs Lynch's power and speed.
Win a street fight
Schneider always stresses that he wants a team that can "win a street fight." The Seahawks have a tough-minded defense. Thomas and Kam Chancellor are exciting young safeties. The defense has an attitude, an edge that's greater than the sum of its parts. You must respect this defense.
In the draft, Seattle shocked the world by using the 15th overall pick on the troubled but talented Bruce Irvin. In fact, Schneider proclaimed after the draft that Irvin was, "the third-best defensive player in the draft behind Mark Barron and Luke Kuechly. And the best pass rusher in the entire draft."
Whoa. It was a line and a pick straight out of the Al Davis handbook. Irvin will be under pressure to perform instantly.
Who is Pete Carroll?
Is he a good pro coach? He was run out of New York after one season with the Jets, criticized for being too lax, playing hoops with his players in his spare time. He was OK in New England, but didn't have great help picking players. Carroll put together an impressive run at USC, though it was marred by violations. He got to Seattle and handpicked Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst as his quarterback duo, a truly laughable combination and plan, not inspiring to say the least. Jackson will be jettisoned from the roster next week. Whitehurst is already long gone.
The Seahawks won the worst division in history a couple years ago at 7-9, but put an exclamation point on the season by beating the New Orleans Saints in a gigantic playoff upset. Seattle fell back last season. But it was a bizarre year, where the Seahawks won street fights against the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants and Ravens, while also beating the more talented Eagles and Bears.
Carroll has implemented the "competition at every position" plan, like he did at USC. The jury is still out on whether or not it is working. Like at USC, Carroll takes chances on guys with character issues and the jury is still out there, too.
Carroll is a great quote, a great follow on Twitter. But you can't call him a great NFL coach or talent evaluator. He has final say over the roster while working with Schneider. And that's a problem.
I'm intoxicated by Wilson. I'm confused by the approach. The Seahawks won't be boring under Carroll. But I'm not quite convinced they are going to be good. They will be a wild seven- or eight-win team.
As a not-so-wise man once said, "Get your popcorn ready."
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein