Duel in Miami good time to weigh Wilson against fellow rookie

November 22, 2012 

Russell Wilson is so conditioned to correctness in word and deed, it’s predictable that he dismisses having any rivalry with fellow rookie quarterbacks in the NFL.

No, he said Wednesday, he doesn’t really pay attention to how the others are doing.

He’s become friends with Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the two share genial texts. He quickly points out that this week’s Seahawks game at Miami is not a competition between the two rookies.

As much as I’d like to take his words at face value, I have to believe that in some deeper lobe of the cerebral cortex, down where indignation is stored, Wilson sees this game as a great chance for vindication.

The 6-foot-4 Tannehill was taken with the eighth overall pick in the draft, following No. 1 Andrew Luck (6-4) and No. 2 Robert Griffin III (6-2). Cleveland also took a tall quarterback at No. 22 (6-4 Brandon Weeden).

Wilson waited until the third round to be picked by the Seahawks, a lengthy delay caused not by his skills, attitude nor collegiate performance, but because of his 5-105/8 stature.

“I don’t pay attention, really,” Wilson said of the efforts of his fellow rookie quarterbacks. “I see it on ESPN or whatever and all that, but I’m so focused on our football team and what we can do and what we can control and what I can control to help our team win.”

As it turns out, Wilson can control a whole lot more than almost everybody expected. Through 10 games, Wilson has the second highest passer rating of any of the rookie quarterbacks, his 90.5 trailing only Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

He’s thrown 15 touchdown passes with eight interceptions. Tannehill has a 70.8 rating with six touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Most relevant, the Seahawks’ 6-4 record with Wilson starting is matched only by Luck’s Colts as the best among rookie starters.

This game stands as a broader referendum on the decisions made by each team. And it seems possible several quarterbacks in this game could have ended up on the other sideline this Sunday.

Early in free agency, Green Bay free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn seemed a logical fit to go with Miami, considering his relationship with new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, the former Packers offensive coordinator.

Miami was involved in the courtship, but Flynn ended up signing with the Seahawks.

And during the draft-evaluation process, the Dolphins liked what they saw of Wilson at Wisconsin, but opted to use the eighth pick in the draft on Tannehill, from Texas A&M.

The Seahawks took a long look at Tannehill, too, ultimately waiting until the 75th pick to pluck Wilson, who ended up earning the job over Flynn.

“(GM John Schneider) had a real high grade on Ryan,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He was very excited about him because he was such a good athlete. He ran the ball well, he had been a receiver. He has a terrific makeup for the position; he’s a smart kid with a real natural throwing motion … we really thought he was a very, very good prospect.”

Asked how much the Dolphins studied Wilson, Philbin went redundant, too. “Quite a bit … quite a bit,” he said. “We looked at a lot of those guys coming out, not just him … and we were certainly impressed with him, no question about it.”

Wilson’s competitive drive is manifest in his manic preparation. While the team was given last week off for the bye, Wilson returned to the practice facility Friday, Saturday and Sunday “… just to get back into the routine of things,” he said.

Judgments on the value of these rookie quarterbacks are better reserved for a time when more evidence is available.

But if Miami for some reason made a straight-up offer to swap its first-round quarterback for Seattle’s third-round quarterback, I doubt that the Seahawks would be interested.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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