MINNEAPOLIS — It was ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck who was probably the first of football’s big TV thinkers to come to the conclusion that “tiny” Russell Wilson could be an NFL quarterback.
“I got the coaches’ tape on all his Wisconsin games from a year ago,” Hasselbeck told an ESPN radio audience. “I believe it was four or five games that I watched of him – and this is at a time where everyone is talking about him being 5-foot-10. I didn’t see one ball get batted down. Not a single ball got batted down.
“I was watching him the same time I was watching Ryan Tannehill, who I believe is every bit of 6-foot-3. Tannehill got like three balls batted down every game I watched.”
For the record, the Seattle Seahawks say Wilson is all of 5-foot-11, but what Hasselbeck said quite correct. For a National Football League quarterback, Wilson is tiny, but he’s not overmatched. Tom Brady is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds; Peyton Manning is 6-foot-5 230 pounds; Aaron Rodgers is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds; Philip Rivers is 6-foot-5, 228 pounds; Ben Roethlisberger is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds; Matt Ryan is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. The list goes on and on. The proto-typical pocket passer has to be at least 6-foot-2 and probably 6-foot-5. Wilson has fit in, surprisingly, with a group of people who make him look like quite out of place on an NFL field.
The Seahawks rookie quarterback out of Wisconsin via North Carolina State has not been sensational this season but he’s certainly been passable. In fact, despite all the critics who, back in the pre-season, had Matt Flynn winning the No. 1 job in Seattle, Wilson has set an NFL record in just six games at the helm. According to the NFL’s statistics department, Wilson “is the first rookie QB to throw two game-winning touchdown passes in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime since at least 1970.”
Sure, it might be an obscure mark, but it does say this: Wilson knows how to win and he knows how to keep his cool when the game is on the line.
This week, however, we’ll really find out if Wilson is the real deal or just another rookie pretender. Sure, he’s been a pleasant surprise for the first six weeks, but this week, he’s in a showdown. It’s Wilson and the Seahawks against Alex Smith and the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers at old Candlestick.
This is the week we really find out if the 5-foot-11 inch rook can handle legitimate pressure or if this is just another young man who requires the seasoning that only comes with playing regularly at the NFL level. After all, while Wilson has had some success early in his career, he’s far from being an elite quarterback.
This is a kid who is 30th in the NFL (not quite last in the league among starters) in passing yards (1,1008), 17th in passer rating (85.6), 16th in completion percentage (62.5) and 28th in attempts (152). The Seattle Seahawks have been winning because they one of the best defenses in the game – probably the two best cornerbacks so far this season – and currently sit fourth, having allowed only 294.7 yards per outing.
Trouble is, they face a mirror with experience. The San Francisco 49ers are first in team defense, having allowed only 275.8 total yards per game. They are second in pass defense (183.2 per game) and ninth in rush defense (92.7 yards per game).
No wonder the Niners are favored by seven this week. It might be a battle for first in the West, but you wouldn’t know it by the numbers.
Last week was a puzzling one for our fearless prognosticators. The Doc went 7-7 straight up last week (50-41) and was 6-8 (33-58) against the spread. The Coach almost slit his wrists, going 6-8 straight up (53-38) and 3-11 against the spread (37-54).
However, we do not quit. This week, with added resolve and more research, we get back at it for our Thursday night extravaganza.
As always, The Doc writes our rationalizations while The Coach makes pithy remarks.
THURSDAY NIGHT ON NFL NETWORK (ROGERS SPORTSNET IN CANADA):
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-2) Line: 49ers by 7
Two teams with the same record, but coming from different places. The 49ers were humiliated by the New York Football Giants at home last week while the Seahawks rallied for 14 points in the final seven minutes to stun the Patriots. The 49ers head into this one having beaten Seattle the last three times the teams have met, and no matter what kind of momentum Russell Wilson and Seattle have gained, I just can’t see San Fran losing at home twice in a row. The Coach says, “I wonder if Richard Sherman will trash talk Alex Smith after this one?”
THE DOC: TAKE THE 49ers TO WIN AND COVER.
THE COACH: TAKE THE 49ers TO WIN AND COVER.