Preseason Football: Russell Wilson Playing for a Starting Job at Arrowhead

By Jason Lisk

So far this preseason, it has been no contest, and now Wilson has a chance to go out and earn the opening day start for Seattle. Russell Wilson through two games: 22 of 33, 279 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, and 92 yards rushing with another touchdown. Matt Flynn: 17 of 26 for 102 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, and 6 yards rushing.

Wilson, so far, has done it with and against backups. Tonight, he gets his opportunity against first team defenders. The Chiefs are without Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis in the secondary, though Tamba Hali will be playing before serving his one game suspension.

How rare is it for a quarterback drafted outside the first two rounds to start the very first game of his rookie year? Very rare, and most often it is due to injury or other issues that forced the rookie into action, or an expansion roster offering early opportunity. Kyle Orton is the most recent in 2005 because of Rex Grossman’s injury. Mike Pagel was pressed into action in 1982 because of Art Schlicter. Mike Kirkland started for Baltimore in 1978 because of Bert Jones’ injury.

Randy Hedberg opened the season for the hapless Buccaneers in 1977, a team that had yet to win a game in their history. Jim Zorn began the season before for expansion Seattle as an undrafted rookie. Joe Ferguson started game one for the 1973 Bills [note: I didn’t have Ferguson in original post because I searched for all rookies who threw 5 or more passes on opening day, and he left with an injury after 2 passes].

In back to back seasons, the Bills started later round rookies in an opener, Dan Darragh in 1968 and James Harris started for Buffalo in 1969. Dewey Warren did the same for the expansion Bengals.

Fran Tarkenton actually didn’t start the first ever game for the Vikings, but he threw all but four passes as he came off the bench and passed for 4 touchdowns in his pro debut. Russell Wilson can only hope to mirror Tarkenton’s career as a scrambling undersized passer who moved into a lineup very quickly.

I applaud Seattle. Lots of teams would look at the price difference between signing Flynn and the cost of Wilson and go with the more expensive investment early. I don’t view it as a failure, though, even if Wilson starts over Flynn. You try to find a quarterback any way, and multiple ways, that you can. Seattle attacked it on two different fronts, and now they have competition and likely an upgrade over the position from a year ago.

[photo via US Presswire]