Seattle Seahawks – What If Pete Carroll Didn’t Expect Russell Wilson To Be Great?

We know Pete Carroll can build teams, and we know he can win at every level of the sport of football. But can he pick quarterbacks? He was known for recruiting great QBs in college, but at the pro level, he has a poor track record – other than Russell Wilson. 

Here is the timeline of QBs selected by Pete Carrol from 2010-2012

2010 – traded for Charlie Whitehurst and signed JP Losman

2011 – signed Tarvaris Jackson 

2012 – signed Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson 

You may have noticed a trend, but in case you didn’t, here it is – Pete really likes backups with upside a lot more than he likes established starters. Established stars are expensive, and Pete likes building teams more than he likes maintaining them. 

On the flip side, here are the highlights of other players he drafted, signed, or traded for from his first day in 2010 to the season leading up to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history:

2010 – traded for RB Marshawn Lynch and DE Chris Clemons, drafted FS Earl Thomas, WR Golden Tate, CB Walter Thurmond, and SS Kam Chancellor.

2011 – drafted LB KJ Wright, CB Richard Sherman, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Malcolm Smith, and signed WR Doug Baldwin.

2012 – drafted LB Bruce Irvin, LB Bobby Wagner, and CB Jeremy Lane.

2013 – traded for WR Percy Harvin, signed DE Michaell Bennett and DE Cliff Avril, drafted TE Luke Willson.

There’s no denying Pete knows how to draft starters on defense, and he knows how to get the right players on the team, so there is always quality depth. Nearly every position has had quality depth – other than QB. Pete’s draft in 2010 could have won him executive of the year honors, and that’s saying something. But he didn’t get any good QBs that year. 

Going back to his USC days, here are the QBs Carroll recruited between 2001 and 2009 –

Matt Leinart 

John David Booty

Tyler Davis

Mark Sanchez

Aaron Corp

Matt Barkley 

Of those six players, four of them made a name for themselves on a national level, and three of them won at least one New Year’s Day bowl game – which is how college careers are ultimately ranked. That’s a 4-2 track record in nearly a decade, and if Corp didn’t get hurt every year, he could have been another collegiate great.  

So what has been the problem at the NFL level – why can’t Carroll pick NFL passers that are great? He has a 1-4 record before 2013 and has gone 0-4 since with the two QBs on the roster this year still making a case for themselves. He’s 1-8 in more than a decade in Seattle picking QBs. Even if one of the QBs he has currently worked out, he’s just 2-8. 

2016 Signed Trevone Boykin

2017 Signed Austin Davis

2018 Signed Brett Hundley

2019 Signed Geno Smith

2021 Signed Jacob Eason 

2022 Traded for Drew Lock

How sure are we that Pete had a good feeling about Russ – what if he just thought he was getting a decent QB and not the QB? He thought Matt Flynn was a good starter during the same spring of 2012; how can you look at Flynn and think there’s our guy (pay him whatever he wants!), then draft Wilson a month later and also think, “We got our guy”? The most likely scenario is that Pete intended for Wilson to develop into a decent backup, maybe even a starter at some point; it’s very unlikely Pete thought Russ was going to be their QB of the future. 

After drafting Russ, Pete was quoted saying he thinks Wilson can be a great player and commented on Wilson’s success at each previous level before arriving in Seattle. Fun fact – in Wilson’s final season at NC State in 2010 before transferring to Wisconsin, he dueled with West Virginia sophomore QB Geno Smith, with Wilson’s side prevailing 23-7. 

Carroll was excited once he had Wilson on the roster, but let’s not assume he thought he had an all-time great on the field. Pete is an excitable guy, he praises everyone, so we can’t take his positivity toward the rookie Wilson as a fact. It could be he just liked Wilson more than the other QBs he had seen on the field in recent years. It’s possible he saw something special in Wilson, but he must have also liked what he saw in many other players. 

Pete must not like Geno Smith enough to call him the QB of the future, as he has made Smith play on one-year deals each of the last four seasons. He saw the issue with paying one player mega money and how it impaired his ability to build a good team around him while other franchises capitalized on a young QB still playing out their first deal. He included Lock in the trade with Denver that sent Wilson to his second NFL home, so he might just like having many options. 

It’s possible he saw something special in Wilson even before they drafted him, but it’s also possible Wilson was just a special player and outplayed his deal. Pete Carroll is all about the concept of team, so for him to think a guy like Wilson would be as impactful as a guy like Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, or Kam Chancellor? That’s not ridiculous, but it’s not likely, either. 

Pete might have liked what he saw in Russ, but he more than likely got very lucky with the player Wilson turned out to be. If Carroll really saw something special in Wilson, you have to wonder what he is looking at when he watches the other QBs he has brought in. It’s possible he saw something, but it’s more likely he saw a guy that could compete, not someone that would storm his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

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About Casey Mabbott 223 Articles
Casey Mabbott is a writer and podcast host born and raised in West Philadelphia where he spent most of his days on the basketball court perfecting his million dollar jumpshot. Wait, no, that’s all wrong. Casey has spent his entire life here in the Pacific NorthWest other than his one year stint as mayor of Hill Valley in an alternate reality 1985. He’s never been to Philadelphia, and his closest friends will tell you that his jumpshot is the farthest thing from being worth a million bucks. Casey enjoys all sports and covering them with written words or spoken rants. He has made an art of movie references, and is a devout follower of 80's movies and music. I don't know why you would to, but you can probably find him on the street corner waiting for the trolley to take him to the stadium or his favorite pub, where he will be telling people the answers to questions they don’t remember asking. And it only goes downhill from there if he drinks. He’s a real treat.