There are many derivations on the basic theme of finding and committing to a good quarterback. Or you could be like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and continuously date.
Over the weekend, Carroll announced that third-round draft pick Russell Wilson will be given the opportunity to earn the starting job. Some might view that as coachspeak, a way to promote competition.
But it's really more than that.
Wilson prompted the declaration with his impressive display in his first few days of practice as he joined fellow rookies in workouts over the weekend.
"He came in and commanded the group and you could see that," Seattle general manager John Schneider said. "It was just rookies, but you could see who was in charge. … He wasn't looking over at the coaches asking how to run the plays. He was telling people what to do."
Wilson was even more impressive on replay, when the coaches played back not only the video, but the audio part of practice (Wilson had a microphone on recording his calls). They listened to him make call after call correctly. On the rare occasion he missed either a call or a throw, he corrected the mistake right away.
All of that is good. However, as Carroll enters his third season as head coach, it also speaks volumes that Wilson could walk in one day and suddenly be in the mix to start. Yes, Wilson is an impressive athlete. Or as Schneider put it: "We thought he was too dynamic of an athlete to pass up."
But shouldn't the Seahawks have had an answer by now as to who will be their top option for a long-term successor to Matt Hasselbeck? Shouldn't there be some sense of commitment to Matt Flynn, the former Green Bay backup who was signed in free agency? Shouldn't Tarvaris Jackson get more than one season to show his ability?
"At some point, we're going to have to make that decision and that's up to Pete to find out how that's going to unfold," Schneider said. "We wanted to do it like in Green Bay, where we had a guy and we were always developing someone."
OK, but …
"Eventually you have to find someone and settle on that guy. We all realize that."
Sure, competition at positions is healthy and productive. That strategy tends to work well at most positions in football. Need a good right tackle? Having a couple of guys compete is not a bad thing. Middle linebacker? Same deal.
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But quarterback is a different animal. Quarterbacks are leaders. Quarterbacks require time and effort to develop. Quarterbacks aren't interchangeable. Dallas tried to do it more than 40 years ago with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton under coach Tom Landry. It didn't work. Dallas tried it again years later with Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh under coach Jimmy Johnson. No go.
"Coach Landry thought the quarterback just went in and executed the play the way everybody else does what they're supposed to do," Hall of Famer Staubach said. "He didn't understand that quarterback was different. It took him awhile to get that. … It got to the point where I really didn't care if it was me or not and I think Craig felt the same. Yeah, you want to play, but both of us just wanted a decision."
Fast-forward to Carroll's Seahawks. In 2010, Carroll and Seattle scratched their way to the playoffs with Hasselbeck at quarterback most of the season and Charlie Whitehurst as the backup (and potential successor).
Whitehurst didn't show much, so even when the Seahawks didn't re-sign Hasselbeck last season, they signed Jackson as a free agent. After the twinned mediocrity of Whitehurst and Jackson, the team let Whitehurst walk, signed Flynn in free agency and came back with Wilson in the draft.
That leaves the team with the Hydra Monster of Jackson, Flynn and Wilson.
"Pete is the consummate idea guy," said one person who knows him well. "He's always thinking about something and on to the next project."
Which brings everything back to the Seattle quarterback position. As Carroll enters his third season, the team is still hop-scotching from one candidate to the next faster than a night of speed dating.
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While that isn't a guarantee of failure, it's also far from an assurance of success.
And if you don't have success at quarterback, failure is likely.
"The two most important positions on any team are head coach and quarterback," Schneider said. "We have the head coach and we're working on the quarterback. … You've gotta have a quarterback who can walk in the room and command instant respect."
But sometimes you have to pick out the guy who gets that respect.
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