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The russel wilson effect (

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  • The russel wilson effect (

    RENTON, Wash. -- With music blaring, the energy from the practice field is nearly as loud as the tunes. Pete Carroll has always been a high-octane guy who warmly welcomes all competition, and the Seattle Seahawks have assumed the form of their fourth-year coach.

    Veterans who should be secure fear being cut. Rookies know they have a chance to start. In the gorgeous setting around the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, everything is placid -- except for the action on the field. Seattle is ready for Act 2 after playing a breakout role in 2012.

    Here are five things I learned during my day in Renton:

    1) The decision to start Russell Wilson has left its mark: The Seahawks' 2012 campaign began with a stunning move, as Carroll announced that Wilson -- and not free-agent signee Matt Flynn -- would be his starting quarterback. For most of us who hadn't watched the competition day in and day out, it was beyond explanation. "The fact that you guys didn't see it (made it a surprise)," Carroll told me. "The conventional wisdom was you'd never do that. But he's that good. And we could tell. He still has to go out and do it and prove it." Yes, he is that good. Wilson clearly established himself as one of the pillars of the franchise's future last season, guiding the Seahawks to an 11-5 mark and falling just short of the NFC Championship Game. Looking back on the move, Carroll said, "The bad thing would've been to not name Russell, because he was the guy. He won the job." Who cares that he was an unproven rookie? He earned it. A year later, this mentality is not lost on players. They know this: Everyone's job is simultaneously in jeopardy and attainable. One secure veteran recently went to his position coach and innocently asked if he's on the roster bubble. Meanwhile, 25-year-old corner Walter Thurmond knows he has a chance at the nickel job, despite the Seahawks signing 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield in free agency. The message is loud and clear: The depth chart is completely fluid. This is the way Carroll has always done it, but the Wilson decision really hammered home his unwavering devotion to open competition. "There comes a time when you have opportunities to really demonstrate that," Carroll said. "That was one of the best ones." The result is a stronger team with players who know they have to perform on a daily basis.
    This is one thing of Pete Caroll's way of doing things that I actually like. Pure meritocracy. The one who does his job best gets the playing time. No favoring veterans just because they're veterans. Not only does it motivate rookies and their depth to push for greater accomplishment, but it also motivates the established starters to keep pushing to keep their job. And it works. His coaching was able to overcome Brees and the Saints in the playoffs with Matt freaking Hasselbeck under center.

    Of course, the Seahawks scheme is completely different than the Giants, so this philosophy probably couldn't be implemented wholesale here, but allowing more open compeition couldn't hurt. If the fans know that the best possible player available in a given position is starting, they won't call for the backup so easily because they know the team has fielded the best possible players. If the Giants followed that philosophy, Diehl would have started the season on the bench and probably never get hurt, only seeing playing time once Locklear went down, Tracy would have had a legitimate crack at possibly obtaining playing time, and so would Williams and Paysinger much earlier in the season than they did. Not to mention our own Wilson wouldn't have been practically locked away for fumbling ONE FREAKING TIME, while Bradshaw gets multiple passes at fumbling without ever losing his start. I don't know if that would have made a difference at making the playoffs or not given the rash of injuries we had late in the season, but it couldn't have hurt...

    I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite team in the NFL.