Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't insist on selling Russell Wilson short - The Seattle Times (blog)

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson shouldn't be judged by his lack of height
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times

short QB

That was the subject line of the e-mail that arrived Tuesday. You can guess what followed: A complaint against the performance of Seattle's offense -- specifically in the red zone -- under the direction of Russell Wilson so far this season.

Never mind that Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes on Sunday, setting a franchise record for completion percentage by a rookie. Forget the fact he led the team on scoring drives of 90 and 88 yards in the second half of a 20-point victory.

While there are plenty of fans that believe we're past the point of discussing the height of Seattle's rookie quarterback, there's a whole other chunk of people who just can't get over the fact that he's 5 feet 10 5/8 inches.

It's impossible to debate or even discuss Wilson with those people for whom his height is a dealbreaker. They wouldn't have drafted him, certainly wouldn't have started him the first game of his rookie season and ascribe any less-than-perfect pass to the man's stature.

It makes for a frustrating situation because there's no way to bridge the gap, and it got me to thinking of other circumstances in which one inalterable physical characteristic was reason to dismiss a player's capability of playing the position outright.

That got me thinking about the role race has played in the assessment of quarterbacks over the years. There are some people who aren't going to be interested in this topic or angered by it. I don't think that's a reason not to write about it. I also think that in broaching an issue like race, I should fully explain my rationale.

And let me start out what I'm not saying:
รข€¢ I'm not saying that scrutinizing or even criticizing Wilson's height is tantamount to racism. They are two very different issues. Race is a social construct that I think most of us can agree has nothing more to do with someone's ability to play quarterback than his eye color while height is a valid strategic consideration in football. There are obvious logistic difficulties for a sub-6-foot a quarterback whose job entails standing behind a wall of five offensive linemen, all of whom are 6 feet 3 or taller with a bunch of snarling, carnivorous defenders trying to get to him.

Only a bigot would say that a player's race affects his ability to play quarterback, and only an idiot would assert that a quarterback's height is irrelevant in a game where size is so very important.

Where I saw the correlation between race and height was the fact that the conclusions and assumptions about that one physical trait obscured all the rest of the attributes that player may have possessed.

That one characteristic overshadowed everything else, making people blind to the potential and possibility that player may have had.

You may believe that Wilson's height will impede his career, that he won't ever be able to lead a team consistently into the playoffs simply because of the logistical challenges. And that might turn out to be true.

It also might turn out to be wrong. Maybe height isn't as important in today's NFL as it was. Maybe it was never that important. Or perhaps it is that important, but Wilson turns out to be so gifted in other areas that he's still able to succeed.

And if the preoccupation with his height makes you blind to the other assets Wilson has or the mounting list of evidence that he might not only succeed in this league, but do it quicker than anyone could have imagined, well, that's almost as close-minded as thinking that race somehow affected a quarterback's play.