Should The Seahawks Consider Trading Russell Wilson?

Short answer:  no.

Slightly longer answer:  absolutely not.

Slightly longer answer with profanity:  go fuck yourself.

Just so you know where I stand.  But, seeing as we’re knee-deep in a Seahawks-less playoffs, we’re weeks and weeks away from Spring Training nonsense, and the college football season is officially in the rearview mirror, it’s an interesting thought exercise to play around with.

We all know the reason why you would NOT trade Russell Wilson:  he’s a franchise quarterback, in his prime; he’s a proven winner with one title under his belt and almost a second one; you know if you put proper talent around him, he can take you to where you want to go.  He’s young, healthy (aside from that one season), still mobile, has a strong arm, is usually pretty safe with the rock, usually makes good decisions, and is generally lights out in the fourth quarter and overtime.  Also, it’s abundantly clear how difficult it is in the NFL to find a franchise quarterback and nuture his talents so that he reaches his full potential, so when you have one still in his prime, you don’t give him away!  You pay whatever it takes to keep him around, and deal with the roster fallout accordingly!

This is all simple, basic, NFL 101 stuff here.  So, again, would I trade Russell Wilson?  Not unless I’m guaranteed to get another franchise quarterback in return.

But, you know, he’s not perfect.  There’s always been flaws or weaknesses in his game, and those came to the forefront in 2017, particularly in December when the team completely fell apart.  He doesn’t do well with pressure up the middle.  With teams frequently gameplanning around keeping him in the pocket, all they have to do is bully our overmatched interior linemen and Wilson just crumbles.  Why is that?  Well, because he’s not 6’3 and can’t see over these guys!  It also takes him WAY too long to get going.  If the Seahawks could just jump out to regular 2-score leads and let the defense sit on opposing offenses, we’d be a MUCH better team!  All too often, it’s the other way around, and the Seahawks’ offense doesn’t start getting going until the second half, or the 4th quarter in particularly brutal cases.  Part of that is Wilson not being as accurate early in games.  Part of that is Wilson saving his legs until the team absolutely needs him to tuck the ball and run.  There may be other reasons on top of it, but it almost exclusively falls on the quarterback play (with nods to a crappy offensive line, and suspect play-calling).  For the Seahawks to succeed, the team needs (a running game) to gameplan early to get Wilson going.  The new offensive coordinator needs to bring in quick, easy throws, to get him converting short third downs and keep the chains moving.

Any discussion about trading Russell Wilson has to include what we’d get in return.  And, honestly, there aren’t a lot of comparable trades to reference here, because again, teams don’t trade franchise quarterbacks in their prime!  You generally see guys either past their prime (Brett Favre to the Jets, Joe Montana to the Chiefs, Drew Bledsoe to the Bills), on their way up (Trent Green to the Chiefs, Brad Johnson to the Redskins, Rob Johnson to the Bills, Jeff George to the Falcons) or with injury concerns (Sam Bradford to the Vikings, Carson Palmer to the Raiders).  One interesting comp is the Jeff George deal, where the Colts netted a 1st and 3rd, as well as a 2nd rounder that converted to a 1st rounder based on performance.  Carson Palmer’s trade to the Raiders was another interesting case, because he ostensibly WAS in the prime of his career.  It wasn’t a great career, but he put up a lot of numbers and was essentially the face of the Bengals’ franchise.  The Bengals got a 1st and a 2nd round pick, but their hands were tied.  Palmer was threatening retirement if he didn’t get traded, and it doesn’t sound like the market was willing to over-pay for someone whose heart might not be in it.

I guess the closest comp I could find was the Jay Cutler trade from Denver to Chicago.  Cutler and a 5th round pick went to the Bears for two 1st rounders, a 3rd rounder, and Kyle Orton.  Right here, I think you’re in the ballpark.  I think any trade for Wilson has to start with two 1st rounders, and one of them better be in the Top 10.  There’s any number of ways you can add on from here.  Would you take three 1st rounders?  Let’s say the Jets – currently drafting 6th – offered three 1st rounders (this year’s 6th and the next two first rounders), would you take it?  I’m not sure I would, but you’d have to think about it, right?  For what it’s worth, I don’t know if I’m totally in love with this draft class of NFL quarterbacks, so this thought exercise might be pointless; but maybe you love the top three guys, and you work your magic to move up from 6th to 3 (trading with Indy, who won’t need to draft a QB) and take whoever’s left over.

If it’s me, I think if you’re in the market to trade Wilson, you let it be known (quietly), but that you’re not in a hurry to cut and run.  Listen to offers, but be secure at the end of the day with keeping Wilson and having a long and fruitful career with him.  In that sense, I think you wait until some team over-pays.  One of these Top 10 drafting teams who need a quarterback, I think you squeeze a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2018, and another 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2019.  Something like that.  You sign a Josh McCown for a year or two and you use those picks to draft a QB of the future you can mold, as well as fill in the roster around him with extremely talented young players.  Get a stud running back, get a stud offensive tackle, get a badass defensive back, get another solid pass rusher.

Also, if it’s me, I’m only dealing with AFC teams.  Fortunately, the AFC stinks, and is full of idiot owners and general managers, so this shouldn’t be a problem.  Why the Browns aren’t offering the Seahawks the moon and the stars is beyond me.  If they offered the Seahawks all their first and second round picks this year (1st overall, 4th overall, and three 2nd rounders – including two at the very top of the 2nd) straight up for Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks do that in a heartbeat and I think I’d do that too.  It’s crazy, of course, because that trade would never happen …

Or would it?

Jim Plunkett is best known as a 2-time Super Bowl champion of the early-80s Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.  However, he was a #1 overall draft pick of the New England Patriots back in 1971.  After five pretty mediocre seasons as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for three 1st rounders, a 2nd rounder, and a player.  That was after a season full of injuries and being benched in favor of a rookie!  So, it’s not like Plunkett was in Russell Wilson’s league when this deal went down.  And yet, the 49ers paid and paid handsomely, because they were a struggling franchise with a moron owner/general manager.  And, that’s just it.  Bad teams make terrible decisions all the time.  Would the Browns over-pay for someone like Russell Wilson, to have him come in and be the savior of the franchise?  It wouldn’t shock me one bit.

But, again, as I’ve said repeatedly, unless the deal was crazy insane bonkers in our favor, I’m not trading a franchise quarterback in his prime.  There’s a way to turn this thing around without going to such extremes.

The Importance Of Drafting “The Right Quarterback”

I was reading something about the Vikings last week.  As you may or may not know, they cleaned house over the last few weeks and are now looking to start over.  The GM was in place, but the head coach is brand new, and it looks like the quarterback position is going to get a once-over.  In this article I read, it was mentioned that they “need to find the right quarterback”.  I don’t know why, but that particular phrase stood out to me.

What is the “right quarterback”?  I would suggest it’s the quarterback that takes you to – and hopefully WINS – the Super Bowl.  Now, does it matter how you get that quarterback?  Actually, it does.

This latest Super Bowl is one of those rare exceptions of a game that didn’t feature a matchup of quarterbacks who were drafted by their respective teams.  Russell Wilson was, but Peyton Manning wasn’t.  In looking backward, you’ll notice a trend; among Super Bowl participants, the overwhelming majority drafted “the right quarterback” and rode him all the way to the end.

  • Baltimore/San Francisco – Yes/Yes
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes (technically no, but he was traded on Draft Day by San Diego)/Yes
  • Green Bay/Pittsburgh – Yes/Yes
  • New Orleans/Indianapolis – No/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Arizona – Yes/No
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes/Yes
  • Indianapolis/Chicago – Yes/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Seattle – Yes/No
  • New England/Philadelphia – Yes/Yes

In the last ten Super Bowls, you’re looking at only 4 teams who didn’t draft their quarterbacks.  Three of those teams – Denver, Arizona, and New Orleans – picked up future Hall of Famers via free agency (the 2005 Seahawks, of course, had Hasselbeck, who we picked up in trade from Green Bay, where he was drafted while Holmgren was still their head coach).

So, when Minnesota talks about “finding the right quarterback”, they mean “drafting the right quarterback”.  And, since there’s no time like the present, you can expect them to draft one this May, in the hopes that they will have found the next Russell Wilson or Joe Flacco or Aaron Rodgers.

Obviously, the quarterback doesn’t do it all.  But, it’s next-to-impossible to get where you want to go without one.  That’s why we REALLY need to sit back and appreciate just how rare of a find Russell Wilson is.  I’m not even talking about the fact that he’s a 3rd round pick (though, that is amazing in and of itself); I’m just talking about the fact that the Seahawks found a quarterback of his calibre at all!

It’s absolutely no coincidence that the Seahawks finally won their first Super Bowl only after they found their franchise quarterback.  Dating back to the 1992 season (where free agency coalesced into the free agency we more-or-less know today), there have been only six Super Bowl winning teams that did NOT draft their quarterback:

  • 1994 49ers
  • 1996 Packers
  • 1999 Rams
  • 2000 Ravens
  • 2002 Bucs
  • 2009 Saints

Again, you’re talking about four of those teams who managed to pick up current or future Hall of Famers (Steve Young, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, & Drew Brees), with the other two teams featuring a couple of the best defenses of the last generation.  Literally anyone, living or dead, could have quarterbacked those 2000 Ravens to a Championship.

But, look at that!  16 of the last 22 NFL Champions somehow lucked into their quarterback via the draft.  And, just because I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back and checked out every single Super Bowl winner.  Of the 48 NFL Champions, 36 drafted their quarterbacks.  Among the notable champions who weren’t drafted by their Super Bowl-winning teams are Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas (both originally drafted by the Steelers of all teams), Jim Plunkett (twice a champion for the Raiders), Joe Theismann and Doug Williams (both champions with the Redskins).

I don’t know what the point of this post is, other than to emphasize how much of a crapshoot it all is.  When you’ve tried and failed to craft a championship football team for decades upon decades, it can really feel hopeless.  You tend to question every single move your team has ever made and every single move they make going forward.  Then, in an instant, all of that changes.  You don’t know it right away, of course; think back to where you were when Russell Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in April of 2012.  You surely didn’t think, “That’s it!  We’re going to win a Super Bowl within two years!”

Yet, here we are.  And, the best part?  When you win so early, there are always opportunities for multiple.  In looking back at past winners, you’ll notice a lot of repeating names:

  • Starr
  • Staubach
  • Griese
  • Bradshaw
  • Montana
  • Aikman
  • Elway
  • Brady
  • Roethlisberger
  • Eli Manning

Those ten quarterbacks account for over half (26) of the 48 Super Bowl champions.  Only Jim Plunkett has managed to win more than one Super Bowl while not being drafted by the team that won them.  I think that says a lot.  About how lucky the Seahawks are, for starters.  And about how important it is to find your guy and cultivate him from Day 1.  The right quarterback can immediately turn around a franchise.  That means recognizing what you have and not giving him away.  That means building around him to put him in the best position to succeed.

And that means, if you’re currently a franchise in need, don’t try to go for the quick fix by picking up some doofus off the street.  I can all but guarantee the Chiefs, for instance, will never win a championship with Alex Smith at the helm.  That says nothing of Smith’s abilities.  That’s just playing the percentages.  The only chance you have to succeed through free agency is to obtain a future Hall of Famer, and what are the odds of that?  As I said before, if you’re smart, you hang onto those guys for dear life.  So, in reality, you have to be EXTREMELY lucky.  Even luckier than you have to be to just draft the right guy in the first place.

The Best Players On The Worst Teams, Part III: Seattle Seahawks

Part I – Felix Hernandez

Part II – Other Seattle Mariners

The single greatest travesty in Seattle sports history might be the fact that Steve Largent never had a chance to win a Super Bowl.  Largent joined the team in its first year of existence, 1976.  The team had a winning record in only its third season, but didn’t make the playoffs until 1983.  That was the year the Seahawks beat the Elway-led Broncos and the Marino-led Dolphins, but ended up losing to the Plunkett-led Raiders in the AFC title game.

That would be the closest Largent ever made it to the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks returned to the playoffs the following year, losing in the second round.  Then, the Seahawks cracked a Wild Card spot in ’87 & ’88, but lost in the first round both times.  Largent retired after the 1989 season with only four playoff appearances under his belt and a 3-4 record in those playoffs.  His Seahawks teams, in the regular season, were a remarkably mediocre 103-109.  They passed on such studs as John Elway & Dan Marino in the 1983 draft and were rewarded with a very-good running back in Curt Warner who was also very injury prone.  I’m sure there were other studs along the way that this team missed out on, which rendered Largent’s career a little lacking.  He was the greatest wide receiver of all time when he retired (to be surpassed by Art Monk and later Jerry Rice) and he certainly deserved better.

***

The other Hall of Fame Seahawk had a tougher go of it while he was here.  Cortez Kennedy played 11 seasons, all in Seattle, and he was the finest defensive tackle I’ve ever seen play the game.  He was drafted with the #3 overall pick in 1990 and made an immediate impact on this team.  Unfortunately, he was the ONLY player who made an impact on this team, as the early 90s were Seattle’s darkest period.

Like Largent, Kennedy’s Seahawks were also remarkably mediocre, with a 76-100 record.  Unlike Largent, Kennedy’s Seahawks would only see the playoffs one time.  In Kennedy’s tenth season in the league, as his career was winding down, he was playing for his fourth head coach.  Fortunately, this coach was future Hall of Famer Mike Holmgren.  With a 9-7 record, the Seahawks won the AFC West and hosted a Wild Card round game.  What should have been a nice little story out of the Pacific Northwest turned into the Trace Armstrong Show as he got three sacks and killed our chances at a late-game comeback.  This game ended up being the last victory in Dan Marino’s storied career (as the Dolphins would go on to get destroyed by Jacksonville the following week, 62-7), but it was also the last and only taste of the post-season for Cortez Kennedy.

Tez played the 2000 season, but by this point he was just a shell of his former self.  He ended up retiring (after the team decided to not re-sign him, and after other teams decided they didn’t want to give him a chance) with an 0-1 record in the playoffs.

***

Jim Zorn definitely falls into the Steve Largent realm of Seattle greats without much success.  Zorn was supplanted by Dave Krieg in the 1983 season, having participated in just three playoff games (but only playing significant minutes in just the one game, the loss to the Raiders in the AFC title game).

Dave Krieg is less-deserving, as he finished his career with the Chiefs and Lions and made the playoffs with both teams.  Besides that, Krieg really stunk up the joint in that AFC Title game (0 TDs & 3 INTs) and I never much cared for him anyway.  Me and my family always liked to make fun of his small hands and his fumble-prone ways.  Suffice it to say, the Taylors don’t revere the man like most of the rest of Seattle seems to (revisionist thinking at its finest; Krieg was a bum).

Toss Kenny Easley into the pile.  He played in one less playoff game than Largent, but his hard-luck ways were due more to his injuries preventing him from being one of the all-time greatest safeties.  Jacob Green was the finest and most-durable defensive end in Seahawks history, and he shares in the woes of those teams in the 80s.  Eugene Robinson WOULD appear on this list, except he went on to great success with the Packers (his Super Bowl-day arrest while playing with the Falcons notwithstanding).

Brian Blades is the last name on this list.  He was drafted in the 2nd round in 1988 and went on to become the second-greatest wide receiver in team history.  Blades played in 11 seasons, all with Seattle.  Yet, his only playoff appearance took place in his rookie year of 1988, where the Seahawks lost in the Wild Card round to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Blades caught 5 balls for 78 yards (while Largent caught only 2 for 17), which represented a passing of the torch from one legend to another.  Nevertheless, those 5 balls were the only ones he would catch in the post-season.  He retired after the 1998 season and missed out on all the greatness this franchise would have after the turn of the century.

***

For the record, I’m not including any of the players who were featured on those great Holmgren teams.  Let’s face it, if you were involved in five consecutive playoff appearances, no one is feeling sorry for you.  You had your chances, including a Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2005 season.  Those teams were great, and so it’s hard to lament guys like Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, and Matt Hasselbeck.  They were truly great players, but they were also on great teams.  And, if I wanted to list all the Seahawks who never won a Super Bowl, this post would be a million words long.