There’s an argument to be made that after finishing with a losing record for the first time in the Russell Wilson era, the Seahawks need to be blown up to some degree. I think that’s where we’re headed, and I think most people are in agreement that it should be where we’re headed. But, there’s a nagging thought that 2021 was just a fluke. Russell Wilson mangled the middle finger of his throwing hand, which took him out in the middle of one game, cost him all of three more, and arguably affected him quite seriously in his first three games back following surgery. What would this season have looked like if he’d never injured the finger in the first place?
Well, for starters, in this alternate universe, that would’ve meant the Seahawks had an offensive line that was worth a damn, and was capable of keeping Aaron Donald away from our star quarterback; so right there you can tell it’s a total fantasy. Also, we know that Wilson at full health – through the first four games of the season – led the Seahawks to a 2-2 record. In the Rams game, we had a 7-3 lead at halftime, but trailed 16-7 heading into the fourth quarter. In that fateful third quarter is when Wilson got injured, but up until that point, the offense had done next to nothing productive (really outside of one touchdown drive in the second quarter, aided by more than half the yards coming on a pass interference penalty). Given the way the game was going while Wilson was healthy, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Seahawks would’ve lost to the Rams regardless, dropping our record to 2-3.
But, here’s where things get interesting: the Seahawks lost the next two games by three points each; one in Pittsburgh, in overtime, and the other at home against the Saints on Monday night. Both were exclusively Geno Smith games, where the defense managed to step up in a big way (especially against the Saints, holding them to only 13 points). Look, I’m just going to say it: Russell Wilson has to be worth more than three points per game over Geno Smith. I don’t care how ineffective the offense has looked at times (even when he’s been fully healthy). We’ll never know, of course, but I have to believe – given the way the defense stepped up starting with this stretch – that we would have won both of those games, while easily taking care of the Jags the following week (which we did anyway, with Geno, handily).
If you give the Seahawks three wins there, that improves our record to 5-3; not a bad way to head into the BYE week.
Then, we have the November swoon. In our reality, Russell Wilson returned for the Green Bay game, but the Seahawks ended up getting shut out. We also lost by 10 to the Cardinals (with Colt McCoy at the helm), and by two points to the Washington Football Team. This is where projecting hypotheticals gets tricky, because how do we quantify where to split up the blame? How much of the blame was on Wilson returning from injury too soon, and not being able to make all the throws he was supposed to make? There’s no question he was more off-target in those games than we’ve ever seen him before, and he’s since admitted that it was bothering him at times during this stretch. But, we also know that he’s Russell Wilson, and he plays the game in such a way as to try to take on more than he should. He holds out for the deep ball more than he should. He gets hit more than he should. If he just checked down and took what the defense gave him, he’d be a better quarterback.
It would be the peak of homerism to say the Seahawks would’ve been 3-0 with a fully healthy Wilson (all other things being the same), but it’s not unreasonable to believe we would’ve been 2-1. At the very least, I think we should’ve been 1-2. A 1-2 record makes us 6-5 after that stretch.
From there, things got back on track against the 49ers and Texans; hypothetically, that would’ve made us 8-5. Another loss to the Rams would’ve dropped us to 8-6, but that still would’ve had us squarely in the hunt heading into the Bears’ game. Conversely, in reality, we were 5-9 heading into the Bears game, and thoroughly knocked out of the playoff picture. You have to wonder if there was some semblance of a collective let-down heading into the Chicago game. I’ll always wonder if things might’ve been different if we had something to actually play for.
But, as mentioned before, this offense has largely been dysfunctional, with or without a healthy Wilson. So, let’s say that loss puts us at 8-7; the Lions victory still would’ve made us 9-7 heading into this past weekend. That would’ve had us squarely in the Wild Card picture over the 49ers (thanks to our season sweep over them), probably in the seventh seed.
And then, lo and behold, a victory over the 11-win Cards! That would’ve been our 10th win of the season – tied with the 49ers, who again, we beat both times we played them this year – putting us in the 6th seed of the playoffs, with a road game in Dallas next week.
Do we win that game in this scenario? Probably not. That Cowboys defense is pretty tremendous. But, I don’t think it’s insane to say that if Wilson had never injured his finger, and everything else had stayed the same, that we would’ve been a playoff team. It’s food for thought.
Obviously, there are countless other hypotheticals that could’ve come true; this is real Butterfly Effect territory we’re getting into. But, we’ve always said that the Seahawks would be screwed if Russell Wilson ever got injured and had to miss games. Well, he got injured, he missed games, and the Seahawks got screwed as a result.
This is what happens when you neglect the backup quarterback spot and give it to any old guy available.