Pondering Russell Wilson’s Future In Denver

I have a lot of investment in the 2022 season of the Denver Broncos, followed by no investment whatsoever in 2023 and beyond. This obviously has to do with the Seahawks getting whatever ends up being Denver’s first round draft pick after this season. The worse they do on the field, the better it is for us as Seahawks fans.

But, that’s tricky, because that means actively rooting against Russell Wilson for the first time since he joined the league.

It’s going to be so weird to see him playing for the Broncos. Russell Wilson is a player I’ve been conditioned to root for. Not just him specifically, but what he represents as well. The under-sized, scrambling risk-taker. A deep ball maven who finds a way to pull a victory out of his ass more often than not.

And you’d think – as someone who took us to back-to-back Super Bowls, and winning us our first and only NFL championship – it would be all sunshine and roses for our erstwhile franchise QB. You’d think we’d root for him no matter where he went, even if his success meant a worse trade compensation.

There are opposing truths about Russell Wilson’s tenure with the Seahawks: he was the greatest reason for our successes, as well as our frustrating failures. While he doesn’t get enough credit for all the winning we did in the L.O.B. era during the first half of his stint here, there’s no doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t have done what we did with a lesser talent at quarterback. It’s that talent that kept the Seahawks relevant as the L.O.B. era rode off into the sunset. But, ultimately, we were never able to get over the hump when it became the Russell Wilson Show, and I don’t think he gets enough of the blame for where it all went so wrong.

Who gets the blame? Pete Carroll gets the blame. The offensive line gets the blame. The talent and coaching of the defense. The offensive play-calling and/or scheme. The moves of John Schneider and the front office. Everyone seems to get to share in the blame except for Wilson. They were all holding Wilson back in one way or another. Cue “Let Russ Cook” movement on social media, followed shortly thereafter by the regular media.

I thought this was really well-written and informative. Even Russell Wilson – the greatest quarterback in Seahawks history – has his limitations. And those limitations were really damaging over the last five years of his time here. You can look at his numbers, and our regular season results in the standings, and see what he did to prop up a dying monster. But, if you dig deeper, you’ll see that the Seahawks feasted on bad teams. And we only really looked good when the running game was on point and our defense improved as seasons went on.

Ultimately, the reason why we needed to move on from Russell Wilson was his unwillingness to adapt. His unwillingness to see himself for what he actually is. His unwillingness to be anything but Russell Wilson: Deep Ball Maven.

Part of the greatness of any elite athlete is the belief that they can do anything. Russell Wilson believes so fiercely that he can complete every pass, that instead of just taking what the defense gives him, he seeks out lower-percentage shots downfield, to the team’s detriment. It’s to his credit that he was able to complete as high a percentage of them as he did, but over the last couple years you could see even that starting to dwindle.

Brian Schottenheimer was probably the best offensive coordinator we’ve had in his tenure. Yet, that ended in miserable failure even as he led this team to a 12-win season, where Russell Wilson had some of his very best efficiency numbers. Why is that? Because Wilson went off-scheme too much – throwing into coverage with disasterous results – necessitating the team to pull back the reins in order to win ballgames. We ultimately sided with Wilson in the parting of ways of Schotty, going so far as to hire a Wilson choice in Shane Waldron.

And what happened in 2021? Wilson kept going off-scheme, with much worse results. We brought in a guy with a Rams pedigree, yet we were still pretty much running the same offense as Schottenheimer. There was no stopping the Russell Wilson Show from eclipsing everything, so it was time to move on.

The big question that remains is: what does Denver have to look forward to?

Can Russell Wilson tamp down his need to do things his way? You would think that a drastic move to a new team would come with a little humility. It’s a fresh start with a whole new group of coaches and teammates, he’ll probably want to buy a little good will early. But, this is Russell Wilson we’re talking about. He’s a superstar in this league. He’s one of the most famous and popular players in the game today. This change of scenery might embolden him to become even further entrenched in the belief that he can do whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter, because his arm talent alone will save the day.

I could see it going either way. I guess I’m leaning towards him falling in line, allowing the run game to play out, and doing things within the flow of the offensive scheme (at least for this first season). But, it wouldn’t shock me to see his gigantic ego take over.

I agree with the blog post above, that if the Broncos are going to succeed, it’s going to necessitate Russ letting other players cook as well. If they contend for the division and a deep run in the playoffs, it’ll be with that strong running game, and a highly efficient Wilson playing like he did in so many Seahawks victories.

If the Broncos fail, I think it’ll be because Wilson is too involved. If they go pass-wacky and put the entire offense on his shoulders, then I think it’ll be a recipe for disaster. Of course, if they do go pass-wacky and the Broncos win it all, well then … that’s a pretty atrocious look for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.

Ultimately, I expect the Broncos to play well in 2022. In fact, I’m leaning towards them winning the division and at least one playoff game. I do think Wilson will look a lot like he did in the first five years of his time in Seattle, meaning he’s letting the running game do its thing, and being the hyper-efficient beast we all know he can be. That’s going to engender a huge outcry for people to say, “See! The Seahawks should’ve listened to Russ!” All the while, the Seahawks can say, “See! If he’d only checked his ego like we wanted him to, we could’ve won just like this!”

There’s no way the Seahawks get a draft pick out of the Broncos that’s inside the Top 20. That’s ultimately what I’m getting at. We’re not that lucky ’round these parts. If there’s a way to screw over a Seattle sports fan, the gods are going to find a way to do it, in as heart-wrenching a way as possible.

So, look for Wilson to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February of 2023. It’s really the only way this can end.

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