I occasionally return to writing about Russell Wilson, because he’s a truly fascinating figure in Seattle sports history. “How the mighty have fallen” is something that comes immediately to mind.
There was an article released by The Athletic today outlining his miserable first year in Denver. It also touched on the impetus for him being traded to the Broncos in the first place: he allegedly went to Seahawks ownership and called for them to fire Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Wilson has since denied those claims on Twitter – an intriguing move, to be sure, since I don’t know him to be so reactionary when negative news about him is released – but the Seahawks have stuck to their usual stance of not commenting whatsoever.
I don’t think anyone is really inclined to believe anything that Russell Wilson says at this point. There was another bombshell recently released that got into Wilson’s charitable foundation, and how they may or may not be spending their money. Turns out extravagantly wealthy people aren’t always all that inclined to give away their money, and that they may inflate what they’ve purported to donate. The sad thing is that he’s just like any other multi-millionaire in the world.
While he might not have gone directly to Jody Allen (or whoever’s running the show with the Seahawks), I would venture to guess probably his agent passed along both of their wishes. It’s particularly believable given the additional nugget of information released by The Athletic: that Wilson’s preferred head coaching replacement for Pete Carroll was Sean Payton. We all know Wilson’s affinity for Drew Brees, and the fact that the Saints were on his previous list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to (back when Payton was still their coach).
There’s an alternate universe where Russell Wilson spends his entire career with the Seahawks. It’s fascinating to contemplate what would’ve happened if the organization sided with the player over the coach and general manager. What kind of dystopian hellscape would THAT look like?
For starters, we wouldn’t have had Denver’s draft picks last year. No Charles Cross at left tackle. Who takes that spot? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe we would’ve re-signed Duane Brown for one more year. We wouldn’t have had Boye Mafe either (he didn’t do a ton as a rookie), and there’s a legitimate question as to whether or not we would’ve used our other second round pick on Kenneth Walker. I mean, really, without John Schneider running the draft, it’s highly unlikely we’d have ANY of the guys we got. We’re talking an entirely different, unknown crop of rookies and free agent moves, all likely catering to Wilson’s whims.
Also, I would strongly doubt the Seahawks could’ve managed to hire Sean Payton in this kind of situation. Why would he want to come here? As we’ve seen the last two years, he clearly had his pick of the litter when it came to head coaching jobs. Why would he put himself into a situation where he’d have to be subservient to his quarterback? It’s also a situation that has him living in Seattle (probably not his ideal destination), working for an organization that might be going through an ownership change as soon as 2024. That sounds like a headache I’m sure he would’ve rather avoided.
But, if you believe Wilson had that kind of pull this time last year – that he could convince Payton to come here – then I suppose you can look at the 2023 Broncos as sort of a barometer or the kind of success we might’ve enjoyed in 2022. Except, the 2023 Broncos have a drastically superior roster of talent outside of the quarterback spot, compared to what the Seahawks had last season.
I’m trying to imagine what the Seahawks would’ve looked like this past year, with Wilson behind the center, running Payton’s offense with our guys (minus Kenneth Walker, of course), saddled with that defense (that surely would’ve performed worse than they actually did, thanks to the loss of Carroll’s guiding influence). It seems like it would’ve been an absolute nightmare, made all the worse by the fact that WE would be the ones overpaying for Wilson’s diminishing services for the next however many years.
Now, if you take Sean Payton out of that equation, and saddle us with a Nathaniel Hackett (or whoever we could’ve managed to convince to coach here), I think we’re talking about a team that’s even WORSE than what the 2022 Broncos actually were.
I believe that Russell Wilson believes that Pete Carroll and John Schneider were holding him back in his quest to win MVPs and Super Bowls. I also can’t entirely dismiss that line of thinking. It’s easy to sit here and dunk on Wilson. Age is catching up to him, his size limits his ability to throw over the intermediate middle, and hubris is preventing him from ceding control or reining in his preferred style of play (meaning he no longer runs with the football, and opts to take deep shots over checkdowns that might actually net more yards). So, I fully understand the instinct to call Wilson crazy. The only person holding Russell Wilson back is Russell Wilson.
But, I can’t just unsee what he did in the second half of 2015.
It’s the outlier to end all outliers. In the final seven games of the regular season, the Seahawks went 6-1. In those six victories, Wilson’s lowest passer rating was 123.7 (his average rating over that span was 132.8). He had a 71% completion percentage. He threw for 1,906 yards, with an absolutely RIDICULOUS 24:1 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s literally the best stretch of football I’ve ever seen by a quarterback, and it was unlike literally any other season he’s played in the NFL. He threw from the pocket, he threw with precision, on time, to all areas of the field (including the intermediate middle). I can’t even fathom how brilliant and efficient the Seahawks’ offense was, at a time when our rushing attack wasn’t there to prop us up. It was all on the arm of Russell Wilson. And, I’m afraid it’s warped everyone’s thinking – including his own – ever since.
The sad part is the fact that he reverted right back to his usual style of play when we hit the playoffs that season (the last of our L.O.B. Championship Window). It really seemed like we’d turned a page, and the offense was ready to ascend that year. Instead, we barely got by the Vikings in the wild card round, before taking a HUGE
shit early deficit in the first half of the divisional round against Carolina, before our furious comeback fell seven points short in the end.
From then on, though, it felt like there was no limit to Wilson’s abilities. Sure, he had the running, and he had the play-action deep balls, but now he had this precision timing offense down. THAT was supposed to be the key to how he’d age gracefully in this league. And when we never saw him do it again, we all assumed it was because Pete Carroll was holding back the offense. And/or because John Schneider wasn’t giving Wilson the guys he needed around him to make it work.
Part of that is true. Carroll did rein in the offense. Except, it was only AFTER Wilson made too many horrendous throws and turned the ball over an uncharacteristic amount. And, of course, how can we forget all the times John Schneider did, in fact, sign free agents that were Wilson-approved? The Greg Olsen tenure here is a boil on my ass that will never go away.
This takes us back to Russell Wilson being the only person holding Russell Wilson back. But, he still did what he did in that 2015 season. And it’s fair to wonder what his career might’ve looked like if he’d had Sean Payton’s offense from the get go.
It’s also fair to wonder if it’s too little, too late. He’ll be 35 years old in November. And he’s clearly not aging the way Tom Brady aged into his 35th year.
I’m just glad he’s not our problem anymore.