USA TODAY US Edition
Seahawks better let Russell Wilson cook
Smart teams don’t trade quarterbacks like Wilson. They do everything to support him and his concerns, writes Mike Jones.
Don’t do it, Seattle. Don’t mess around and bungle the best quarterback situation the Seahawks franchise has ever seen.
The Seahawks and face of the franchise Russell Wilson have found themselves in the spotlight in recent weeks after another promising campaign ended prematurely and after the traditionally good soldier voiced his concerns.
“I’m frustrated with getting hit too much,” Wilson said at the Super Bowl after receiving his Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Those sentiments followed a season that saw his career sack total increase to 394 – the most in the first nine years of any quarterback’s career.
“I want to be able to be involved because at the end of the day it’s your legacy, it’s your team’s legacy, it’s the guys you get to go into the huddle with and at the end of the day those guys you’ve got to trust,” Wilson told “The Dan Patrick Show” shortly after the Super Bowl.
Then came the report from The Athletic outlining where the cracks in the relationship might have begun. Frustration over criticism from his coaches of his shortcomings. Frustration over a lack of receptiveness from coaches when Wilson offered input. Frustration over a conservatively shifted approach on offense that seemed outdated and ineffective after Wilson opened the season at a blistering pace.
That only further stokes questions about Wilson’s future in Seattle. According to an NFL Network report, roughly one-third of NFL teams had contacted the Seahawks about potential trades for Wilson. The Athletic and CBS Sports reported Wilson had expressed interest in the Raiders, Dolphins, Saints and Jets as potential destinations if Seattle intended to trade him.
However, two people familiar with the thinking of Seahawks brass told USA TODAY Sports that Seattle has no intention of trading Wilson. They also said Wilson hasn’t made outright trade demands. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on behalf of the team.
That’s good news for Seahawks fans, and it’s the smart decision by a franchise that just recently awarded Wilson a four-year, $140 million contract extension in the spring of 2019, briefly making him the highest-paid player before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson surpassed him last year.
Russell is only 32 and already the
most prolific quarterback in the history of the franchise. He owns 39 of the organization’s major passing records.
He helped guide the team to its only Super Bowl victory, and the Seahawks might have won a second had coach Pete Carroll called a goal-line run play against the Patriots in 2014. Wilson ranks among the most electrifying, effective, versatile and durable quarterbacks in the league. One day he’ll have his bust unveiled in Canton, Ohio.
Smart teams don’t trade quarterbacks like Wilson. Instead, they do everything possible to support and capitalize on the blessing they have in that player.
Here’s where the Seahawks have erred: Too often, they have taken Wilson for granted. Sure, they paid him handsomely, but they haven’t done a very good job of consistently surrounding him with top-level talent. Far too often, they’ve let him run for his life playing behind a shoddy offensive line and while backed by an inconsistent rushing attack and/or wide receivers.
Carroll, who also has final say on personnel, is known as a defensive coach. But the Legion of Boom days are long gone, and his unit also hasn’t done its part to help ease pressure on the prized quarterback.
Some around the league argue Carroll has too much power and has no one to check him on his decisions. Whether true or not, the coach has to figure out how to salvage this situation. Carroll must take a long, hard look at practices. Why is his quarterback getting hit so much? Why does his defense so easily yield yards and points? Why can’t his offense sport a more modernized look?
Carroll did make a change at offensive coordinator this offseason, and according to multiple reports Wilson signed off on the hiring of former Rams pass-game coordinator Shane Waldron. The goal should be maximizing everything Wilson has to offer and giving him the weapons and protection he needs to thrive.
Wilson wants input on the roster constructed around him, and part of that is because he understands he can’t effectively deliver on expectations if his support staff is lacking.
If Wilson wants to make suggestions on areas that need upgrades, the Seahawks should listen. They don’t have to give him final say. But if he’s making suggestions, it’s because he’s deeply invested in the success of the team. Who doesn’t want that from their locker room leader?
If Wilson wants more freedom to execute the offense according to his strengths, then why not “Let Russ cook,” as Carroll agreed to do early in the 2020 season before reverting to conservative ways down the stretch. Wilson has earned that.
For nine years, Wilson has given everything he has to this franchise. It’s not unreasonable to want assurances that his bosses are committed to building a winner with the same aggressive nature Wilson has displayed on the field.
People familiar with the situation said that as Wilson watched the Super Bowl, he noted a couple of things: How clean the Buccaneers’ offensive line (a unit in which the franchise heavily invested) kept quarterback Tom Brady. How Brady’s organization embraced his personnel suggestions (Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette). How much give-and-take both Brady and Mahomes had with their offensive coordinators.
With aspirations of following in Brady’s footsteps and playing into his 40s, and winning multiple Super Bowls, Wilson – traditionally the picture-perfect company guy – felt compelled to publicly express concerns he had previously shared privately with Carroll and team officials.
It’s believed Wilson’s motivation stems from a desire to see changes implemented in Seattle. His preference isn’t to be traded, the two sources told USA TODAY Sports. They noted that Wilson has a no-trade clause, so any such move would have to come with his approval.
So now, the pressure is on the Seahawks. No, they don’t have to do anything. But they risk further alienating their biggest star, and pushing him to the point where he flat out demands a trade. At the very least, they risk continuing in mediocrity rather than capitalizing on the potential their franchise boasts with Wilson at the helm.
This offseason’s efforts must center on an upgrade of the offensive line both in free agency and the draft, continued improvement of the skill position groups and bolstering the defense. Carroll must give Waldron the green light to design a tailor-made, Wilson-inspired, Wilson-co-authored offensive playbook. And Carroll must do better selfevaluation when it comes to his defensive tactics.
The Seahawks can’t afford to further waste Wilson’s talent. They were lucky for a third-round pick on an undersized passer to play out so magnificently. A similar replacement will not fall so easily into their laps.
For the good of all parties involved, they need to let Russ cook and give him input on the list of ingredients as well.