USA TODAY US Edition

Seahawks better let Russell Wilson cook

- Mike Jones Columnist

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 Frustratio­n over a conservati­vely shifted approach on offense that seemed outdated and ineffectiv­e after Wilson opened the season at a blistering pace.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.

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 ?? GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Russell Wilson has started every Seahawks game in his nine-year NFL career.
GEOFF BURKE/USA TODAY SPORTS Russell Wilson has started every Seahawks game in his nine-year NFL career.
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