The Seahawks rationale for trading away Russell Wilson is laughable
On Monday night, the Seahawks will begin the post-Russell Wilson era. For the first time in a decade, Seattle will begin a season without the future Hall of Fame quarterback behind center.
Instead of heading into the campaign with a nine-time Pro Bowl QB at the helm, the Seahawks will turn to journeyman Geno Smith. They’ll also have error-plagued Drew Lock waiting in the wings, in case the winner of the quarterback competition falters.
Reality is apparently beginning to set in.
Not only did the Seahawks willingly choose to move on from a franchise quarterback, but they did so without an heir apparent in place. It’s one thing for the 49ers to move on from Joe Montana, turning things over to Steve Young, or the Packers to cut ties with Brett Favre, letting Aaron Rodgers have his turn, but it’s another matter entirely to part ways with Wilson and not have his successor ready to go.
But that’s what happened in Seattle. John Schneider and Pete Carroll decided to voluntarily put the franchise in QB purgatory. The general manager and head coach arrogantly bet on their ability to win with their “system,” falling into the same trap that many have before them.
Broncos fans saw this disastrous plan unfold firsthand in recent years. The team tried to defend a Super Bowl title with a quarterback who had take a grand total of one snap in his NFL career, which was a kneel down at the end of the first half, because they thought their defense could carry them. It was the first of six-consecutive non-playoff seasons and the start of the worst stretch by a defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
Clearly, Schneider and Carroll have finally figured this out. After a summer watching Smith and Lock battle it out for the starting quarterback job, the GM and head coach have had their “oh (blank)” moment.
As a result, they’re in damage-control mode. Brady Henderson’s ESPN.com article outlining the divorce between Wilson and the Seahawks is evidence of that fact.
In the piece, the franchise tries to explain why they did what they did. They do this in part by trying to paint Wilson as the bad guy, a selfish player more interested in stats, his brand and money than the good of the team. But they also attempt to make it about football.
It’s lame. It’s disingenuous. And it’s unfair.
The first example cited by someone within the Seahawks organization came from a game in 2020. After starting the season on a tear, Wilson hit a bit of a slump in the middle of the year, leading to a moment that didn’t set well with people inside the building.
One of Wilson’s seven interceptions in that stretch came in a loss at the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10. Trailing by a touchdown, he scrambled to his right and had a massive swath of empty turf in front of him. He bypassed the rushing yards, uncorking a deep heave back across the field that was picked off in the end zone.
“What are we doing here?” one source in the Seahawks’ front office remembers thinking at the time. “Are we trying to win games or are we trying to win MVP?”
Throughout his career, Wilson has turned broken plays into highlight-reel touchdowns. He’s legendary for his ability to scramble, buy time and then make improbable throws that lead to big plays.
Does it always work out? Of course not. The decisions are high-risk. At some point, they’re going to lead to some bad results. That’s just the law of averages eventually kicking in.
But to suggest that this one play shows that Wilson was more concerned about the MVP than winning games is ridiculous. It’s the same kind of decision the quarterback has made countless times during his career. This time, it simply didn’t work out.
It was one play in the middle of a season in which Wilson led the Seahawks to a 12-4 record. He did so by throwing for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns, while tossing just 13 interceptions.
In the midst of that campaign, the Seahawks brass found something to complain about? Buckle up, folks. Drew Lock should be a real treat.
But the smear campaign didn’t end there. Seattle went on to explain away their decision to part ways with Wilson by insinuating that the quarterback had lost a step. His game was fading, so they needed to move on too early instead of too late.
“He’s not as mobile as he used to be,” said one source in the Seahawks’ front office.
One notable play from last season that helped fuel that belief came in the Seahawks’ Week 16 loss to the visiting Bears. Leading by seven points midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson took a shotgun snap on third down and had a clean pocket but no options that he liked. Wilson scrambled out of the back side with his patented spin move. But there would be no magical escape. Robert Quinn dropped him for a 13-yard sack. The ensuing, longer missed field goal and defensive collapse resulted in a loss that eliminated the Seahawks from playoff contention for the second time in Wilson’s career.
Again, they’re basing this on one play? That seems preposterous.
After all, Robert Quinn is a pretty darn good player. He has 101.0 career sacks, including 18.5 a season ago. There are bigger football sins for a quarterback to commit on the field than getting corralled by Quinn.
Are both of these examples an example of the Seahawks connecting dots that shouldn’t be connected. Of course they are; it’s CYA 101 at its finest.
But for the sake of argument, assume that they are true. They both occurred in the last two seasons. That would mean that Seattle came to the decision recently that they needed to go in a different direction. That would indicated that moving on from Wilson was something that started becoming an option in 2020 or 2021.
That’s not true, however. And the ESPN.com article proves it.
In the pieces, it’s revealed that Schneider was at the pro day for Patrick Mahomes in 2017. If the quarterback had slipped to the Seahawks at No. 26, they would’ve jumped on him. Instead, Mahomes went to the Chiefs at No. 10 and Seattle traded back in the first round.
Mahomes is a generational talent. Getting him late in the first round would’ve been akin to the Packers taking Rodgers with the 24th overall pick in 2005. When a gift falls into a team’s lap, they have no choice but to accept it.
But the search for another quarterback didn’t end there. As Henderson reports:
Then came the clearest sign yet to Wilson’s camp that Seattle’s interest in other quarterbacks was something more than due diligence. The Seahawks, according to someone in Wilson’s camp and the Seahawks’ front office, called the Cleveland Browns before the 2018 draft to discuss a trade that would have swapped Wilson for the No. 1 overall pick. Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, found out.
That was the year the Browns took Baker Mayfield with the top pick. It was also the draft that featured Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson as first-round selections. According to reports, Schneider had attended Allen’s pro day at Wyoming.
If the Seahawks motivation for moving on from Wilson really has anything to do with him putting personal goals ahead of team pursuits, or an alleged decline in his abilities, why was the team looking to move on from him three to four years prior to those problems ever surfacing? Why was Seattle in the QB market after the 2016 and 2017 seasons?
At the time the Seahawks made the offer to the Browns, Wilson was only 29 years old. He was coming off of a season in which he led the NFL in touchdown passes with 34. In six seasons, he had posted five Pro Bowl campaigns, led his team to the playoffs five times, appeared in two Super Bowls and won a Lombardi Trophy.
Seattle was coming off of a 9-7 campaign, however. They had just missed the postseason for the first time in Wilson’s career.
Apparently, that was enough to think about moving on. Despite posting a 65-30 record up to that point, the Seahawks developed a wandering eye.
And they never lost it. In the years since, the franchise has simply found “evidence” to support their behavior. They created reasons to justify their ludicrous thinking.
In the four years since being offered to the Browns, Wilson played great for the Seahawks. He posted a 39-23 record, led the team to three playoff berths, threw 131 touchdowns and tossed just 31 interceptions.
That was viewed as not enough in Seattle. That would’ve been more than fine in Denver.
As a result, Wilson is in a Broncos uniform in 2022. And the Seahawks are moving on.
Schneider and Carroll are getting the chance to prove that it’s their system that led to the best decade in franchise history. They’re in the early stages of once again getting to build a roster that includes a young, inexpensive quarterback on a first contract. They’re getting to do it their way.
If that was with Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, it might be understandable. Instead, it’s with Geno Smith and Drew Lock.
Starting Monday, the GM and head coach, as well as the team’s fan base, will get to experience just how painful that ride can be. They’ll start a journey that will be bumpy, at best.
They know it, which is why they’re trying to spin the narrative in their favor. Unfortunately, the fact don’t add up. John Schneider, Pete Carroll and the unnamed Seahawks sources are full of fertilizer.