The Seahawks messed around with Russell Wilson — and Monday, they might find out
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In Seattle, the front office believed that a 29-year-old quarterback who led the NFL in touchdown passes the previous season was tradeable.
That is the perspective the Seahawks’ brass had in the spring of 2018.
That Russell Wilson — a quarterback with five consecutive Pro Bowl selections, one year leading the NFL in passer rating and nearly three times as many touchdown passes as interceptions to that point in his career — was worth jettisoning for the unknown of the No. 1 overall pick.
“Definitely they tried to — a couple of times — tried to see what was out there,” Wilson said Thursday when he met Denver-area media at his weekly question-and-answer session.
Wilson, to his credit, publicly shrugged it off. When asked whether the Seahawks’ attempts to trade him made him “upset,” he noted, “‘Upset’ is probably the wrong word.”
He didn’t say what the right word was.
And he wasn’t going to.
Another word could exacerbate the emotional minefield and cauldron of rancor that Lumen Field and the grandstands around it will likely be on Monday night when Wilson walks through the visitors’ tunnel to a reception that is unlikely to be anything like the warm ovation Peyton Manning received in his return to Indianapolis nine years ago.
Still, it was hard to ignore the implications of what leaked from sources around the Seahawks in the ESPN.com story published Wednesday.
In Seattle, they believe Wilson is diminishing.
In Denver, Nathaniel Hackett scoffs at that sentiment.
“I just know what I see out here on the practice field — and he looks awesome,” Hackett said. “Excited to have him here.”
In Seattle, Pete Carroll plans to follow the direction of his team’s fans when it comes to how Wilson is received.
“However they take it, I’ll follow their lead,” Carroll told Seattle-area media Wednesday.
So, in theory, if the 12s spend most of the evening angry at Wilson, Carroll would be, too.
In Denver, while preparing for the potential tumult, Wilson went to great lengths to avoid providing more bulletin-board material for the Seahawks.
Ever concerned about words and the perception they leave, Wilson didn’t want to throw another log onto a conflagration of hurt feelings and anger that could consume Lumen Field on Monday night.
“He don’t let it faze him,” said wide receiver KJ Hamler. “This is his old team, his old home. He’s very respectful of Seattle.
“But we’ve got to go in there and win.”
Added running back Melvin Gordon, who has known Wilson longer than anyone else with the Broncos: “He hasn’t made a big deal about it. But coming from a different team, you kind of know how it is. You want to win that one and you want to play your best game.”
And no one has more control of the Broncos’ fate.
“The thing about it is: He gets the ball on every play,” Gordon said. “He touches the ball on every snap. So, he really controls how he plays.”
And Wilson controls the destiny of the franchise, too.
For the next several years, no one is more important to the Broncos. Not their new owners, not Hackett, not George Paton. All of them, to some degree, have their destinies tied to Wilson’s.
If he succeeds, they will, too. If he fails, so will they.
They’ve pushed all their chips into the table on this belief: that they’re right and the Seahawks are irredeemably wrong.
In Seattle, the front office looked at a 7-10 season and saw it as evidence that their 33-year-old quarterback was in decline.
They believed that a nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback who at times appeared to be keeping the team upright on his own was not worth building around — even though other quarterbacks with Hall-of-Fame resumes have proven that second primes in the mid-to-late-30s are not only achievable, but realistically so.
Ask Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Or even Joe Montana. All of them at one point were targets of the same critiques lobbed at Wilson — that they were quarterbacks in decline.
All proved those naysayers to be wrong. And they proved it with a flourish.
It’s why the notion that Wilson is in decline is a puzzling, at best. You can line birdcages from Littleton to Lumen Field with newspaper clippings detailing the perceived, premature decline of those afore-mentioned quarterbacks — and every last word proved incorrect.
In Seattle, they believed Wilson’s best days were behind him. That a passer rating that declined slightly over four seasons — from 110.9 in 2019 to 103.1 by last year — was evidence of a drop to come.
They believed they were better off without Wilson. Better served with Geno Smith, Drew Lock or whoever ends up as their quarterback next year.
In Denver, the Broncos believe great days are yet to come with a quarterback who has taken his new town in a full-armed embrace.
Wilson isn’t upset or angry by what happened in Seattle — at least not publicly.
But he’s got a locker room of teammates who want to help him prove the point that bubbles within: that he IS a franchise quarterback in whom the investment of the present and future is as justified as it is massive.
“I hope we come out and light it up,” Gordon said. “Because we need that as a team — and we want to do that for him, too.”
In Seattle, no one seems to remember what life was like in quarterback purgatory.
In Denver, the Broncos know it all too well. And they believe Seattle is about to find out.