Seattle has seen many players come to town and make a lasting impact on the team, the fans, and the community – while making a permanent home in the hearts of the Seahawks faithful. There are far too many fan favorites to make this list make sense, but the top players in franchise history are nearly incontrovertible. What order they rank, however, is very much up for discussion.
Here, at last, is the conclusion of the rankings of the greatest players to wear a Seattle Seahawks uniform. If you missed any of the previous chapters in the countdown, here are numbers 25-2:
We finally arrive at the end of the countdown and the Greatest Seattle Seahawk of all time.
1. Linebacker Bobby Wagner (2012-2021)
Eight consecutive All-Pro selections, including six first-team and eight straight trips to the Pro Bowl. Wagner didn’t just impress coaches and fans throughout a season; he was a diligent worker on the field every single week as he led the league in tackles twice and has 819 career tackles – good enough for 29th all time. Not 29th in Seattle, 29th in NFL history. Bobby Wagner has made more tackles in his career than all but 28 other humans in the history of professional football, and he’s not even done yet, even if his time in Seattle has come to an end.
Coming out of Utah State in 2012, Wagner was thought to be too small to survive at the NFL level. The exact wording in his pre-draft profile was “small school competition, struggles to fill highlight reel, lets the play come to him, not very physical, undersized and struggles to get off blocks.” There is only one response to such rubbish, which can be seen here.
A ferocious tackler, few other players in league history have been a one-person swarm to the ball carrier like Wagner. He plays like he knows where the ball is going to be and moves at a pace that shouldn’t be possible. He definitely can fill a highlight reel, he knows how to read offenses, helps his teammates adjust to the offense and line up, and he is the QB on defense before the play starts and once things get going.
Russell Wilson is undoubtedly the most decorated passer in team history, Richard Sherman is the most accomplished defensive back in team history and impacted offenses in a way the team hasn’t seen before, and Wagner is the most decorated defender in team history.
The respect for Wagner around the league is nearly unmatched (eight all-pro teams! eight Pro Bowl teams!), and his ability to stay on the field and play at a high level every single season regardless of who he has on the field with him made him an irreplaceable teammate for nearly a decade. Only Walter Jones has more All-Pro selections all-time in Seattle, which is crazy to say out loud and even weirder to see in writing. As instrumental as Jones was to the 2005 team, one can certainly argue that Wagner was even more crucial to the 2013 team. That defense was flying around and terrifying opponents, and he was a significant part of that system. Walter Jones might very well be number one in the hearts of many fans; perhaps Russell Wilson is for many folks as well. But Wagner definitely made an equal or greater impact and has earned his spot on the Mt Rushmore of Seattle players.
Wagner was the Mike Singletary or Ray Lewis of the Seattle defense, and his services will undoubtedly be missed. It’s amazing the players he had around him early in his career, but that defense isn’t going to be as good without one of the best ever playing the most important position. As the inside linebacker, you are in charge of leading the way on every single play and impacting most of them. You can’t coach players to want it more than the guys around them, but that is what Seattle got with Bobby. He may not have had the same athletic ability as his teammates, but he worked twice as hard and wanted it more.
Wagner missed only eight games in 10 seasons, another player in Seattle more than willing to sacrifice their body for a play and having the durability to keep going. Wagner has hit people at least 800 times that we know of. Do you know what that does to a person’s body? Those are just the solo tackles; he has assisted on many, many more. It’s amazing he can walk, but he isn’t just walking; he’s also running and tackling and playing like an all-time great. Wilson’s durability is without question, but he doesn’t get hit or dish out hits nearly at the rate Wagner does, and that isn’t just commendable. It’s incredible.
Seattle may win their Super Bowl without Wilson, but there is zero chance they can get there or win without Wagner. He was the lone constant on defense his entire career in Seattle and spent many years adjusting to a revolving door of coaches and teammates and getting the same results regardless. Wagner never let new scenery distract him from the goal, which was to punish the opponent until the whistle blows.
Ray Lewis is often thought of as the greatest player in Baltimore Ravens’ history, and it is extremely well deserved. So why wouldn’t Wagner, who plays the same position and plays it just as well, not be thought of as the greatest player in Seattle’s history? Even before Lewis’ resurgence as a top linebacker in the late 2000s, he was definitely going to be a first-ballot hall of famer. Wagner hasn’t had a drop-off in production even during some tough years on some really lean rosters, so if anything, shouldn’t he get more praise for never falling off for a year or two? Lewis definitely had a more explosive start to his career, but Wagner has quietly been just as impactful for his team, and perhaps he needs to add a flashy pregame entrance to boost awareness of his greatness.
Wagner has ten seasons in his career so far, all of them with Seattle. By the time Lewis reached year ten, most folks had thought he had one foot toward retirement; no one is saying that about Bobby. Wagner hasn’t missed a game since 2018 and led the league in tackles in 2019 during his 8th season; Lewis led the league in tackles three times early in his career and didn’t get the top mark after his sixth season. One could argue that Wagner is getting better the longer he is in the league, whereas Lewis had to alter his playing style and wait for better teammates to stay relevant. Wagner’s supporting cast has been worse every year he has been with the team, yet he is still playing like one of the greatest of all time.
Like Lewis and Singletary, Wagner was the most important player on one of the greatest and most terrifying defenses of all time, and like those other guys, Bobby stuck around long after the more popular players left in one way or another. When the team makes that kind of investment in one player on defense and lets the rest of them walk or be traded, you know they have someone really special on an all-time great level.
If it makes a difference, the team was willing to trade Russell Wilson in the middle of his prim; they cut Richard Sherman when he still had some prime years left (when there were a lot of questions about what version of Sherman would return from a ruptured Achilles, turns out he was nearly as good after the injury but no one could have predicted that), they wanted Bobby to have the choice of where he finished his career assuming he has a few years left. I don’t buy into the narrative that the team didn’t find a willing trade partner. If they wanted to trade him, there would have been at least a few teams willing to pay the bill.
Wagner might not like the way his career ended in Seattle, and you know what? Neither did I. There was a much smoother way for that news to break, and the team didn’t protect their player from hearing sensitive information about him from anyone but the GM and head coach. They owed him that much and messed up. They should have told him what they were doing rather than assuming everyone would get that they were trying to show a player of his status the respect he deserved by letting him go play for a contender rather than being part of a rebuilding project with no promise of a return to the playoffs.
Stuff always leaks early in the era of social media; the second the team decided what they were going to do, they should have locked everyone involved in a room until they could contact Bobby. For a guy that made a career out of protecting the brand, it’s sad the team didn’t do the same for him when it mattered most. The team owed him a better send-off. Hopefully, the ceremony selecting him to the Seattle Ring of Honor shortly after his retirement in the years to come will be the celebration of the greatness that he deserves. When he finally turns in his uniform for street clothes, it will be a quick five-year wait for him to be on the shortlist for first-ballot hall of famer.
No one played harder than Wagner. No one cared more about the guys on the field or in the locker room. No one risked pain and injury with the game on the line as he did. No one remembers what size someone was, only how big they played. And no one played the game bigger than Bobby.
That’s why he’s the number one Seahawk of all time, no one did it better than Bobby Wagner while wearing a Seattle Seahawks uniform, and perhaps no one ever will.
Check out Wagner’s career highlights here.