As you’ve probably heard by now, Seattle opted to keep Russell Wilson rather than send him to a conference rival for a slew of assets they could use to supercharge their rebuild. I’ll be the most unpopular person in the Seattle area and say this – they should have traded him. It’s something none of us would have ever done with a fantasy player, but Russ has done so much for this team; they owed him one of two things – trade him to a new team with an improved roster or keep him and drastically improve the roster around him.
The front office opted for neither, they are keeping him, and the roster around him could be the worst he has played with. Shaquill Griffin – gone (signed with Jacksonville). Carlos Hyde – gone (signed with Jacksonville). Quinten Dunbar – likely gone. Carlos Dunlap – likely gone. KJ Wright – likely gone. Those are just the key players that will likely be missing, there are several more that will need to be replaced by talented athletes, and Seattle will have a short supply to get that done.
Ignoring the rest of the roster that needs a lot of work and that the team only has 3 count them THREE draft picks to improve whatever they can get done in free agency, this is not the roster Russ signed up for. You can ask Russ to cook all you want, but this looks more like an episode of Kitchen Nightmares (how many episodes feature a competent chef working for management that doesn’t know what they are doing??) rather than a respected restaurant letting their James Beard winner thrive in the kitchen. Maybe Russ can bail them out for another year, but regardless of his ability to win even when he shouldn’t be able to, he seems tired of being asked to.
It occurred to me that the Portland Trail Blazers suffer from a similar issue. Is Damian Lillard playing like an MVP? Absolutely, this team would be in the gutter if not for Logo Lillard. But does the front office go nuts in the offseason or even during the season to acquire the guys he would need to get the team their 2nd championship? In the words of Robin Gibb (while appearing on the Barry Gibb Talk Show), “no, no, they don’t.”
Russ and Dame are in the same boat. At least Russ has one championship he can dream about after rough games, but he only has a couple of those a year. Even this year, with a condensed schedule, Lillard has many more games to play and a lot more carrying to do. They are both amazing leaders on and off the court, very active in their communities, and exactly the kind of players teams dream of drafting. You have to wonder why they don’t dream up better supporting casts?
On Tuesday evening, Lillard had to score 50 points at home for Portland to collect a fortunate win by one point against one of the worst teams in the league. This roster, as constructed, doesn’t get the job done. Yes, they have many players either hurt or recovering from injuries, but if you count on the average Blazers player not to be banged up, you must not have been watching Blazers basketball very long. I’m not even convinced they have qualified trainers here anymore. Whoever the trainers were in Phoenix that kept Steve Nash on the court about six years longer than they should have been able to, that’s who Portland needed to hire 9 years ago. Or they need to invest in foreverware if anyone remembers a TV show called Eerie Indiana that may or may not have helped inspire Stranger Things.
Back to letting Russ cook. He gets many ingredients you would see found to be spoiled in those walk-throughs on Kitchen Nightmares and is asked to make a quality meal out of it that would be served at a restaurant with at least one Michelin Star. And he usually gets the job done, but he has to do it with no apron, one broken spatula, a line cook that takes too many smoke breaks, and a skillet with a melted handle, and they keep locking him in the pantry. This isn’t a well-respected steakhouse; this is Shenanigans from the movie “Waiting.” You can see the issue.
Russ has poor blocking most years, RBs that can’t stay healthy, receivers that disappear for games at a time, a defense that can’t get off the field, a pass rush that can’t get consistent pressure, and their special teams are usually among the last in the league. It’s simply not the supporting cast you expect to see around what most consider a future first ballot hall of famer. The minute this started happening to Tom Brady in New England, he bolted for Tampa Bay. And who can blame him? Russ has seen other top QBs shown the door from the same teams that called them a franchise cornerstone, and at this point, you have to wonder if that’s what he is hoping for. He wanted input into late season and playoff game plans, and his thoughts were apparently not considered. He wanted input into who they hired as offensive coordinator, and again, reports indicate the team did not take his notes the way he had hoped.
In his 9th year as a Seahawk, I think we can assume Russ knows this front office better than any player on the roster. They have already allowed most of the players that helped them win their first Super Bowl 8 years ago to go to other teams, and they are down to two. They went all-in on Russ five years ago when they made the difficult decision to move on from some of the best players in the league in hopes of doing a quick reload rather than a full-on rebuild. So far, the returns could be argued either way. Seattle has been a winner each year since, but they have not made it past the divisional round. Russ has absolutely become one of the best QBs in the league, so they were half right, they definitely bet on the right guy, but they bet on him in the wrong ways. They haven’t found the heir to Marshawn Lynch, as much as everyone wants that to be Chris Carson. Carson just doesn’t stay healthy, and he was relatively one-dimensional until last season. Now he might be just too expensive as a free agent which tells you the value Seattle got from him as a 7th round pick in 2017.
Seattle invested their first-round draft pick on Rashaad Penny in 2018, and he has appeared in 27 of 48 games. Even if he is finally healthy, we really don’t know what he can do as a full-time starter, if he even wins the job. Is second-year RB DeeJay Dallas the guy going forward? Do they commit to one guy or a two-person committee? Having a primary ball carrier and a couple of change of pace guys has been Pete Carroll’s MO, but since Lynch left, he has leaned on a committee in the first half of the season before giving most of the carries to a primary running back. Is that by design, or because the offense tends to slow down as the weather turns? Looking at their scoring trends, it sure seems like Carroll asks the OC to turn down the passing plays once the cold and rain hit the schedule, but that could be a coincidence. It’s five years of evidence that Carroll is likely asking for this, but sure, it could be a coincidence.
To be fair, defenses tend to play better when the offense runs a ball-control scheme, but what happens when you can’t stop a specific opponent? What happens when you face that opponent in the playoffs? We can guess that those are certainly questions Russ is thinking about when he sees season after season end in defeat, and the front office makes bargain deals to fill out the roster and ask him and the other stars to carry the load. This team has only won one championship, and it was a roster full of stars. Can 2-3 guys really get the job done? Not without a lot of help, and help is not on the way. Not in the short term anyway. It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s not likely to be a season of hope, either. Russ asked the GM and head coach to get him the roster he needed; they responded by staying quiet so far in free agency and not even bringing back the guys who had contracts expire in January.
The truth is that this was supposed to be Russ’s team. Now it’s the team no one wants, and Wilson has to stay here until another team comes along with a deal Seattle can’t refuse, or his contract expires at the end of the 2023 season. If Wilson believes the team will sign the right players, he could restructure his deal to whittle down the $32M cap hit, but if he doesn’t think they’ll do enough with the money, why take less cash upfront to get beat up for six months? If you’re going to get hit, you might as well get rich doing it.
The only moves Seattle has made this week is to trace for guard Gabe Jackson from Las Vegas (an above-average player at his peak but Jackson is past his prime), bring back a couple of offensive lineman from last year (remember they weren’t outstanding) and TE Gerald Everett (formerly of the LA Rams), which is not a position where Seattle needed a big-time upgrade. This team likes to spend on TE, even though Wilson has proven repeatedly that he can make it work with average players at the position repeatedly. He needs upgrades are offensive line, running back, and pretty much every defensive position. And yet Seattle has not done enough to take care of those spots, and they have minimal resources to sign the right players as the pool gets shallow.
This will probably be a long offseason, a really frustrating first few weeks of the season, followed by solid football and a run at the division crown, with a likely playoff berth and exit in the wild card round. Some teams would beg for that kind of stability, but most of them don’t have Russell effing Willson in his prime. It’s a shame that they are wasting his time, and even more so a chance to bring the city and the fans another championship.
It’s not in the scope of reality to imagine Russ leaving this year; he will likely be a Seahawk in 2021. But next year is not a given. Russ is a competitive guy, so I can’t see him hanging up his cleats if the team continues to make things uncomfortable for him either, but he could make things really uncomfortable for Seattle and refuse to play for a few games. It might earn him the ire of his teammates, but that might be how he makes his point stick. The guys that are used to him bailing him out will probably be vocal about needing him back, but the guys that he usually has to team up with to get stuff done (Bobby Wagner, DK Metcalf) will probably voice they want to keep playing with him but that they get what he needs and support his stance.
The NFL is becoming a player’s league, but it’s still a business with owners, GMs, and head coaches that have a lot of pride and even more say in how things go. It would be a shame if he has to leave and wear another uniform to win it all again, but I wouldn’t blame him. Whether he plays here or somewhere else, I will be doing exactly what I’m doing now – rooting for him.