Over the past decade, while the Seahawks have experienced unprecedented success making the playoffs eight of the past 10 years, Russell Wilson has been the one constant. While other stars such as Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have come and gone, No. 3 has always been under center.
But for the first time since 2011, ending a streak of 149 consecutive starts, Seattle will have to experience life without Wilson. The franchise quarterback underwent surgery to repair a ruptured tendon and a fracture dislocation in his right middle finger on Friday and could be out anywhere from four to eight weeks depending on his recovery process. Per sources, the team remains hopeful he could suit up for a Week 10 road contest in Green Bay after a bye week.
While it remains uncertain when Wilson will be back in action, backup Geno Smith will take his place starting next weekend in Pittsburgh running the offense instead. And with the eight-time Pro Bowler sidelined indefinitely, it's worth wondering if the ripple of the effects of his injury may be felt well beyond the time he eventually returns to the field.
Currently, the Seahawks sit in last place in the NFC West with a 2-3 record and though 12 games are left to play, their playoff hopes already seem to be on thin ice. The Cardinals have yet to lose and with a win this weekend would move three full games in front of them, while the Rams are two games ahead of them with a tie-breaker for winning the lone head-to-head matchup on Thursday night.
Even with an easier schedule coming up over the next three weeks with games against the Steelers, Saints, and winless Jaguars, it is feasible the Seahawks could lose multiple games during that stretch. If that occurs, they will be sitting with a 3-5 or 2-6 record, putting them on the brink of an early elimination from wild card contention.
But what happens if Smith plays well during the next three games? No, there won't be a quarterback controversy here. This is Wilson's job and when he's healthy, he will be back in the starting lineup no matter what Smith does.
However, the former second-round pick out of West Virginia looked quite comfortable operating coordinator Shane Waldron's offense after replacing Wilson on Thursday. Facing an unideal situation with the ball at Seattle's own two-yard line, he led a 98-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 23-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf and then orchestrated another scoring drive that resulted in a Jason Myers field goal.
In an odd way, albeit in a very small sample size, Waldron's offense seemed more efficient and less boom-or-bust after Smith checked into the game and he made several plays that Wilson often doesn't. It was noteworthy seeing him make a long completion to tight end Will Dissly in the middle of the field, a throw Wilson seems to rarely complete, while also connecting on two positive screen plays.
Again, this isn't to say Wilson's job is in jeopardy, because it certainly isn't. But if Smith comes in and plays well for an extended period of time, there may be some difficult decisions brewing this offseason, as the Seahawks could be poised to conduct a full scale rebuild for the first time since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider first arrived in 2010.
It's no secret Wilson wasn't pleased with the organization last spring, starting with his decision to air his displeasures with pass protection and not having enough of a voice in personnel decisions in a series of interviews after the Super Bowl. Then, his agent Mark Rodgers revealed four teams his client would be willing to waive his no trade clause to play for if the team decided to shop him.
Ultimately, Wilson didn't go anywhere, as Schneider told reporters during the draft that while he received calls about the player's availability, he never entertained the idea of dealing the superstar quarterback. By the time OTAs kicked off in June, both Wilson and Carroll said all the right things to make everything seem like water under the bridge and whatever issues they had with one another had been addressed.
It's anyone's guess how the next several months will play out, but if Seattle doesn't make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 or even if they make it and bow out quickly, Wilson may very well try to force his way out of town again. Set to turn 33 in November, he wants to be competing for championships, and while his own injury could be a significant factor in preventing that from happening this year, the team hasn't looked like a contender with him and has numerous roster issues to address without a first-round pick in 2022.
If Smith shows another quarterback can run Waldron's offense effectively, after not pursuing the possibility last spring, it's not out of the realm of possibility Schneider and Carroll could strongly consider parting ways with Wilson in exchange for draft capital to help find a long-term replacement. With the cap space created, they could attempt to fill gaps on both sides of the ball with quality veterans in free agency to bolster the roster around their next franchise quarterback and accelerate the rebuild.
From there, Schneider could also explore the possibility of moving other high-priced players, including linebacker Bobby Wagner or even the recently extended Jamal Adams, with the goal of obtaining more draft picks and cap space to infuse the roster with younger, cheaper talent.
Looking at even more drastic potential changes that could be on the horizon, depending how Seattle's defense plays for the rest of the year, it's not impossible Carroll could bid his farewell either. Even after signing an extension last year, he's now 70 years old and the organization may believe it is time for a new voice in the locker room. At that point, the team could be hiring a new coach to couple with Wilson or partner with a young quarterback of their choice.
Of course, there's always a chance the Seahawks will stay in the hunt over the next few weeks and once Wilson returns, they could make a playoff push and potentially still do damage in January. Under that scenario, the seemingly inevitable roster reset might not happen yet after all. Or this could be a "Last Dance" type scenario where Carroll and Wilson make one last run together next year if the latter decides he wants to stay put.
Any way you slice it, the next several weeks and months will offer plenty of intrigue for the Seahawks. They will get to see what life without Wilson truly looks like on the field for the first time and depending how Smith plays in his place, they may or may not still be in the playoff race in early November, which could play a decisive role in determining how the next offseason shapes the future of the franchise.