Russell Wilson is fed up with the Seahawks organization and I don’t necessarily blame him.
Most teams would be thrilled coming off a year in which they went 12-4 and won their division, no matter the postseason outcome, but the Seahawks aren’t most teams. One could argue they’ve been the most dominant franchise in the NFC since joining the conference in 2002. In that time, they’ve won nine NFC West titles - the most in their division - and are 3-0 in NFC championship games - the best mark in the conference - with one Super Bowl victory.
Combine that rich history of winning with a superstar quarterback currently playing in his prime and several elite playmakers all over the roster, then look back on their results over the past few seasons. Two wild-card losses and a divisional round exit since 2018, with Wilson playing some of the best ball of his career, is nothing short of a failure by their standards. The stability of nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons under head coach Pete Carroll has made the accomplishment of getting to the “big dance” simply not good enough. The fans want a championship, and so do the players—Wilson, especially.
That’s why no one should be surprised by the frustration Wilson has shown towards the Seahawks in the weeks following the team’s 30-20 wild-card loss to the Rams this past January. With the way the 2020 season started, Seattle had far greater aspirations than getting blown out at home by the team it edged out for the division crown. Wilson, like most in the organization, feels embarrassed, angry, and overall let down. But the team as a whole has no one to blame but themselves, Wilson included.
Questionable decisions both on and off the field have made one thing clear: the Seahawks’ process, as it currently stands, does not work—at least, not to the degree it needs to. That ultimately begins and ends with Carroll, who’s not just the head coach but a lead executive as well. While he and general manager John Schneider had one of the greatest runs of any front office in NFL history from 2010-2012, that ship has long sailed and their achievements ever since have been few and far between.
No one’s expecting lightning to strike twice, but the amount of offseasons the Seahawks have had over the past eight years that can now be reflected on and viewed as complete failures across the board is appalling. And a lot of that has to do with how they’ve addressed the offense and chosen to build around Wilson.
The former third-round selection has played second fiddle in Seattle for a long time. At the peak of their dominance in the mid 2010s, the team’s successes were always attributed to the historic Legion of Boom defense or running back Marshawn Lynch, but rarely ever Wilson. Despite looking like one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, he was often sheltered by an offensive scheme that favored the run game, even after Lynch departed. It wasn’t really until this past season, amongst all the talk surrounding the #LetRussCook movement and his lack of MVP votes, that Wilson finally earned the national attention he’s long deserved nearly a decade into his career. And that’s a problem, considering the Seahawks had completely moved on from the forces taking the spotlight off of him two years prior.
Though it was advertised this had become “Wilson’s team” in 2018, it never truly felt like it. Before that, they had swung big deals for Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham, and Duane Brown, but since then their biggest moves have come on the defensive side of the ball. Over the past two seasons, the Seahawks have offloaded significant resources to acquire the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Jamal Adams. Meanwhile, their biggest offensive acquisitions have come in the form of Ed Dickson, Jaron Brown, and Carlos Hyde, to name a few.
They established a secondary superstar on their offense by circumstance when receiver DK Metcalf fell to the end of the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Metcalf had earned first-round grades and the Seahawks passed up on the chance to take him twice leading up to his selection. While they should be applauded for trading up to take Metcalf, the move was preceded by two defensive selections, so it's not like they did whatever it took to come away with him or anyone else that could help Wilson and the offense. They haven’t done that with a high-end offensive talent, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency, in over three years.
Wilson has seen the organization bend over backwards to replenish its defense in that time, however, and that’s perhaps played the biggest role in his frustrations. If he’s supposed to be the star of the team, then why haven’t they focused on constructing an elite offense around him? He’s been sacked nearly 400 times in his career, yet the best they’ve done to improve the offensive line since 2018 is spend a third-round pick on right guard Damien Lewis last year. Every offensive lineman they’ve brought in through free agency has either come with a caveat or a history of mediocrity, whether it’s Mike Iupati, Brandon Shell, or D.J. Fluker.
While some of those moves have turned out fine, the Seahawks have never truly shown a desire to give their superstar top-shelf help. Their moves have often appeared to be an attempt to “just get by,” but that cannot go on any further—at least, not in Wilson’s mind.
Do I think the threat of Russell Wilson being traded is real? No, not just yet.
While this has been framed as an attempt to force his way out of Seattle, I think Wilson’s end goal is to simply pressure the organization to finally prioritize the offense as much as they have the defense in years past.
The Seahawks are tight on cap space and have just four picks in the 2021 NFL Draft as of now, but they can acquire more capital through trade and have many avenues to take to secure more financial flexibility. Sure, they have glaring defensive holes that need to be addressed with some of those resources this offseason, but why can’t they push those needs down the list as they have with the offensive line? This is Wilson’s best argument.
If Wilson has pleaded with Carroll and Schneider to involve him with personnel decision-making but has ultimately been shut down, taking things public was his only course of action to try and enact change in the organization’s offseason gameplan. It may seem out of character for the otherwise reserved Wilson, but he’s made it no secret that his desire to win burns brighter than most professional athletes. But everything the Seahawks have done to address the offense in recent memory has put doubt in his mind they share that same desire. So, he’s putting that to the test.
Seattle has already taken steps to alter its offensive approach, plucking new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and run game coordinator Andy Dickerson from the Sean McVay coaching tree in Los Angeles. They’ve also been linked to some of the top available tight ends on the free agency and trade markets such as Zach Ertz, Jonnu Smith, and Gerald Everett.
That’s all fine, but none of that addresses Wilson’s main concern: the offensive line. The Seahawks have holes at left guard and center, and it would just so happen there are three elite interior lineman hitting the open market in a couple weeks—Joe Thuney, Corey Linsley, and Brandon Scherff.
If the Seahawks want to make a statement to Wilson that they hear his grievances loud and clear, they must come away with one of those players. In a division that features Aaron Donald, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Chandler Jones, and now J.J. Watt, the Seahawks don’t need to just improve in the trenches; they need to get elite there.
In the event they don’t come away with one of the big names in free agency, Wilson would likely view this offseason as “more of the same.” At that point, he probably gets more serious about wanting out of the Pacific Northwest.
To some covering this situation, the bridge has already been burned. I don’t think that’s the case. If it was, Wilson's camp would have already demanded a trade, but his agent Mark Rodgers has confirmed they haven’t. All the trade rumors swirling around don't serve as an immediate threat, but rather a warning about the future.
If the Seahawks don’t play their cards right over the next two months, they could have a serious problem on their hands. If they don’t give Wilson what he wants, then the damage may be irreparable.