I wasn’t following Seahawks Twitter’s recent “most hated Seattleites” bracket all that closely, but if Pete Carroll wasn’t on there, he might be soon.
Seattle’s head coach, architect of two of the franchise’s NFC championships and its lone Lombardi trophy, is now considered by some to be the reason Russell Wilson deserves better than Seattle and is thus unlikely to stay.
The necessary rationalization has already taken place. Folks are already prepared to dismiss Carroll’s success as luck and a one-off, the casualty of an offensive system that is somehow outdated now but not five years ago, and has made Wilson incompatible with Seattle. They are conjecturing like mad telepaths on Wilson’s motives for his hardball approach: that the run-heavy Dallas game was the last straw, that Wilson wants to challenge himself by throwing more, and that he is pricing himself out of Seattle to get such an opportunity.
You’re seeing two versions of this: “Wilson deserves to play for a team that will utilize him”, and “Seattle shouldn’t pay 35 million a year for a QB in a run-first offense.”
Neither of these arguments makes much sense, or ever did.
Supposition #1: “Wilson deserves to play for a team that will properly utilize him.”
It’s typically assumed especially amongst sports media, that Wilson will be better utilized if he is asked to throw more.
It’s a superficial take that forgets one glaring aspect of Wilson’s game: his conservatism. Wilson is as conservative a thrower as Pete Carroll is an offensive coach.
How, you ask, might Wilson look in the kind of byzantine, pundit-praised mad-bomber offensive system that Seattle fans so envy? He might look in many ways like he does now. Wilson has always been a cautious, conservative thrower (until the 4th quarter). That’s not something Pete had to beat into his brain during his rookie camp. He came with it. He believes in ball security, and it’s one reason you could argue that he is already as much at home philosophically, in Seattle, as he ever will be.
How are people missing this? Wilson has never been a gunslinger. He doesn’t want to be. You’re talking about a guy who drops back, refuses to throw into coverage, waits for big separation, scrambles while waiting, and generally would rather take a sack than risk a throw where there’s no opening. It’s hard to argue. The resulting lack of turnovers is what’s helped keep Seattle competitive in all but two games in Wilson’s seven-year career.
Are there systems out there that could enable more throws for Wilson? Yeah. But it’s not just about passing more. You’d need a team whose offense is largely devoted to creating separation, and that brings up the specter of a team that’s invested big money in its guards, receivers, and tight ends – and might not have a ton of room for Wilson’s megadeal. It would also be relying on a cheap and green defense. Sounds like the Saints, right? Well, they’ve had a bottom-five defense almost perennially since their Super Bowl win, the only exceptions coming when Seattle was around to escort them out of the playoffs.
I know some are a fan of that approach to the point of blind faith. I am not. Wilson might balk as well.
If Sean Payton got a hold of Wilson, he’d want that ball to be actually leaving Wilson’s hands every once in a while, and Wilson doesn’t like that without a somewhat high degree of certainty. Some coordinators want a straight-up riverboat gambler. That’s one very simple reason his skill set does not automatically translate to just any pass-heavy team. Some fans might think they’re doing Wilson a favor by urging him to another team, but they might not be.
Supposition #2: “Seattle shouldn’t pay 35 million a year for a QB in a run-first offense.”
This one is just sort of weird, because it assumes the difficulty of the quarterback’s job is dependent on volume. It isn’t.
It isn’t. It’s hard because championships require a quarterback who can improvise, and those throws don’t get easier just because there are fewer of them.
Every once in a while, no matter how strong the running game and defense, there will be moments where the quarterback has to create on third down. That was true for Wilson’s NFC championship runs, and it’s true for every other run. The question of “who really created our Super Bowl season – Lynch, Wilson, or the defense” is a distraction. You need a complete team. Seattle had one, and it included a franchise QB who produced when the chips were down. Indeed, few QB’s in the league’s history have excelled at this quality, much less entertained fantastically with it, like Russell Wilson. It’s why he’s elite, despite only one Super Bowl ring. (Unless you think Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers’ one ring disqualifies them from elite status, too. And no, you didn’t think that until you read this paragraph.)
Seattle’s offense could feature a 70%-30% run-to-pass ratio and those tough throws would still be absolutely mandatory to a championship season. They don’t get easier because there are fewer of them.
Will a game manager like Tarvaris Jackson, or a rickety veteran like Eli Manning, or a career backup like Paxton Lynch make those clutch throws? I highly doubt it. Maybe one or two, but you’re massively narrowing the margin for error there. Teams win or lose Super Bowls by that margin.
A quarterback coming cheaper doesn’t make him a “better fit for Seattle”. I would say “that logic is absurd”, but it doesn’t deserve to be called logic. It’s really just passive-aggressive frustration with the Dallas game.
So, is Russell Wilson, even in Pete Carroll’s relatively run-heavy offense, worth $35 million a year? You bet he is. Yes, even if he’s not throwing as much. Simply because the sheer skill requirements of the position will never permit a lesser QB to succeed.
If you don’t like this, you’re free to speak to the NFL. They’re the ones who have made the quarterback position (and its natural predator the edge rusher – re: Frank Clark) so earth-haltingly important through the slow shifting of its offensive rules. It’s the way things are now. Just how complete an NFL team can be once Wilson (and Patrick Mahomes after him) blast the market open is a fair question, but make no mistake, Wilson – or a QB of his caliber – will be needed.
Letting passing volume dictate contract size would be failing for cheaper. It’s time to start cutting that out of the discussion.