Before the Saints game Oct. 30, Russell Wilson described his third injury of the Seahawks season, a right pectoral muscle strain, as not “crazy, crazy bad.” I looked up the phrase in a medical dictionary and it said, “A description of severity sufficient to put down a horse. Exceptions are for NFL quarterbacks, who often play with throwing limbs remaining affixed to the body by one tendon, or less.”
Well, maybe I read too much into it.
Wilson, as he did all of 2016, gamely carried on, completing 22 of 34 passes for 253 yards with an interception and a QB rating of 74.8. But the Seahawks lost, 25-20, in New Orleans to a team that became 3-4 and eventually 7-9. Of the Seahawks’ two touchdowns, one was a return of a fumble by FS Earl Thomas, and the other was a trick play, a wide-receiver pass from Tanner McEvoy to RB C.J. Prosise for 43 yards.
The loss came a week after the weird 6-6 tie with Arizona, in which Wilson hurt his pec. The back-to-back results to teams that finished with losing records represented the nadir of the regular season.
Even though he didn’t miss a game, Wilson’s injuries, even more than the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, had the biggest negative impact on the Seattle season.
That’s a long answer to this question: If the Seahawks want to win next season, should they hire Colin Kaepernick to back up Wilson?
The short answer is three sentences:
The name of Kaepernick, a free agent who has been a Super Bowl quarterback as well as a national political lightning rod, came up Monday when si.com’s Peter King gave his 10 reasons why the Seahawks should hire the erstwhile 49ers star.
Later Monday night, a tweet from Mike Silver of the NFL Network said Seahawks general manager had been in touch with Kaepernick’s agent:
Seahawks GM John Schneider reached out to Colin Kaepernick’s agent last Friday. Interest in him as potential backup is legit. @nflnetwork
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) May 16, 2017
Fueling the story independently was Pete Carroll. In an interview Monday morning on ESPN 710 radio, the Seahawks coach answered a question about whether the Seahawks might look at Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III as veteran backups instead of second-year Trevone Boykin, who has trouble staying out of trouble, or the undrafted free agents in rookie camp.
“We’re looking at everybody. We really are,” he said. “We’ve been tracking everything that’s going on, and we’ve got cap and roster issues and stuff like that. We’re still trying to manage properly. But quite frankly, yes, we are looking at all those guys.”
The interview was backed up by news that one of the rookie QBs, Skyler Howard of West Virginia, was cut Monday, leaving the Seahawks with Wilson, Boykin and the redoubtable Jake Heaps, Mr. August, on the QB roster.
Few doubt the biggest hindrance to a more successful 2016 were the injuries to Wilson. The Seahawks showed in the second half of 2015 how well they adapted the offense to the absence of an injured Lynch. But the emphasis on a shorter, quicker passing game required a healthy Wilson.
In 2016, Wilson was hobbled in the opener against Miami with an ankle injury, followed by a knee injury and the pec strain. Evidence was strong that there was no Plan B for Boykin, unlike Thomas Rawls for Lynch.
Boykin was an undrafted free agent who had never taken a regular-season NFL snap. The Seahawks foolishly bet that Wilson, who had never missed a regular-season NFL snap, would remain healthy despite a line so deeply infant that it needed booster seats to see over the painted line of scrimmage.
Both Wilson and Carroll understood that turning over the offense to Boykin invited disaster. So a diminished Wilson muddled through. Wilson, his teammates and coaches deserve credit for reaching 10-5-1 and another playoff win (over a mediocre Detroit team), but they took too many risks with the franchise QB.
They were lucky.
Counting on another year of luck is like expecting President Trump to understand what a state secret means. Boykin wasn’t terrible in mop-up duty, but he can’t know NFL defenses like a veteran.
Most NFL fans know the Kaepernick story: His decision to sit and/or kneel during the national anthem in 2016, a protest about racial injustice and police brutality, inflamed many fans and inspired many others. It made him a national celebrity, but didn’t help his career.
He began 2016 as a backup to Blaine Gaebbert, but ended up starting 11 games and threw for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions, rushing for 468 yards, for a woebegone 2-14 team. At 29 and healthy, but under a new coach and general manager, he opted out of his San Francisco deal ahead of free agency, telling all that he would no longer protest before or during games.
The absence of takers so far has led to a strong belief among his supporters, including Sehaawks CB Richard Sherman, that he’s being blackballed for his political views and the potential for disruptions.
While blackballing is unprovable, the political stuff figures to be a non-issue in Seattle. Not only is Seattle nearly as far left politically as San Francisco, neither Carroll nor owner Paul Allen would be upset about a player taking a stand on social injustice. Carroll undoubtedly figures he and team leaders could help Kaepernick, who damaged his position with some reckless provocations that allowed critics to diminish his credibility.
The football questions are legit: Is he a fit in style, attitude and salary? The NFL minimum salary for a seventh-year player is $900,000, but after being a starter for so long and making $15.6 million last year, could he take the psychological blow of playing and making far less?
And does offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell think he can adapt? Kaepernick’s ability and willingness to run makes a good comparison for Wilson. But there’s plenty of Seahawks’ scouting video that lays out his weaknesses.
Having said all that . . . Boykin?
He was busted again this off-season, and regardless of the outcome of charges, he was again at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was already on a shorter leash after a pre-bowl-game altercation in San Antonio, his final game for Texas Christian, from which he was suspended.
If the Seahawks invite Kaepernick for a visit and he explains himself reasonably, especially about the bench-warmer role, the Seahawks would be wise to consider a signing. They escaped, barely, last season working without a net.
There’s not enough stomach lining left among the coaches to tolerate another missed block by a rookie lineman that finally would plunge the Seahawks into the abyss.