Russell Wilson was asked Wednesday on his weekly Zoom conference what he was thankful for. As those of us who chronicle regularly his Seahawks doings know, that’s like asking Homer Simpson what he enjoys about beer.
Even Wilson, aware that some of his answers are longer than his deepest throws, lit up a grin: “Oh, man, good.”
After a heartfelt soliloquy that seemed to span the globe, Wilson returned to football questions. It occurred to me that if fans were asked what they were thankful for regarding the Seahawks — restricted to just a single item, lest we lose track of time and burn up some turkeys — my guess is that the response topping the rankings would be Wilson’s good health.
While that seems obvious, the virtue strikes me as acute this week, relative to the fortunes of the next opponent. The Seahawks play Monday night in Philadelphia an Eagles team that, only two years removed from winning the Super Bowl (41-33 over the Patriots), is 3-6-1 and staggering about the landscape like a nun on a first bender.
The Seahawks are at least a bit responsible for the rapid decay, having beaten them twice last year by the identical score of 17-9, including January in the playoffs when they literally knocked from the game the Eagles’ franchise QB, Carson Wentz.
He recovered from the helmet-to-helmet blow, by then-Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney, to start every game in 2020. Just not very well. In ESPN’s QBR comparative, Wentz is 27th out of 30 qualifiers, his 48.2 rating way behind Patrick Mahomes at 85.3.
The decline is sufficiently precipitous that the calls in Philly for a change pound daily on the head of coach Doug Pederson. Many want to see Wentz benched for rookie Jalen Hurts, drafted out of Alabama in the second round (53rd overall).
This is not to suggest that the Clowney blow was directly related to Wentz’s subsequent poor play. But the play illustrates the random nature of QB blows, their profound impact on teams, and the weapons-grade serendipity that has attended Wilson’s time in Seattle, where he has not missed a game in nine seasons.
You may recall from the playoff game that Wentz was injured early on when he ran the ball and dove, then was struck from behind by a pursuing Clowney. No penalty was called. Eagles fans, a sour bunch on a sunny day in May, raged.
Here is the play. Clowney is of course allowed to hit Wentz here because Wentz was a runner who isn’t down. Question is whether contact was “initiated w helmet” or “incidental”. I think flag here would have been warranted but calls for suspension are silly https://t.co/r4UD5KJVS5
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) January 6, 2020
Booed at every mention of his name, Clowney said afterward, “I don’t even want to look at my phone mentions. I was just playing fast and he was running the ball . . . my intention was not to hurt him.”
Out came Wentz, in came Josh McCown, age 4o. Perhaps the lengthiest-tenured backup in NFL history, the playoff appearance was the first in his 17-year career. Amazingly, the game was also Wentz’s first postseason appearance. Wilson was in his 14th.
Yet McCown gave the Eagles a chance late in the fourth quarter. Trailing 17-9, and despite straining a hamstring that caused him to limp, he drove Philly from its 31-yard line to the Seattle 10 at the two-minute warning, abetted greatly by a 39-yard pass interference penalty on CB Tre Flowers.
A TD and two-point conversion would have tied the game. But on fourth-and-seven, McCown was pulled down by Clowney. A monumental embarrassment was snuffed, and another franchise began to be rent asunder by instability at quarterback.
I asked LB Bobby Wagner Wednesday what was going through his mind on that drive led by McCown.
“That we were going to win the game, and that we weren’t going to let somebody 40 years old with a limp win the game for them,” he said. “That would be like one of you guys coming on to win the game.”
I suggested a one-game contract to prove him right.
“One play,” he said dryly.
Yes, one play would take care of my career ambitions. Which, of course, makes me the equal of every NFL quarterback. Didn’t think of it that way, did you?
Which brings us back to Wilson and his astonishing ability and fortune over most of a decade to have avoided that one play.
“I think I’ve been blessed not to take crazy hits, and trying to avoid those bad hits,” he said. “It’s obviously a very physical game. You got to be able to get down. You got to be sturdy to be able to handle all that. That’s something that I’ve always been super aware of.”
He cited his baseball background at second base, where he learned how to avoid contact during double plays.
“Just talking with somebody today about it,” he said, “how you got to get your feet up and turn, and still flick it over to first base.
“I’m so used to contact. I’m a physical player by nature. But you have to know the time and place to go down and avoid some big shots.”
As Saints QB Drew Brees sits at his Thanksgiving table with 11 broken ribs and a lung recently collapsed, he’ll undoubtedly be thankful that his misfortune wasn’t worse.
Seahawks fans at their tables are thankful for sturdiness and quick feet.
-Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, Art! Of all his great attributes and accomplishments, Wilson’s ability to always be available may prove to be his most defining trait when it’s all said and done.
He may break Cal Ripken Junior’s record.
Thanks DB. The old coaching bromide that the greatest ability is availability is a bromide for a reason.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Call your kids if they’re not with you.
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Gee, Wentz was going to be the next big thing. I can’t figure out the QB position. Tua looked helpless last week. Why is it so hard? It’s the same 11 on 11 game from college, where so many QB’s were dominant. They get to the NFL and become lost.
One aspect is it’s a MUCH faster game. The windows are smaller, the closing times and speed are much better, the pass rush creates a shorter time to throw and the pregame study/intelligence is greater than it is in college.
In college the 4 or 5 db’s, very rarely are there even 3 that are dangerous in coverage. There are almost always 2 if not 3 that can’t close on a decent pass.
In the pros, typically (save for the Hawks :( ) the only weak db is a replacement player.
Don’t forget the painkilling drugs are better in the NFL.
Ever heard of the band, Boys to Men?
Bigger. Faster. Smarter. Tougher. The NFL as a level is so much higher that the top in other sports, in part because the sport is so violent and painful. It cracks some of the best.
Hey Art, how about a Hot Stove League article on the thousands of reasons that John Stanton should be offering, the sun, the moon, the stars, Dick’s, the Ballard locks, Canlis and the Space Needle to Theo Epstein?
There’s no room for Epstein, heck when you have Trader Jerry, a.k.a. the smartest guy in the room. How could you bring in the likes of Epstein? Live to dream.
Theo is taking a year off. He’ll enjoy watching Jerry’s Kids in the World Series.
Jerry’s kids in the W.S. That would certainly be a change of pace from the last 43 years. But it’s going to take more than just kids to get to the promise land. Hopefully the ownership group will pry some of that new found wealth from the coffers to supplement the team with some quality pitching. Once again I’ll recite the Missouri state slogan. Show Me.
Hey LADY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy Covid Thanksgiving, Art! You’re right about Russ. He and his durability have been a blessing from the start. How he survived the high ankle sprain and knee sprain of 2016(?), which would bench most other QBs, is still amazing. The in-the-collapsing-pocket-nowhere-to-go hits are harder to avoid and he has less ability choose how to take, but is still able to dust himself off and continue. A lot of that is fitness, toughness, and plain luck.
The real blessing for me is Russ’ dynamic spacial awareness and ability to avoid the harmful hits, and still remain mobile. Yet still amazing are the now legions of mobile QBs that follow the RGIII example of mobility, literally head first, instead of Russ’ example. I guess I shouldn’t care, as long as Russ is still doing it right. I also think that Russ’ million dollar a year fitness team play a huge role in keeping him flexible and fit these days.
Enjoy the Dawg game, and GO HAWKS!!!
The million-dollar team is important. Short of broken bones or torn tendons, much of week-to-week success is about pain management, flexibility and PT, and he has specialists for each.
Happy Thanksgiving! I’m not only thankful for DangeRuss’ continued health but also Wagner’s. I can’t picture the defense playing without him and hope we won’t have to. Maybe he and Russ can retire together. In ten or so years.
A 40-year-old linebacker? I don’t believe there’s been such a beast.
I couldn’t imagine the D without Wagner either, but would have to include KJ in that mix – definitely thankful for both
I was living in NY when Ken O’Brien (picked ahead of Dan Marino – J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets Jets!) wore a flak jacket under these massive shoulder pads from playing with broken ribs. He wasn’t bad, but he was pretty beaten up after every game. Oh yeah, he did throw for 415 yards for 4 TDs and no INT with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against, um, some guys in Southeast Alaska with those broken ribs inside a domed stadium in November 1986. The Seahawks starter, without looking it up????
OK, not looking it up. You can tell me.
Gale Gilbert. Fill in your own punch line.
I knew it was obscure. I just looked him up too, because his son is a backup in the NFL.