Only one other time in the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson era have the Seahawks fallen so hard, so fast. If you don’t remember when that was, turn in your Ricardo Lockette jersey and stop reading.
In January, after the first-round playoff defeat of a 12-4 team that won the toughest division in the NFL, it took more than an hour before a distraught, disheveled Russell Wilson, who played poorly and was sacked five times, met the media. Carroll two days later fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. A few weeks later, Wilson, after being feted as NFL’s Man of the Year for his charitable works, in a series of interviews surprised the football world by calmly expressing his unhappiness with the Seattle offense.
The criticism included a semi-direct shot at his pass protectors: “I’m frustrated with getting hit too much. I’m frustrated with that,” he said. He wasn’t being irrational; his 394 sacks have him 20th all time, trailing quarterbacks whose careers were much longer.
Not long after Wilson’s uncharacteristic complaint made national news, along with his agent’s provocative provision of a public list of teams of which Wilson would accept a trade, awareness seemed to dawn as to what he had wrought.
According to teammate RT Brandon Shell, Wilson began contacting his O-line teammates by text and phone. The stun was wearing off; the reworking of the Seahawks for 2021 was underway.
Wednesday after practice, Wilson responded to a question by acknowledging the contacts for the first time.
Calling them “private conversations,” he spoke only generally: “More than anything else, it was letting the guys know that we want to win, do everything we can, and be a part of it. It’s just part of the process. I think that everyone knows that I’m there for them, and vice versa.
“We have great relationships up front. it’s been great.”
Whether he came close to an apology in those messages, we’ll likely never know. Nor will we know if feelings were hurt. My sense was that since all the linemen are businessmen just like Wilson, they understood he was doing whatever he thought was the best way to use his considerable leverage to bend the bosses more toward his view of the fix, including the potential threat of forcing a trade. Nothing personal.
In the hires of new OC Shane Waldron, RG Gabe Jackson, TE Gerald Everett and WR Dee Eskridge, it appears Wilson’s effort seems to have been somewhat successful. On paper.
It wasn’t evident in the 20-7 loss Saturday in the exhibition opener in Las Vegas. It may not be more visible in the home opener Saturday at the Loo against Denver, the first game beheld by the 12s in person since 2019.
Wilson said the coaches haven’t told him whether he, or other starters, will play much, if at all, against the Broncos. The ones didn’t play in Vegas, and unless they are all in together, it may be too hazardous. Backup QB Geno Smith still hasn’t returned to the team after a concussion during a sack Saturday caused by Seattle blocking errors.
In fact, the O-line has stepped up to meet the cornerbacks group as the unit upon which the most mystery has draped.
From left to right: Duane Brown is not practicing until he gets a contract extension; Damien Lewis is in his first season at left guard after being switched from right guard, where he excelled as a rookie; center is potentially scary, especially to anyone who in a blocking drill Wednesday saw veteran DT Al Woods rag-doll the nominal starter, Kyle Fuller; right guard is Gabe Jackson, eight years in the NFL but his first in Seattle.
Right now, RT Brandon Shell is the only returnee at his position from a year ago, although that could change if Ethan Pocic gets back at starting center after missing most of camp with a hamstring injury.
The big concern is Brown, who is under contract this year but is “holding in” by attending only meetings and workouts. Asked at what point does he get uncomfortable that Brown isn’t on the line, Wilson said, “Well, I think any time Duane’s not out there, you know, it’ s . . . you always want your star left tackle out there. Just trusting the process, hoping that it works out, because we definitely need him. That’d be huge for us.
“He’s been one of the best in the game, obviously. But I think, I’m sure, he’ll get it figured out.”
Brown is unlikely to be absent when the Seahawks open Sept. 12 in Indianapolis, because that would cost him a game check of more than $550,000. Still, the offense in preseason is slower to develop because two veteran backup tackles, Jamarco Jones and Cedric Ogbuehi, also have been out injured. Shane Forsythe is a rookie sixth-round pick. The ripple effect of Brown’s absence is growing in importance.
Wilson has taken care of any hard feelings. Hard falls? Still much in play.