O’Neil: Russell Wilson isn’t why Seahawks didn’t become a dynasty, and it’s petty to blame him
It doesn’t surprise me that there are people who remain obsessed with finding Russell Wilson’s flaws.
He’s short. He plays the game differently than other quarterbacks. He’s more likely to scramble and improvise, less likely to robotically move through his progressions, and he’s not someone you would describe as being either personable or relatable.
So once he started making big money and the Seahawks stumbled – as they did by missing the playoffs last season – I figured there would be people pointing out Wilson’s flaws.
What DOES surprise me is that so many of those people are guys that won one Super Bowl and made it to another playing alongside Wilson.
Greg Bishop and Robert Klemko document that displeasure in a well-reported story on TheMMQB.com, a story that is a fairly consistent extension to Seth Wickersham’s well-reported story in ESPN The Magazine last year. (Bishop joined Brock and Salk on Friday morning to provide further insight into the article, which you can listen to in this podcast.)
Those reports document a very real tension that has existed within this team between the self-confident quarterback and some players who have remained anonymous in their resentment about the way Wilson is treated or the way he behaves.
But before we diagnose how much chemistry and camaraderie and all those other hokey notions have affected Seattle’s success, let’s look at the actual, factual objections the sources for The MMQB story cited:
• 1) The defense was told in a 2014 practice not to yell at the QB, “You (freaking) (stink),” if one of his passes happened to be intercepted during practice.
• 2) The aforementioned quarterback invited all of his teammates to Hawaii on a flight he had chartered for them in 2015, but that was perhaps “disingenuous.”
• 3) Tony McDaniel didn’t get enough playing time. Yeah. Tony McDaniel. He played defensive tackle.
• 4) The team kept Tanner McEvoy instead of Kasen Williams at wide receiver last year.
• 5) The team was not aggressive in dialing back the playing time of Germain Ifedi, a former first-round pick, in his second season.
Does that sound like an explanation for why the Seahawks didn’t become a dynasty?
Or would it be more accurate to say that Seattle had a collection of remarkably talented – but tumultuous – players who produced the second-most successful five-year run that the NFL has seen in the past 20 years. And when it ended because of the age and the injuries that are inevitable in the NFL, instead of focusing on the championship the team did win, some of those talented but tumultuous players couldn’t get over the one they lost, which is really too bad because it was a wonderful team.
I don’t point this out to diminish the significance of this week’s story from TheMMQB.com. The divide that Bishop and Klemko describe is real. Or at least it was real prior to some changes to the roster this offseason.
The question isn’t whether there were some players who had complaints about the quarterback. There were and there are. The issue is whether those objections best explain why the Seahawks failed to win more in his six years with the team.
In my opinion, they do not. Not even close. I think the complaints fall into the category of being petty. Real, real petty. Like grade-school petty where one kid is unhappy that another kid won’t share his Legos.
Wilson is entering his seventh season now, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of how good he is as a quarterback. He’s really good. He’s not perfect. He could be better and he needs to keep getting better for Seattle to remain a contender as his salary follows the league-wide trend at that position.
And Wilson also carries himself differently and behaves in a way that doesn’t necessarily foster close friendships with his teammates. But anyone who thinks that Wilson in some way held back the Seahawks obviously doesn’t remember the way he led Seattle back in the fourth quarter of the playoff loss to Atlanta as a rookie. Or the performance against the Steelers in 2015. Or the Texans last season.
And there I am trying to justify the idea that Wilson is actually a good quarterback, which after all this time is pretty insane.