Wassell’s Thoughts: Why Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll aren’t Brady and Belichick
Welcome to another edition of Tom Wassell’s Thoughts, a regular column from the co-host of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy. This week, Tom looks at why you can’t compare the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll with the former Patriots duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and why he feels so strongly about the state of the Mariners’ bullpen.
Last time: How to define Seahawks’ success in 2020
Russ and Pete aren’t Brady and Belichick
The Seahawks have plenty of questions year to year, some of which never seem to get answered, but there’s one thing we needn’t worry about: the relationship between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll.
During a conversation on the Brock and Salk Podcast this week, Mike Salk expressed some concern over Wilson hearing the cries of the “Smart 12s,” a group of Seahawks fans that are campaigning for Russell’s number of pass attempts to increase significantly. Could that lead to a division between he and Seattle’s head coach?
There are statistics to back up the idea of more pass attempts equals success, and common sense says put the ball in the hands of your best player as often as you can. But is the reason Russell said the other day that he wants to treat the first three quarters of a game like the fourth because he feels empowered by what’s being said online?
For some athletes, I’m certain that they go on the internet and Google their names to find out who’s praising them and who’s tearing them down. A guy like Baker Mayfield probably can’t help himself from doing so. Image matters too much to him and he’s not yet demonstrated the kind of maturity that helps a celebrity deal with such things.
Russell Wilson doesn’t need the backing of anyone to say what he believes. He’s as self-assured an athlete as we’ve ever seen, and if he bothers to read his own press, my guess is that he laughs it off. Think about the amount of time he puts in with Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer going over the playbook and making sure that they’re on the same page. Do you think because Russ went online one day and heard some fans talking about him throwing the ball 10 more times a game that he’s willing to undo all the work he’s already put in with the plan that they have?
It’s not that Russ doesn’t have an ego. He’s a human being that believes he’s worth $35 million a year (and he is worth it). It takes some confidence to believe that. But what evidence is there that he wants the team to be all about him?
Let’s take his most recent quote about treating the first three quarters like No. 4. Instead of thinking that this means he wants to throw the ball all over the place, undoing Pete’s philosophy of a ball-control, clock-killing field position game, backed up by defense, might it just mean more urgency? Maybe it does mean that Pete needs to put the ball in Russell’s hands a little more, but only in key spots, possessions, downs, and situations. Run the offense like you normally would but take some chances if the run game stalls or the offensive line breaks down. In other words, “trust me to get it done when YOU think I can.” If you were in Pete’s position, wouldn’t you want all your players to approach each game with that kind of attitude?
Some players get antsy if the ball isn’t constantly in their hands. Antonio Brown and Terrell Owens come to mind. The problem can manifest in the locker room and ultimately tear it apart. I don’t think for one second that Russell is even beginning to approach that level of selfishness. There’s a difference between being highly competitive and throwing a fit when things don’t go your way. Would either Russell Wilson or Pete Carroll sacrifice the success of the team just to glorify their own egos? It just seems out of character for either one to do so.
Let’s take a look at Pete Carroll’s side of this. He’s had guys like Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett trash him at one time or another, but does he let that get to him? No. Does he fire back in the media? No. It’s not how Pete is wired. Even if he sensed that Russell was resentful of the manner in which he’s being used in the offense, I can’t see Pete turning into Mike McCarthy or Matt LeFleur, both of whom have seemingly gone to war with Aaron Rodgers, jockeying for control of the team. Pete knows his place in the Seahawks organization, and when he drafted Russell, he must have known that over time his QB would want more and more responsibility.
No situation is perfect. There’s always going to be a push and pull between the authority figure and those who work underneath him. But remember, Russell had his chance to bolt for another city if he felt like he was being underused here. He wanted to be in Seattle and experience all that goes with that, including running an offense that doesn’t always feature his strengths. He’ll deal with it just fine.
I got absolutely destroyed by you guys on Twitter the other day on the topic of building a bullpen. I contend that even when the Mariners are ready to compete, putting together a core of quality relievers is no easy task.
“But Tom, first you build up your position players, then your rotation. The bullpen comes last.”
YEAH NO KIDDING. That doesn’t mean that just throwing money at the issue will solve it overnight.
There is an elite group of relievers in baseball. The Mariners would be lucky to get one of them should they make a good trade. But let’s take a look at a guy they just sent away a few years ago that was considered elite: Edwin Díaz. After three successful years here, we sent him to the Mets where he completely fell apart. Granted he’s actually pitching a bit better of late, but still the point is clear. Year to year, you don’t know what you’re getting.
Look at guys who were successful here one year and brutal the next. Fernando Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen, the entire 2014 bullpen for that matter, which was stellar until the calendar turned over to 2015 and they all forgot how to pitch or got hurt. How about Juan Nicasio? Remember when we nabbed him in free agency and he turned out to be a total bust? Then there’s guys who actually pitched well in limited time here like Evan Scribner, except for the fact that he missed five months of the 2016 season to injury. Same with Tony Zych, whose career was derailed injury.
So if we approached Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and said, “Hey Jer, once we’re ready to compete and you have to assemble a bullpen, that’ll be easy right?” Do you think he’s gonna say yes? Relievers cover innings 6-9, nearly half the game. Without that piece of the puzzle, you’re doomed. It’s like being sound on offense and defense but having a bad kicker. All that work for nothing. But still, some of you think, “No problem. It’s the last part of the rebuild.” The fact that it comes last is not relevant.
It’s perhaps the most difficult because of the fickle nature of relievers. They’re in the bullpen for a reason. Most of them either aren’t very good or they can just throw 98 mph heat that leads to… injury.