Wassell’s Thoughts: What if Wilson’s career doesn’t end with Seahawks?
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 Russell Wilson’s legacy and long-term future with the Seahawks, plus the Mariners’ recent stretch of series wins.
Would it bug you if Russell Wilson didn’t finish his career with the Seahawks?
The other day, my mentor Colin Cowherd suggested that because Russell Wilson wants to play another 15 years in the NFL, his plan is to one day exit Seattle and do what Tom Brady is attempting – win independently of the team that drafted him.
There’s a couple of things to examine here. First, he’s already played eight years, so another 15 gets him to 23, which is a challenge only kickers can usually hope to surmount if they’re lucky. Twenty-three years in the same location in today’s sports landscape is darn near impossible to imagine. Athletes chase the money and we all have learned to accept that, given their limited earning window, especially in the NFL.
Over the next 15 years there are so many circumstances that could change the course of Russell’s career. Ownership overhaul, coaching changes, collective bargaining, social upheaval, better financial offers, health and, of course, ego. Pete Carroll isn’t going to be here forever. If in five years the Seahawks suddenly went into a tailspin, would you understand if Russell wanted to bolt somewhere else? I sure would. At that point, he would have given so much of himself to this community, it would be very difficult to find fault with that decision. The greater the amount of time he plays, the more likely he is to leave.
Is Seattle what’s best for him over the long term? Let’s look at the current “Let Russ Cook” boondoggle. To date, he’s not received an MVP vote. It’s possible that as he ages, he’ll become a sentimental favorite and there will be some kind of groundswell of support for him, provided he continues to play at a high level. But there is something to the idea that if the QB is not turned completely loose, that reputation will follow him around forever. The reputation being “He’s a playmaker, but not a great quarterback.”
It sounds like a silly distinction, but it’s obvious that this has been his lot in life so far in the NFL, so maybe a change of offensive system down the line might help after all – just to shut up the doubters. Even if the doubters don’t haunt him, maybe he’s just so competitive that he can’t escape the voices inside his own head that say “You’re better than this” during his waking hours. Of course, another Super Bowl ring or two and there won’t be much need to verify that he’s capable of putting up big-time fantasy numbers. But it seems he’ll have to do one or the other before he hangs it up.
One more issue. In some sports, say the NBA, there are destinations that players tend to gravitate to. When LeBron went to Miami, he didn’t have to worry about income tax and became a truly global brand. It’s tough to do that in Cleveland (although upon his return there, things seemed to go OK). Of course, there’s also LA, Boston, dare I say the Knicks if they were actually decent. Look at all the coverage Philly gets and they can’t even get out of the second round of the playoffs.
There are cities that just have juice to them. In the NFL, that’s really not the case. Seattle is as good or better than any other city on the landscape. Sure, Dallas gets a lot of primetime games, but they’re also usually pretty good if not spectacular. When Brady went to Tampa Bay, did we all say, “Wow, this is going to drive his brand into outer-space”? No. It’s Tampa Bay. It’s like a big retirement community. So when we pit city vs. city in the NFL, one seems as good as the next. He might as well stay here if things continue to go well.
Would it irk you though if for some reason down the line Russell said goodbye to the Seahawks? We’ve really not had an athlete like him here, except Ken Griffey Jr. With Griffey, his body broke down almost immediately so there was no hostility regarding his finding the better place. If Russ went elsewhere and won another title, does that stick in your craw in any way, especially if the Seahawks weren’t able to win one more with him? It’s tough to envision, but try. We still have a few weeks to go here before the season.
Learning how to win
I must confess, when the Mariners’ record dropped to 8-18 last week, I couldn’t resist the temptation to follow most of you down the “tank for draft picks” hole. At 10 games under .500 with about half the season to go, I figured what the heck, let’s chase down Boston and Pittsburgh for the dishonor of worst team in the majors.
Then watching the series with the Rangers last weekend and the Padres this week, it occurred to me that if they don’t fall into position to draft Kumar Rocker, they may gain something that’s pretty darn important – the knowledge of how to win. Baseball isn’t just going up to the plate and swinging a bat or catching a ball. There’s a mentality that great teams have that allow them to approach each game and the long season in such a way that they don’t get too up or too down. When you see young players in the dugout faux-high fiving and celebrating, they’re tasting success for the first time. Having the necessary tools to design a roadmap for success is critical if this team is going to go forward and do what we all hope.
Experience is everything. You don’t just come up to the big leagues and win a World Series because you’re talented. If you don’t buy what I’m throwing down here, ask any ballplayer if there’s something to the idea of learning how to become a winner. It takes time. This year was supposed to be about development, so why shouldn’t that be part of the plan?
Yeah, I know. Kumar Rocker. Look, if we don’t get him, it’s not like the Mariners are in danger of dropping to 20th in the draft order. After Thursday’s doubleheader, they’re the seventh-worst MLB team, record-wise. Don’t be mad every time they win.