Gallant: Will Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, a pioneer of mobile QBs, adapt into his 30s?
Starting quarterbacks with extra giddy up are a relatively new phenomenon … at least en masse across the league. We’ve seen a lot of them over the last 20 years. And while it’s early, to this point, we haven’t seen them have the same longevity as more statue-esque figures.
Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III are already out of the league. Cam Newton is barely clinging to his starting gig with a first-round pick breathing down his neck. Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb lasted the longest, but their careers started to go downhill in their early 30s. And we’ll see just how long Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s been the exception.
He’s actually gotten better as a passer over time, and played the best ball of his career the past two years. But he’s turning 33 in November, and his mobility is clearly diminishing a little bit. On top of that, the man takes a beating. He’s been sacked over 40 times in every season except his rookie year, and has been just as much at fault for them as some shaky Seahawks offensive lines along the way. Those hits add up, assuming Wilson isn’t actually a T-1000 as he enters his 10th NFL season for the Seahawks.
But publicly, Wilson doesn’t sound like a man who’s headed towards being the most sacked quarterback of all time. And something he said with Jake and Stacy this week really stuck with me.
“To be in year 10 … it feels like year one for me,” said Wilson. “The reality for me is that it feels like it’s just the beginning. It feels like I’m just getting started.”
Sure, it sounds like a lot of the cliché bingo he plays with us whenever he has a microphone in front of him. I just hope it’s more than that. Because if he’s going to play towards his 40s like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, I believe he has to adapt his game a bit. Wilson went viral in the midst of Super Bowl 55 as he awkwardly sat between Roger Goodell and his wife Ciara in a luxury box. He looked like he was looking into the void. He told Dan Patrick what he saw:
“The reality is (Kansas City) couldn’t block those guys on the other end,” Wilson told Patrick. “They struggled. Patrick (Mahomes) was running for life the whole game.” For his part, Mahomes looked incredible while running for his life. I mean, he threw TWO of the greatest incompletions of all time! But he’s got mobility and elusiveness that Wilson no longer has. Does Wilson actually know this?
Wilson’s interview with Patrick became a big deal for other reasons. He criticized his offensive line, saying “I think we’ve gotta get better up front,” which is something that never should have been said publicly. He doubled down later that day during a press conference with local media: “I’ve been sacked almost 400 times, so we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better too.”
So how will he do that last part?
I hope Wilson takes the Mahomes approach. The Chiefs superstar acknowledged he needs to be better in an interview with The Ringer earlier this month.
“Sometimes,” Mahomes told Kevin Clark, “when I get hit early, I don’t trust staying in the pocket and going through my reads … I kind of get back to that backyard-style football a little bit too much. And you could definitely see that in the Super Bowl. I mean, there were times that pockets were clean and I was still scrambling.”
But maybe he won’t. Because he’s certainly confident even after the close to last year.
“I just go to the truth. I know who I am,” chuckled Wilson in his interview with Jake and Stacy when asked about his process of improving himself. “It’s not that complicated. I don’t get persuaded. I don’t get persuaded in the midst of the game. I don’t get persuaded outside the game. I don’t get persuaded by negativity.”
Wilson’s neutral thinking sure is powerful.
“More than anything else, I think about what I’ve been able to do throughout my whole career,” continued Wilson with a grin. “Even the first half of the season. For me, that’s who I am. The numbers show. That’s just the reality. That’s the truth.”
“To play this position, to be any good, you’ve got to have amnesia,” said Wilson. “You’ve got to be able to forget anything – ANYTHING – good or bad.”
Noble. Brave. But … I don’t want him to forget ALL those things. Specifically, the hits he couldn’t Houdini way out of against teams like Washington Football Team, the Giants, and the Rams.
Wilson obviously knows way more about being a quarterback then I’ll ever fathom. I’m just hoping he takes a few of these things into consideration.
• Learning – and trusting – the plays of a new offense and new offensive coordinator. That’s a two-way street. First year O.C. Shane Waldron will have to do the same. Learn the plays that Russ likes and executes the best. And avoid the plays that Wilson doesn’t like.
• He HAS to get the ball out more quickly. Wilson told Dan Patrick that some of the plays that he extends lead to touchdowns. That’s certainly true, but they’ve also led to him getting sacked over 40 times a season for nearly a decade. To his credit, Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense have certainly been working on that at the training camp practices I attended.
• When a play fails, Wilson can’t be afraid to throw the ball away. It’s something that Aaron Rodgers has become particularly adept at in the later stages of his career. It’s a better result than the turnovers that Wilson was uncharacteristically prone to in 2020.
• We’re hearing that Wilson might have more play-calling control at the line of scrimmage than he’s ever had before. Sounds like the perfect recipe to let Russ cook, right? Maybe. But considering the Seahawks were calling nearly two pass plays for every handoff last season, I’m hoping he’ll be willing to check into more running plays this season. Especially when Chris Carson is on the field.
Russell Wilson is a pioneer for mobile quarterbacks, heading into uncharted waters for a mobile signal caller entering his mid-30s. And perhaps he can keep extending plays the way he always has, doing figure eights around defenders to set himself up for incredible highlight throws downfield. But it’s not going to come as easily for him going forward.
Here’s hoping he’ll adapt.