Salk: Rooting against Russell Wilson, Broncos easy for Seahawks fans — and fun
Football fans of a certain age had to learn how to flip channels. There were two games on at a time and we were masters of watching both. That was the way of the world until Red Zone came along and we lost our remote control skills. Ah, progress.
On Sunday, Seahawks fans had a reason to recall the old days. Their team was on FOX, but it was no accident that our local CBS affiliate carried the Broncos and Texans. And if you were like me, you were working that remote control hard.
Yes, Seahawks fans now have two teams to root for every week: Seattle, and whatever team is playing Denver. And while a small group may complain that “Russ is gone and it’s time to move on,” most of us will not comply.
Nor should we.
What happens in Denver this year is almost as important as what transpires here in Seattle. For two reasons.
The first is fairly simple: the Seahawks own Denver’s picks in the first two rounds. Just as Jets fans were rooting for Seattle to lose every game the last two years after the Jamal Adams trade, so should Seattle fans cheer every Broncos loss.
Look, every Seahawks game has a mitigating factor. I’m rooting for the team to win and each time they do, it will hopefully show the growth of the roster and the young players. We want to see them learn to win and improve. But most of us don’t realistically expect them to make the playoffs, so every loss does have the silver lining of improving their draft position.
I’m not rooting against the Seahawks, but the losses this year will be just a little bit easier to swallow.
Not so for Denver games. Every time the Broncos lose, it helps the Seahawks. Period. So it’s easy to root against them.
Reason No. 2 is a little more complex, but it’s a lot more interesting. If Russell Wilson wins his way, it is a strong indictment of Pete Carroll’s last few seasons here. Russ wanted to cook and Pete threw fire-retardant foam all over the flames. The popular narrative emerged that Pete was an old fuddy-duddy who wouldn’t adapt to modern times, and Russ needed to escape in order to succeed.
I promised a poll tonight so here goes:
Two weeks into the season, which statement better describes your feelings on the Seahawks/Russell Wilson?
— Mike Salk, Seattle Sports Station (@TheMikeSalk) September 21, 2022
Of course, the Seahawks have a different story. They believe Russ was losing his athleticism, wanted too much power, and wasn’t as effective without the running game providing balance. In short, he’s not good enough at that style to make it work. His best trait is his efficiency – he does more with fewer opportunities. But that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
If Russ proves that he can win while throwing for a gazillion yards, the Seahawks look bad and it will become clear that Pete wasted some of the last few years.
But if Russ struggles? Or if he throws for all those yards but it doesn’t translate to wins? Well, then a whole bunch of folks owe Pete an apology.
And so far, things are looking bad in Denver.
• Russ has been booed. Not just Week 1 in Seattle, where he has become persona non grata, but at home! Sure, the boos in Denver last Sunday were for the Broncos’ offense in general. But guess what? It’s his offense! This is the team he wanted to play for. The coach he wanted to control. The offensive philosophy he wanted to succeed with. And the roster he chose to join.
• Russ has thrown the ball without a ton of success. He threw it 42 times in Seattle. And lost. Sure, he had the yards, but not the win. He might have thrown it more than 31 times against the Texans but he was so ineffective that he didn’t have much of a chance.
But what should bother Denver fans more is the way Russ kept throwing in Seattle at the expense of the Broncos’ very effective running game. The Seahawks had a simple game plan: play two deep safeties and dare Denver to run it. The Broncos could have marched up and down the field if they had been willing to take what they were being given. But when the quarterback is more interested in showing the world he can win his way rather than being satisfied just winning… well, you end up throwing 42 times and losing.
His coach, meanwhile, has had arguably the worst two-week debut of any head coach in history. Let’s be clear: Nathaniel Hackett is a disaster. He has consistently struggled to get plays called on time. He has panicked when faced with tough decisions. He eschewed a fourth-and-5 opportunity with his shiny new quarterback in favor of a 64-yard field goal attempt. Then he tried to convince us the decision was only wrong because of the result. Uh, no. The process was worse!
And through it all, Hackett has stood by his one core tenet: Russ is in charge. It is all about Russ. In fact, Hackett spoke those exact words on Monday. He is apparently just there to serve at the pleasure of his quarterback.
A few weeks ago I wrote that Russ only signed that deal in Denver because the Broncos were willing to give him control. At the time, I didn’t realize how right I was!
And while being in control might be fun, it won’t work in that locker room if they don’t win. We know that Russ wasn’t the most popular guy in the locker room here. Since showing up in Denver, he has tried (unsuccessfully) to show that he can be more authentic. I can’t imagine his new teammates are going to take too kindly to his constant insistence that they call out run or pass to help the defense. And I’ve even heard some of his teammates weren’t wild about him taking over an hour to get dressed after the loss in Seattle because they were stuck on the bus waiting for him the whole time. Can you imagine how annoyed you would be losing on the road and then having to sit on the bus forever waiting for your new teammate who has made it all about him? Those are the little things that add up.
Russ might not be a dual threat quarterback anymore. He has run for a total of six yards in two games. He hasn’t shown his trademark playmaking on the run. He is no longer running read option. I have always thought that Russ is a capable pocket passer, but what set him apart was his ability to add the escapability to his arm talent. Without that speed, he is still a good quarterback. But is he elite? Is he worth $256 million? Is he capable of winning in a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr and some of the best pass rushers in the game?
I’d bet against that.
Russ left because he wanted to do it his way. So far, his way has been a failure. So far, his way has led to boos wherever he goes. So far, his way has led to his own home crowd derisively counting down the play clock to help him avoid yet another delay of game (a problem that seems to have magically cleared up here in Seattle without him in the huddle). So far, his way has led his team to a 1-1 record against two teams that are expected to miss the playoffs by a large margin. So far, his way has led to a scoring average of 16 points per game.
I wonder what his way will lead to next?
Regardless, I’ll be watching. And rooting for whatever team is playing the blue and orange.
More on the Seahawks from Seattle Sports
• Seahawks’ Carroll: Geno Smith needs more chances, to not be held back
• Bump’s Breakdown: How Seahawks can get more from Smith, offense
• Carroll: How Seahawks rookies have performed through first 2 weeks
• The most concerning numbers for Seahawks this season
• Rost: Seahawks a far cry from what they want to be in Week 2 loss