Why has Russell Wilson played so much worse after Seahawks’ trade?

Dec 30, 2022, 9:08 AM
Seahawks trade Russell Wilson Broncos...
Michael Hoecht of the Los Angeles Rams sacks Broncos QB Russell Wilson on Dec. 25, 2022. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

For the 10th time in 11 years, the Seahawks’ quarterback is a Pro Bowler. But for the first time in that span, that Pro Bowl QB is Geno Smith, not Russell Wilson. In fact, not only is Wilson no longer with Seattle, but his play has been far from Pro Bowl-worthy in 2022.

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The first year of Wilson with the Broncos has been an unmitigated disaster in Denver, with the team firing head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday with two games to go in his debut season and their 4-11 record only helping the Seahawks, who own Denver’s top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft as part of their return in the trade of Wilson.

Wilson has a career-worst rating of 82.6 this season, has just 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions in 13 games, has battled multiple injuries, and leads the NFL in both sacks taken (49) and sack yardage (319).

So what on earth is going on?

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a player fall this far this fast, particularly a player of Russell Wilson’s stature,” said Chad Brown, a former Seahawks All-Pro linebacker who now co-hosts The Players Club on The Fan 104.3 FM in Denver, when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Tuesday.

Brown pointed out that Wilson brought the habits that were little issues during his time in Seattle to Denver, and not only have they gotten worse, but he’s added several major problems to them.

“He was on the Hall of Fame path. We were talking about he was going to be a guy with a gold jacket five years after his career was over, and now all that is in doubt and in question because of the tenure here in Denver,” Brown said. “His footwork, which is one of the better parts of his game, that has fallen apart. His ability to read progressions, his ability to take what the defense is giving him – all those things have surfaced, which weren’t issues in Seattle. Then the issues that were in Seattle, like getting sacked often, tending to hold the ball longer looking for the big play, those have only gotten worse in Denver.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. The issues that came from Seattle with him have gotten worse, and then on top of that, new issues have cropped up. And for a guy who’s beginning to get older, he’s lost not just a step but from what I can see probably two steps in his ability to navigate the pocket.”

The problems with Wilson aren’t limited to on the field. There have long been questions about how his personality might rub teammates the wrong way, with murmurs coming out of the Seahawks’ locker room during his time in Seattle, which Brown said he mentioned on the air following the Seahawks-Broncos trade last March.

“I did a coaching internship in Seattle when Russell Wilson was there so I was aware of some of the conversations that some of those defensive guys, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and those guys, were having about Russell Wilson, and some of the disconnect within the locker room with Russell Wilson,” Brown said. “So I talked about that on my show: ‘Hey, I know we’re all excited about getting Russell Wilson here in Denver, but let’s not forget about some of these things that plagued him in Seattle and some of the ripple effect those things had in that Seahawks locker room.’ But I did not think we would go this far where the coach is fired with a couple games left to go in the season.

“… It’s just gone so wrong. I don’t think anyone could have ever predicted how poorly it’s gone. You know, I had some concerns, and I thought those concerns were justified considering Russell’s experience in Seattle, and then Nathaniel Hackett not having a true head coaching experience with him, but man, it’s gone so poor.”

The Broncos have a tough situation on their hands after signing Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension, and it’s been bad enough that there is speculation about if they could cut Wilson and just eat the massive amount of dead money that would cost. That being said, there’s also still some hope that the right coach could get Wilson back to something resembling his former self. One name that has come up is Sean Payton, the former New Orleans Saints coach who had a lot of success with Drew Brees, someone who Wilson admires as a fellow shorter QB around 6-feet tall.

Well, maybe Broncos fans shouldn’t pin their hopes on that, because Brown doesn’t see Payton as the coach who can save the Broncos in this case.

“There’s conversations about Sean Payton because Sean Payton was successful with Drew Brees, but it’s a faulty comparison because Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are completely different quarterbacks with different skill sets,” Brown said. “The only thing they have in common is that they are shorter quarterbacks, so to bring in Sean Payton because he had success with Drew Brees because somehow he’s going to have success with Russell Wilson is a bit of a leap too far for me.”

You can hear the full conversation in the podcast below.

More on the aftermath of the Seahawks-Broncos trade

Schlereth: What went wrong in Broncos’ first season with Wilson
Fann: Seahawks set to reap rewards of Broncos’ nightmare season
Seahawks Draft: The state of their top four picks in 2023

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