NFL.com’s Michael Silver: Seahawks culture paying off for Clowney, Wilson in different ways
Dec 5, 2019, 1:50 PM | Updated: 6:25 pm
The Seahawks were thrilled to land defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from the Houston Texans for a third-round draft pick and linebackers Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo before the start of the regular season.
While the result of the trade through 13 weeks is looking great for Seattle and Clowney, the way things ended for Clowney in Houston wasn’t so pretty.
Clowney talked with NFL.com’s Mike Silver after Monday’s 37-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings about the end of his Texans days. You can read the piece here. Silver then joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Wednesday to discuss Clowney and the Seahawks as a whole (podcast here).
During the segment with hosts Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant, Silver mentioned some interesting things Clowney said that he didn’t have the chance to include in his story. Chief among them was that now that he’s in a different environment, Clowney wished his Texans tenure ended differently.
“He said, ‘Listen, now that I see how they do things here and it’s such a professional environment in the way that leaders act, I realized I wasn’t doing those things in Houston,’” Silver said. “(Clowney also said), and I’m paraphrasing, ‘I wish I could go back and do Houston over again and be more mature about it because I know now, being around here, what it takes to be a true pro.’”
Silver noted that there are major cultural differences between the two franchises, which was even more apparent back when Clowney entered the league in 2014.
“It is a different thing to come in as a No. 1 pick to an organization that doesn’t really have any history of sustained success,” Silver said. “They’ve done well with (Texans head coach) Bill O’Brien (who became coach in 2014) for sure, surprisingly well I think if you look at what they’ve actually done. … I do think (Clowney) is growing as a player and as a person so it’s one of those situations where it was a great get for the Seahawks because he’s such a great player, but by being in that environment has brought out the best in him I think too.”
The big defensive lineman has been great for the Seahawks, recording three sacks and two defensive touchdowns this season while making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, offensive linemen and running backs.
— NFL (@NFL) December 3, 2019
Clowney is on a one-year deal with the Seahawks after signing a tender with Houston before being traded to Seattle. Clowney told Silver that he told the Texans that he would sign the tender, but not until right before the season because of potential injury risks during training camp and preseason games.
Clowney also told Silver that O’Brien, who is also the team’s de-facto general manager, said they wanted him to sign the tender so they could trade him to the Miami Dolphins, but Clowney put his foot down and said he wouldn’t sign it if that’s where they Houston would trading him.
“When I got (to the Texans facility) they’re talking about me signing the tender and going to the Dolphins,” Clowney said in the Silver story. “They said, ‘It’ll be good for you and good for us.’ I’m like, ‘Good for me? They’re gonna tank the season for a damn quarterback! Find me a team that can win, and I’ll sign the damn tender.’”
Another issue was Clowney felt great physically despite being away from the team while he waited to sign his tender, but the Texans weren’t sure that he would arrive in great shape if he reported to the team right before the regular season.
“He told me, ‘I was in the best shape of my life; I had a great summer so when I came in, I was going to hit the ground running,’” Silver said to O’Neil and Gallant. “I think in that building they thought, ‘Dude, we’ve seen you come in out of shape before. It takes a while so when you say you’re going to be ready for that first game against the Saints, we’re a little skeptical.’”
Another potential issue that may have fractured the relationship with Clowney and the Texans was that even though he’s a great player and was the No. 1 pick in 2014, he was overshadowed by star defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
“I think in fairness to Clowney, oxygen is sucked up by J.J. Watt in that building and certainly on that defensive line and that’s a whole other issue,” Silver said. “He’s a great player and I love talking to J.J. … but I’m not sure that’s the easiest shadow to be in if you’re a young, also-talented player in that locker room.”
Seahawks culture is better for Wilson
Another player who is benefiting from the Seahawks’ culture this season is star quarterback Russell Wilson, who is in his eighth season.
Wilson was often overshadowed earlier in his career by some of the bigger personalities on those great Seahawks teams of the early- and mid-2010s, especially players on the team’s historically good defense. And while he was a captain on offense, some of the team’s other stars never seemed to fully support him.
“I think it’s less of a challenge to Russell Wilson’s personality/leadership (this season) than the previous incarnations,” Silver said. “Let’s think about it – Russell was younger, he came in and was the starter right away and you had guys who had such big personalities and most of them had been there a little longer (than Wilson) or just immediately became a force. … I just think it was harder for him.”
The fracture between Wilson and some of those other players, which has been widely publicized and discussed over the last few years, had to do with how different Wilson’s personality was compared to some of the other “alphas” on those Seahawks teams, Silver said.
“Part of it is his personality was a lot different than those guys and part of it is a quarterback who’s trying to go through his phrases and be a pro and do things the right way might get swallowed up by the intensity of the Richard Shermans and the Michael Bennetts and the Earl Thomases and the Kam Chancellors,” Silver said. “And I say that lovingly. Those are some of the best players I ever covered, and they effected great change in their building and they’re a huge reason why they did so well. I do think it was harder for Russell at times to assert himself.”
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) December 3, 2019
Now, it is clearly Wilson’s team, and some of those guys like Thomas and Sherman are playing for other teams.
“I think he rightfully felt like there were more people on the other side of the ball who were sometimes more reproachable to his style,” Silver said. “And now it might not be 52 who are ‘ride or die Russell Wilson on or off the field, that’s my boy I’m going to do anything for him,’ but there’s definitely 52 guys who are like, ‘This is Russell’s show he’s one of the best players in the league, he’s our quarterback, what’s not to love?’ I think Russell has become more extroverted and more of an overt leader too.”
The criticism from some of Wilson’s ex-teammates wasn’t that he was a player who held the team back, but that he didn’t quite fit in with some of the other great players on the team, Silver said.
“The strain wasn’t ‘Russell’s not very good, this is our team,’ it was, ‘He’s good, but he’s the chosen one and the organization wants him to be the guy. Why can’t he just be more like us?’” Silver said.
Sherman, who played the first seven years of his career in Seattle before signing with the San Francisco 49ers prior to the 2018 season, per multiple reports was one of Wilson’s toughest critics in the Seahawks’ locker room. Despite that, the two exchanged jerseys after the Seahawks’ 27-24 overtime win in Week 10.
“I don’t think that was fake,” Silver said of the jersey swap. “I think there’s been a ton of tension in their relationship and they’re never going to be best friends, but I think they’re competitive guys who deep inside really respect one another and went to battle a lot, so I think it’s complex.”
Find the full segment with Silver in the podcast embedded below beginning around the 26:30 mark.