Are the changes Russell Wilson is advocating for needed to get Seahawks to Super Bowl?

Feb 7, 2020, 9:31 AM

Seahawks Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll...

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been outspoken about wanting changes this offseason. (AP)


Has Russell Wilson been campaigning for changes to the Seahawks’ offense?

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I tend to think recent comments from Seattle’s quarterback are musings from a veteran player who knows what it takes to win, rather than a contentious plan to openly question the Seahawks’ run-heavy philosophy. After all, Wilson has always been PR-savvy and hesitant to stir up controversy. But ESPN’s Bill Barnwell (and a few 710 ESPN Seattle hosts) see Wilson’s comments over the last few weeks as a quarterback advocating for change – and for Barnwell, that change is needed if Seattle wants to get back to a Super Bowl.

Barnwell joined Tom, Jake and Stacy for an interview Tuesday, during which he explained how Super Bowl LIV became “Andy Reid’s masterpiece” (as told in his column for ESPN) and shared his thoughts about Pete Carroll’s run-first offense. He also explained how the thinking behind that offense may be backwards.

“I think Russell Wilson is every bit as good as (Super Bowl LIV-winning quarterback) Patrick Mahomes,” Barnwell said. “I think he’s better in some ways, not maybe quite as good in some ways, but I think he is one of the three or four best quarterbacks in football… (but) I think there is this perception by the coaching staff, by the organization, that what they do with the running game helps Russell Wilson succeed. Every bit of evidence we have now over six or seven years says it’s Russell Wilson propping up the running game, not the other way around.”

Just five teams ran the ball more often than Seattle did in 2019. And while the Seahawks leaned into the run less than in 2018, when the offense ran on 52.44% of all plays, they passed on significantly fewer plays in 2019 (54%) than teams like New Orleans Saints (60%) or the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs (61%).

Granted, the two top-seeded teams in the league this past season – the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers and the 14-2 Baltimore Ravens – relied heavily on the run. But Baltimore’s success on the ground was in no small part due to its 1,200 rushing yards from MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, and San Francisco’s biggest strengths lay with its running backs and pass rush. With Wilson under center, it’s a bit more surprising for a national audience to see Seattle’s adherence to the run, especially early on in games.

“They don’t have to turn into the Chiefs,” Barnwell said. “They don’t have to throw the ball 65 percent of the time. But they can’t wait until the fourth quarter and have Russell win games in the fourth quarter. They have to be more aggressive throwing the football early on in games, early on downs. You can’t just get to third-and-8, third-and-9, and expect Russell to make magic happen. It’s unfair. It’s just not a sustainable way to win. And I think that Russell is so talented; he’s done so much. You have an MVP candidate – use it. It’s just that simple.”

Wilson’s outspokenness this offseason signals that’s he’s pushing for Seattle to do just that.

“It does seem like he is publicly complaining more, maybe agitating more, to throw the ball more frequently than he ever has before,” Barnwell said. “Will that mean something when it comes to September? Who knows. I don’t think it’s realistic to say. But Pete Carroll doesn’t have that many more chances to win a Super Bowl. He’s one of the oldest coaches in football. And Russell Wilson is in the prime of his career. We’re not going to get to see this again… this is a guy who was probably the second- or third-best player in football this year. Getting that sort of season out of a quarterback is rare. I would hope that they would see that and say, ‘Hey, let’s give it a chance, even if it’s for a few weeks.’ But they haven’t had it happen yet, so I’m certainly skeptical they’re going to go to it when it comes to the 2020 season.”

It hasn’t happened yet, but could the Seahawks alter their approach in 2020? As part of an ongoing series on Tom, Jake and Stacy this offseason, we’ll be looking to answer the same question: How can the Seahawks get back to a Super Bowl in the next two seasons? Attempts to answer that question won’t just focus on personnel additions, but also scheme and philosophy.

You can hear the full interview with Barnwell in the player below or at this link.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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