On April 17, 2019, after signing a new four-year contract that made him the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL, Russell Wilson stood with his family at a celebratory news conference at the VMAC in Renton wearing a Sonics jacket and proclaiming “I want to be a Seahawk for life.”

“The guys I’ve always admired in sports, the guys that played at (their) locations for 15-20 years, guys like Derek Jeter, I want to be like that,” Wilson continued. “I want to be remembered in that sense of what we want to do here in Seattle. So we’re just getting started.”

On Wednesday at 9:04 a.m., less than three years later, Wilson tweeted his goodbye to Seattle, a day after his stunning trade to Denver.

“SEATTLE, I Love You. Forever Grateful. #3,” Wilson wrote.


So what changed?

Tuesday’s breakup — and that feels like the proper term because from a purely football standpoint trading a Hall of Fame quarterback still in his prime was never something the Seahawks wanted to do — was in retrospect many years in the making.

Some turning points in the fraying of the relationship between Wilson and the team now seem obvious:

— The loss to Dallas in the wild-card round following the 2018 season when Wilson’s camp bristled that the Seahawks took too long to deviate from a run-dominated game plan in a 24-22 defeat, proof, Wilson’s camp felt, that Pete Carroll would forever stay devoted to winning through a running game and defense.


— Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, giving the team an April 15 deadline on April 2, 2019, to get a new contract completed, a move that caught some as needlessly contentious given that the Seahawks had every desire to get a contract with Wilson done that year anyway.

— Carroll’s decision midway through the 2020 season, after Wilson had passed as never before the first two months, to revert to a more conservative offensive philosophy following three losses in four games in which Wilson had 10 turnovers, which Wilson’s camp viewed as Carroll putting the blame on Wilson.

— And most obvious, Wilson’s public airing last February of his frustration over being hit as often as he has and his wish to have more say in team personnel matters, Wilson stating what some in his camp had whispered for years, that they felt the team wasn’t doing all it could to max out his prime years.

In the wake of Wilson’s comments and subsequent trade rumors, Carroll said last spring he’d had a “heart-to-heart” with Wilson and portrayed their relationship as being “stronger than ever” heading into the 2021 season.

But just two games in, signs emerged that truce was temporary at best.

Following a 33-30 overtime defeat in which the Seahawks blew a 15-point halftime lead, Carroll said he wished Wilson had been more conservative with his passes on Seattle’s only OT possession instead of twice attempting deeper throws that fell incomplete and then taking a sack, giving the ball quickly back to the Titans.


“I wish Russ could have helped us there and just made completions for us,” Carroll said on his radio show the next day.

The comment immediately caught the eye of Wilson’s camp, and Wilson was ready with a response when asked about it during his weekly news conference a few days later.

“I think what I agree with is, find a way to win the game, whatever that is,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to change my mindset. I know how to win a lot of those games. We’ve done it before. And you’re not going to win every single one of them. But you believe you can. I think that’s the key to our football team, always believing that you can.”

The Seahawks were blown out the following week at Minnesota, Wilson was hurt two weeks later against the Rams, and a season that Seattle hoped would end in the Super Bowl — and mend any lingering wounds with Wilson — instead devolved into the worst of the Wilson era.

But while the first three years with Wilson were an unexpectedly magical ride to two Super Bowls and one Lombardi Trophy, in some ways things never really felt the same after the interception that cost the Seahawks a chance at NFL immortality against New England.

Negotiations on a new contract the following offseason seemed surprisingly contentious and drawn out, with Wilson at one point floating the idea of still hoping to play baseball after his annual appearance at spring training with the Texas Rangers (appearances he continued to make through the years).


The move was viewed by some as an attempt by Wilson to gain leverage in his negotiations with the Seahawks at a time when there was little question the team would do whatever it took to keep him anyway — he ultimately signed a deal worth $21.9 million a year, making him the second-highest paid player in NFL history just behind the $22 million of Aaron Rodgers.

As the years progressed, some around the team grew tired of the constant rumors swirling around Wilson’s future and rumblings of his discontent with the team, and that every game seemed to increasingly be viewed as a referendum on how the team was using him.

And if it also seemed at times as if Wilson was having a midlife-football crisis, he’d been down a similar road before.

Wilson, recall, was essentially asked to leave North Carolina State after his fourth year by coach Tom O’Brien in 2010, eventually transferring to Wisconsin.

O’Brien has been widely pilloried for the move, generally condensed as simply choosing two years of Mike Glennon for one year of Wilson (O’Brien had worries that the highly-recruited Glennon would transfer if Wilson stayed).

But as a six-part podcast by 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh, North Carolina, last year detailed, the issue was far more nuanced and the parting a result of a relationship between Wilson and O’Brien that frayed over several years due not only to Wilson’s desire to play baseball but also long baseball-related absences from the team and subsequent communication issues between the two, and O’Brien questioning Wilson’s commitment to the football team.


“He just never saw it the way I did,” O’Brien was quoted by WRAL.

As the years progressed, Carroll likely increasingly had the same thought, even if early in Wilson’s Seattle career the prevailing viewpoint was that Carroll and the organization did everything to protect him. It’s thought one reason Seattle didn’t sign Colin Kaepernick in 2017 was out of concerns whether Kaepernick might prove a threat to Wilson’s standing in the locker room, with Wilson at the time coming off his worst season.

The move to Wisconsin, though, worked out perfectly for Wilson. Regarded as a middling NFL prospect at best at the time, Wilson set a college football record in passing efficiency in his one year with the Badgers in leading them to the Rose Bowl and ending up a third-round choice of the Seahawks the following spring.

In other words, he has experienced the grass indeed proving greener on the other side.

And as the years went on in Seattle, he seemed to want to try to experience that again.

“He wanted out,” one source said after the trade.

Some might question, of course, if the organization couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have chosen Wilson instead of Carroll and general manager John Schneider.


But that bridge might have been crossed when Carroll and Schneider each got new contracts a year ago — Carroll through the 2025 season and Schneider through the 2027 draft — and with the knowledge that no matter who was in charge, another likely-to-be-contentious contract negotiation with Wilson loomed a year from now.

So Wilson gets the fresh start he saw work out well for him once before.

Carroll and Schneider get a fresh start they’d become increasingly resigned to understand the last year or two was almost certainly in the offing.

Now, like a football version of former Los Angeles Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, each will try to prove he can win it all without the other, knowing their NFL legacies — a word Wilson increasingly used the past few years — are on the line like never before.