I’m sure many people were parsing quarterback Russell Wilson’s words and reading his body language Thursday, searching for signs of discontent in the wake of the jarring end to the Seahawks’ season, Pete Carroll’s stated desire to run the ball more often and the subsequent firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
That’s a lot to throw at the face of the franchise, some of which could reasonably be expected to stick in his craw. But dissension was nowhere to be found. The persona Wilson presented in his traditional end-of-year news conference — conducted over Zoom, of course — was standard-issue Wilson. He was upbeat, positive, effusive, team-oriented and, especially, bullish on the Seahawks’ future.
Granted, Wilson was basking in Mexico with his family, which would tend to put one in a good mood after escaping the miserable Seattle weather. And granted, it’s practically wired into his psyche to look for the good in all situations — at least in his public utterances. We rarely hear about what Wilson really feels when no one is around to document it.
The potential is there, if this situation is handled indelicately by the Seahawks, to wind up with a disgruntled quarterback. That’s why we have arrived at such a tricky crossroads for Carroll. The organization cited “philosophical differences” in explaining Schottenheimer’s departure. If you have philosophical differences with the quarterback you are paying an average of $35 million a year, and counting on to lead you back to the promised land, you’ve got major issues.
Carroll has a vivid picture in his head of what he wants the Seahawks’ offense to look like, and that picture might not jibe with that of Wilson. The quarterback spoke Thursday about how Seattle’s offense “did it better than anyone in the world” during the first five games — the “Let Russ Cook” portion of the season. That will have to be reconciled with Carroll’s statement that the way out of their second-half offensive malaise is to run better, and run more often — a slippery slope, indeed.
Carroll has to also be ever-mindful of presenting Wilson with an offensive philosophy he cannot just “live with,” but embrace and thrive under. And cognizant of the fact that the offensive coordinator is the person with whom Wilson has the closest and most intimate workplace relationship. Carroll therefore must find someone with whom Wilson is not just “OK with,” but excited about and compatible with.
That’s a formidable task, and that’s why Seahawks fans should be encouraged by the fact that Wilson, though quick to effusively praise Schottenheimer and rave about their relationship, also seemed excited about the possibilities.
It was also significant that Wilson expects to be involved in the hiring process for Schottenheimer’s replacement. As he should be. Wilson has achieved the career stature of a player who deserves to be kept in the loop on a decision of this magnitude. All one needs to do is look at the trajectories of two Houston athletes, James Harden and Deshaun Watson, to see how ugly it can get when your superstar becomes disenchanted. There are countless other examples, particularly in an era when the preeminent stars are increasingly empowered and in control of their destinies.
That falling out doesn’t have to happen in Seattle, no matter how precarious it might appear. Wilson has three years left on his contract, and the best way to maximize them, and keep him happy, is to win. Wilson said that in myriad ways Thursday. Asked if he was in favor of changing play callers, Wilson said no but added, “But what I am in favor of is our football team getting better.”
And when I asked him if he wants to see more of the “Let Russ Cook” philosophy, in light of the fact that the Seahawks’ offense was at its most productive during that time, he replied, “I want to see more wins, more championships.”
In other words, Wilson is malleable to any change Carroll makes if it results in success for the Seahawks. Maybe it was just happy talk, but Wilson seemed open to fulfilling Carroll’s desire for a stouter run game, if it helped bring about the explosive passing attack that prevailed early in the season. Along with that, he expressed again his long-standing belief that the up-tempo style of play is one the Seahawks must prioritize.
“I trust the coach,” Wilson said at one point and added that he thinks the Seahawks have “a great chance to do everything we’ve ever desired to do and everything I’ve ever hoped for. And I think everything that we as a team have ever dreamed about … I don’t think we’re crazy far off.”
Hardly the words of a malcontented QB.
“I want to be able to get us to anything and everything, right here and right now,” he said, while adding at one point, “It’s time to go for it and make sure we have the best offense in football,” and then, “I want to do it all well.”
That’s an expansive to-do list for a team that just got run out of Lumen Field less than a week ago, mainly because it couldn’t move the football against the Rams. Wilson might have to budge a little in getting all the particulars he is looking for in an offensive coordinator, and in future game plans.
But Carroll, whose DNA is to get more offensively conservative in times of stress, would be wise to give a little, too. Or at least to make sure that the most important player in the organization fully buys into whatever comes next.