RENTON — Russell Wilson didn’t don an apron and a chef’s hat for his first Zoom news conference since training camp began. But the Seahawks’ quarterback didn’t exactly slam shut the oven door on the Twitter sentiment that boiled throughout the offseason:
Let Russ Cook.
For the uninitiated, that phrase, preceded by a hashtag, is a plea to Pete Carroll to take the restrictions off Wilson. To lessen the coach’s long-standing reliance on the running game in order to accentuate the team’s best asset — Wilson with the ball in his hands.
Wilson, of course, is far too much the diplomat to ever state that so directly. In response to the question of whether he ever retweeted a #LetRussCook missive, Wilson laughed and said, “No, I never retweeted it.”
But when asked Thursday if he agreed with the sentiment that he needed to be involved sooner, and at a higher pace, in the Seahawks’ offense, Wilson clicked the metaphorical “like” button.
“Yeah, I definitely think so,’’ he said. “I mean, rather than us having to be in the fourth quarter to be able to make stuff happen. I think we have a crazy stat of 56 and 0 when we have the lead by halftime. I think getting ahead is the key.”
The stat is actually that the Seahawks are 57-0 when leading by four or more points at halftime since Wilson took over as starting quarterback in 2012. Last year in many ways was a historical outlier; they won six games when trailing at halftime — tied for the second-highest total of any team since the 1970 merger.
Many of those wins were achieved by finally turning Wilson loose in the fourth quarter, when the situation got dire. In many of their close losses, they failed to execute a similar blueprint — including the one that ended their season, a 28-23 playoff defeat to Green Bay in which the Seahawks trailed 28-10 midway through the third quarter before Wilson was unleashed.
Logic and a decades-long body of statistical evidence in the NFL says that there’s going to be a regression to the mean when it comes to second-half rallies to victory. As legendary as Wilson has become in fourth quarter and overtime comebacks, it would behoove them to stop relying so heavily on his late magic.
All the #LetRussCook movement is saying, if I’m interpreting it correctly, is let him weave some magic early, too. And then you might not need him to pull a win out of his hat.
“I do definitely believe in finishing strong,’’ Wilson said. “We’ve won a lot of games in the fourth quarter. And you know, done some fun things in the fourth quarter and in the game, but, you know, let’s treat every quarter as the fourth. I think that’s kind of my mentality.”
Carroll has indicated a willingness to open things up for Wilson this year. But we’ll have to see if that means he’ll hand his quarterback a figurative spatula and frying pan and say, “Cook away.”
In speaking to John Clayton on 710 ESPN in July, Carroll said that Wilson is “at the best of his game he’s ever been.”
That’s reflected in his placement at No. 2 — behind only MVP Lamar Jackson — on the annual Top 100 list voted on by NFL players. It’s no longer an argument — Wilson belongs to the elite of the elite among NFL quarterbacks.
Carroll went on to tell Clayton, “We want him to have more opportunity to be the factor in the game and control the game. But in football in general, that doesn’t mean that you throw the football all the time to do that. We need to be a really good functioning team that is hard to beat because we are so good at the things that we do. That means that you have to have balance in your game.”
It’s hard to argue with Carroll’s sustained success with the Seahawks, who have made the playoffs, and achieved double-digit victories, in seven of the last eight years. But they also haven’t advanced beyond the second round since their Super Bowl loss to New England. Maybe that will convince the coach that it’s time to let Russell cook.
It should be possible for Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to turn up the tempo and put more on Wilson’s plate without abandoning their “establish the run” principles. At 31, Wilson is at a point in his career where his understanding, knowledge and athletic ability are at peak levels. If the Seahawks want to compete for a championship, it’s vital for them to maximize the quarterback’s talents.
Wilson says that all he’s concerned with “is finding a way to score more points” than the other team.
But he also said, “At the end of the day, I want the ball in my hands. I want to be able to make plays and give us a chance to win. And I think that doesn’t always mean me chucking it around. But it does mean, I feel like the more times I have the ball in my hands, the more that I think can happen. I think the defense worries about that, too.”
Indeed, the best endorsement for letting Russell cook may be the strong likelihood that Seahawks’ opponents would be ecstatic if they kept the QB’s burner on low heat. With Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and newly acquired Phillip Dorsett in the receiving corps, and a deep group of talented tight ends to go with Chris Carson and the other running backs, they have all the makings of an explosive, diversified offense.
And Wilson — who advocated in the offseason for the Seahawks to add “superstars” — seems to be itching for a chance to be creative with those ingredients. As always, Wilson was a fount of positivity in the Zoom call. He said he wakes up every day thinking about being great. He said he’s found a way to not only slow down the game, but slow down his life — one enriched by the birth of a son, Win Harrison Wilson, last month. He believes he’s just hitting his prime, and reiterated a much-stated desire to play “10, 15 more years.”
Agreeing with Carroll’s sentiment, Wilson said, “I feel like I’m the best I’ve been. But I feel like I’m only at 70 percent capacity. I feel like I have a whole ‘nother 30 or more in me.
“At the end of the day, when I step on the field, I want the other team to know they’re in trouble. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first play of the game or the last play or the 25th play of the game. Every time I’m on the field, my mentality is to make it tough on the defense.”
Hail to the chef.