RENTON — Here’s how Pete Carroll put it this week: Russell Wilson is the best he’s ever been.
Now, we know Carroll is a fount of relentless optimism and occasional hyperbole, especially as a new season looms. But there is ample reason to believe that he is absolutely correct, and that alone is reason for Seahawks fans to dream their biggest.
The acquisition of Jadeveon Clowney and what he adds to a potentially lethal defensive front seven is a major boost to Seattle’s hopes. The transformation of the offensive line, the proven running game, the high hopes for the rookie class — all bode well for the upcoming season.
But the Seahawks, above all else, are driven by Wilson. He is their most indispensable player, the one they will ride the farthest. And so the thought of him ascending to new heights should be music to Seahawks fans.
“He’s the smartest, the farthest along, the most aware, the most in control,” Carroll elaborated. “He had a great year last year in controlling the offense, and he’s just another step towards more of that.
“That just makes us more efficient. That just keeps us out of bad plays. It should put us in good plays. He has a lot of freedom to do stuff within the system. He had a fantastic offseason of conditioning and throwing and all of that. It’s shown all the way through camp, through all of the offseason work. He’s ready to play his best football.”
It’s all theoretical, because Wilson was a virtual ghost in the preseason, throwing just 18 passes in his two appearances. Wilson counters quickly that he took more than 800 snaps during training camp and played them all with game-like intensity. Cynics will say that Wilson’s transcendent talent is being muzzled by Carroll’s run-first mentality, which is hardwired into the coach’s psyche. Carroll counters by pointing to the efficiency and well-timed explosiveness that is wrought by such a philosophy.
Carroll, in fact, believes Wilson is on the cusp of achieving a long-held mutual goal of a 70% completion rate for the season. Wilson peaked at 68.1% in 2015 and was at 65.6% last year, when he had a career-high 35 touchdown passes and a career-low seven interceptions. Drew Brees (74.4) and Kirk Cousins (70.1) were the only quarterbacks over 70% last season.
At age 30, entering his eighth season, Wilson seems to be at that sweet spot where his physical gifts are still in peak form while his mental grasp of the position is total. Wilson has bonded with second-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, characterizing their relationship as “super close.” Schottenheimer, in turn, says he clicked with Wilson from the beginning and is more in tune with his quarterback by the day.
“We see football the same way,’’ Schottenheimer said. “It doesn’t mean we agree on everything. Then having gone through last year and seeing just how poised he is through the course of the game – that’s really impressive.”
Wilson believes his poise is borne of playing so many games –- as many as any quarterback over the last 10 or 12 years, he conjectured, when you throw in college, where he never missed a game via injury, same as in the NFL. He has won a Super Bowl – and lost one in the most agonizing fashion possible. All that goes into his mental computer and is churned back out as knowledge and composure.
“I’ve played a lot of football games, played a lot of baseball games, been in a lot of situations, had a lot of experience,’’ Wilson said. “If you think about all those games, all those moments, the highs and lows and everything else – a lot of highs, and some lows – I think it’s advantageous.
“One, to me, but also I think to our football team. It gives you the confidence, allows you to have that demeanor that no matter what the circumstances are, you really truly believe you can’t be stopped and we can do whatever we want to do.”
The 2019 Seahawks have their flaws and their danger points. But as long as they have a healthy Wilson, they will once again be a playoff contender. If he can live up to Carroll’s assessment, that might be the beginning, not the end.
“Yeah, I definitely feel I’m locked in, ready to roll, ready to have a championship season,’’ Wilson said Thursday. “I feel better than ever.”
And, thus, so should Seahawks fans, even after adjusting their Carroll Bluster Meter.