Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would have preferred to be back at the team facility in Renton on Thursday, preparing for a divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
With the offseason arriving a bit early, he was in Mexico, where he handled one last bit of business — an end-of-season meeting with the media, conducted via Zoom.
During the almost hourlong session, Wilson said he did not push for the Seahawks to fire offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, a move they announced Tuesday. Wilson called Schottenheimer a “tremendous coach, tremendous teacher” but said he has faith in coach Pete Carroll’s conclusion that the team needed to move in a different direction.
“If you ask me if I’m in favor of it? No,” Wilson said. “… Coach Carroll decided that it is the time to make a change. He’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, so you’ve got to trust his decision.”
Wilson said he found out Tuesday, with Carroll and Schottenheimer calling to let him know. He missed Carroll’s call and heard it first from Schottenheimer.
“One of the best people I’ve ever known,” Wilson said of Schottenheimer, who arrived in 2018 after the Seahawks fired Darrell Bevell.
But Wilson preferred to look to the future, saying he will have input in the hiring of a new OC, adding that it arrives “at a critical time” in his career. Wilson is entering his 10th NFL season in 2021, when he will turn 33, and the new hire will be the third OC of his career.
“It’s super significant that we’re part of the process,” Wilson said. “And coach (Carroll) and I have definitely been talking about it. (General manager) John (Schneider), too. We’ve had some super-long conversations, great dialogue about the thought process of who we want and kind of the idea of what we want.”
And if Wilson saying he wasn’t in favor of the firing of Schottenheimer could be construed as being at odds with Carroll, Wilson said “there hasn’t been any contention’’ with him.
“I think what’s really, really important is making sure that moving forward that we’re all on the same page with me and coach. We’ve had great conversations about what’s the next step of this organization in terms of who the next person (will be). I think also, too, what’s really important is also for my career to go as far as I can possibly go.”
So what does Wilson want? In general, someone to simply make the offense better.
“I don’t think we are crazy far off,” Wilson said. “We just need to make sure we take that next step to get there.”
Specifically, Wilson several times referred to the offense’s pace. He mentioned a desire to go up-tempo as often as possible, something he has previously mentioned.
“The thing that he (Schottenheimer) really brought to me is this ability to really process the whole field and everything that’s happening and to be able to check plays and get to stuff,” Wilson said. “And I think a little bit of that is what I want is more of that and continue to do that with this next OC. And Schotty did a tremendous job of that and really allowed me to do that, the first, second year in particular, that tempo of it.
“And I think this go-round in 2021, I think is really about I want to be able to get us to anything and everything right here, right now. Fine, here we go, right? And so I’ve always been able to do that, but I think also, too, is that, you know, that being kind of a key part to our offense and making sure that that’s where I can put my foot on this play. ‘OK, here we go boom boom, boom,’ and continue to do that.”
When Carroll talked to the media Monday morning before a meeting with Schottenheimer and the subsequent decision that the Seahawks offense would change coordinators, Carroll said he wanted the Seahawks to getting back to “run the ball better. Not even better. We have to run it more.”
Carroll said that’s necessary to get opponents out of playing as much of the two-deep safety coverages he felt curtailed the Seahawks’ ability to make big plays in the passing game over the second half of the season.
Running more often would obviously take the ball out of Wilson’s hands more, something that began to happen during the second half of this season.
But Wilson downplayed that comment, saying, “I think what coach is really talking about is — and me and him have been able to coordinate and talk on that front — is that we have to do everything extremely well. Think about it — if you really want to be a great offense, best in the league, best in the world, we have to be able to throw it down the field. We have to be able to have great concepts in the middle of the field. You need to get the ball out quick and get to calling plays for us. We have to have our screen game be great. We want to run the ball extremely well. We want to be up-tempo and change the pace.
“… We are capable of all of that, right? So the expectation in 2021, in my opinion and in talking to Pete is that in my mind, I don’t want to do just one thing well. I want to do it all well.”
Wilson also downplayed the impact that two-deep coverage by opponents hampered the Seahawks this season, mostly shying away from specifics of what he thought went wrong at the end.
“I don’t think we necessarily needed to get teams out of it,” Wilson said. “I think that we just, we have to be able to throw it and run it in those situations.”
Wilson also mentioned a desire to start faster in games, saying, “I think we should go score 24 points before the half. Like actually be like, ‘Let’s go, boom! Let’s get out ahead here.’ “
The question as always, though, will be marrying a new offensive coordinator’s plan with the talent that the Seahawks have on hand.
Their top running backs — Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde — are free agents, as are two starting offensive linemen (guard Mike Iupati, center Ethan Pocic), tight ends Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister and receiver David Moore. And the Seahawks have just one pick in the first 120 picks of the NFL draft due to the Jamal Adams trade.
What the Seahawks know they have is Wilson — who in 2021 will be entering the second season of a four-year extension. He will have a salary-cap number of $32 million, or 18% of the team’s cap, the highest percent estimated during his contract due in part because the cap may decrease to $175 million because of revenue losses related to COVID-19.
“To be able to win 12 games, NFC West championship, that’s all great,” Wilson said. “To be able to throw a bunch of touchdowns, that’s all great. But the reason why we want to do this is to win championships.”
Fitterer leaves to become Panthers’ GM
Scott Fitterer, the Seahawks’ vice president of football operations, accepted an offer to become the new general manager of the Carolina Panthers, the team announced in a Tweet Thursday night.
Fitterer has been with the Seahawks since 2001 and is in his sixth season in his current role. Fitterer has held the role of being second in the chain of command in the player personnel department behind general manager John Schnieder.
Trent Kirchner, who is the team’s vice president of player personnel, has shared responsibility with Fitterer for the last six years of directing the college scouting and pro personnel departments.
Fitterer, a graduate of Kennedy High who also was a quarterback at Kentwood, received what was reported to be a five-year contract with the Panthers.