On Wednesday, the Seahawks’ top brass, Pete Carroll and John Schneider, made the case that their relationship with Russell Wilson is all patched up. The Seahawks are ready to thrive with him, they said.
The NFL draft kicked off Thursday following a tweetstorm of massive proportions regarding the volatile status of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, and fevered analysis of how it affected the plight of the quarterback-seeking San Francisco 49ers.
That helped a surprising phenomenon come into focus, even if a Rodgers trade to San Francisco (or anywhere else, so far) never did.
The Seahawks, who spent much of their offseason listening to rampant speculation about a rift with Wilson — much of generated by the words and actions of Wilson himself and his camp — nevertheless have the most stable quarterback situation in the division.
And the best.
The long-apparent reality that the Seahawks would not be trading Wilson this offseason was officially cemented when the first round passed without a deal involving the Seahawks. It’s Wilson’s show in Seattle, as it has been since 2012.
So let’s look at the Seahawks’ quarterback position compared to their colleagues in the NFC West.
In Wilson, the Seahawks have a proven winner, one who has taken them to the playoffs every year of his career except one, including two Super Bowls and one title. Every year, Wilson adds to his ongoing record of producing the most victories for a quarterback through his (fill in the number) season.
Yes, Seattle’s offensive slump in the second half of the season was partially on the back of Wilson, who in turn spoke out about the need for better protection. It also revealed some offensive deficiencies in scheme that Carroll hopes can be cured by installing new coordinator Shane Waldron.
There’s also no doubt that Wilson’s discontent was genuine. But the Seahawks portrayed that they’ve worked through the issues and come out the other side with Wilson “as jacked as he’s ever been,’’ in Carroll’s words on Wednesday. The coach went on to say, “Russ is in a great place now.”
The offensive line was strengthened with the trade for guard Gabe Jackson. The receiving corps was augmented by signing tight end Gerald Everett. The Seahawks escaped a potential hole at running back by retaining free agent Chris Carson.
Now we’ll see how Wilson responds to a new coordinator and if Waldron can coax more juice out of Seattle’s attack. We’ll also find out whether the drama of the offseason affects Wilson’s performance. Yet with all that taken into consideration, history says that the quarterback will remain a strength of the Seahawks and a huge reason they’ll remain a playoff contender.
Now let’s examine the rest of a division that could well be the strongest in football in 2021:
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were the overwhelming mystery of draft day, just as they have been since trading their 2022 and ’23 first-round picks, plus a third-rounder this year, to Miami in March to move up nine spots in the draft to No. 3.
The early consensus was that they did so to select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. But that never made sense since Jones doesn’t seem like the sort of generational talent to warrant such a power move. If not Jones, then what about two other quarterbacks, Justin Fields or Trey Lance? Unless, of course, the 49ers pulled an 11th-hour blockbuster by trading for Rodgers, whose irreconcilable discontent in Green Bay was conveniently revealed via twitter on the afternoon of Draft Night. Rumors of discussions between the two teams broke Thursday afternoon.
It turned out to be … drum roll … Lance.
Despite having played just 17 college games for FCS school North Dakota State, Lance appears to be a prodigious talent, one who blew away Kyle Shanahan at his pro day. He may well become a superstar down the road. But barring another acquisition, the 49ers will either turn their team over immediately to someone who played just one game last year (vs. Central Arkansas), or let Lance learn while Jimmy Garoppolo again runs the show.
Yes, the same Garoppolo whom Shanahan has clearly decided isn’t good enough to be the man at quarterback. Garoppolo did take the 49ers to the Super Bowl two years ago, and has guided the 49ers to a 24-9 record in games he’s started under Shanahan (compared to a 5-23 record by other quarterbacks).
This might be a home run for the 49ers long-term — the veteran mentoring an uber-talented rookie worked out just fine for the Chiefs with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes — but you still have to wonder how it will sort out short-term.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams also pulled a blockbuster trade this offseason to shore up their quarterback situation, sending Jared Goff (a former No. 1 overall pick who guided the Rams to the Super Bowl three years ago) and three future draft picks (a 2021 third-round pick and 2022 and 2023 first-round selections) to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.
Rams coach Sean McVay had clearly reached the end of the line, and his rope, with Goff. He didn’t start him in the playoff game against the Seahawks, though Goff came off the bench when starter John Wolford got hurt and led the Rams to a win. The Rams felt strongly enough about getting a new QB that they continued to mortgage their future in the process. Amazingly, the Rams haven’t had a first-round pick since 2016, and aren’t due to get one until 2024 because of trades for the draft pick that yielded Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Ramsey and now Stafford.
Stafford, 33, is a proven NFL performer who has displayed toughness and skill for an extended period. But he has never won a playoff game, going 0-3 in 12 seasons with the Lions. Now Stafford will have to learn a new offense and mesh with the Rams’ (considerable) offensive talent.
Again, Stafford could turn out to be just what the Rams need to get them back to the Super Bowl. But there’s an air of uncertainty that doesn’t exist with Wilson.
Kyler Murray is entering his third year as the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals after they made him the No. 1 overall pick, despite having used a first-round pick on quarterback Josh Rosen the previous year, and despite the fact that the Oakland A’s had just taken Murray in the first round of the MLB draft.
It’s been a steady growth for Murray, who like a certain quarterback in Seattle has shown that height deficiencies don’t have to be limiting. And the Seahawks saw firsthand last year the brilliance that lurks within Murray. In leading the Cardinals to a 37-34 overtime win after being down 10 points in the fourth quarter, he became the first QB in NFL history to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for at least 50 yards and a touchdown in a single game.
That put Murray into the MVP conversation which at the time had centered on Wilson. He put up lavish numbers and earned his first Pro Bowl recognition. Yet there is still an unfinished quality to Murray. The Cardinals went 3-6 midseason after a 5-2 start, then lost two games at the end of the season (both to backup quarterbacks) when a victory in either one would have clinched a playoff spot.
Any of those other quarterback situations in the NFC West could turn out to be golden. But after all that fretting in winter and spring about Wilson’s future in Seattle — and how it might end sooner than anyone thought — the Seahawks are still set up better than any of them.