BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 02/14/2021

Thiel: Wilson’s plan may work for Seahawks too

Russell Wilson has a well-planned media campaign to help get what few athletes earn: Some control. If you missed his words on Seahawks OC Shane Waldron, it’s working.

It was April 2019 when coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider joined Russell Wilson at the podium at the VMAC to discuss his signing of the then-richest contract in NFL history. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

In sorting through the latest NFL parlor game, WDRW  — What Does Russell Want? — I remembered an answer to a Zoom question Wilson offered Dec. 17, a few days after the Seahawks beat the New York Jets, 40-3.

That was a high point that seemed to signal a seasonal restoration of a dominant offense, even if the Jets were winless, and spoke well to Seattle’s chances in the pending playoffs.

Little did we know that over the final four games, the Seahawks would score 20, 20, 26 and 20 points, go 2-2 and average 288 yards of offense. Over the 16-game season, that number would have topped only the league-worst average of the Jets (279 ypg).

But in mid-December, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was riding high enough to have his name in circulation to fill the head coaching vacancy of the Houston Texans. Asked what he thought about his friend becoming an NFL head coach, Wilson unleashed one of his standard hyperbolic gushers.

“I think Schotty would be a tremendous head coach in this game,” he said. “I think he understands the game so well, he’s got that great pedigree (his dad, Marty, who died Feb. 8, had a 200-136-1 record in 21 years as an NFL head coach). He’s been around the game for so long, coached a lot of great quarterbacks.

“He understands the game extremely well. He’s a great teacher of the game. He’s always motivated. He always worked hard. Great family guy. I love him as a person. I think of all the things that he can do as a playcaller. I think he’s a great leader of men. If he does get a great opportunity, I know he’ll be great at it. You want to root for him, for sure.

“That’s the problem with this game — sometimes you win, your team’s playing great and everybody’s scoring touchdowns and making plays, and you’ll lose some people you love sometimes.”

And sometimes you don’t play well, no one’s scoring touchdowns, you lose games and lose people you love anyway.

I have no reason to think Wilson was exaggerating about his respect and affection for Schottenheimer. So when he was ousted by coach Pete Carroll less than a month later — a day after the coach said he expected back all of his assistants — Wilson must have gasped at the gut-punch.

Five days after the firing, Wilson, on a Zoom call from his vacation in Mexico, was asked whether he was in favor of the move.

“You ask me am I in favor of it? No,” he said. He tried to minimize any resentment, but was plain that his friend was the fall guy for the 30-20 first-round loss to the Rams that concluded the seasonal backslide with Wilson’s worst playoff game — 11 for 27 for 174 yards and a pick-six.

Schottenheimer landed with Jacksonville as passing-game coordinator under OC Darrell Bevell, who was hired by new Jags coach Urban Meyer. Since Bevell was also fired by Carroll — in 2017, not long after another memorable home loss to the Rams, 42-7 — the Carroll Casualty Coaching Club has its co-founders in one town.

That first meeting of 4C must have had some stories.

Meanwhile, down the Gulf Coast in Tampa, Wilson attended the Super Bowl, in part to be feted as the 2020 winner of the NFL’s annual Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his innumerable charitable works, only the second Seahawk so honored.

Bracketed by sympathetic interviews with national radio hosts Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick, Wilson did a Zoom interview with writers about his award that veered quickly into commentary about the tensions between him and Carroll. Not only did he break his own custom of speaking only in platitudes, bromides and compliments, he broke Carroll’s No. 1 rule: Protect the team.

In the carefully planned media tour by his agent, Mark Rodgers, the polite but unmistakable criticism of the Seahawks’ pass protection (“I’m getting hit too much”), and his desire to be part of the personnel decision-making (“I think that’s something that is important to me’’) led him to toss his boulder into the still pond: “I’m not sure how long I will play in Seattle.”

Since he’s under contract through 2023 and isn’t pursuing more money, Wilson is using the leverage often, but not always, accorded great QBs, to gain something rarely shared in the NFL: Some control.

That’s the sort of thing that has appeal to anyone working for corporate overlords.

The strategy appears to have paid early dividends.

Lost in the attention given to Wilson’s laments was his effusive praise for Schottenheimer’s replacement, Shane Waldron, poached from the Rams and Sean McVay, Carroll’s coaching nemesis.

It sounds as if Wilson had some say in the decision. Either that, or he’s faking the football orgasm.

“I think Shane’s gonna be a great coach,” he said on Zoom. “I think he’s got great knowledge of the game. He’s a good person. He just has that kind of ‘it’ factor and wants to be great.

“We can’t talk ball (right now) really, just because of the rules. But I think he’s gonna be a great offensive coordinator. He’s got everything that you would want in terms of his knowledge of the game and his experience, especially being with Sean McVay, and all the great things they’ve done . . . He’s got some good stuff to him.”

So it would appear Carroll, who had no previous connection with Waldron, has made good with Wilson on the first hire.

Regarding the O-line criticism and risking the ire of teammates, management and some fans, the calculation is that if the pressure to make the bosses invest in pass pro pays off, no one is going to remember any hurt feelings.

From a perspective of optics, what Seahawks observer would argue against helping the most-sacked active QB in the NFL, especially one heading into his age-33 season and being paid $35 million?

Yes, we all know Wilson often holds the ball too long and invites self-sacks. But if Waldron brings Rams-style diversity and originality, the play calls will ease the pressure.

You probably know that Wilson’s 47 sacks were third-most in the NFL. The Rams QB coached by Waldron, Jared Goff, was sacked 23 times, and he’s not nearly the athlete Wilson is.

Goff’s 23 sacks were one more than Patrick Mahomes, two more than Tom Brady and three more than Aaron Rodgers. If Wilson drops down to the bottom of that statistical silo of royalty, the Seahawks will have something.

So the strategic play of Wilson’s off-season media strategy seems to be this:

Entering his 10th season of credible stellar play and off-field leadership, risk the temporary ill will caused by his uncharacteristic public criticism to prod management to deliver on his requests.

If the club resists and the team falters, then Wilson after the season can put on angel wings and say he tried everything, and must reluctantly ask for a trade to a team of his choice — he has a no-trade clause. Carroll and GM John Schneider will bear the pitchfork, tail and horns.

If they accede to some of his wishes and the team succeeds, nobody remembers the hooting and hollering in February.

If his comments on Waldron are accurate and sincere, it seems Wilson is 1-0 this off-season. If he’s feeling lucky, he should ask for a bigger say on fourth-down decisions.

 

 


YourThoughts

  • Kevin Lynch

    Love the 4 C’s! Laughed out loud. But the points are well taken. I’ve thought for years Russell may leave via trade. I do think it will happen. Maybe not this year though.

    • art thiel

      Always a possibility, especially in a league with a hard cap. But this year seems unlikely, mostly forcap reasons.

      Glad you laughed.

  • jafabian

    I’ve wondered if Wilson voiced any concerns about the Seahawks not bringing back DJ Fluker and JR Sweezy two seasons ago. Fluker brought a needed toughness mentality to the O-Line and worked well with Duane Brown. Sweezy was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career. However the club had a problematic defense that season. History has shown a strong defense leads to success more than a strong offense. Wilson will be biased in that regard but having a strong offense means nothing if it can’t get on the field.

    Over the years I’ve found Wilson’s public statements to be at times somewhat disingenuous. A little to well scripted. Not so much the axioms that Coach Chuck Knox would provide but more in the direction of the kind of equivocal sayings Alex Rodriguez would. Maybe more like in the middle between the two. His public adulation of Waldron after only recently meeting him is an example. We’ve seen athletes such as Gary Payton, Richard Sherman, Jeff Nelson, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr complain and question player personnel moves but IIRC a player wanting some control is something new to the Evergreen State. Since it’s never been granted in the history of pro sports one can’t help but wonder if Wilson has some ulterior motives. And only Buhner remained with his team of the aforementioned players, who in a rare display only openly complained when Jose Cruz Jr was traded.

    On another note I’m wondering if the Seahawks were aware of Wilson’s vacation plans. Mexico has had according to CNN over 1.9 million COVID19 cases and 173,000 deaths. The CDC has recommenced to avoid all travel to Mexico. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has come under fire for taking a laissez-faire approach to the virus. When the club has gone to great lengths to be COVID19 free and had the best success in the NFL I would think the Wilson’s could have chosen a different destination. Especially where their team captain and best player is involved and OTA’s are next month.

    • 1coolguy

      True, but Brain Dead Biden is opening the southern border – come one, come all! The initial wave is estimated at 25,000. Wonderful worker competition for low wage jobs of legit US citizens. Disgusting. Minorities vote overwhelmingly for this jerk-off, who will destroy the lower income population’s jobs. Geez, “thanks Joe”.

      • tor5

        Not sure what this has to do with any sports news, but thanks for the latest hyperbolic Hannity soundbite.

      • Husky73

        Biden’s brain was alive enough to win both debates, the popular vote by 7 million and the electoral college by 306-232.

      • Archangelo Spumoni

        From several sites:
        Year/Refugees
        (roughly rounded from graphs)
        1975: 150k
        1980: 200+k
        1992: 130k
        2010: 75k
        2019: 30k
        2020: 18k approx
        Please instantly self-educate on what a “refugee” is. Then instantly self-educate on various and myriad laws, treaties, and agreements exist that the USA has agreed to abide by.
        The rest of us don’t need to research this as we are Americans and taking in refugees has been a good/great part of our nature for a good long time.

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        • Husky73

          “Everybody’s had to fight to be free. You see, you don’t have to live like a refugee.” (Tom Petty)

      • jafabian

        That’s an incredibly offensive and racist statement. I don’t like the term “minorities.” It basically says that there are classes of people that are superior to others which is not true. Whether it’s race, religion, politics, income, gender or what…discrimination is wrong. Society will never advance to its fullest potential until some people get past that.

        • art thiel

          Coolguy is afraid. Be gentle.

          • Ed Walsh

            You are being kind, Art. Nothing but next-bar-stool noise, with nothing to do with Seahawks, from most above political spouters.

      • art thiel

        They’re coming for you, coolguy. Keep that in mind. I recommend buying a year’s supply of beef jerky and sitting in your basement with the internet off. Wait for Q’s next drop.

      • Stephen Pitell

        Personally, I believe immigrants is what makes our country great. That started a long time ago with primarily white immigrants. When the color of their skin changed, I did not change my opinion. And I can assure you, I am much cooler than you.

    • art thiel

      Fluker and Sweezy were OK, but I’m guessing Schneider knew he could do better, and did, at least with the draft of Lewis.

      Wilson started practicing press conferences at age 7. He actually believes a lot of what he says, so telling him to be real makes no sense to him. He thinks he is. As far as comparing him to others, personally I just wish he’d be more sincere. As he is now.

      I do believe I recall Griffey asking, “Where is my pitching?” If they’re not mercenary types, superstars regularly ask for better teammates, and QBs like Brady, Rodgers, Favre, etc., sometimes get them, although clubs rarely will say so.

      I think the Seahawks trust Wilson to take care of his health.

      • jafabian

        I view the O-Line of two years ago better than the current version. Of course two years ago the team had Justin Britt who became injured and didn’t play last season and is still a FA. Lewis is a rare O-Line draft pick that is working out. The Hawks keep drafting them but rare has been when they develop. I’m wondering if there will be any fallout from Wilson’s statements. The results have been mixed but the effort has been 100% by both players and coaches. Having the Team Captain call them out on National Media without warning ain’t cool.

        Junior coming into the M’s locker room announcing “Where’s my pitching” usually came after the bullpen blew a lead. The M’s management figured that with Randy Johnson in the rotation the bullpen would at least get a day off every five days, forgetting about the rest of the starters or if the Big Unit was having an off day. So they didn’t need to have a Nasty Boys type of bullpen. Maybe the Seahawks are taking a similar approach with Wilson thinking that with a QB like him he can overcome any deficiencies the O-Line has.

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      • tor5

        I also remember, after the M’s traded some good players for pitchers, Griffey said something like, “I stand with the position players.” But it’s fascinating to watch Wilson execute his “plan,” if that’s what it is. In an absolute sense, he’s hardly said anything, but he sure lit the commentariat on fire. Can you clarify what you mean by “the Seahawks trust Wilson to take care of his health”? Do you mean that they just want him to deal with a mediocre OL while they invest elsewhere?

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  • woofer

    Up till now Wilson has always sounded like he was setting himself up to become a politician after his playing years were over. The chaos of 2020 has made being mayor of Seattle a lot less attractive, so maybe he’s looking around at the alternatives. Whatever the reason, next season is looking like a critical test. If the offensive problems aren’t resolved, both sides may find themselves ready to move on.

    • Ed Walsh

      Really? So Russell, who plans to play longer than Brady, is a politician-in-waiting, based on your observations./conclusions. Rest of us didn’t see that coming, so thanks for your helpful insight. (And here I thought he wanted to coach, after retiring in many more years.) Silly us.

      • woofer

        Russ sees himself as the next Timmy Eyman. Sure, that’s shooting pretty high, but our guy is nothing if not ambitious.

        • eyeroq

          Tim Eyman? You insult him.

          • woofer

            Good point. I know I insulted someone, but I’m not sure who.