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Russell Wilson is a hyper-competitive athlete who just had to spend another Super Bowl Sunday watching another quarterback hoist the Lombardi Trophy. He’s done this every year since 2014.
On Sunday, the entire world got to see a miserable-looking Wilson sandwiched between his wife Ciara and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I’m sitting there watching this game wishing I was in there playing,” Wilson said on the Dan Patrick show on Tuesday.
While Tom Brady claimed his record-setting seventh Super Bowl ring, Wilson surely noticed Chiefs star QB Patrick Mahomes running for his life behind a patchwork offensive line due to injuries.
There was an unmistakable resemblance between the Chiefs struggles on Sunday and the Seahawks woes against the Rams in the Wild Card Round. Both high-powered offenses were neutralized by a defensive line that dominated at the point of attack.
It would make sense if Sunday’s game got Wilson in his feels again, and it’s no surprise that a day later Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Wilson’s camp has grown “increasingly frustrated by the Seahawks inability to protect him.”
Wilson confirmed the report on Tuesday.
“I’m frustrated getting hit too much,” Wilson said via Zoom call with various local and national reporters. “I’m frustrated with that.”
The media availability was supposed to be strictly regarding his Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, but the conversation understandably strayed given Wilson’s involvement in the latest news cycle.
Wilson has every right to be frustrated. The Seahawks offensive line has been annually underwhelming for most of Wilson’s tenure as Seattle’s quarterback. That is due to a combination of draft misses, free agent misfires and wayward attempts to build an offensive line on a budget.
He has been sacked 394 times in nine years.
Number of times Russell Wilson has been sacked in nine years
That's an average of 43.8 per season.
Over the last five years, Seattle has ranked in the top-four in sacks allowed.
The Seahawks are also notoriously cheap when it comes to allocating salary cap to the offensive line. Over the last six years, the Seahawks have ranked no higher than 15th in regard to spending along the offensive line.
The Seahawks offensive line woes appeared to be remedied in 2020 when the offense got off to a scorching start, but pass protection regressed tremendously (along with the rest of the offense, Wilson included) as the season wore on before bottoming out against the Rams in the playoffs.
None of this is to absolve Wilson from his share of the blame.
Wilson’s off-script wizardry has always been a double-edged sword.
He regularly holds onto the ball too long and is primarily responsible for a portion of the sacks he takes. He also has a ridiculous ability to extend plays and turn them into explosives. The risk-reward disparity is massive in such scenarios, and Wilson’s poor play down the stretch of 2020 resulted in far more stick than carrot. Pro Football Focus has charged Wilson with being accountable for 104 of the sacks that he's taken in his career.
“I’ve definitely been hit, I’ve been sacked almost 400 times. We’ve got to find ways to get better. I’ve got to find ways to get better, too.”
Wilson’s comments are his boldest yet. Last offseason, we saw the quarterback voice his desires to throw the football more in 2020, a wish that was granted. Seattle was the most pass-happy team in football for the first half of the season and remained a pass-first team even after Pete Carroll pulled the reins back a bit in the second half.
However, this is the first time Wilson has indicted his teammates to such a degree. You’ll rarely see a star quarterback publicly call out his offensive line so aggressively. It would be fascinating to know how Duane Brown, Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell reacted to Wilson’s comments. That trio is likely to be protecting Wilson again next season.
This was always going to be a pivotal offseason for the Seahawks after regressing from 2019 to 2020. Seattle’s championship window is threatening to be slammed shut if things don’t improve in 2021.
Wilson was asked about his faith in the team’s front office and whether or not he trusts John Schneider and Pete Carroll to make the necessary moves.
I’ve always put my trust in the Seahawks to try and do whatever it takes to win.
“Hopefully that will continue. I think that’s a key part. Part of that is how we go about the protection part of it. Hopefully we make sure we do everything we can in that sense.”
Wilson added that he wants to be further included in personnel decisions. Just a few weeks ago, he said it was “super significant” that he be included in the search for the team’s new offensive coordinator. It’s evident that Wilson feels more empowered than ever to try and take maximum control over his own legacy as well as the team’s future.
“Being involved in the conversations, continuing to be involved,” Wilson said. “I think if you ask guys like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, even Tom (Brady), you saw this year how much he was involved in the process. I think that’s something that is important to me, trying to do everything I can.”
Wilson’s comments on Tuesday were a gamble on his part. Should the Seahawks bolster the offensive line to his liking, particularly at left guard and at center, Wilson’s frustrations would theoretically be remedied.
But wins must follow in 2021. We all know that winning cures all. A return to the Super Bowl (or even a run to the NFC Championship Game) would ease all tensions that may exist between players, coaches and the front office. It’s possible, though, that Wilson voicing his frustrations so publicly amplified a fracture that already existed within the organization.
If Seattle regresses again next season, the possibility of a breakup between Wilson and the Seahawks would become far less hypothetical than ever before, especially now that he’s officially put the team on notice.