It has been three weeks since the Adam Schefter bombshell tweet reporting the Seahawks’ trade of Russell Wilson rocked Seattle, Denver and the NFL world.
The complicated legacy Russell Wilson leaves with Seahawks
Per the ESPN NFL insider, the two sides had been negotiating for weeks, and when Russell’s people informed Schefter that the deal was done and he was en route to his physical in the Mile High City, emotions flared on both sides.
The Seahawks, from team chair Jody Allen on down, made it clear through their statements in a press release that they acquiesced to Russell’s desire to play elsewhere. As for Russell and his presser in Denver? Well, he hinted that a tell-all book will one day shed light on the entirety of the two-sided process.
What the Seahawks and Wilson said about his trade to Broncos
The fans in Denver and Seattle, meanwhile, both tried to come to grips with a reality none of them saw coming: Bronco Country believing their football savior has come to town, and the 12s picking up the pieces of a brutal divorce.
So just how did we get here? How did the greatest quarterback in franchise history and one of the greatest athletes in all of Seattle sports history separate from an organization he helped take to the NFL mountaintop? I figured after three weeks that enough emotion had passed, so I posed a simple enough question to 30 colleagues whose opinion and insight I trust, 24 of whom responded.
“How did we get to this separation?”
The 24 people consisted of current and former players, local and national media members, broadcasters, and former NFL executives and coaches. I wanted to reach out to both sides, and while Wilson and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have both tried to answer the question publicly, this was a deep dive done in confidentiality to try and bring as much opinion and insight into the fracture of Russell and the Hawks.
So here goes.
Why did the Seahawks trade Russell Wilson?
The breakdown of blame and fault found 12 embedded in the Pro-Seahawks camp, six clearly on Russ’ team and six who merely felt like “it was time.”
There were certainly extremes, with one comparing Russell to Icarus (which required me to google Icarus and left me giggling), while another stated “Pete’s antiquated offense in a progressive league drove him out.” And overall, that was certainly the theme woven in so many of the answers – that coach Carroll’s philosophy and Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s team build were at odds with building around a franchise QB in today’s NFL.
As one former longtime NFL player said, though: “I’d put the majority of blame on the Seahawks. When you have a QB franchise you make it work, even if he comes with a team of people you may not like.”
And for me personally, that is why March 8 was so surprising. That after a decade of ups and downs, a decade of successes and failures, a decade of scar tissue and braces, the fact that Pete and Russ couldn’t make this work befuddled me. And that is where the 12 people who sided with the Hawks’ perspective feel like “Russ’ ego,” or “Russ became too big for his britches,” or “Russ wants to be seen as Brady/Rodgers/Brees/Manning and blames Pete/John has an impediment to that goal” state their case.
Equally, the pro-Wilson camp argues back that “Seattle never built a contending team talent-wise the last five years,” or “Russ is playing in an offense that is the equivalent of playing in the NBA if the 3-point line was taken away.”
A current NFL player brought to light “a lack of accountability and trying to hold someone accountable too late in the game.” And the half-dozen in the middle of this argument pointed to both sides simply losing faith in one another, losing trust and alignment much like rock bands and even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have.
So ultimately, what did this exercise and curating opinions of so many I trust lead me to? Well, a few things.
One, I should have been less surprised on March 8 and more willing to simply understand that, as one former Seahawk pointed out, “the NFL reality is that players come and go, and especially ones a bit out of touch with reality.”
Two, if Brady and six rings couldn’t sustain a relationship in New England, then “that shot of Roger Goodell with Russ in the commissioner’s suite during Brady’s Buccaneers Super Bowl was telling – he wanted and wants what Brady has,” as one media member opined to me.
Three, that player movement begins with today’s athletes in middle school, high school, club ball, college sports, and certainly in professional sports in ways we’ve never seen before.
And finally, the answer that pinpointed what I’d been searching three-plus weeks to find – better words and opinion than I could muster on my own, and they resonated from a former Seahawk and NFL vet. As he shared, quite simply: “Two strong-willed and strong-minded individuals caught up in a Herculean clash of one’s legacy (Russ) versus one’s philosophy (Pete).”
He needed only 21 words.
And we will need the years ahead to determine if the separation was needed and warranted in this particular clash.
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