The Seattle Seahawks have made no shortage of terrible roster moves in recent years, but trading Russell Wilson isn’t one of them. That might seem ridiculous when talking about dealing a 33-year-old MVP-caliber QB at a time where there’s a huge shortage of quality passers, but it’s a case of recognizing things weren’t working, accepting a rebuild was on the horizon, and not dragging it out for years of mediocrity.
That’s cold comfort for fans, who had a brutal Tuesday that not only saw Wilson traded to the Broncos, but the release of linebacker Bobby Wagner, one of the best and most beloved players in franchise history. The truth is, things simply haven’t been working for Seahawks for a few years now, whether or not Seattle’s record shows it, and this was a team in the midst of a personality crisis. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell explained this issue perfectly.
“As much as the Seahawks are moving on from Wilson as an individual, this is an ideological shift for them back to what Carroll believes is the correct formula for winning football games. They won a Super Bowl with a dominant defense, a physical running game and a quarterback they drafted in the third round who was making peanuts and threw the ball 25 times per game. They evolved into a team with one of the most expensive quarterbacks in football and that couldn’t rush the passer. I don’t think Carroll, in his heart, believed that change was for the better.”
That’s really the crux of the issue, and Barnwell is spot on. This was a team that never felt comfortable in what it had become, and the product showed on the field. As the Seahawks’ offense became more explosive, with an attack led by Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, Seattle wasn’t getting better, or even playing as well as they used to. Games became closer, contests that used to be easy wins were no longer gimmes, and these subtle struggles really rang through in the playoffs, where the Seahawks hadn’t made it past the divisional playoff round since 2014.
When offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was fired in 2021 for “philosophical differences” it was the clearest sign Seattle was looking to move in a different direction. He was a proponent of the Air Coryell system, a fast West Coast-style passing attack that prioritized verticality up the seams, deemphasized running as a result. Schottenheimer was replaced with Shane Waldron, who cut his teeth in Los Angeles with Sean McVay. McVay has always preached a run-pass balance, much more akin to the offenses Carroll favored of the past.
While McVay needed Matthew Stafford to finally get over the hump, the offensive principles being applied don’t necessitate having an elite quarterback of Wilson’s caliber, especially with the price associated with it.
There’s certainly a school of thought that the Seattle got rid of the wrong guy. I understand those who think a premium should have been placed on keeping Wilson, even if that meant getting rid of Pete Carroll — but the decision has been made. For better or worse the Seahawks will move forward with a closer eye on getting back what won them a Super Bowl. That could fly in the face of conventional modern thinking if we assume this means running the ball more and passing less, but that is the plan.
So we had a scenario where the coaching staff wasn’t happy with their team construction, a quarterback growing frustrated with the lack of success, and a seller’s market on elite passers. Wilson was the most valuable QB available with the news Aaron Rodgers was returning to Green Bay, so Seattle pulled the trigger.
I’ve seen it said that Seattle got too little in return, but I think that’s largely overblown. Rumors had reached a point where proposed trades were tantamount to lying about fish size. Getting three first round pick and more is something that just isn’t happening, regardless of what’s been reported. It’s my fervent belief that getting two first round picks, two second round picks, as well as a young, starting tight end in Noah Fant was a great return.
It would look even better if the Seahawks hadn’t traded two firsts away for Jamal Adams, but at least it helps correct that mistake.
Now the Seahawks can rebuild with some significant assets. Whether that involves gambling on someone like Malik Willis in the draft, or waiting and playing Drew Lock in 2022. Either way, I think there’s something laudable about recognizing the status quo wasn’t working, the NFC West had become football’s most brutal division, and instead of trying to enter that arms race, stepping back, evaluating and looking to retool. It’s a quality we don’t see teams do enough, as they desperately flounder for middling success without understanding that a rebuild is needed.
So while it’s tough to swallow now, I think the Seahawks are much, much better positioned moving forward, and their future is brighter.