Why did it take the Seahawks years to trust Russell Wilson?

Quarterback has been a juggernaut for Seattle in the early stages of the new season

Russell Wilson has impressed for the Seattle Seahawks. Photograph: Abbie Parr/Getty

Russell Wilson has impressed for the Seattle Seahawks. Photograph: Abbie Parr/Getty

 

If you didn’t know better, you might think Russell Wilson was a bright, new sensation able to air the ball out with precision and ease throughout a game, not just the fourth quarter. You’d marvel at his gorgeous deep throws. You’d take comfort that he plays under a head coach and coordinator savvy enough to let him cook. After all, why wouldn’t they? Except the Seahawks were a run-first team for the first eight years of Wilson’s NFL career.

Wilson again showcased Sunday what the Seahawks may have been missing all along in a dramatic 38-31 win over the Cowboys. The clear frontrunner for MVP threw for 315 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Wilson is a juggernaut this season. He’s now thrown 14 touchdowns to one interception and is averaging 308 passing yards per game. If Wilson has any faults, he sometimes struggles with the short passing game as he did for a sliver of the third quarter Sunday. But mostly he’s been a machine whose rainbow, needle-threading deep passes can compete with anyone’s in NFL history.

Yet, up until this year, the Seahawks under Pete Carroll have emphasised the run whether their running back was Marshawn Lynch, Chris Carson or a committee. It’s as if Wilson’s mastery has been a secret – except we know it’s not. We’ve seen his heroics on a consistent basis over his career because the team so often had to come from behind to mitigate the first-half conservatism. Padlocking Wilson for so long is even more baffling given that since 2012 the Seahawks are 57-0 when holding a four-point lead at halftime.

Playing it safe on offense made sense in the early years when the team fielded the Legion of Boom. Like most dominant defenses, the Seahawks were focused on a strong run game and controlling time of possession. Who’s to argue with their success winning Super Bowl XLVIII and almost winning Super Bowl XLIX (ironically by not handling the ball to Lynch). But as members of the Boom parted ways, Carroll’s coordinators never fully adjusted their offenses in dramatic enough fashion. The Seahawks have remained a perennial playoff contender, largely based on “Russell Wilson doing Russell Wilson things” late in regular-season games. But they haven’t advanced past the divisional round since the 2014 season.

Even with Wilson’s talents right under their noses, the Seahawks still emphasised the run the past couple of seasons. Wilson, who has never received an MVP vote, came out rolling last season with seven passing touchdowns and no interceptions in the team’s first three games. He threw for over 300 yards in two of those contests. Then the Seahawks reverted back to their conservative ways and Wilson only had one 300+ yard game in Weeks 4-17.

Something shifted this offseason. Maybe the Let Russ Cook movement finally made an impact. Perhaps it was DK Metcalf’s maturation (despite one crucial lapse on Sunday). Or as admitted by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this summer, it was throwing away stereotypes, opening his eyes, and finally coordinating an offense around the team’s best player.

“When I first got out here, I thought Russ was a good player. I had never obviously done anything with him in terms of really watching him work. And I thought he was a good player, I thought he was a guy who was going to scramble around and make plays, improvise and all those things that he does,” Schottenheimer told the Pick Six Podcast back in May. “But when I got here and I saw his ability to throw the football not just down the field, but accurately – we call it ball placement – he’s able to put the ball exactly where you want it.”

“And I was quite honestly blown away, I was surprised. I think unless you really love the Seahawks and you watch the Seahawks, what he does just come so naturally and easy that people underestimate him.”

Wilson’s command of the passing game this season has been masterful but it’s also been there all along, Seeing Russ finally cook, it’s hard not to wonder how deep in the playoffs the Seahawks could have gone these past five years had his coaches emphasised his incredible arm all along. – Guardian

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