Russell Wilson displays unprecedented public quarterback candor
The NFL’s evolution toward the NBA is becoming a revolution. Once the transformation is complete, we’ll look back on Tuesday, February 9 as one of the most significant moments in the process.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson‘s appearance on The Dan Patrick Show featured rare and raw candor. Franchise quarterbacks, overcome by the company-man vibe and the basic fear of alienating the fan base, typically say all the right things at all the right times, never showing anything other than complete and total loyalty to the team, to the cause, to the fans.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has claimed top priority in the NFL news cycle by privately requesting a trade. He has yet to say publicly that he wants out, but his silence — and the alterations to his social-media pages — speak volumes.
Still, no franchise quarterback has made a calm, reasoned, public case for that which Wilson wants: Direct say in decisions made regarding the construction of the team that will surround him.
Some would say (as Simms did today on PFT Live) that any quarterback who seeks such influence should start grinding film like any other scout. Wilson surely is looking for something less involved, but nevertheless still impactful. His legacy on the line, Wilson wants to know that the other 10 players on offense and the 11 members of the starting defense will complement, not complicate, his desire to win more Super Bowls.
With Tom Brady hogging seven of them since 2001, there simply aren’t enough championships to go around for the other championship-caliber quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger has won two. Eli Manning won two. Peyton Manning won two. Since 1999, it’s otherwise been one-time-only winners: Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Patrick Mahomes.
Wilson needs to get to two, obviously, before he can get to three or four or more. Rodgers keeps coming up short of two. Mahomes has had two great seasons that ended without Super Bowl wins, thanks to Brady.
Frankly, Rodgers has far more reason to speak out than Wilson. The Packers chronically have failed to put enough talent around him. Rodgers, however, prefers to send messages with subtle and indirect phrasing. He resents when members of the media spot the messages and amplify them, because he’s not ready to risk the years of rancor that Brett Favre endured — and all he did was want out at a time when the Packers made it clear they didn’t want him anymore. (It didn’t help that Favre was hellbent on playing for the Vikings.)
Wilson has the ability, and the credibility, to speak out about wanting to be involved in personnel decisions. About being frustrated. About teams calling to inquire about a trade. About potentially being available in a trade.
It’s likely no coincidence that Wilson’s decision to launch an elaborate media strategy, including leaks to reporters and comments on the record and messages to a former player with a platform in Brandon Marshall, came immediately after Brady left New England after two decades of “do your f–king job” and did the job in Tampa of helping the team put together a championship franchise. Brady attracted Rob Gronkowski. Brady wanted, and got, Antonio Brown. (Wilson wanted, but didn’t get, Brown.) Brady attracted Leonard Fournette. Brady will attract even more veterans who want to chase a championship in 2021, including Adrian Peterson.
Wilson and Rodgers could, too. Their teams have yet to allow them. Wilson’s comments represent the most aggressive effort yet by a franchise quarterback to shed the “company man” image and to become the company, man.
It will work or it won’t. If it doesn’t, the expiration date on Wilson’s time in Seattle will become shorter than anyone realizes.