Today is Day 30 of my vow to write an article about Russell Wilson every day until he signs a new deal. This is the third installment of "Buy a Wilson Article."
Chris Feist asks: "What was the fanbase like before and after Russell Wilson?"
That's an interesting question and one that's sort of hard to define with actual statistics or something tangible, as far as I know.
We could start at attendance numbers in the Pete Carroll era.
The attendance has steadily risen over each of the last four years, noticeably spiking up to 102.1% capacity last season which ranks as the fourth-most-overcrowded stadium in the NFL behind the Packers, Colts, and 49ers.
It's tough to gain much from average or total attendance numbers. According to Wikipedia, the Cowboys had an NFL-best 90,069 average attendance in 2014, but only at 90.1% capacity. Bigger stadiums mean more fans, but how many fans would the Seahawks draw in a 100,000 capacity stadium? Or any team for that matter? Dallas had their best season in years and if these numbers are correct, they didn't often sell out. Prices may have something to do with it.
Seattle's attendance went down in 2011, but that year the NFL as a whole reported the lowest attendance league-wide since realignment in 2002.
However, it's clear that the Seahawks have become a much more significant draw in the last three years, not just at home, but presumably a better draw on the road in places like San Francisco, Arizona, and St. Louis, where the game against Seattle will likely be their most interesting home game all season. At least, for now.
So how much of that has to do with Wilson?
Love him or hate him (I don't know how you could "hate" Wilson, but let's say you think he's overrated), Wilson gives fans a reason to root. For or against.
He's much more likely to do something exciting or interesting than Tarvaris Jackson ever was. Or Charlie Whitehurst, depending on if the Seahawks were allowed to play "shirts versus skins" or not, allowing Whitehurst to reveal his thick, brown main of pectoral hairs..
Based on attendance, Seattle is doing great over the last three years and that happens to coincide with Wilson's arrival. Is he responsible for all of that? Obviously not. The Seahawks have the most interesting, intriguing, exciting cavalcade of players in the NFL. Not just Wilson, but with Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin, you never know which one of those guys will be the one to say something that gets pinned on a cork board somewhere as motivation to beat the Seahawks by any means necessary.
I think overall, more and more people hate Seattle fans.
Congratulations, you are loathed.
Something that I have never experienced in my 17 or 18 years as a Seahawks fan is seeing this many people call Seattle fans "arrogant," "stupid," "blind," "bandwagoney" fanboys and fangirls. If you think Russell Wilson is great, you're an idiot. If you think he's even 10-percent of the reason that the Seahawks have won a Super Bowl and gone to another, you're just been honeydicked by the prom king. Seahawks' fans are currently among the most hated in the league.
And that's a good thing.
Of course there are more Seahawks fans now than there ever have been before. Of course Seattle fans are more arrogant than they've ever been before. Because Seattle is the best team in the NFL over the last three years and it's not even close. They've played a tough schedule, in a tough division and come out with two NFC titles and one Super Bowl trophy.
And Wilson is a major part of that.
The franchise has supported lesser quarterbacks whole-heartedly -- Jim Zorn, Dave Krieg, Jon Kitna, Matt Hasselbeck -- but Wilson might honestly be the first one that Seahawks fans actually want to go to bat for. Kreig was pretty good at times and Hasselbeck may have legitimately been the right choice for MVP in 2005, but how much is anyone willing to wager on an argument over Hasselbeck?
"He's the 14th-best quarterback of mid-2000s!!"
"No way, dude! He's the 11th-best!"
And this is what I'm saying about my favorite Seahawks player of all-time. Wilson is a very special quarterback and as much as Seattle sometimes benefited from veterans like Warren Moon or Kitna, this is the first time the franchise has had a true franchise quarterback that produced in his early-to-mid-20s.
Zorn and Rick Mirer are the only full-time quarterbacks in Seattle history to start at age 23 or younger. Zorn posted a passer rating of 49.5 when he was 23, Mirer had a rating of 67.0. When they were 24, they posted ratings of 54.3 and 70.2, respectively. Wilson was a rookie at age 24 and he had a rating of 100.0. Krieg was very good at age 25, but then threw 24 interceptions when he was 26. Wilson just finished his age 26 season and he had seven interceptions, a rating of 95.
So I think Wilson has brought in two new kinds of fans to Seattle: The fan that's willing to ride or die with a Seahawks franchise quarterback and the fan that resents him because they side with those that say he's a product of something else rather than the catalyst of his own success.
Would they still contend for the Super Bowl with Jackson?
Barely, if at all.
With Joe Flacco?
You can't contend with one or two great players. Just look at the San Diego Chargers with Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle. You also can't really contend with a bunch of good-to-great players but jack shit at quarterback. Look at the Buffalo Bills or Houston Texans.
Wilson is the one that the Seahawks have; He's not going to get in trouble off of the field; He's not going to be a distraction in the locker room; He's never threatened to hold out for a new deal; He makes some plays that few other guys in the league could pull off.
It's unfortunate that the contract situation has given some fans pause to believe that he believes in winning football games and nothing else, but that's something I might call "selective fandom." You love him when he's playing during the season and loathe him for being a human being in the offseason.
Nobody is out here playing for free.
That's sort of where some of the negativity has bled into the fanbase over the last three years: Expecting nothing less than the best possible outcome in every situation. Not happy with only winning by three points. Not happy with only making the Super Bowl.
But that's also the price of being a great team. If you don't raise the bar, you won't raise your game. Twenty years ago, before Mike Holmgren arrived, Seahawks fans didn't expect to be great, or even respectable. After Holmgren regularly coached Seattle to the playoffs, a new expectation was set. And if it wasn't for that, Jim Mora, Jr. wouldn't have been fired after only one season.
The fanbase, like many of the players on the team, now have a chip on their shoulders since Wilson arrived. And that's a good thing. The worst thing to experience is that other cities are apathetic about your existence, which is what it was like when "Sea-Chickens" was the best they cared to muster. It's good to have other fans hate you. To notice you. To talk about you.
It means you're winning. It started with Holmgren and it has continued with Pete Carroll, but Wilson also has plenty to do with that.
The Wilson era has brought the worst out of people in the best way.