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A post-mortem of Let Russ Cook

NFL: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Implied victimhood is a staple of internet discourse. I am sick to death of people seeing Russell Wilson as a victim. He’s rich. He’s young. He’s wildly successful. There is no strong evidence that anyone in Seattle has ever gotten in the way of Russell Wilson succeeding.

People who simply do not understand how pass blocking works have endlessly argued that Wilson is a victim of bad pass blocking. Yet so many of the offensive linemen who blocked for Wilson succeeded before blocking for Wilson and/or succeeded after blocking for Wilson. James Carpenter and Russell Okung still start. Okung earned a Pro Bowl nod in LA. Max Unger earned a Pro Bowl nod in New Orleans. J.R. Sweezy and Mark Glowinski still start—for good teams and good offenses. Glowinski blocks for Philip Rivers and Rivers is nearing a career best in sack percentage. He gets the ball out, on time. He sees his hot read. And he doesn’t require an absurd degree of openness to target a receiver.

Very few of the offensive linemen who blocked for Rivers in 2013-2015 are still in the league, much less starting. Johnnie Troutman, King Dunlap and Jeromey Clarey are long retired. This isn’t uncommon. Among players who blocked for Tom Brady in 2013-2014, only Nate Solder is still in the league and he’s on IR. Some of the young bunch who blocked for him in 2015 are still around, but Tre Jackson is long gone. Every member of the line which blocked for Peyton Manning in his MVP winning season of 2013 is gone, again some long gone. These were not old players either: 28, 27, 30, 26 and 26—from left tackle to right tackle. The simple fact is Wilson has not had unusually bad pass blocking. It’s probably been in general above average.

Part of Wilson’s game is this:

Do we see perfect pass blocking? No. Mike Iupati needs to pick up the stunt. But Carlos Hyde is painfully open and Wilson never looks his way.

Five years ago, this could be Russell magic, but that seems to be mostly over, and five years ago, this could be a drive-killing sack too. That part of Wilson’s game is alive and well. Other quarterbacks suffer bad blocking, really bad blocking, and manage. Wilson has endured a very high and very steady sack rate because he extends plays and while on balance that’s helped him it also leads to impossible blocking assignments for his offensive line. The same could be said for Dave Krieg. It’s a style of play and criticizing it is not some kind of dog whistle. Seattle has, probably foolishly, thrown resources at fixing the line. It never works and it’s never going to work until Wilson changes his game. Why would we want that? He’s exceptionally good!

Seeing Wilson as a victim requires a kind of condescension I find disturbing. Like he’s a child or not responsible for his own actions. Which is the next infuriating thing I find in the phrase “Let Russ Cook.” “Let”—who is stopping him? It’s little wonder that a phrase starting with “Let” would catch on, because social media is ever railing against an authority, demanding something be fixed on their behalf. Not only is the great horde of social media not personally responsible, they demand that other people’s personal liberties are taken away so they may be protected. It’s infantile and it infantilizes others. For all the people demanding Wilson be allowed to cook, here’s the terrible truth. He’s likely more accomplished in football than you will be in anything. He doesn’t need your safe space. Invest in your own potential. Stop “saving” strangers.

The greater harm done by Let Russ Cook, apart from how it has completely wrecked a championship-caliber offense in the brief period when DK Metcalf is a superstar but on a rookie contract, is it is like most trending hashtags essentially shibboleth. It indicates who’s in-group and who’s out-group. The internet, once a paradise for outsiders, is increasingly run by intolerant, narrow-minded mobs who reward insiders and seek to destroy anyone who’s an outsider. What defines heresy changes. Angry enforcement of orthodoxy is always bigotry. Always. Those people of the past we think we’re so above believed they were protecting children and making the world a better place too. They believed persecuted groups were evil and that any amount of persecution was justified in pursuit of stamping out that evil. They were certain they were on the right side of history. They lacked doubt, beautiful, merciful, humanizing doubt.

The expression of this quality of human nature ebbs and flows. I’m old enough to remember deep curiosity and acceptance of strangeness—outsider status. We’ve swung so far the other way that it’s chilling. Especially when one understands that so much of what we disagree about is determined by nature, it is crazy how violently intolerant people have become of those we disagree with. You cannot tell me that cilantro doesn’t taste like soap and I do not deserve to be fired because it tastes like soap to me. We used to get that, that differing opinions are essential, not some kind of fleur-de-lis marking evil nature. That people being naturally imbued with different perspectives is healthy and good. Forgiveness. Humility. Our own incomplete and flawed nature. We didn’t like opinions we disagreed with but we were humble enough to know we might not be right either. Now thought leaders are rationalizing murder. Pundits whip us into a frenzy. And we hate each other for the very most abstract and often uncontrollable reasons. This might feel novel and funny to a sardonically minded person if it weren’t not at all novel but a clear reversion to humanity’s worst nature. To quote The Onion, same shit, different bun.

Let Russ Cook is primarily shibboleth because Let Russ Cook is in no way actionable. It doesn’t have the elegant stupidity of “Free Darko.” Now I’m not trying to crap on the guy who coined the expression. He spoke his mind and good for him. It was a shit-take likely written with little thought. But the movement, Jesus, the movement. Which gets me to the last thing I genuinely dislike about Let Russ Cook. Like so many internet “movements,” the nature of the movement is so ambiguous, so impossible to put into action, so like the helpless cries of a child demanding a parent to fix something, and yet so sacrosanct, that no criticism of it is even considered. If a television analyst opines that Seattle can’t throw more because Wilson takes too many sacks, he’s an idiot. He’s out-group. Fire that guy, because envy powers social media.

It is borderline ennobling to suggest Let Russ Cook is a cause which however successful is at least right-minded. In fact, Let Russ Cook is mutation of the same black coal that powers almost everything on social media. I briefly used Twitter and I used Twitter for two reasons only: money and career opportunities. I’ve basically never used any other social media, this blog excluded. From what I can tell they’re all the same. One enters a hierarchy. One lies, steals, cheats and ties the hangman’s noose to increase one’s status in that hierarchy. At the same time, the people most successful, who are most liked or followed or whatever, are privileged people simply redoubling their privilege through social media. And we hate them. If you have even a few hundred followers on Twitter, like I maxed out at, strangers will try to destroy you. They will tell you to fuck your mother. Social media is the horror of junior high revisited. It is a game which apportions all power to those already privileged. It is a game of destroying others to gain, essentially, popularity.

You know what people really feel toward Brian Schottenheimer? Envy. They don’t know he’s incompetent. A tiny few are competent enough at coaching themselves to possibly judge this. They know he’s rich, coaches football for a living, and likely got the job because of his father Marty Schottenheimer. Let Russ Cook is not noble. It’s a nuevo way of saying every person more successful than I am is a bastard, a hack, and a fraud. All those BS hot takes about how Schotty was crap and Seattle should have hired John DeFilippo (LOL) survived and became Let Russ Cook. Not because anyone actually knew how to help Wilson succeed. Not because anyone could offer a concrete plan of what Seattle could do to pass more frequently while retaining efficiency. But because people needed to protect their fragile belief, not even so much that Brian Schottenheimer was an idiot, but that they could do better.

So so many passionate football fans believe this. I do. I don’t know jack shit and I sometimes fantasize about running a franchise or coaching. Every successful person of every profession who uses Twitter is endlessly accosted with people who think they could do better. That’s why every analyst who works in the Monday Night booth will be excoriated. Every comedian will be told how unfunny they are. Every director will be called a hack. Every writer censured for their opinions and style. The deep down rage and bitterness of the vast underclass shape words into rotten fruit and throw it at anyone they envy.

Football gave us the phrase “armchair quarterback” and so it’s fitting that football would be victim to a mass movement of armchair quarterbacks. I only wish they didn’t root for my team because last Sunday sucked. Buffalo, LA, sucked. Simple solutions to complex problems are almost always disastrously misguided. Passing more, which is about the only concrete interpretation of Let Russ Cook I can figure, is not a cause or a plan or a movement or fix but a small-minded, disastrously simple solution which through the shibboleth of Let Russ Cook communicates intolerance, envy and mob mentality. It is the very worst of our culture, that which is tearing us apart, dividing families and justifying violence, distilled and applied to gridiron football.

There it is. Sorry Mookie (Editor’s note: No need to apologize!). I won’t visit this subject again. It’s a beast fed by attention. The next two posts will be straight tape analysis. And I’m gonna be ruthless. But before I am, if you’re out there Russell Wilson, know I already think you’re a great quarterback bound for Canton who has fundamentally changed the NFL in ways I think are awesome. Super awesome, and I hope you keep doing it your way. MVPs only matter to quarterbacks who don’t win championships. MVPs only matter to quarterbacks who don’t win championships. All the people who say they love you but only want to fix you, they’ll catch up someday. They’ll see. Too late maybe but that’s their problem. You keep being rich and young and wildly successful, and I won’t begrudge you a bit, because you’ve given me so much damn happiness. Your way.