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What would the Seahawks look like without Russell Wilson?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Russell Wilson has dropped the ball this season. No, that’s not it - Russell Wilson has struck out in 2021. Still not right. Wilson has been badgered all year and has nothing to show for it.

You guys remember this?

That was eight months ago.

Eight months.

Less time than a regular season NFL schedule. Shorter than one academic calendar. Not enough time to get pregnant and birth a child. Eight months of Sundays makes up only a fifth of Russell Wilson’s career.

Yet what went from crazy talk, brought on by some ill-advised offseason comments, has turned into wishful thinking for that portion of the fanbase whom are both dejected and devoid of logic.

“Trade Russ now!” tweet the tweeters in between a 45-yard completion to Tyler Lockett and a three-and-out.

What trade value does Wilson command right now? At the moment, I’d say a fraction of what it would have been last summer. But if all this falls even further into shambles, and if he truly is fed up with the franchise, than the Seattle Seahawks have at least permission to consider part two of our installment: what would life look like without Russell Wilson?

This question is different than the one about Pete Carroll, because players have metrics. We don’t have to speculate quite the same, there are only three statistical options.

Without Russell Wilson, the offense will look better

I do not believe this; neither should you. Wilson is the most valuable quarterback in this team’s history, and likely will be for a very long time. But it is one of the options. Especially considering the most important down in today’s NFL.

That chart will be primarily referring to 3rd-and-long, 3rd-and-medium situations. Basically, when you really need the QB to make a completion and get a first.

In those situations, your eyes have not lied to you for two months. Russell Wilson is the worst passer in the NFL when it matters. Here’s another:

Now it might also be true, as some will undoubtedly claim, that the Seahawks offensive line is the worst unit in the league when it matters, but it is unquestionably true that Wilson sucks at third. He’s behind every single rookie in the worst draft class of a decade.

These are the third-and-four passes behind and in the dirt to Penny Hart. These are the four-second held ball sacks for 12 yards on third-and-eight.

For 128 games, Wilson has been so good at escaping, so good at the deep pass, so good to Lockett and Doug Baldwin, so good at improvisation, and so good at play action that this reality hasn’t mattered.

But the league continues to adjust, Wilson’s legs are not the same, his running back room is less, and now being the NFL’s worst 3rd down QB has nuked the entire season.

In this one area, Wilson and Carroll are the worst pair for each other imaginable, given Wilson’s struggles on 3rd and Carroll’s ineptitude on 4th. The result?

The simple truth is that when Seattle next ends up with a different starting-caliber quarterback, that passer will be better at third down.

In today’s NFL, that matters a lot.

Without Russell Wilson, the offense will look like this year

There’s a small kernel of truth that what we’ve seen this year is one of the most likely candidates for the picture of life without Wilson.

I absolutely hate to be the one to say this - Geno Smith has outperformed Wilson this year.

I am not saying Geno Smith is better, and I don’t care that one of the teams was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith got three and a half games; Wilson’s had seven. Here’s some numbers.

  1. Completion percentage - Smith 68.4%, Wilson 64.9%
  2. Touchdown percentage - Smith 5.3%, Wilson 5.2%
  3. Interception percentage - Smith 1.1%, Wilson 1.6%
  4. Total Passer Rating - Smith 103, Wilson 101.2
  5. Last one in Wilson’s favor: Yards per Completion - Smith 10.8, Wilson 12.6

(Editor’s note: Seattle’s points per drive is also slightly higher with Geno compared to Wilson, but that is saying very little)

Take that last one and hold it up against the above stats that better reflect consistency of play. It tells the story of the mini-demise we’ve watched since Week 10 of last season. Wilson lives and dies by the big play. His 12.6 YPC is the second highest of his career, and even inflates some of his other numbers.

As Tyler Lockett has hinted multiple times in two years, when opposing defenses take away the big play, what Seattle has been left with looks like an end result similar to games led by Geno Smith.

A quarterback, whom I’d argue is a completely fine representation of what might happen with the next Seahawks decision at quarterback. Smith was the second quarterback taken in 2013, a high second-round pick. He was given multiple chances, expected to be good, now has a career as an NFL backup.

And so the story goes for the vast majority of QBs taken. Seattle might end up with Kyler Murray, they far more likely will end up with Mitch Trubisky or Jared Goff or Marcus Mariota or Daniel Jones.

That’s the point. If any of that comes true, what the Seahawks have displayed for almost a year and a half is actually far more probable than improbable.

Without Russell Wilson, the offense will be less magical

It is hard for the Seattle offense to be much worse than they are this year, or the end of 2020.

It is very easy for the offense to be much worse than most of Wilson’s career.

I think realistically we have to put Pete Carroll back in the conversation at this point, because if Russell Wilson leaves this team, it has to be a strong likelihood that Carroll’s not here either. Don’t know why he would stay, either on his decision or his boss’s.

If that happens, what does this team have that you could call reliable? DK Metcalf. Lockett, until he ages out. Gerald Everett if he gets a couple more years. Damien Lewis? Travis Homer once a game on 3rd-and-14?

I wanted to end with this. Don’t let recency bias cloud the fact that it is extraordinarily hard to have anything as reliable as what Wilson has given this team. He knows no quit, and in general it has paid off with records, comeback drives, and magic on the field.

He’s so driven and unkillable that I genuinely believe he doesn’t know why people are mad at him right now. We don’t want this...

...When the team is 3-7 and closer to getting shut out than not each week. We want him to be pissed, to be confused at the lack of success, to question his hasty return, to be mad. In this moment, platitudes are not better than raw athletic emotion. There’s an offensive stubbornness across the organization that has hindered the success it once knew.

Which is the final point here. Wilson has overcome almost everything in his entire career. For crying out loud he’s almost overcome every point deficit in his career (he’s 98-45 until this season).

I don’t know if he can overcome this last hurdle, though. I don’t know if he wants to, I don’t know if the team knows how to help him. I do know that realistically the next QB won’t try as hard. It won’t be his fault either; you just can’t out-try Russ. He’s a special talent, and if this team has to restart on both head coach and quarterback, with the roster it has right now, it’s a total crapshoot. Sure, they might quickly piece together a combo that stays on the field longer, giving an appearance of sustained success. But they’ll just as easily miss on one or both crucial decision makers, as is the NFL track record.

I for one hope that Wilson has it in him to figure this out, and I hope the damage of the last 18 months doesn’t send everyone packing, because I am not looking forward to that roll of the dice.

We’ll have to wait and see if that chance is something the organization thinks they need to take.