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Russell Wilson’s prime is over

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Russell Wilson has been given the opportunity to cook. And he served up a plate of shit soufflé.

I have never had the experience of watching Russell Wilson be consistently terrible. For the past nine years, time and time again, he has proven time and time again why he belongs in the conversation of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. This year, he’d be lucky to make it in the top half.

Sure, he’s had his low moments in his career (especially against Green Bay, oddly enough). But the displays he’s put up the last three weeks have been downright shambolic. And for those of you blaming his issues on the finger injury, I hate to burst your bubble: none of the errors he’s making have to do with him not being healthy. They have existed long before this injury, and will persist for at least the rest of this season.

Wilson is so used to needing to make a big play with every throw, and I don’t blame him. But the fact is, the Seattle Seahawks have a top 10-quality defense right now, and he’s squandering their play every time he drops back. Whether it’s forcing the ball deep to DK Metcalf, or holding the ball waiting for a deep route to break with options open underneath, Russell Wilson looks like a rookie making his first start, or a 10 year-old playing Madden who suddenly switched bodies with Russell on the sideline.

This season, Russell’s Total QBR is 46.2, a full 11 points below his previous low-mark in 2016 and more than 15 points lower than any other total he’s put up in his career. Perhaps the most telling statistic about Russ’ decision-making (and desire to take the deep shot), though is his consistent failure to rack up first downs. Through eight games, he has averaged just nine first downs per start, by far the lowest total of his career.

It’s not just the decision-making, either (although the way he squandered that two-point conversion forcing the ball to Swain will severely limit my sleep for the rest of this week). He doesn’t seem to have any accuracy on throws less than 20 yards. He missed Gerald Everett at least 3 or 4 times tonight when Everett was wide open. He threw a couple of passes so off-target that they should have been picked off. His completion percentage on the season is 64.9%, the lowest it’s been since the Seahawks’ disaster of a season in 2017. In the last three games, he’s failed to crack 65% completion even once.

Russ just looks awful when he tries to run the ball, too. He gets out of the pocket on occasion, but even when he runs you can tell so much of that mobility that made him so dangerous in his 20s is just plain gone. Russell has rushed for just 118 yards through eight games, which, if played out for a 16-game season, would be on pace for what would be the lowest rushing total of his career (and his second-lowest rushing average).

The truth is, the main flaw with Wilson’s game is that it relies so heavily on his (and the Seahawks’) ability to run the ball down their opponents’ throats. Wilson’s two worst seasons before 2021 (2016 and 2017) also happened to be the Seahawks’ two worst rushing seasons as a team in Wilson’s career, and 2021 is on pace to join those seasons in the cellar, despite the extra game.

Wilson simply cannot perform when the Seahawks aren’t dominant in the run game, and that’s not just because the playcalling becomes more limited. It’s because Wilson fails to adjust. Normally, when a defense is afraid of the run, they become more susceptible to throws over the top. But teams have learned to play against Russ with a two-deep look, as they don’t have to worry as much about his or the Seahawks’ running ability, and he has not changed his game one bit. He is still trying to force the deep throws that were there earlier in his career.

Scarily, this is a side of Russ I’ve never seen three games in a row. There is no doubt that he has never been this bad. Russ has never seen this side of himself three games in a row. He’s now lost three in a row for the first time in his career. And clearly, this decline has been a long time coming. Perhaps the rust he has to shake off from missing a month of football is contributing to his struggles, but it’s my belief that this rust is just serving to expose issues in his game that he’s been lucky to avoid for this long.

Russ is not giving me any signs he’s coming back from this rut. Believe me, I wish he would. But those glimmers of hope he gave on the last drive just felt like the last gasp of a former superstar heading towards the sunset of his career.

I’m going to miss prime Russ just as much as the next guy. But he’s dead and buried. This is the reality of his game now. Everything that made him so dangerous in his career (like his deadly read-option abilities, the Seahawks’ ability to threaten defenses with Marshawn Lynch, and his deadeye accuracy) is all gone. What we’re left with is a one-dimensional shell of a former superstar, forever chasing the big play that will make him feel like his old magical self again.