Russell Wilson picked a strange year to call out the Seahawks for not protecting him, considering the 2020 line was one of the best he has had and he was responsible for a career-high 14 sacks – nearly a third of the 47 times he was dropped.
So it’s fairly disingenuous of him to put the blame on the line and John Schneider — this year anyway — when he bears a third of the responsibility. Yeah, he mentioned he needs to get better, too, but you know he is not going to change certain aspects of his game at this stage of his career. He is always going to be a double-edged sword, and 2020 was the ultimate example of that.
Based on the video, Wilson was responsible for 16 sacks, individual blockers were to blame for 17-19, line confusion/total breakdowns led to seven, and play calls and scheme problems were to blame for the rest.
We define blame for Wilson as him not finding a receiver or not throwing the ball away when he had time or else feeling phantom pressure and running himself into a sack. Granted, some of the non-throws may be because Brian Schottenheimer called a poor play or receivers did not get open. But Wilson has to get rid of the ball rather than take the sack (our blame tally includes only plays where it looked like he had time to dump it). Per Next Gen Stats, Wilson held the ball for an average of 2.97 seconds in 2020, fifth-longest in the NFL.
Wilson has always held the ball longer than most quarterbacks. He was over three seconds in both 2017 and 2018, which ranked among the league’s three slowest triggermen.
As he reiterated this week, it is his nature to try to extend plays and make something happen: “Sometimes you hold onto it a little bit just because you’re looking for that play.”
That approach has made Wilson responsible for about a quarter of his 441 sacks (including playoffs), per PFF.
The irony about the timing of Wilson’s criticism of the blocking is that this line was actually one of the best he has had – at least it was in the first half of the season. The unit finished ninth in pass block win rate, thanks to a stellar first six games, and graded out by PFF as the best of any line Wilson has had (still ranking just 16th in the NFL).
The problems really started in November. Injuries and shuffling of linemen led to seven sacks out of total confusion. The Bills, Giants, Rams and 49ers were especially good at confusing the line and coming up with some free shots and gang sacks. And Schottenheimer and Wilson didn’t do much to help the unit.
This is nothing new. Seattle’s offense has been an organizational problem throughout Wilson’s career – from Schneider’s many whiffs in the draft and free agency to Tom Cable’s horrendous system to Pete Carroll’s meddling in the playcalling to unsophisticated schemes by Darrell Bevell and Schottenheimer to Wilson’s own shortcomings. It has been everyone’s fault.
Thus, it should be everyone’s job to fix it.
We have detailed Schneider’s failures plenty of times, but he did nail down the right side last year with Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell. Along with Duane Brown, he has 60% of the unit set for 2021. He needs to fill the last two spots with reliable players this offseason – and plan for possibly replacing Brown in 2022.
If Wilson is demanding Schneider give him some better linemen, the quarterback also needs to be prepared to do his part to help his line and get the ball out more quickly. Hopefully new OC Shane Waldron pushes that aspect; the Rams’ Jared Goff has averaged 2.84 seconds to pass the past three years, to Wilson’s 2.95; the fastest passers are around 2.5.
Bob Condotta confirms Dan Patrick’s report that Wilson’s callout “was a surprise” to Schneider and Carroll, “and an unpleasant and unwelcomed one at that.”
Teams continue to call to feel out a possible trade, per NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero, but the Seahawks do not appear interested.
A lot of people think Wilson, ever conscious of his “personal brand,” is setting up an escape plan. Brandon Marshall is one. Rob Staton suggests Wilson should pay back the rest of his signing bonus to give Seattle cap freedom to trade him. It’s never been done before, but former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum thinks it is within the rules. (We think the NFL would consider that circumvention of the salary cap and disallow it.)
Ray Roberts, a former Seattle and Detroit lineman, told 710 ESPN that Wilson’s comments came across as selfish and “there’s a bigger thing at play here than him just trying to make sure that the offensive line is better, that he’s better protected.”
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren told KJR that Wilson’s comments “would really bother me” if Holmgren were his coach. Holmgren said he would speak to the QB to find out whether he trusted the coach to help him. (You can bet Carroll will be talking to Wilson, if he has not already.)
Walter Jones, Seattle’s Hall of Fame left tackle, said when quarterbacks complained about getting hit, he and Robbie Tobeck would tell them, “Then get rid of the ball.” Jones told KJR that Wilson invited a lot of criticism by calling out his line and “should leave that in house.”
Larry Stone points out that Seattle sports franchises tend to have messy divorces with their stars and wonders whether Wilson will be the next.