Russell Wilson's frustration is no longer simmering in the background.
The eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks is putting his criticisms and frustrations out in full view for everyone to see as Wilson appears intent on using his influence to steer the decision-making processes of the team's front office.
Speaking on a Zoom call with reporters about his nod as the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Wilson made it clear that he's unhappy with how much he's been hit and sacked over the years with the Seahawks.
"I'm frustrated at getting hit too much. I'm frustrated with that," Wilson said.
"I think that the reality is is that, you know, I've definitely been hit, been sacked, I don't know, almost 400 times. And so we've got to get better. I got to find ways to get better too. And so just continue to try to find that."
Wilson has been sacked 394 times in the regular season during his career. He was sacked 48 times this past season and 49 times in 2019, which was most in the NFL.
The criticism itself may not be as interesting as the fact that Wilson is willing to be that openly critical in general. In his media appearances on Tuesday -- both on the NFL call and on The Dan Patrick Show -- Wilson didn't hide the fact that he's got concerns about the team he plays for and there chances of making it back to another Super Bowl. If Wilson has had criticisms about the team in the past, those concerns have largely been aired behind closed doors. Wilson isn't being subtle about his viewpoints currently.
Wilson appears intent on having his voice be heard as the team tries to chart a path forward. He said at the end of the season it was important to him to have input on the process of hiring a new offensive coordinator.
"I'm going into my 10th year of my career," Wilson said then. "I think it's a critical time of being able to... the next 10 years are super critical, right, for everybody involved in the whole organization and obviously myself. And me as a player, you know, the legacy that I want to be able to create and do and be able to set the tempo on, you know what I mean.
"I think that coach (Pete) Carroll and I, we have to be on the same wavelength. We've been able to talk obviously over the past three days, coach Carroll and I, about a lot of different things and everything else and really trying to figure out 'OK, you know how far can we go? Where are we going? What's the plan?' and all that stuff."
That same mindset appears to be at play as Wilson's lodges his complaints about the offensive line. Wilson believes he's at a vital point in his career. While he wants to play well into his 40s, Wilson knows that his best years won't last forever. He wants to create a legacy of being one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. He won't accomplish that without getting back to the Super Bowl.
"I love playing for the (Seahawks)," Wilson said on Tuesday. "I've loved it for years and, you know, lay it on the line every game and, you know, I'm dedicated to that and been trying to do that every day I can. I think that the reality is is that, I think it's frustrating being (at the Super Bowl) and watching the game and sitting there."
Wilson is clearly trying to leverage his influence as the best quarterback in franchise history. He did have a hand in the process of hiring Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator. Now he wants to point the team in a specific direction in their personnel decisions as well.
"I think if you ask guys like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, you know even Tom (Brady), you know, I think that you saw this year how much he was involved in the process. I think that's something that is important to me and making sure that I try to do everything I can," Wilson said.
What happens if their choices don't live up to his expectations? Will he ask for a trade? Make it clear he won't re-sign with the team when his contract expires after the 2023 season? Just how much of a ruckus will he try to create if the Waldron hire or free agency decisions don't live up to his standards?
Wilson isn't going anywhere this year. His contract makes it an untenable option. The Seahawks would take dead money hit against their salary cap of $39 million if he was to be moved this offseason. Such a decision becomes at least plausible after the 2021 season.
On The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday, Wilson said he's sure the Seahawks have gotten calls about his potential availability in trade. Various reports have claimed the Seahawks are not entertaining discussions of trading Wilson. However, the chances that Wilson ends up playing elsewhere in the future seems to be more possible than ever.
“The reality of professional sports is things happen, things change,’’ Wilson said. “‘I’m not sure how long I will play in Seattle. I think hopefully it will be forever. But things change, obviously, along the way. You focus on what you can control every day and try to the best version of yourself.”
Wilson's specific complaint isn't wrong. The offensive line has had issues protecting Wilson in the past. Wilson also shares a hand in the amount of hits and sacks he takes, too. Wilson can frequently hold the ball too long in an attempt to extend plays and run himself into sacks that weren't the fault of the offensive line.
Another area of concern would seem to be a conflicting view over exactly what the problem was for the offense the second half of the season.
In an appearance with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports prior to the Super Bowl, Wilson said he felt the offense got passive.
“I think the thing for us, we had such an electric, amazing start at the beginning of the year. We were able to do everything. We went for it every game, every play, every possession,” Wilson said. “We hit some bumps in the road. I could have played better. I should have played better. I can do my part, too, obviously, as well. I think what happened was that we had several guys go down up front, we didn’t have our starters, necessarily, and everything else.
“But also as our defense kept continuing to play better, that’s the time for us to really take off and keep going and keep preparing at the highest level. That’s something we really wanted to be able to do throughout the rest of the season. Unfortunately, we didn’t go for it as much, I don’t think. I think we got a little bit passive. And we got to make sure that never happens again. We got to make sure we do everything we can to be playing this Sunday. That’s what it takes. We got great players, we got our best players, we got to let it go, go for it and everything else.
“I think on offense, we didn’t adjust great throughout those tough (games). We had a couple games we could have adjusted better. That was last year, and I think that ultimately this offseason is really about ‘How can I be the best version of myself?’ And across the board. Ultimately, like I said, my mindset is we should be playing today – or I should say this weekend – so I think that’s really what matters most to me. When I wake up every day, every morning, you have that itch.”
As noted in our story following Pete Carroll's final comments of the year, the Seahawks didn't stop trying to pass it. They just became far less successful in doing it.
The Seahawks didn't stop throwing the ball the second half of the year. They became a bad passing team. It wasn't for a lack of calling pass plays. In the second half of the season (post-Buffalo), the Seahawks continued to call passing plays on around 63 percent of their offensive plays. That number includes passing attempts, sacks, and scrambles from Russell Wilson since very few are designed runs anymore. A 63-37 pass-run ratio is still a very heavy pass lean. And yet, Wilson had four games with under 200 passing yards and the team became woefully more incapable of moving the football in the second half of the year.
The production of the offense plummeted from over 34 points per game in the first half of the year to just 22.8 points per game over the final nine games. Wilson thinks the offense became too passive in its approach. Meanwhile, Carroll said the team needs to run the ball more and that they beat their heads against the wall too much trying to force downfield throws against defenses intent on taking that away.
“I want to see if we can run the ball more effectively to focus the play of the opponents and see if we can force them to do things like we’d like them to do more, like we have been able to do that in the past,” Carroll said after the season. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to run the ball 50 times a game. It means we need to run the ball with direction and focus and style that allows us to dictate the game.
“I mean I just, frankly, I’d like to not play against two-deep looks all season long next year. And so we have to be able to get that done. It’s not just the running game. It is the style of passes that will help us some, but we have to get after it a little bit differently. As it unfolded in the end of the season, it became really obvious. In the last four or five games, it became really obvious.”
There are clearly some divides between the Seahawks and Wilson over where things stand and where they could go from here. Wilson is trying to nudge the team in certain directions. If they don't meet his satisfaction, perhaps Wilson's decision to become more vocal about his thoughts on the team could become a more regular occurrence.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 09: Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams pressures Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter in an NFC Wild Card game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)