Imagine what it must be like to be Russell Wilson. You are drafted higher than most thought you should be. You take every snap in rookie camp and play so well that your coach announces that you would participate in a competition to be the team’s starter. A pair of great performances in the first two pre-season games earns you a start in the third. You put on a virtuoso performance, and are soon named the team’s starter. Then, the regular season starts. Things get tougher. You are nervous, and get harassed much of the day by a blitz-happy defense. Two exhilarating weeks of victory have you flying high. Then, the world comes crashing down around you with a loss that nobody believes should have happened. You are young, married, and the quarterback that both the general manager and head coach have pumped up as The Next Big Thing. Your teammates were dyed-in-the-wool Tarvaris Jackson fans. Despite what outside reports say, you know teammates don’t truly accept you until you earn it on the field, and you know you have not earned it yet. Plus, now people are pointing fingers at your defense, your receivers, your offensive line, and your offensive coordinator. You know that they are taking heat, a good of which is for mistakes you are making, and you know that can only make it harder to win over the locker room. You start to feel alone, isolated, and caught between hype you didn’t ask for, and a reality that is not coming close to meeting it.
It is ironic that the people defending Wilson, and absolving him of all culpability for the struggling passing offense are the ones putting the most pressure on him. How different would the conversation be if Pete Carroll would come out and say, “Russell needs to play better. He is making mistakes, but we expect that, and are invested in growing him.” Instead, we hear that none of the three interceptions against the Rams were his fault. What happened to Tell the Truth Monday? It is not Wilson’s fault that coaches and some fans have fallen in love with him. Wilson would be wise, however, to demonstrate leadership and maturity by taking the arrows for his line and receivers. He should be the one standing up and saying, “That sack was on me. I should have gotten rid of the ball sooner.” He should be the one saying, “That interception was my fault for taking too long to get rid of the ball.” Statements like that go a long way toward building the trust and bond in the locker room. Remember, this group saw Jackson get annihilated behind a terrible and young offensive line early last year, and he never said a negative word about them. Men respond to that kind of leadership much more than reciting cliches in media interviews. Wilson will most certainly realize that and demonstrate growth there.
It is also not Wilson’s fault that he was tabbed the starting quarterback as a rookie. He did everything asked of him and exceeded everyone’s expectations. The history of rookie quarterbacks in the NFL is not a pretty one. There have been some signs of him putting together one of the most efficient rookie seasons. There have been signs of him becoming one of the most winning rookie quarterbacks. He is doing what 99.9% of rookie quarterback do, and that is struggle. Seahawks fans should have no doubt that Wilson is grinding every minute of every day (and night) to get better. He is doing everything he can to improve.
Matt Flynn being on the team…also not Wilson’s fault. The defense being Super Bowl-ready…not Wilson’s fault. The running game being Super-Bowl ready…not Wilson’s fault. The worst thing that could happen is fans aligning against their starting quarterback, especially one that is the best bet on the roster to be the long-term answer at the position. If you find yourself cheering for the Seahawks, but against Wilson, check yourself. This is a player that deserves every bit of support Seahawks fan can muster. That does not mean he should be absolved of all errors. That does not mean he should not be held to a high standard. It means his success is the Seahawks success. The best thing for this franchise is for Wilson to succeed. The kid is doing everything he can to improve every week. This week represents a crucial moment in his development, and nobody will be cheering for him more than me. Good luck, Russell.