Russell Wilson walks through the tunnel out onto the field for his early warmup routine.

Russell’s Greatest Chance To Grow

Most of the NFL still does not realize what kind of transformation took place with Russell Wilson over the second half of last season. He embraced the short, rhythm passing game for the first time in his career, and his production took off to historic levels. Take those final eight games and stretch that pace across a full season, and you end up with 4,300 yards passing, 50 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a 124 passer rating. That is a big part of why many people in and around the Seahawks think this could be an MVP year for Wilson. How can it be, then, that his biggest step forward may come off the field? Matt Hasselbeck explained recently.

Hasselbeck joined Brock Huard, Mike Salk, and Danny O’Neil on the air last week to discuss the upcoming season for the Seahawks. The group discussed a number of things, but perhaps the most insightful moment came when Huard asked how Wilson could take the next step in becoming the face of the franchise with Marshawn Lynch retiring.

“Russell’s a guy where the biggest thing where he can grow is humility. He had a great season last year. Everyone is going to be quick to blame the offensive line. So if they are shaky, if they have issues and he gets sacked a lot, people are going to say ‘This team is awesome, but the offensive line is terrible.’ That’s going to be a storyline repeated by lazy national media who don’t understand the nuances of how this team plays. The opportunity for [Russell] is to show some humility. Get the ball out quicker. Don’t ask them to block for as long.” – Matt Hasselbeck on 710 ESPN

What Hasselbeck stopped short of saying was that Wilson needs to take a bullet for his linemen in press interviews. That was clearly what he was getting at, but seemed to be trying to avoid an assault on Wilson’s character.

Humility is a powerful word to use when describing where someone needs to grow. The implication is that the person is arrogant and possibly selfish. That is certainly far from Wilson’s public persona, but Hasselbeck may be tapping into something that has kept Wilson from ascending to a uniformly respected leader in that locker room.

When the bullets were flying last season, and Wilson was getting sacked what seemed like every other drop back, I do not recall hearing him come out and take responsibility for it in the media. That may be a bit of selective memory, but I listen pretty closely to all those press conferences. If he was saying it, the message was muted.

UPDATE: Some readers have provided evidence that the above paragraph is not accurate. You can find that information here.

It is easy to imagine Hasselbeck in similar situations placing the blame squarely on his shoulders and shielding his linemen and teammates. That was part of what made him such a beloved leader on every team he played on during his time in the NFL.

There is nothing keeping Wilson from doing the exact same thing. He is young, and it is understandable that it might not have been natural to take the heat when you are trying to establish yourself in the league. Now, he has the big contract and the big production. This is the perfect time for him absorb every punch from fans and the media so that his young line can gain confidence and feel that much more dedicated to the job of protecting him.

Specifically, it is time to hear Wilson say things like, “That sack was on me. I should have gotten rid of the ball sooner.” Or, “I missed a protection. That was not on my guys up front. That was on me.” The reasons do not even need to be true. They just need to deflect blame away from his line and toward him.

It is a very subtle point, and it is no surprise that it took someone like Hasselbeck to bring it up. His greatest strength through his career may have been his leadership and locker room presence. He protected his guys off the field and his guys protected him on it.

Huard talked later about the experience of seeing Peyton Manning move his locker into the middle of his offensive line back in Indianapolis. It sounded a bit contrived, but the symbolism was clear. Wilson has some ground to cover to become “one of the guys” with his line. You can be pretty sure none of them are getting married to celebrities or getting married in England.

He is allowed to be different. He does not need to watch Duck Dynasty and love hunting like seemingly every offensive linemen does. He needs their respect, and must give them his. The result should lead to even greater accomplishments for him and his team.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. Week 1 vs. STL (On the performance of the offensive line) “I think the line is doing a great job. They faced a great defensive line. Like I said, some of those plays were on me, too, and so you just need to go back and study the film and see what you can do better and see what you did well and just continue to grow.”

    He has always been effusive in his praise of the OL, if we are being fair.

    1. Exactly. He has always been very positive about his teammates. Good old Matt is a good qb, but if he is playing behind this OL for the past 4 years, he probably would sing a different “tune’. The fact of the matter is RW has been one of the highest pressurized qbs since his time in the league (top 3 consistently). Has he contributed to the issue, yes of course? But to suggest he is throwing his OL under the bus, w/o owning some of his mistakes, is ridiculous. BTW, I don’t hear people say when his elusiveness helps to avoid those pressures either.

    2. Has Hasselbeck ever won a superbowl. Well if not he needs to shut up. I have never heard Russ throw the OL under the bus. If anything he would alway say we will get better. Also remember he took a lot of heat from fans and media alike because of his relationship. So I think Hasselbeck is reaching.

    3. I agree, PE. While Hass might be right in saying that Russ can take even MORE of the blame, and give the line even MORE of the credit, Russ is certainly no slouch when it comes to praising his offensive line already.

      In fact, though Wilson is my favorite Seahawk to watch, he’s also my least favorite as far as listening to his press conferences. Unlike Michael Bennett, who is jaw-droppingly amazing in his press conferences, Wilson always says exactly what he is supposed to say. He bores me to tears because he never says anything even the least little bit “dangerous.”

      He lies when it comes to praising his line. Even when they suck big-time, he never says they’re doing a bad job. Never.

      I’m not complaining. Obviously he’s a team player, and a team player doesn’t criticize his teammates publicly, even when they deserve it. He knows what he’s doing. His leadership and other intangibles have always been off the charts.

  2. Great post – with all that he has accomplished I’d be shocked if he did not pull through for his linemen like Hass is suggesting

  3. I seem to recall a number of times when Russell at least took part of the blame for poor O-Line performance.

    This following Game 2 of the preseason: “No, I’m not concerned,” Wilson said. “I have full confidence in those guys up front and they’re going to do a phenomenal job. Britt’s played right tackle, now he’s moved to left guard some, and you got Garry Gilliam stepping in at right tackle some. So the great thing is that it’s a long season, 16 games. As you guys know in the past three years we’ve had to have guys step up and step in, and that’s great to have versatility up front and guys playing different positions. Coach Cable is going to do a great job of that and those guys are going to be ready to go.”

    This was notes by Nathan Watt on Field Gulls on the Wilson presser following the loss against the Rams in Week 16 where Lewis had a mis-snap when he thought Wilson was under Center, and Wilson was scrambling most of the game:
    “We all make one or two funky plays every once in a while. Patrick has been so consistent you can’t doubt him. Get to come back next week and battle. O-line fought their tails off all game. Wouldn’t want to play behind anyone else. Circle the wagons and show up next week.”

    This again from Nate on the Wilson presser after the Week 5 loss to the Bengals:
    “The O-line did a great job, think some of those sacks were on me if anything. We’re in tune. Have been taking criticism but wow those guys fight. Wouldn’t want to play with anybody else upfront. They fight their tails off.”

    This after the Cowboys Week 8 game:
    “The O-line keeps getting better, they take it to heart. Some of those sacks have been on me, others have been just getting beat by good players. One of the coolest parts of the night has been the confidence building. Lots of great fighters and athletes up there.”

    This after the Week 5 Panthers’ loss:
    “We did a lot of great things, we didn’t do enough great things. There were a lot of things we could have done better, myself included.”

    There are many more examples of Wilson showing some humility. I have to say: I think Hasselbeck could be mistaken. He’s still busy with his own career. Maybe he’s just not paying attention.

  4. This is a pretty lazy article. It takes an opinion of an Ex-Seahawk, and a very vague presumption that Russell doesn’t take the blame for sacks publically, and spills too much data on a page.

    It was a pretty good click-baity title though!

    1. Spot on. The reason I read this website is Hawkblogger usually goes beyond the surface and supports his points with data and historical facts. Not so much here.

  5. ‘I do not recall hearing him come out and take responsibility for it in the media’

    He did. A lot.

  6. I can def remember a few times last year, I almost always watch the pressers live on Does he do it enough? probably not…but he def does do it

  7. I have no idea what Matt is taking about Russell has on many occasions taken the blame for many sacks time and time again this young man shown humility in their Super Bowl win and their Super Bowl loss I think there are a lot of haters out there and no matter what he does they would have something negative to say on and off the field he carries his self well I think it’s a credit to his parents and it’s good to see that in this day and time.

  8. For an update: Brock & Salk said today (pretty sure it was today) that Russell’s locker is indeed amongst the O-Line AND had already been. PE is right, Wilson has shouldered the blame at times, I think he continues to grow in that. IMO the varied view of his leadership in the overall locker room is more about being relatable than anything.

  9. I thought hasslebeck was speaking forward not backward. I think you misheard his quote. This coming season he needs to keep the media attention off them. He wasn’t critiquing last year IMO

  10. What a crock of crap by Matt. Wilson has always praised his OL when I was slamming them and he was getting slammed. It is obvious Matt is jealous of Wilson’s success in Seattle. Matt had HOF lineman and the best running game in football but couldn’t get it done so he should shut up.

    I hope Russell keeps being Russell and continues to be better than Matt ever was.

  11. I have no problem with Hasselbeck offering this kind of advice at all, it’s good advice, and I hope WIlson heeds it, but It’s pretty easy for Hasselbeck to say all this, when looking at the guys protecting him. He played behind, what may have been, the best offensive line ever put together, certainly the best left side of all time. Just saying.
    I also don’t think I have ever heard Russell blame the line either. I don’t know that I’ve heard him protect the line from the slings and arrows of the fans and media, (not sure that’s possible the way the media works), but I know I’ve never heard him throw them under the bus either.

  12. You must not be paying attention. Russell has never thrown anyone under the bus and holds himself accountable all the time. There is plenty of tape out there of him saying “it’s on me.” I find it hard to believe that you haven’t heard it so you really aren’t paying attention. Also don’t understand Hasselbeck’s take on it. How much can he really know considering he was playing most of last year due to Luck’s injury. Are you going to tell me he watched all of his press conferences? But bottom-line Russell is one of the most humble QBs out there. Are you just trying to find something negative to post? The comment about his wedding was most petty and has nothing to do with his play on the field. I usually enjoy your posts but we will have to disagree on this one.

  13. Best thing Wilson can do to help his line is exactly what he did the last half of the season, as Brian pointed out off the top. Rhythm passes out on time make the protection easier, and will help the run game also.

    1. That’s what I thought the comment was about too. Maybe he thinks Russell holds on to the ball too long looking for big plays.

  14. The year Matt and the Hawks went to there first Super Bowl we had one of the best Off. lines in the NFC.Then the year after we lost some great linemen and could not even run the ball.I dont think Matt is talking down to Russ and to me makes a good point.

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