NFL fans in quarterback wastelands like Buffalo, Houston, and Cleveland can dream. Hey, that’s what sports is all about. But before you get too attached to the idea Russell Wilson will one day be leading your huddle, ducking away from oncoming pocket traffic, and tossing a strike down the sideline for a touchdown in January… it’s probably better to realize it’s not going to happen. At least not anytime soon.
The Seahawks are locked in a public contract tug-of-war with their quarterback, which is only a hot-button discussion topic because Wilson has been so open about it, and it’s the summer no-fly zone. Lots of dead space. Few games of national interest. Football pays the bills, and a Super Bowl-winning signal-caller is tasty, sugar-filled nosh during days without full meals.
But is Wilson really going anywhere? The overwhelming evidence says no. We live in an NFL era where you simply cannot survive without competent quarterbacking. You cannot make the playoffs without above average quarterbacking. And you cannot win a Super Bowl without elite quarterbacking.
Let’s define this modern epoch of the NFL as the last dozen years. Anyone citing Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson should be dumped overboard. Those days are gone after the rules changes of 2004. Grabbing and holding downfield? Illegal. Hitting an offensive player’s head, sternum or neck area? Illegal. Semi-aggressive takedowns of the quarterback, including but limited to, his head or knees? Illegal.
Since ’04, here’s a list of the Super Bowl winning QBs: Brady, Roethlisberger, Peyton, Eli, Roethlisberger, Brees, Rodgers, Eli, Flacco, Wilson, Brady. Pro Bowlers and/or Hall of Famers. This is the new normal. And any franchise stuck on the QB food stamp line knows how miserable life is, and how impossible if often can be to escape it.
The Seahawks may have a historically great defense. They might have a tremendous running back. Wilson hasn’t had to put up gaudy numbers. But franchises don’t part ways with healthy Super Bowl-caliber quarterbacks in their prime these days. Chargers let Brees walk, but he had a dicey shoulder injury and they drafted Philip Rivers. Peyton became available, but he was coming off neck surgery and the Colts had Andrew Luck. Brett Favre was allowed to leave Green Bay, but he was at the tail end of his career and the Packers had Aaron Rodgers waiting. The closest thing we’ve had to a healthy, in-his-prime, top quarterback being available was Alex Smith. But the Niners were siding with Colin Kaepernick… and that was Alex Smith.
You’re telling me the Seahawks feel like they can move on from Wilson if he demands too much money, and pick up where they’ve left off? No chance. This is a front office that threw money at Charley Whitehurst, Tavaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, before drafting Wilson. Seattle knows what it’s like to be a quarterback have-not.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times told me, “They know what it’s like to not have a quarterback that can’t do the things Russell can. I don’t think any of this is about any sort of lack of faith in what Russell can do. I just think the Seahawks have been a very cutthroat (team from a business standpoint).”
Jets fans have stars in their eyes for Wilson. Bears fans would love to move on from Jay Cutler. But let’s get real. The Seahawks and Wilson are engaged in a public tussle. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid enough to let him walk. Which is why Wilson can ask for more money than Cam Newton, and throw around numbers like $25 million a year. Because NFL teams can’t afford to cheap out on a solution under center. The alternative is too daunting. And when you don’t have one, you dream of better days, just like those fans.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.