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What it's cost the Broncos to find out that Russell Wilson had help in Seattle
Pete Carroll matters: Seaside Joe 1608
Broncos head coach Sean Payton is making waves on Thursday by publicly ripping his own organization (mostly the previous regime) and the coaching staff that Denver hired to run the team in 2022. In an interview with USA Today, Payton said that the Broncos wasted “(expletive) time trying to win the offseason” and that Nathaniel Hackett’s staff conducted “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”
He even went as far as to say that the New York Jets—Hackett’s new organization—are making those same mistakes right now.
“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton said. “And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much (expletive) time trying to win the offseason – the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around and all this stuff.
“We’re not doing any of that. The Jets did that this year. You watch. 'Hard Knocks,' all of it. I can see it coming. Remember when (former Washington owner) Dan Snyder put that Dream Team together? I was at the Giants (in 2000). I was a young coach. I thought, ‘How are we going to compete with them? Deion’s (Sanders) there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen…just put the work in.”
Payton said that as far as Russell Wilson having the worst season of his career and being the butt of so many jokes and people saying he’s “washed” because of it, that the quarterback was hardly the only one to blame.
“Oh, man,” Payton began. “There’s so much dirt around that. There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms. The offense. I don’t know Hackett. A lot of people had dirt on their hands. It wasn’t just Russell. He didn’t just flip. He still has it. This B.S. that he hit a wall? Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in. They were 29th in the league in pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball.”
As far as some of the amenities that Wilson was allowed by the previous staff, including personal quarterback coach Jake Heaps and his own office, Payton said that some of it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen while other things are more normal than the media has made it out to be.
“That wasn’t his fault,” Payton said of Wilson. “That was the parents who allowed it. That’s not an incrimination on him, but an incrimination on the head coach, the GM, the president and everybody else who watched it all happen.
“Now, a quarterback having an office and a place to watch film is normal. But all those things get magnified when you’re losing. And that other stuff, I’ve never heard of it. We’re not doing that.”
It’s worth noting, in case you forgot or didn’t know, that the Broncos were sold to the Walton-Penner group in June, well after the team traded for Wilson in March and hired Hackett in January. The ownership group that hired Hackett is different than the one that hired Payton, so he’s not ruffling any feathers with the people who run the team.
Although interestingly, general manager George Paton and president Damani Leech…they’re in the same positions they were in last year.
Now for those of you who are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Ugh, I don’t want to talk about Russell Wilson anymore. This should a Seahawks newsletter and not a Broncos blog,” I want to make something clear before we continue and then after I’m done, it’s imperative you then subscribe to Seaside Joe.
One of the core principles of Seaside Joe is to not waste your time by talking about former Seahawks and there’s never been a more prominent “former Seahawk” than Russell Wilson. Around here, we like to focus on the current team as much as possible, and even looks back at Seahawks history are always intended to somehow be linked to the present moment.
I know that many of you were sick of hearing about Wilson basically by the time he landed in Denver—as was I—and don’t want people who cover the team to turn into a) gossip columnists or b) writers obsessed with other teams. Covering Russell Wilson is SO boring to me that no matter how many times his name came up in the media last year that could have been an opportunity to gloat (and we were given plenty of those chances), the very few times that I wrote about his situation were only those moments that impacted Seattle’s 2023 draft picks.
So let me make two things clear about this article:
It’s actually not about Russell Wilson
I have nothing negative to say about Russell Wilson
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What it has cost the Broncos to find out that Pete Carroll matters
People have their “feelings” about Russell Wilson and that’s fine. People should have feelings. If not for feelings, Seaside Joe would be threatened by A.I. but I am confident that A.I. can never replicate what I do here. The reason I won’t share my feelings on Russ though is that I would be misleading people into thinking that that’s the reason for this article and I don’t want to open up a can that I’ve worked so hard to keep shut since March 8, 2022.
I will say that in general, anything that’s happening outside of the Seahawks, for all 31 teams and the players on all of those teams, I’m basically just rooting for entertainment. Including a good comeback and redemption story, which doesn’t have to be for a player who used to be on the Seahawks. Every player not on the Seahawks looks the same to me….Evil, bad, enemyistical.
But in actuality I do like players to generally play good, exciting football because Seattle is only giving us one game per week and there is plenty of room out there for others to have success without it negatively impacting the Seahawks. Especially in the AFC. The implosion of the Broncos in 2022 did directly affect Seattle in the form of draft picks, so that was a phenomenal reason to root against them. The Seahawks do hold a 2024 third round pick from Denver, but the position of that selection is really inconsequential to me.
As long as the Seahawks use it on Grayson McCall, I’ll be satisfied.
Perhaps McCall would then find out, as Russell Wilson once did, that having Pete Carroll as your head coach to start your NFL career is an advantage afforded to few players. Though Pete’s coaching specialties have always been associated with defense, and in spite of the fact that many LOUD voices on Twitter spent years blaming him for “ruining” Wilson and “holding back” the offense, they’d be amazed at how lucky a quarterback is to have the man in charge of the Seahawks also in charge of their passing game.
Did they go after Pete because Seattle was bad?
They went after Pete because Seattle wasn’t good in the way that they felt the Seahawks “should be” good. It had nothing to do with performance and everything to do with style. They were basically criticizing Pete Carroll’s looks which…in the 2020s? Rude and uncalled for.
(Keeping in mind that Ben said this one^^less than a year before Denver hired LaFleur’s (sic, Ben…sic) offensive coordinator to be Wilson’s head coach who would later be called “one of the worst in NFL history” by Sean Payton)
Hell, Ben even had Russell’s QB coach on his side about Pete.
I add some examples of tweets because examples are good for articles, but did any of you need examples that many Seahawks fans openly questioned if Pete Carroll was holding back Seattle’s offense, Russell Wilson, and the franchise, if he should be fired, and literally if he was “sane”?
We all remember those years, it lasted a while.
I don’t actually believe that if the Seahawks had reached the Super Bowl at some point between 2016 and 2021 that people like Ben Baldwin and the Baldwinites would have admitted any fault in their arguments and reasoning. Recall that Baldwin went viral for tweeting criticism of the Seahawks for drafting a running back in 2022 when Malik Willis “fell” to them and didn’t make any ammendment to that statement when Willis went in the middle of the third round or after Willis had immense rookie season struggles and has all but been replaced by a new backup in 2023.
In fact, when pressed for an updated take on picking Ken Walker III instead of Willis, Baldwin said he would say the same thing now. Does it matter if you do any scouting on a quarterback? Not to some people. To some people, the draft requires no evaluation and you can just pick and choose based on position.
Maybe drafting is more complicated than a crapshoot. Maybe football is more complicated than letting A.I. call your plays for you based on statistical models. Maybe passing vs running in certain situations is more complicated than “pass in all situations”.
Maybe the best coach for a quarterback like Russell Wilson is actually the one who believes that a strong running game is the best complement to an efficient passing attack.
What has it cost the Broncos to find out that Russ wasn’t a one man show on the Seahawks?
It’s narratives like Ben’s that drove countless people—including apparently the ones who once ran the Broncos—to believe that Pete’s staff and football philosophies were nothing more than “an annoyance” to Wilson’s development as a passer. There is no questioning that Wilson has one of the best deep balls in the NFL (probably one of the best ever) and the fact of the matter is that we know that in part because Pete helped show us.
From 2012-2017, Wilson had Pete Carroll, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and quarterbacks coach Carl Smith as his triad of development, support, and coaching staff in the first six years of his career. As a third round pick who was told by many people that he couldn’t start in the NFL, Wilson went to five Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls (one win), twice finished in the top-four of OPOY voting, led the league in passer rating in 2015 (110.8), and averaged 64% completions, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 7.8 Y/A, and a 98.8 rating.
I would give credit not only to those three, but also the other assistant coaches, the offensive line, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Marshawn Lynch, and many other teammates. I’m SURE that Wilson would give them credit too.
But keep in mind that despite these efforts, Pete has never been seriously considered for Coach of the Year. Bevell was never seriously considered as a head coach. (Doug) Baldwin and Tate were called “appetizers” by Cris Carter. The offensive line was consistently called among the worst in the league without regard for how many sacks Wilson brings upon himself. And though Marshawn will never be forgotten, it seems like his contributions are reduced to how he likes Skittles and says unexpected things.
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For all the times that Russell Wilson was actually called a “game manager” and “overrated” during the first few seasons of his career, it’s interesting to think about how after enough time has passed it is often the quarterback who gets the most credit for a Super Bowl victory, so long as the quarterback maintains a high-quality career for a long enough time. Unless you’re Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson, in which you become the “in spite of quarterback”, it’s like the narrative is just…”Ah, Russ has proven he can win you a Super Bowl.”
Well, after another five years, it seems like Pete has proven to be the more consistent one.
Wilson’s pass attempts increased in five successive seasons from 2013-2017, but that number dropped from 553 to 427 when Brian Schottenheimer replaced Bevell in 2018. (For what it’s worth, Bevell is now the passing game coordinator for the Dolphins, widely considered one of the most exciting in the NFL.) The Seahawks were criticized for “holding back” the passing offense, yet Wilson actually threw more touchdowns (35 to 34) and posted a career-high 8.2% touchdown rate.
Seattle ranked sixth in scoring in 2018 and the combination of Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny rushed for over 2,000 yards.
But another premature playoff exit in 2019 pushed Pete into giving into the narrative a little bit and “Let Russ Cook” was born, only to die off just as suddenly after it was proven to be a failed experiment. What do you know…Ben Baldwin shouldn’t be an offensive coordinator. I would have sworn that zero football experience was enough?
Then 2021 brought about the Shane Waldron era and 2022 brought in the Russell Wilson trade, and…
Now we can surmise everything that Denver has paid to find out that they needed more than just the quarterback in order to replicate the success that the quarterback had with Pete Carroll:
The Broncos traded 2022 first, second, and fifth round picks, 2023 first and second round picks, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, and DE Shelby Harris just to acquire Russell Wilson (and a fourth round pick in 2022, which incidentally was used on a player just suspended for the entire 2023 season for gambling).
The Broncos paid Wilson a $245 million contract with $165 million guaranteed.
The Broncos had to go through firing a head coach in the middle of his first season and they reportedly had to pay him up to $5 million for his 15 games on the job. This goes on top of all the other difficult firing conversations (at least, I hope they’re difficult, a bunch of people had to go find new work and homes after the season) that we never talk about.
The Broncos had to trade a 2023 first round pick (30th) and a 2024 second round pick to the Saints for Sean Payton and a 2024 third round pick, also paying Payton an $18 million per year salary. To even have a first round pick for Payton, the Broncos had to trade edge rusher Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins.
To impove the offense this year, the Broncos gave free agent right tackle Mike McGlinchey a five-year, $87.5 million deal and free agent guard Ben Powers a four-year, $52 million deal. Denver used their first pick this year, a second rounder, on receiver Marvin Mims. I’m not saying any of these moves are bad or that the Broncos wouldn’t have wanted to do these deals anyway, I’m only pointing out what should be obvious to most by now which is that Wilson was never “carrying” the Seattle Seahawks on his back.
To find that out and to surround Wilson with as much personnel and coaching talent as possible over 18 months: 3 first round picks, 4 second round picks (2 for Seattle, 1 for New Orleans, 1 on Mims), over $300 million to Wilson and two head coaches, over $100 million more on the supporting cast, and indirectly trading your best edge rusher, which I believe was a preemptive move for an expected transaction to acquire Payton months later even when Hackett was still the head coach.
“Now tell me how this impacts the current Seahawks”
By emphasizing the importance of the head coach, which is probably the reason that Geno Smith’s 2022 season was in many ways at least as valuable as an average season by the quarterback who cost exponentially more to employ. And by pointing out that the 2023 Seahawks with Geno Smith are almost certainly in a better position than the alternate timeline Seahawks who would have kept Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks are absolutely better now headed into this season than they would have been with Wilson and that is not meant to be a criticism of Wilson. It just worked out that way: Wilson was at a point in his career when he was right to want a new contract and Seattle as at a point in their “Super Bowl aspirations” to want the draft picks and cap space that the Broncos were offering to take that financial burden off of their hands.
I think Wilson would have had a good season in 2022 if he had stayed with the Seahawks—because he would have had a better coaching staff and supporting cast—but there is so much that Seattle wouldn’t have right now if they had given him an extension instead of acquiescing to his trade request. No Charles Cross and probably no Ken Walker because I doubt the team would have used their only pick in the top-70 on a running back before an offensive lineman or edge rusher. A more difficult time paying DK Metcalf. No Devon Witherspoon, which seems like it is the case now anyway but that will change soon. No Zach Charbonnet. No Noah Fant, Drew Lock, and probably no Dre’Mont Jones. Maybe no Bobby Wagner return either.
The Seahawks needed to separate from Russell Wilson in order to get better, and they did. Russell Wilson needed to separate from the Seahawks in order to get fairly paid, and he did. (You can definitely argue that based on his 2022 season that Wilson is overpaid, but it was still fair for him to ask for what he got based on how other quarterbacks had been paid in the previous 24 months.)
Whether Wilson will get better with Payton than the previous coaching staff remains to be seen and is not of our concern as Seahawks fans (although I admit I’m enjoying the show), we should only worry about whether or not Pete Carroll has proven he can be as good or better with a different quarterback. By now, he’s proven he can be as good. Perhaps soon we will find out that he can also get better.
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