The Seahawks, Seattle and Russell Wilson will forever be inextricably linked.
Which means that interest in how Wilson performs in Denver will linger.
But that interest may be at its most fevered pitch right now, in part due to Seattle owning Denver’s first- and second-round picks in 2023, and the worse the record the Broncos have, the better those picks are for the Seahawks.
But, sure, there will also forever be the debate of whether the Seahawks did the right thing in dealing Wilson to Denver for a package that included three players and five draft picks (one of which turned into 2022 first-rounder Charles Cross, who already appears to be a decadelong foundational player at left tackle).
And among the probably-too-many-to-count reasons Seattle finally made the trade was a calculation that maybe, as Wilson turns 34 in November, he is on the decline as a player.
Certainly, it appeared that way Thursday night as Wilson and the Broncos lost 12-9 at home to a struggling Indianapolis Colts team.
It capped what has been a struggling start to the season for Wilson, as Denver is just 2-3 and he has assembled a passer rating of 82.8 — he never had a rating of less than 92.6 in his 10 years in Seattle and was at 103.1 or higher his last four seasons.
Wilson’s numbers through five games — 101-of-170 passing, 59.4%, which would be a career low (he had a 65.0% rate in his Seattle career), for 1,254 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
As for his replacement in Seattle, Geno Smith? While Wilson is 28th in completion percentage, Smith is first, at a whopping 77.3, having completed 102 of 132 passes — or, one more completion than Wilson in one fewer game and 38 fewer attempts — for 1,037 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
If many nationally questioned the Seahawks when the trade was made, wondering how Seattle would replace Wilson and if the package the team received was enough, that tide may have begun to turn some after Thursday night, especially considering the Broncos have since signed Wilson to a five-year contract worth up to $245 million, keeping him in Denver through 2028.
Not only did Wilson not lead Denver to a touchdown — the only time in his career he has not done so in a home game — but he also threw a critical red-zone interception in the fourth quarter that allowed the game to go to overtime. He also threw incomplete on a fourth-and-one play from the Indy 5-yard line to end the game, appearing to miss a wide-open receiver in KJ Hamler to instead throw over the middle, where the pass was broken up by one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Stephon Gilmore.
Here is some of the reaction:
— Former Seahawk and Wilson teammate Richard Sherman was part of the Amazon Prime broadcast crew, and in hearkening back to maybe the worst memory in Seahawks history, said vehemently that Wilson and the Broncos should have run the ball on the final play. “Run the dang ball! Like, learn from your mistakes!” (To be fair, no one has ever asserted Wilson called that play on his own.)
— Lindsay Jones of The Ringer, a longtime Denver Broncos beat writer, delved deeply into the numbers and stated that “The Broncos’ Russell Wilson Adventure Is Going Nowhere.” Wrote Jones: ” ‘I’m looking forward to turning it around,’ Wilson said. ‘When we do, it’s going to be a special story.’ But with each passing week and uninspired offensive performance, it’s getting harder to believe in a happy ending.”
— Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated took a closer look at Wilson’s time in Seattle, something that figures to happen more with each passing game, writing: “For years now, the star QB has been viewed as a victim of the system in Seattle. But a horrid start in Denver has us rethinking the blame game.”
— Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, in a story titled “What’s wrong with Russell Wilson?” also surmises that maybe the Seahawks were right in concluding his best days may be in the past.
“It’s more than just a couple of lapses. Wilson is becoming before our eyes a fallen franchise quarterback. That rarely happens in football. Once a quarterback becomes great, he stays great until he retires. Wilson’s greatness has diminished to the point that some will now wonder if he ever really had much of it.”
— Nick Kosmider of The Athletic says fixes won’t be easy, writing: “It’s hard to explain away a performance like this one for the 33-year-old quarterback who was billed by the franchise as a fix for all the poor play Broncos fans have suffered through at the position since (Peyton) Manning retired.”
— Kyle Brandt of the NFL Network, the league’s own media arm, also wondered where Wilson’s on-field greatness has gone, saying, “I don’t know when Russell Wilson turned into Mitch Trubisky but I wish he would turn into Geno Smith so they could win a game.”
— Former NFL player Emmanuel Acho broke down the final play and said Wilson simply missed an open receiver:
— Wondered longtime NFL beat writer Pete Prisco:
— Eric Edholm of NFL.com said Broncos fans were within their rights to leave the game early. “Denver fans leaving en masse in a tie game late in regulation? They’re not dumb. They know that what they’re seeing is really bad.”
— Shannon Sharpe, a Hall of Fame tight end who played in Denver from 1990-99 and is now a talk-show host, was especially harsh, questioning already if the Broncos made a bad deal:
— But maybe the harshest words were saved to form Seahawks QB Matt Flynn, who Wilson famously beat out for the job in 2012: