A few moments after the state of Washington returned to normal breathing Friday morning, a dedicated Seahawks fan posed an interesting question: Is it OK to start loving Russell Wilson again?
Did fans ever stop? Did they think the Seahawks were going to allow the rarest and most valuable commodity in professional sports — a franchise quarterback who is young and in his prime — get away?
No. That wasn’t going to happen. And Wilson wasn’t going to hold out. He didn’t want to end up bouncing around to other teams as an eventual free agent. How would that look to working-class voters when he eventually made his presidential run?
His contract extension was going to get done. But it took until the 11th hour, and fans were vexed.
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Some message-board comments and sports-talk calls revealed that some fans were disappointed that a grateful Wilson didn’t just snap up the first offer the Hawks tossed his way.
After all, every other team passed on him in the draft. And it’s surely unlikely that any other coaching staff would have been so quick to toss him into the race for a starting quarterback job.
Yeah, he played on the cheap for three seasons, leading the Hawks to a pair of Super Bowls and a .750 winning percentage.
But some questioned the sincerity in his statements about being all about winning and team-building while he was demanding the kind of top-quarterback salary that would make it tough to keep other key players on the roster.
Fact is, they’ve been able to keep a lot of guys around the past couple of years who would have been impossible to keep if they weren’t getting a Super Bowl-quality quarterback for the price of a long-snapper.
Wilson was due his payday.
And it was done in a way that both Wilson and his representatives, and Seahawks GM John Schneider, all can squint at the contract clauses and claim victory in the negotiations.
Schneider was on the practice sideline Friday morning, and had a short but smiley conversation with coach Pete Carroll at one point. Schneider, in a typical outfit that certifies him the least pretentious GM in the league, wore a gray T-shirt and cargo shorts.
The mention of the cargo shorts is relevant only to the degree that every one of those half dozen pockets looked empty.
But through some accounting wizardry, it’s looking as though room remains to keep working on contracts for guys like linebacker Bobby Wagner.
The fear of Wilson being dislodged from the Seahawks roster might not have been a bad thing. Maybe that’s what it takes to cause fans to pause and reflect on his value to this team.
What if they hadn’t drafted him in the third round in 2012? What if he hadn’t had the chance to start immediately?
Imagine that, as sort of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience … except for Wilson and the Seahawks rather than George Bailey and Christmas.
Remember, the Seahawks were coming off two 7-9 seasons. They brought in free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn for big money. Did he have what it took to turn it around?
Wilson led four fourth-quarter or overtime comeback victories in that 11-5 rookie season. It’s fair to speculate that, without the elusive and electric Wilson, the Hawks might go 7-9 again.
Would Pete Carroll and John Schneider get a fourth year after three losing seasons? Would the veterans decide that his college approach still didn’t work in the NFL?
No question, this team has been immeasurably better through the acquisition and nurturing of Wilson.
What now, though? Money changes pro athletes. Some lose their hunger. What about Wilson?
Just a snapshot from Friday morning. Freshly informed that he’d be receiving $31 million in guaranteed money, Wilson took the field.
Early in every practice, the Seahawks run “bag drills,” which are a very collegiate, high-energy endeavor to get the blood pumping. The Seahawks’ quarterbacks and running backs next had a session at the far end of the other field. When the horn blew, the players dispersed, and the first player to reach the distant destination was a sprinting Russell Wilson.
The next shortcut Wilson takes will be his first.
That’s why fans at the VMAC headquarters cheered his first steps onto the field and chanted his name after practice. He responded by going over to the fence and, in his best gubernatorial posture, kissed babies and glad-handed well-wishers.
Yes, it was clear, it’s safe to start loving Russell Wilson again.