RENTON, Wash. — Throughout training camp and the preseason, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson insisted all was well.
Whatever discussion happened in the offseason concerning Wilson’s future with the team, they said, was A, mostly a hyped-up media creation; and B, old news.
But, the nature of the NFL and the white-hot media attention it attracts assures that every utterance is examined with a Zapruder film-like intensity in even the most normal of times.
Given the subtext of the Wilson trade rumors last spring and the idea that whatever happens this season will determine if such talk arises again, and every interaction between Carroll and Wilson this year will be magnified that much more.
Which leads to this week, and the discussion that developed following the team’s stunning 33-30 overtime loss to Tennessee in which Seattle blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, the biggest home collapse of the Wilson/Carroll era.
On his radio show Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle, Carroll indicated he wished Wilson had been more conservative on what turned out to be the team’s only possession of overtime. Seattle got the ball at its own 13 after forcing Tennessee to punt, at which point the Seahawks needed only a field goal to win the game.
Seattle went three-and-out after two incompletions and a sack.
On first down, Wilson threw incomplete to Tyler Lockett on a pass in front of Seattle’s sideline about 30 yards downfield. On second down, he overthrew DK Metcalf about 17 yards downfield. On third down, Wilson took a sack at the 1-yard-line.
Seattle punted, the Titans got the ball at the Seahawks’ 39 and needed just four plays to move into position for the game-winning field goal.
“I wish Russ could have helped us there and just made completions for us,” Carroll said on his radio show Monday. “We needed to just move the ball there and change the field position, at least, in overtime.”
Carroll gave a similar, if somewhat milder, assessment of the sequence when he talked to the media Monday afternoon.
“We didn’t function as well down the stretch,” he said. “That’s something I was really disappointed with. The last sequence, he was really aggressive with the shots we took. We’d look back and say, ‘OK, let’s dump the ball off because we didn’t convert on them.’ He was really successful at being really aggressive during the game. He was trying to just keep going, keep pushing it. I wish he would have been able to keep us moving with a couple check downs late in the game, in the overtime in particular. But we were playing with confidence. We were going after it, and he tried to take advantage of it.”
What did Wilson think of those comments?
“I think what I agree with is, find a way to win the game, whatever that is,” Wilson said Thursday. “I think that ultimately the game happens so fast. You try to get the ball to Tyler. … He’s a pretty good player. But at the same time, the game happens fast. You know, you make a decision. We were backed up. Didn’t want to get hit on the first play, get sacked on it. So it’s one of those things, we were probably 3-4 inches off from completing it. One of those beautiful toe taps.”
Indeed, Lockett ranks second in the NFL in receiving after two weeks and had the second-best game of his career Sunday with 178 yards on eight catches. Before overtime, he had eight catches on 10 targets along with drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Trying the pass to Lockett, Wilson said, was in keeping with how Seattle had gotten ahead in the first place and his usual “why not us?” philosophy.
“So I’m not going to change my mindset,” Wilson continued. “I know how to win a lot of those games. We’ve done it before. And you’re not going to win every single one of them. But you believe you can. I think that’s the key to our football team, always believing that you can.”
So, basically, no, Wilson doesn’t really agree with Carroll that he should have played dink-and-dunk at the end of the game.
Big deal? Well, that’s to be determined.
But considering what happened this offseason — and that many around the league think the issue of Wilson’s future could again be a hot topic next year — the somewhat differing assessments of what the right thing to do at the end of the game are sure to be noticed. (Wilson has two years remaining on his deal after this season, but no guaranteed money and much smaller cap hits, in part due to the decision not to restructure his contract this year.)
Winning, of course, cures all, as would the offense looking again like it did in Week One, when all the preseason optimism surrounding the offense and new coordinator Shane Waldron appeared warranted.
And to be fair, the offense was hardly contained Sunday — Seattle had 30 points with 13 minutes left and Wilson has recorded two of his top 26 all-time passer ratings in the first two games, with his rating of 146.9 leading the league.
But this, in part, is what the offseason created — a season when every moment, every word said, seems to carry more importance than ever.
A win Sunday at Minnesota and a few more to follow, and the Tennessee game could soon seem like just an unhappy blip on the radar. If not …