The separation is in the preparation.
That was one of Russell Wilson’s favorite maxims, one that captured his guiding philosophy that an athlete, a person, could achieve excellence through hard work and dedication.
As redundant as he got with the phrase – and he definitely wore it out – it served him well. He lived it and thrived, helping the Seattle Seahawks fashion a franchise golden age.
But his separation from the Seahawks – his trade to Denver was announced Tuesday – is more a matter of proper timing than preparation.
For the past two years, he allowed whispers of his willingness to explore options to seep into the ears of the always-listening media.
And the Seahawks front office seemed dutiful in at least listening to any offer that might help retool a team that had fallen to the bottom of the NFC West last season.
I’ll call it a win-win, with the full knowledge that finding a replacement will make for anxious moments, perhaps seasons, but preferably not decades. The team’s trajectory seemed flattened if not declining. This was a bold move, with risks, but that’s what winning sometimes takes.
And don’t feel as if the Seahawks are betraying Wilson; he has a no-trade clause and could have kiboshed this deal if he didn’t want a new start in Denver.
I believe he will become a Hall of Famer, will continue to be a high-quality quarterback elsewhere and may forever be the best quarterback in Seahawks history.
But the trade was timely while still earning exceptional return value, including two No. 1 and two No. 2 draft picks. By this time next year, Wilson would be in talks for a new contract and likely asking for something in the lofty range of Aaron Rodgers’ new deal, reportedly $50 million a year.
An athletic management motto is: Better to sell a year too early than a year too late.
This may be the highest profile trade in regional sports history. Comparable to Ken Griffey Jr. leaving after 11 seasons with the Mariners? Sure. Griffey was a star from the first at-bat. And he never quite got the M’s to the Series.
Wilson, though, came in without expectations. Every team passed on Wilson; the Jaguars even drafted a punter before the Seahawks took Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft.
His immediate emergence seemed more than unlikely, bordering on magical.
His immeasurable talents were obvious from the start. During his first few days at the Seahawks rookie and free-agent minicamp, he marshalled a huddle filled with newcomers and longshots into the right formations and responsibilities on every play. Not once did they have to go back to the huddle for further instructions. He knew every responsibility of every position.
From those days, Wilson reeked of leadership, as if it had been a cradle language, which, we came to discover, it had been – all passed on from his father.
He became a weekly revelation with his capacity to scramble and improvise, fueled by a competitive audacity that convinced everybody on the team that he could somehow help them pull the game out, no matter the score.
He had a winner’s vision, too. After a last-second loss in Atlanta in the 2012 playoffs, much of the team was obviously dismayed. Wilson practically raced off the field because he said he was so excited about getting a start on the next season; he swore he knew the team was on the verge of something big. He saw it. He was right.
Wilson had detractors, some who felt his public presence was a veneer, highly polished. But what was beneath it? Substance or, what, just more veneer? His media performances were repetitive if not scripted. Ask him about a particular play, and he might tell you the dimensions of the football field.
Some felt his social media footprint seemed a bit self-serving. But humility is one of the first qualities sacrificed in the modern branding process. And he never failed to face public inquisition, and he never brought negative shade upon the franchise or community.
Beyond his indefatigable effort and a career highlight reel worthy of theatrical release, the most remarkable part of Wilson’s time in Seattle was his improbable durability. For a man considered too small to play his position, he went almost a decade never missing a game, never missing a play and never even missing a practice. The man rarely even perspired.
But his armor has been dented in recent seasons, as would be expected of a man who had been sacked 427 times in 10 seasons. Fair, then, to question whether they had seen his best.
Wilson leaves a mark as not just a quarterback, but a cultural icon. He was positive, charitable and lived what appeared the admirable life of a worthy role model.
He has earned fans’ appreciation and well-wishes.
Now let’s find somebody to take his place. And also get somebody else to block and somebody to tackle and somebody to rush the passer, too, because all those now become possibilities.