Russell Wilson: Cooking up Sacks
There has been a storm brewing over the past few weeks in Seattle over Russell Wilson expressing frustrations over the amount of times he's been sacked the past few seasons.
"I'm frustrated with getting hit too much."
— Russell Wilson
There have been countless trade rumors surrounding the All-Star quarterback. And why wouldn't there be? A move to land Wilson could turn any franchise around. However, is everyone being too critical of Pete Carroll and not enough towards Wilson. I mean, I will say I do think Wilson is more valuable to the organization than Carroll, but that doesn't mean everyone should be throwing Pete under the bus. It doesn't mean he is the reason for Seattle's post-season whoas the past few years. The team did finish 12-4 and won their division. So, who's at fault for this divide? I wanted to know, so I dove in a bit to see where the issues lie.
"PETE NEEDS TO GO!"
This is something I've heard the fantasy-football community griping about for years. “Free Russ!” “Unlock Wilson!” “Let Russ Cook!” I always find this amusing, because it seems very self-serving. Most just want to see Russ throw more because they want to see more fantasy points. I get it, but as far as real football goes, we are talking about a Super Bowl and College Football National Championship-winning head coach. I've heard fantasy talking heads describe Carroll as if he was on the same level as Bill O'Brien or Adam Gase. He’s not. I've heard them say "He's not in touch with modern day NFL." Really? He's been the coach in Seattle for the past decade. Before that he was turning a USC program into a powerhouse, winning the National Championship twice. There are only a handful of head coaches with a better resume. Yet, these same analysts are so quick to talk about Andy Reid or Sean Peyton being some of the best minds in the game. Just because Pete is a defensive-minded head coach does not equate to him not being on the same level as Reid or Peyton. He has just as many rings as those two and was one yard away from a 2nd. I'd also argue he's fighting a more difficult battle than those two given how much league rules have changed to favor the offense.
Pete has done nothing to protect Wilson
If there is one area I can agree with, it's been Pete's inability to build the offensive line to protect Russ. He has always put a priority on the defense before the offensive line, so I can kind of get why Russ has been frustrated. They have ranked 27th or worse according to PFF 3 out of the past 5 seasons.
- 2020 = 14th
- 2019 = 27th
- 2018 = 17th
- 2017 = 27th
- 2016 = 32nd
Since entering the league in 2012, Wilson has been sacked 443 times, more than any quarterback over that span. That's an average of 49 sacks per season. Literal "ouch". Wilson has made comments about this recently saying he would like to get hit less. On the surface it looks like he has a legitimate argument. However, anyone who has watched more than a few of Wilson's games is aware that he is not a quick-decision passer. He doesn't get rid of the ball quickly like a Tom Brady or Drew Brees. In fact he is arguably the slowest. He does a lot of improvising. A quick look at NFL NEXT GEN STATS shows that his average release time this season was 2.97 seconds. That ranked 37th among quarterbacks in 2020. His average release time over the past 5 seasons is 2.9 seconds for an average ranking of 28th. For the past 5 seasons Russ has ranked in the bottom 5 as far as his ability to quickly get rid of the ball. Furthermore, he hasn't ranked better than 20th over that span. The guy just doesn't like to get rid of the ball quickly. Simple math will tell you, the longer you hold onto the football, the longer your offensive line has to pass protect, the more time the defense has to get to you, and the more likely you are to be sacked. I think it's fair to say that Russ can be at least half to blame for all of these sacks. YouTuber and diehard Seahawks fan @norbcam has a great and detailed video dissecting some of the faults with Wilson and the offensive line on his YouTube channel if you want to really dive in.
The Seahawks' offensive line was actually decent in 2020, ranking 14th according to PFF, yet Russ was sacked the third most times in the NFL. Maybe we can put some of that on him? And while Pete has maybe not provided the best help on the o-line, he has helped provide weapons in D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson. It's fair to say Russ has some of the better weapons in the league at his disposal.
Let Russ Cook
This was all anyone was saying during the first half of the season when Seattle was going nuts offensively. Things were going great for the first 8 weeks of the season. Then over the final stretch, Russ's arm lacked flavor. Here is Russ's season broken into two halves.
From a numbers' perspective, Seattle's coaching staff didn't really change much in the way of how they called plays during the 2nd half of the season. Russ did attempt 36 less passes over the final 8 games compared to the first 8, but much of that can be associated with Seattle just not moving the football and sustaining drives, not necessarily the team pulling back on Wilson's reins. It's obvious that Russ couldn't get things going down the stretch, and it was even more obvious in their Wild Card game vs the Rams.
When allowed to "Cook", Wilson hasn't shown he can take Seattle to the next level. He's been a better quarterback when the team has been more run heavy. Four times during Wilson's 9-year career, he has had at least 500 attempts, and while he has predictably averaged more yards during those seasons, he's failed to succeed anywhere else. His two best seasons from a quarterback rating standpoint have come when he attempted less than 500 pass attempts, while two of his worst seasons have come when he attempted the 2nd and 3rd most attempts in his career.
Season averages for Wilson when throwing 500+ passes (4 years) compared to throwing less than 500 passes (5 years)
Oh, and for fantasy-analysis purposes, when Russ was given the chef's hat, he averaged only 1.53 points per game more than during the seasons where Seattle was more run-heavy.
To some up, I want to make it clear that I do think Russ is a Top 5 quarterback in this league and Seattle should do A LOT to try and make him happy by addressing the offensive line. I do however think he's been just as much at fault for being hit so much based on his style of play. I also think that Pete Carroll is one of the best coaches in the NFL, and if Seattle mistakingly wants to move on from him, I'd hope that my Denver Broncos land him as our new head coach, as I saw first hand what that defensive-minded head coach was able to do to the most prolific offense in NFL history.