The Elephant in the Locker Room: Let’s Talk About “The Next Tom Brady”

Hawks-150Yeah, the ‘Hawks are big news. Expectations are high, and everyone’s paying attention… including the national media. But every week it seems like there’s some key issue that’s getting glossed over–some topic that, for one reason or another, is being avoided. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our World Champions.

By Greg Wright

In the wake of last week’s come-from-behind victory over Carolina, countless journalists declared that the foreseeable future of the Seahawks–and not just this season, mind you–now rides squarely on the shoulders of third-year QB Russell Wilson.

The logic goes this way: The Seahawks offense never begins to click until the Hawks are behind by a touchdown or two (or three) and the clock is winding down. The ball gets in Wilson’s hands, and lickety-split! the team marches down the field and scores almost at will.

Like the 80-yard drive to end Sunday’s game. Like the 80-yard drive to beat Denver in overtime. Like the drives of 82, 91, and 80 yards on the last three possessions of the losing effort against St. Louis.

Rusell Wilson

Russell Wilson vs. New York Jets, November 11, 2012. Photo Larry Maurer, Wikimedia Commons

And the logic goes further: Wilson could be doing this all the time; he just hasn’t had to during most of his 2.5 seasons because the defense has made such heroics unnecessary.

But that’s not all. The diagnosers are almost declaring the defense defunct, as if the Legion of Boom is on the verge of becoming a Lesion of Gloom. Further, it’s apparent that such is the lot of a team with a superstar QB like Wilson. Get used to it. This is Wilson’s team, and he’s gonna have to carry it. He will, in fact, and everything else will become irrelevant.

Buried in Danny O’Neil’s “Hawk Talk” column this week was a comment from listener Tom Page: “Tom Brady began his career in a run-first offense before eventually throwing more over time,” a suggestion that this is what we can expect from Wilson and Seattle’s offense.

This isn’t a new comparison. Back in April, ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote extensively about the Brady-Wilson comparison. One of his better notes (and he made a lot of good points) was the following:

In the first two years of [Wilson’s] career, the Seahawks ranked 27th (2012) and 26th (2013) in the NFL in passing yards per game.

Don’t be surprised if those numbers change in the coming years. Brady averaged only 189.5 passing yards per game in his first full season as a starter. But he also displayed more potential with each year that went by. He grew because he knew the offense better, trusted his talent more and found the coaching staff more willing to put him in positions to take chances. The chief luxury Belichick always had with Brady back then was the ability to fall back on the same conservative formula that had aided the Patriots in the first place.

Carroll has the same advantage with Wilson. The Seahawks still know that Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch is the key cog in their offensive success and the face of the team’s smashmouth personality.

At the same time, Chadiha asserts that “it’s becoming more apparent that Seattle coach Pete Carroll would be wise to allow Wilson to follow the same road Brady traveled to success.”

Uh, I don’t think so.

Skill sets and capabilities aside, Pete Carroll won’t “fall back” on a conservative formula. The formula is the engine that drives his machine. If anything, Carroll will jettison the parts that don’t fit. We’ve seen that plenty in Carroll’s tenure, with highly-talented players sent packing and having productive careers elsewhere.

Heck, Carroll doesn’t even like acquiring fancy parts that don’t fit in the first place, eschewing common wisdom about drafting the best available athlete. Carroll likes finding the best parts for the strategy, not designing a strategy around the best available parts. After all, you wouldn’t build a performance vehicle that way, would you?

So, yes–Chadiha is right that the Seahawks will be confronting the Brady Problem next year when payday comes due. And Wilson will get a big contract. This will put a strain on budgets and strategies that emphasize defense first.

But here’s the elephant in the locker room, folks. Don’t expect Carroll to sacrifice the future of the team in order to build around a superstar QB. If Carroll continues to guide the team over the next decade, we’ve probably only got another five years or so of watching Wilson play for the home team.

After that… expect a blockbuster trade that keeps the Seahawks defense stacked for years to come.

As the Hawks proved in February, who needs a Peyton Manning (or the Next Tom Brady) when you’ve got The Legion of Boom: The Next Generation?

And do you really want the Next Tom Brady when the Original Tom Brady hasn’t won a Superbowl since 2004?

Those QB salaries are a killer. When the time comes to invest in rebuilding the defense, Carroll won’t flinch. Wilson is not the long-term future of the franchise. It’s still the D.

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