Russell Wilson’s sudden departure from Seattle (and ensuing disaster of a first season in Denver) now has a reported explanation, and it isn’t pretty.
According to a story published Friday by The Athletic, Wilson’s split from the Seahawks was the result of a power struggle in which Wilson appealed to ownership to fire both coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Wilson lost this battle, prompting Schneider and Carroll to seek a trade for Wilson, per The Athletic.
Wilson responded quickly to the story via Twitter on Friday.
“I love Pete and he was a father figure to me and John believed in me and drafted me as well,” Wilson tweeted. “I never wanted them fired. All any of us wanted was to win.
“I’ll always have respect for them and love for Seattle.”
The publication’s story painted a picture of a power dynamic in Denver in which Wilson was given whatever he wanted — including his own personal support staff, with access to the Broncos facility — creating a sense of privilege and significant influence over Denver’s offensive approach. The results were massively underwhelming: A Broncos team that was expected to contend with the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs for the AFC West finished 5-12, and coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired before the end of his first season.
“He had too much influence,” an unidentified coach told The Athletic. “And it was mainly based on what Hackett allowed him to influence.”
The Athletic reported that the Seahawks declined comment on its article, as did representatives for Hackett and Broncos general manager George Paton.
The Broncos appeared to have learned their lesson from reportedly enabling Wilson in 2022, replacing Hackett with Sean Payton — precisely the coach Wilson once recommended to ownership in Seattle as a successor to Carroll, per The Athletic.
Upon being hired, Payton quickly pushed back against the notion he’d allow Wilson’s support staff to maintain a significant presence in Denver’s facility.
“That’s foreign to me,” Payton said on Feb. 6. “That’s not going to take place here. I’m not familiar with it, but our staff will be here, our players will be here and that’ll be it.”
Carroll and Schneider, meanwhile, eventually enjoyed the last laugh; using some of the draft capital gained from the Wilson trade to restock its talent cupboard and take a Seahawks team that finished 7-10 in Wilson’s final year to a 9-8 record that earned Seattle a wild-card berth in 2022. All of this was accomplished with a journeyman quarterback, Geno Smith, playing in place of Wilson.
Smith earned Comeback Player of the Year honors for his efforts. Wilson finished dead last in the AFC West.
Wilson’s consolation prize: Denver’s hiring of Payton, which cost the team additional draft capital to pry him from the control of the New Orleans Saints. We’ll learn in 2023 whether Wilson’s reported plan to fix the Seahawks will end up working in Denver.