What's Wrong With Russell Wilson & The Seahawks?

Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t any way around it: the Seattle Seahawks’ seventh loss of the season this Sunday felt like the beginning of the end of an era.

Seattle had been struggling—apart from their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars—since quarterback Russell Wilson exited their Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams with a finger injury. When Wilson announced he had made a speedy recovery and would be ready to return by Week 10, it felt like he was coming back just in time to save their season. Though they were 3-5 at the time, having their starting quarterback return might have been just what Seattle needed to turn this year around.

As it turned out, the Seahawks’ offensive struggles extended past their quarterback issues. Wilson hasn’t played well since his return and nothing in the offense has been clicking. Last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers was the first time the Seahawks had been shut out since they drafted Wilson in a game he started and the loss to the Cardinals marked the first time Wilson had lost three straight starts. It was the third time in four weeks the offense failed to score 14 points and now this season is all but over for Seattle.

There are many factors in what’s gone wrong for the offense, one of the chief ones being a total lack of success on third downs. The Seahawks are converting fewer than one-third of third downs and have the third-worst third-down conversion rate in the NFL behind only the Jaguars and Detroit Lions. Of course, that was a trend that only continued Sunday. Seattle converted on just two of their 10 plays on third down.

Naturally, it’s hard to succeed on third downs when many of them are third-and-long, as many of those situations were against Arizona. And they’ve ended up in so many third-and-long situations because of their lack of success on earlier downs. All year, the Seahawks have relied too heavily on explosive plays. That has become a problem. Their running game has looked lackluster with Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny filling in for the injured Chris Carson for the last six games, and their quarterback hasn’t been playing well since his return.

Wilson had a hard time completing passes in his last two starts, and he completed none in third-down situations against Arizona. The veteran finished Sunday 14-of-26 passing, including 0-of-6 on third down. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s the worst performance he’s ever had on third or fourth down.

Perhaps the worst part of Seattle’s offensive problems is the fact that no one—from head coach Pete Carroll to Wilson himself—seems to have a solution to them.

“It’s really surprising now that we're back a couple weeks with Russ back in there that we had such a hard time scoring and moving the football," Carroll said. “The hard part of it is that this is what it's been like, and it hasn't gotten better.”

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett tried to provide an answer, saying opposing defenses have confused the Seahawks with in-game looks they hadn’t seen on film. According to Lockett, the offense hasn’t adjusted well (or at all) during the game to those different looks. But when Wilson was asked whether he felt that was the case, he said that nothing he saw was very surprising. To him, the issue was a lack of execution and a number of negative plays like sacks and fumbles.

Whatever is truly the case, the offense is not clicking and has looked uncompetitive. The inability to sustain and finish drives, combined with a pass defense that is one of the league’s worst, has continued to keep Seattle out of a position to win games.

The Seahawks are spiraling, and it’s already gone far enough to leave them out of the picture as legitimate playoff contenders. Seattle is last in the NFC West—one of the NFL’s strongest divisions—and are five games in the loss column behind the first-place Cardinals. The offense hasn’t been playing well and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for their struggles.

The Legion of Boom era has been over in Seattle for a few years now, and one has to wonder whether this season will mark the end of the Russell Wilson era. He was already frustrated with the team last year after an MVP-worthy start to the season imploded, leading to an emphasis on a run-first offense. And now that the on-field product in 2021 hasn’t done anything to convince him to stick around, these last seven games could be the last we see of Wilson in a Seahawks uniform.

Written By:

Jack McKessy

Staff Writer

Jack McKessy is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who grew up in Washington, D.C. As a student, he covered Northwestern’s football, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Previously, he was in charge of social media and contributed to both written and multimedia content creation for La Vida Baseball in Chicago. He has also assisted in the production of promotional content for the Big Ten Network. Jack initially joined the TDN team as an intern during the 2020 season. Now, he writes columns—primarily analysis of the New York Giants—and helps run TDN's YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.