All those years, I sat in the Seahawks stadium and not just enjoyed watching you but reveled in it. Ha-ha, screw you, NFL commentators, experts, pundits, know-it-alls! “Too short“? “Just a game manager!“? Infamously, “Not even a quarterback!!“? (As if Scott Zolak would know one if the guy was standing on his face)…Then why is this midget game manager who has no business in the NFL beating your asses, you punks?!?
It was great; very nearly a dream come true for me, as a frustrated former athlete. You ran Matt Flynn’s silly ass right out of Seattle by sheer, inescapable performance. Took near-record short time to get into a groove and start schooling the NFL on what a modern mobile quarterback can be, literally clearing a path through the dense jungle of “tall, rangy, in-the-pocket” Bradys and Mannings, et al, and making the Mahomeses and Murrays and Watsons and Jacksons even thinkable. You had the best first ten year winning percentage of any quarterback in NFL history. You were All Pro and Pro Bowl numerous times.
But you never even got ONE vote for MVP, probably, as many suspected, the result of those MVP voters being the very same “experts” who were SO sure you were “Too short!”, and, y’know, all THAT jazz. This omission was glaring, obvious, pointed, and all of us shrugged and said, “Well, he WINS. Screw the awards!” You were loved, you were accepted, just as you are. Was it universal? Is is ever, really? But the vast majority of Seahawk Nation pointed to you with genuine pride and said, “That’s MY quarterback!“
But that was not enough…never enough.
You spoke repeatedly about your “legacy”. You openly wanted to be “the best who ever played this game!“. You said and did all the right things; turned yourself into the model citizen you probably were inclined to be, to begin with, because you were raised right. But you mega-amped that. Made yourself SO upright and PC that your press conferences were veritable source-books for labored clichés, for never crossing over into saying, in any definitive way…well, much of anything. “That’s Russ!” we’d all laugh, “Correct to a fault.” You sanitized your public persona for the best of all possible reasons: you wanted to be the Good Guy. Hell, you even named one of your off-field projects, “Good Man Brand” clothing. And we loved all that, even when you sorta, well, held up the team for a contract making you the highest-paid player at any position in NFL history. We were even…sorta were okay with that, saying, “Well, I guess if anybody’s worth $36 million, it’s Russ.” But some of us thought, “Hmmm…if he’s so concerned with being “Good Man’ and, as he ALWAYS says, ‘I just want to win football games’, why is this guy so hell-bent on being the highest-paid player in the league? Wouldn’t the ‘good man’, like, care a bit less about that? Why would the ‘good man’ want to even hint at inclusion in that stratum of ordinary, me-first, money-grubbin’, ‘money = respect’ clowns that give the NFL a bad name with us Average Joes, struggling to just make the mortgage and feed our families?“
So this doesn’t go on to book length, let me sum up here what the title of this post means:
Your legacy is now tarnished. Instead of the admiration and adulation and true respect that accrues to people like Mike Trout and Edgar Martinez and, well, your new boss, John Elway…or Jim Brown, Tim Duncan, Mario Lemieux, Dan Marino…and Kobe Bryant, all of whom played for their original teams their entire careers, somehow managing to make their $$$ and be happy with them and still remain Loyal, you now have…not much of that at all. Loyalty has never really gone out of style and what do all those names have in common? They are venerated, spoken in hushed tones, universally respected, even adored, in ways that seldom apply to guys who jumped teams for the bucks or their “numbers”.
Let me make this clear: I do not care that the Seahawks traded you. I think they should have traded you. You were visibly slower. Your passing had become oddly inaccurate. Your decision-making took on an air of desperation, as though you could not even think that maybe the late-game heroics were less likely as your physical skills, as happens to every human being on the planet, diminished with time. Even your relentless training and supplements and dietary strictures and military-grade discipline is never going to defeat Father Time, who is now batting a cool 1.000 versus mortal humans on Planet Earth. POSSIBLY, Jesus was immortal. You are not. I blame the team for a lot of this because they SHOULD, for damned sure and everybody knew it, have traded for/drafted your eventual replacement and let him sit and watch for a couple of years, as Tom Brady did with Drew Bledsoe and Aaron Rodgers did with Brett Favre and even Patrick Mahomes did with Alex Smith. But you got SO bent out of shape when they dared to interview Josh Allen that the freak-out, from you and your crapbag agent, registered on the Richter Scale. So, they stopped looking…when they should have told you and Mark Rogers to siddown and shaddap.
You are 38, now. None of us wanted to say it but this changes the dynamic: you’re not what you once were. You will NOT, in all likelihood and barring amazing technological advances in human physiognomy, build your legacy in Denver. You will not have a team ANY better than the Seahawks around you and the fact that your new coach vows to just “let Russ cook” means that EVERY BIT of the onus for what happens to the “Let’s Ride!” version of the Denver Broncos falls on YOU – no one to share the blame with, no whining about your O line is even slightly credible, no Tyler Lockett to make a few of those former over-throws or misfires into Sports Center highlights. No DK Metcalf to run down the guy you just threw that pick to and make everyone forget your screw-up. Serviceable receivers, okay line, fairly good defense: That’s your new reality. Legacy material? Yeah, you might throw for that 5K yards you’ve always coveted but critics will then say, “Just numbers. Win that Ring and then we can talk.” And legacies are a function of Time. They are not established in one or two years and how many do you have left?
Not for nothing but you’re also going to have two eyes upon you which have seen it all and cannot be fooled: John Elway. If you’re even a shade less than you were in Seattle, Elway will Know and there may well be some, uh, uncomfortable conversations of the type that Pete Carroll cared enough about Russell, the Human Being, to avoid.
Your constant flailing in the business world, your “Go ‘Hawks!” – now, “Let’s Ride!” – sloganeering just seems contrived, as the mental image of you sitting on your veranda, running through a list of things you can use to punctuate your Denver press conferences is revealed as the promotional gimmick it is. “Go ‘Hawks!” seemed a little corny but genuine, a thing you might just say in the heat of enthusiasm. Today, the only ones who joyfully exclaim, “Let’s Ride!” are bikers and you ain’t one of ’em. On you it sounds posed, phony; just something deliberately catchy to say. But, hey, when have you ever cared abut that?
Your lame assertions that the spilt with Seattle was mutual asks that people believe you over Pete Carroll and some of your former teammates who maintain that you wanted to leave because the coaches wouldn’t let you redesign an offense that dispenses with everything that has made Pete Carroll an NCAA champion and Super Bowl winning coach and let you amass the Numbers that you seem to so fervently believe is all you lack of being in that conversation for the G.O.A.T. Good luck with that. Brady and Manning and Favre took well over a decade, each, to make their cases for “Greatest”. They amassed those numbers…numbers which are pretty much impossible for you to even come close to, unless you can somehow manage to play until you’re 55. And all your success and acclaim has NOT been unequivocal. Even when the Seahawks won Super Bowl 48, many still – erroneously I think – did insist that you were “just a game manager who was saved by his defense“. Like it or not, that unfair tag is attached to your rear end and no amount of washing or a crowbar will get it off.
Lastly, you fell for the one idea that you, of all people who ever played a game of football should know is either archaic or simple crap. You, who wrote the New Paradigm of what NFLQB, New Millennial Edition, has come to be: faster, more elusive, endlessly inventive, resourceful, Outside the Box…Pocket, whatever. You swallowed the tired, tedious cliché that the only true candidates for that Greatest of All Time, GOAT status are those statuesque – in every sense; tall, imposing, basically immobile – volume passers who stand tall in the pocket (good luck with that, too), stare down defenses and deliver laser-guided missiles that land in the receivers hands within a three-inch window. You assigned what MAY well be a false priority to completion percentages, sheer yardage (whether effective in terms of impact on the game or not), touchdown totals, and passing titles, creating very serious doubt that those constant assertions that “I just want to win football games!” might be just Something to Say, another slogan that disguises your true motivations about as effectively as glasses covered Clark Kent.
Your disingenuous pressers in Denver have managed to turn MOST of 12 Nation into, if not haters, at least Doubters, which may be even worse. These same people accepted you. They thought of you as theirs. You also had the grave misfortune of having the team release Bobby Wagner shortly after you left, probably the only loss that would stir more pain and mourning than yours. Bobby didn’t whine and plot his way out of town. He was released. ALL the sympathy is with him and you are left with a few die-hard apologists frantically pleading your case on Twitter and largely being hooted off the threads. There is NO ambiguity about Bobby: he got screwed, a move for which Schneider and Carroll have some answering to do, eventually. Your departure is ALL ambiguity: a great Seattle career, soured irreparably by the naked maneuvers to Get Out of Town.
Legacy? You MIGHT, because people have short memories, be inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor, one day in the distant future. You also might not. You will notice, I suspect, that Steve Hutchinson is not up there. Doesn’t bode well for your coveted “legacy” business.
So, have fun! I hope you will understand that Seattleites are not fond of the Alex Rodriguez types who chase the dollar or the Numbers out of Seattle. Your appearance here, next season, may be a real eye-opener for you. And I hope you also understand that, however karma works, we’re rooting HARD for the Broncos to go 0-17 next year. Petty? Sure, cheerfully so! That’s the one Job of sports fans: to love OUR guys and HATE on the opponent.
You have now made your bed…stall, whatever. Now go lie in it. But that lie about your leaving Seattle being a “mutual decision”? Nobody’s buying that and you have about as much chance of selling it as you have of selling Mr. Unlimited t-shirts in Westlake Square.
Bad move, Russ. You blew it. But Cowboy Up. Own it. Because turning back is not an option.