More information emerged regarding Russell Wilson‘s odd 2022 Friday morning. A report from Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks of The Athletic indicates the veteran quarterback made a request that Seahawks ownership fire both Pete Carroll and John Schneider, citing the duo had inhibited his pursuit of Super Bowls and awards.
This alleged request came weeks before the Seahawks decided to trade Wilson to the Broncos. Wilson denied (via Twitter) he asked for the Seattle HC and GM’s firings, and a lawyer for the QB described that assertion as “entirely fabricated.”
Wilson-Carroll disagreements about the direction of the Seahawks took place ahead of the QB’s 2021 trade destination list surfacing, and after the 2022 trade, reports indicating the NFC West team viewed its former franchise passer as declining came out. A shockingly mediocre Wilson season commenced in Denver. His partnership with Nathaniel Hackett proved a poor fit, and Hackett became the third first-year HC since the 1970 merger to be fired before season’s end.
The Broncos have since traded for Sean Payton, nearly two years after Wilson’s trade list included the Saints. Wilson wanted the Seahawks to trade for Payton’s rights after his Saints exit last year, according to The Athletic. Payton announced he was leaving the Saints on Jan. 25, 2022; Schneider and Broncos GM George Paton began discussing a trade ahead of the Feb. 5 Senior Bowl. The trade took place March 8.
The previously referenced Latavius Murray text message to his former coach occurred just before the Broncos’ Christmas blowout loss to the Rams. Payton had said Murray texted him about he and a backfield teammate wanting him in Denver, with the veteran running back confirming Wilson was the teammate. Murray sent the text Dec. 23, per The Athletic. The Broncos fired Hackett on Dec. 26, following a 51-14 loss to the Rams. No accusation is made of Wilson wanting Hackett to go, but that relationship had long trended in that direction. During the Broncos’ coaching search, Wilson reached out to Payton.
Payton soon put the kibosh on Wilson’s team having full access to Denver’s facility, but Paton allowed Wilson’s personal coach (Jake Heaps), a physical therapist and a nutritionist such privileges last year. Heaps had partial access to the Seahawks’ facility, per The Athletic, and Wilson did not have an office there. Wilson agreed to stop using the office and to keep his support staff out of the building over the season’s final two weeks.
Wilson organized weekly meetings for Denver’s offense during the players’ Tuesday off day, and The Athletic notes Heaps was part of those summits, which were aimed around preparing for the next opponent. An anonymous coach also said he did not agree with the evaluations Wilson and Heaps made on scouting reports distributed on Tuesdays. With Hackett also being accused of being too deferential to players, the potentially incongruent scouting reports would provide a partial explanation for the Broncos’ myriad offensive issues. Those came to a head during an ugly Thursday loss to the Colts in October and persisted for much of the season.
The team ended the year with three play-callers. All three (Hackett, QBs coach Klint Kubiak, OC Justin Outten) are elsewhere now. Melvin Gordon, whom the Broncos waived in November after extensive fumbling problems, said Hackett attempting to blend Wilson’s Seattle offense and Hackett’s preferred Green Bay-style blueprint was “a bit much.” The organization fired Vic Fangio in large part due to his team’s struggles offensively, but the Broncos’ Pat Shurmur–Teddy Bridgewater setup ranked 23rd in scoring. The Hackett-Wilson season produced a last-place ranking, and while numerous injuries contributed to this decline, the Broncos’ QB-HC partnership generated most of the attention. Payton, who signed a five-year contract, will be tasked with cleaning up this mess.
Payton will call the Broncos’ plays next season, accepting the team’s offer after DeMeco Ryans had generated some buzz. Ryans may not have been a serious candidate. While he preferred the Texans, The Athletic describes the former 49ers DC’s Broncos interview as “awkward.”
The Seahawks have begun negotiations with Geno Smith, whose surprising season earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors. It remains to be seen if the organization will make a true long-term commitment to Wilson’s former backup, but the team that had made some draft missteps late in Wilson’s tenure will be in position to land more starters via the 2023 first- and second-round picks obtained in the Wilson swap. Carroll is signed through the 2025 season; Schneider’s latest extension runs through 2027. Both decision-makers are going into their 14th seasons in Seattle.