49ers

Russ' issues with Seahawks could change 49ers' title window

49ers
Russell Wilson

The unthinkable won't happen this offseason.

Yes, teams reportedly have checked in with the Seattle Seahawks about the availability of quarterback Russell Wilson, hoping that general manager John Schneider might give them an opening. He has not, and Wilson almost certainly will return under center for the Seahawks next season.

But Wilson's reported issues with the Seahawks are important to note. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that Wilson's camp is upset with the Seahawks' inability to protect him. Wilson has been sacked 394 times in his career, the most in NFL history. Of course, some of that falls on Wilson, whose improvisational play lends itself to him holding onto the ball more and taking more hits and sacks.

Wilson went on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday and, unintentionally or not, added fuel to the possibility that he could be leaving the Pacific Northwest.

"I'm not sure if I'm available or not, that's a Seahawks question," Wilson told Patrick when asked if he was on the trade market. "I think the reality of professional sports is that things happen, things change. I'm not sure how long I'll play in Seattle, Hopefully, it'll be forever but things change along the way and I think that you focus on what you can control and try to be the best version of yourself and ultimately try to win championships. That's why I play this game."

 

"Hopefully" is doing a lot of work in that answer for Wilson. The 32-year-old has been open about his desire to be a Seahawk for life,  but he also wants to be put in the best situation to win a championship. Despite Wilson's success, the Seahawks haven't advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since 2014, Wilson's third season in the NFL.

If Wilson and the Seahawks do have philosophical differences on how to run the offense and the players to put around him, that could ultimately alter the future landscape of the NFC West and, potentially, the 49ers' title window.

Entering the offseason, the 49ers are slated to have the worst quarterback in the division following the Los Angeles Rams' trade to acquire Matthew Stafford. They are looking at a division that should see them face Wilson, 32, for at least five-to-10 more years, Kyler Murray for at least the next three and almost certainly more and Stafford for the next two and potentially beyond if he and the Rams find success.

That divisional picture, not to mention the other Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, make for a treacherous road back to the Super Bowl for the 49ers.

It's easier to view championship windows for bigger than they actually are, and they can close in the blink of an eye. Twelve months ago, the 49ers were 10 minutes away from a title. They walked off the field in Miami believing they'd be back with almost the same cast this season.

Injuries derailed that pursuit, and now the 49ers have a number of difficult roster decisions they have to ace in order to keep that window from inching shut. They have to find a way to rebuild their secondary. Safety Jimmie Ward will be back but Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, K'Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt and Ahkello Witherspoon all are set to be unrestricted free agents. Emmanuel Moseley will be a restricted free agent.

The 49ers' vaunted defensive front from 2019 no longer has DeForest Buckner, an essential piece, after he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Dee Ford's battle with neck and back injuries make him an unreliable edge partner for Nick Bosa. The 49ers have to find a way to bolster their defensive line and get back to pressuring the quarterback as they did in 2019.

Jimmy Garoppolo likely will return as the starting quarterback, but questions about his long-term viability as a Super Bowl quarterback remain.

I say all this to show that, thanks to a changing roster and loaded NFC West, the 49ers' title window no longer is as open as it appeared a year ago.

That could change if the Seahawks and Wilson can't squash whatever differences they now appear to have.

To Wilson, it's clearly important that he give the same input on roster decisions that are allowed to other elite quarterbacks with his resume.

 

"Not as much," Wilson told Patrick when asked if he was involved in personnel decisions. "I think it helps to be involved more. I think that dialogue should happen more often in my opinion."

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Wilson will be the starting quarterback in Seattle in 2021. I'd bet anything on it. But if Seattle doesn't improve the offensive line and give Wilson the pieces he thinks they need to succeed, things could eventually come to a head. And if that ends with Wilson asking out of Seattle that could, in theory, push the 49ers' title window a little more open with Wilson and the Seahawks no longer serving as a roadblock to clear two or three times a season.

All of this is predicated on general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan acing the roster test that awaits them.

Getting back to the Super Bowl after a loss is easier said than done. In the last two decades, only three teams have lost the Super Bowl and returned in the next five years to win the Lombardi Trophy. Two of those were New England Patriots teams led by Tom Brady and the third was the 2015 Denver Broncos, who looked very different than the 2013 version that got smacked by Wilson and the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The 49ers face a tough road back. Facing Wilson, Stafford and Murray twice a season will make winning the NFC West, let alone the conference, a difficult task. One that could be made easier in the future if the Seahawks don't give Wilson the help he needs to win a title.

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