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State of the 2021 Seattle Seahawks: Will Russell Wilson drama remain in the rearview?

Where does your franchise stand heading into 2021? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Seahawks organization, 12s around the world and those who would like to bring back the Boz haircut:

Well, that was quite an offseason. Here Seahawks fans were, thinking they were in a committed relationship with their quarterback, and then the next thing you knew, there was talk of Russell Wilson flirting with other teams (most notably the Chicago Bears, the team of which I happen to be a fan). Nothing came of it, and Wilson recently denied ever requesting a trade, vowing he's "here to win it all." So everyone is back on board.

At least for this season.

How the Seahawks got here

Let's take a quick look back at the highs and lows of the 2020 season.

The highs:

  • Letting Russ cook. The Seahawks had one of the best starts in the NFL, jumping out to five quick wins, as Wilson (19:3 TD-to-INT ratio through Week 5) looked like he was going to run away with the MVP award (and possibly the single-season touchdown record).
  • Closing out the regular season with four consecutive wins to take the NFC West and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. This stretch was punctuated by a huge win over the Rams in Week 16, then the team pushed to 12-4 with a victory over the Niners in the regular-season finale.
  • This. DK Metcalf was amazing last season. Nothing was better than this, however:

The lows:

  • Losing a weird one at home to the Giants in Week 13. The 4-7 Giants, starting backup QB Colt McCoy, rolled into Seattle and won behind Alfred Morris' first multi-TD game since 2014, really hurting the Seahawks' chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC. I swear, the 'Hawks seem to have one inexplicable loss like this every year.
  • Getting handled by the injury-riddled Rams in the opening round of the playoffs. It was a disappointing end to the season against a team Seattle had beaten in Week 16. Not to mention, Los Angeles won despite being without Aaron Donald for most of the second half and losing QB John Wolford injured his neck. Like, you got beaten by Jared Goff and his surgically repaired thumb.

2021 VIPs

Head coach: Pete Carroll. I'm a huge Pete Carroll guy. Love his energy. Love his enthusiasm. He's the kind of coach you would want to play for. More importantly, he's one of the best to ever do it. He achieved so much on the field at USC. Then, when he came to Seattle, people roasted him for his previous stints in the NFL. (He won six games in one season with the Jets and was the guy before the guy in New England, where he served three mostly forgettable -- though all non-losing -- seasons as Bill Belichick's predecessor.) All he did in response was build a dominant team that beat one of the all-time greats in one of the most-lopsided Super Bowls ever. I mean, if it weren't for Vince Young (in the 2006 Rose Bowl) and Tom Brady (in Super Bowl XLIX), Pete would have quite a résumé for all "greatest coaches ever" discussions.

All that said, the highlights of Carroll's CV are starting to get further in the rearview mirror. That Super Bowl win came seven years ago. I don't want to come off as harsh here; it's not like Pete is akin to one of those bands still touring off its one great album from a decade ago (you know who you are). The Seahawks are still winners who are in the mix every season. They should have been in the conference title game two years ago, and don't get me started on last year. But getting that second Super Bowl win is so huge for coaches. It's like winning one Lombardi Trophy gets you into the VIP lounge; winning two gets you bottle service. And I want that for Pete.

Quarterback: Russell Wilson. Back to that rough patch we were talking about, where it seemed like Wilson might have been on his way out of Seattle. When I learned that one of the four teams he would theoretically consider playing for was Chicago, I, as a Bears fan, handled it about as well as I would have handled learning I was on a short list of candidates Gal Gadot would theoretically date if she were not married. Chicago even put in an offer for Wilson, but Seahawks management apparently decided to keep its generational talent. (Bummer for me.)

Again, everyone appears to be all in on 2021. Carroll dismissed the apparent friction last month as "old news." Wilson said he's "ready to roll" and "more focused than ever." Even if this is as much about saying the right things as anything, teams should get along with talents like Wilson. Since Wilson entered the NFL in 2012, only Brady has more QB wins (106) than Wilson's 98. Seattle should do whatever it can to keep him committed for life.

Of course, it's still possible that Wilson will end up playing elsewhere before his career is over. Plenty of greats finish up in other uniforms. Joe Montana played for the Chiefs. Peyton Manning played for the Broncos. Heck, Jay Cutler played for the Dolphins. (Fine. And Tom Brady went to the Bucs.) Wilson is under contract through 2023, but who knows what next offseason will bring?

Which brings me to one more thing Wilson said:

"You know what heals all things? Winning."

So, yeah, 2021 is looking pretty important.

Projected 2021 MVP: Jamal Adams, safety. Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner are the obvious answer; if the Seahawks were on NBA Jam, those two would be the players. (Sorry, Seattle fans; I didn't mean to mention that sport.) But let's talk about Adams, because the Seahawks gave up a lot when they traded for him -- or, some might say, rescued him from the Jets. Adams was great in his first Seattle season, getting close to 10 sacks despite being limited by injuries. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery, had his left hand repaired and is fully healthy and ready to go. The key here, though, is that Adams' rookie contract has just one more year left on it, meaning it's time for an extension. The Seahawks obviously plan to keep him long-term, given how much they spent last year to get him. He's not some gym membership that you throw significant money at ... and then use for a month before never returning again. (Seriously, you're not even working out, and then you notice you're getting charged $35 a month?) The point is, the Seahawks need Adams to be healthy and re-signed over the next nine months.

2021 breakout star: Poona Ford, nose tackle. I know, it's not a glamorous position, nose tackle. But the fourth-year pro seems like the kind of player set to break out and become a known commodity. I mean, it's not easy to get buzz as an interior D-lineman in a division that includes Aaron Donald, but Ford finished strong last year, totaling 12 pressures in his last six games to give him 23 on the season. The Seahawks noticed and gave Ford a multi-year contract this spring.

New face to know: Gabe Jackson, right guard. One of the things that frustrated Wilson was having to run around in the backfield with little to no protection. If I'm being completely honest (not that I was lying previously), ensuring protection for your generational quarterback shouldn't be too big of an ask. Well, acquiring Jackson in a trade with Las Vegas should help out immensely. The guy just doesn't give up sacks -- according to Pro Football Focus, he didn't surrender one all last season.

2021 roadmap

The competitive urgency index is: HIGH. Look, you have Russell Wilson for however long you have him -- and if we can say the Packers have wasted Aaron Rodgers by only winning one Super Bowl with him, well, the Seahawks are in danger of being in the same boat. I say that as a friend, Seahawks fans.

Three key dates:

Will the Seahawks be able to …

Keep Russell Wilson happy? Let's not overlook one other key element that might explain Wilson's unhappiness with the Seahawks this season: the firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The Seahawks' fan base -- or, at least, the people I hang out with -- were kind of over Schottenheimer's play-calling, but Wilson wasn't pleased with the firing at the time. He even posted in support of his former offensive coordinator:

Shane Waldron will take over as offensive coordinator -- having served previously as the Los Angeles Rams' passing-game coordinator -- with Wilson's apparent approval. DK Metcalf recently called the offense "very intricate," which is sort of damning of Schottenheimer. Kind of like if you complimented your new bae by describing them as "very smart and in shape," implying the last one wasn't. And I promise never to use "bae" again, because I'm way too old for that. At any rate, we'll see how this works out for Wilson this year.

Stop people through the air? County fairs are filled every summer with bands that you might remember as a child (or, fine, that your parents liked). And those bands generally have no original members. Maybe the bassist was the cousin of the original lead singer. Even so, they're still out there, claiming to be that band and doing all of the hits (or the one hit), living off the band's name. Well, that's what the 2021 Seahawks secondary feels like. Forget about Richard Sherman leaving a couple years ago -- the unit that just gave up more air yards than anyone but the Falcons also lost cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, leaving Seattle to put a lot of faith in players like rookie Tre Brown and D.J. Reed. At least Reed has that Seahawks swagger. Even so, this is going to be a tough division, with Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo (or Trey Lance) slinging the football around. And the "Legion of Boom" is now a distant memory.

Get some of the other young defenders to step up? You've got Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams. If this was an NBA team, you could win with just those two. (Oh, shoot, Seattle; I did it again.) But in terms of some young players working their way up, one to keep an eye on is Jordyn Brooks, the 2020 first-round pick out of Texas Tech who started his rookie season on the bench but became a valuable contributor by the end, thrust into the starting lineup because of injury. He was all over the field, putting up the kind of head-turning performance that makes it a little easier to think about him replacing a Seahawks legend like K.J. Wright. Now Brooks has to go out and do it.

One storyline …

… people are overlooking: Tyler Lockett getting a long-term extension. The Seahawks were reportedly in on Julio Jones before the Falcons traded him to the Titans. But I don't really believe it was necessary. I mean, yes, DK and Julio would have been a pretty menacing duo, but I kind of like the Seahawks receivers room as presently constituted, especially when it comes to the newly extended Lockett. Metcalf gets a lot of deserved publicity, but Lockett had 100 receptions last season and scored 10 touchdowns for the second time in three years. Add in rookie burner D'Wayne Eskridge, and the Seahawks are just fine at receiver. Not that you wouldn't mind having Julio. But after sending off a bunch of picks for Adams last year, it was likely wise to stand pat.

… people are also overlooking: Russell Wilson is already working on his revenge body.

… people are overthinking: Chris Carson's injury history. The running back has the reputation for being a bit injury-prone, but I'm tired of the slander. I know he missed four games last season. But he did play in 12. And he only missed one game in 2019 and two in 2018. So you can miss me with that "oft-injured" label. People act like he's as fragile as an iPhone. (Seriously, do you know anybody who doesn't have a busted screen?) But he's a reliable back who also showed some receiving chops last year. Getting Carson on the field again in Week 12 was huge for this team. The Seahawks felt good enough about the 26-year-old to sign him to a two-year deal this offseason. When you look at the depth chart -- and consider that Seattle just declined to exercise Rashaad Penny's fifth-year option -- I don't know who is going to challenge Carson for touches.

For 2021 to be a success, the Seahawks MUST:

  • Make a deep run in the playoffs. I'm talking about a deep run. I'm not saying that Pete's job is on the line or anything like that. But the 'Hawks need to show Wilson that they're on the cusp of being a Super Bowl team. I mean, if they want to keep him happy and whatnot.

In closing

This is going to be a pivotal year for the Seahawks, not only when it comes to trying to win that elusive second championship, but also in terms of proving to your quarterback that this is where he wants to be long term. Wilson has said that he views this as the first year of the second half of his career -- and the good news is, at least he's showing up. Which is more than some teams can say about their stars. The key is to keep him wanting to come back.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter.

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