RENTON, Wash. — Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had surgery Friday to repair a ruptured tendon and a fracture in the middle finger of his throwing hand. Sources tell ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the team is bracing for Wilson to miss at least a month and up to eight weeks.
It puts Seattle’s playoff hopes in serious jeopardy and further clouds the picture of Wilson’s future in Seattle.
Here are a few things to know about the situation:
Why is this so different for Seattle?
Because Wilson’s availability has been the most consistent aspect of Seahawks football for the last decade.
Not only has he never missed a game since entering the NFL in 2012, he’s been so durable he hasn’t even missed a practice because of an injury over his nine-plus seasons — not even when he suffered sprains to his right ankle (when it was stepped on by Ndamukong Suh) and his left knee (when it was bent awkwardly by a 49ers defender) over a 14-day span in 2016. The only two practices Wilson has missed over his career were to attend funerals. He routinely pops up from seemingly devastating hits (like the blindside shot to the jaw from Clay Matthews in the NFC Championship Game) as if nothing happened.
In that sense, it’s surprising that Wilson will miss time. In this sense, it’s not: ESPN Stats & Information says he’s been hit 1,556 times in his career, most of any quarterback since 2012. So this was probably inevitable.
Can Geno Smith keep their playoff hopes alive?
It’s not out of the question if Wilson returns on the earlier end of the four-to-eight-week timetable.
Smith is 12-19 in his career as a starter, though that was mostly for mediocre-to-bad New York Jets teams. He might be one of the league’s better backups, and he played well enough Thursday night to give Seattle a chance to win. Smith went 5-for-5 and showed nice mobility on the 98-yard drive that he capped with a touchdown pass to DK Metcalf, though the Rams might have been conceding some underneath throws to prevent a quick score.
If Wilson misses, say, five games, that would mean Smith starting at the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3), vs. the New Orleans Saints (2-2), vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4), at the Green Bay Packers (3-1) following Seattle’s bye and vs. the Arizona Cardinals (4-0). The Steelers game is winnable with how broken down Ben Roethlisberger looks, and Seattle might even be favored at home vs. the winless Jaguars.
So this might be the Seahawks’ best, most realistic hope: win those two games, hope the Rams and Cardinals scuffle and pray that Wilson can get back in closer to four weeks than eight.
Having a strong run game would ease the burden on Smith, but here’s another problem: Chris Carson is dealing with a neck injury that kept him out against the Rams.
What about their struggling defense?
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That’s another big problem on Pete Carroll’s plate.
For the second year in a row, the Seahawks are getting gashed at a historic rate. They’ve allowed at least 450 yards in four straight games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s the longest streak in team history and tied for the longest in NFL history.
Their pass-rush looked strong enough to take some of the pressure off their iffy group of cornerbacks, but it’s underperformed and hasn’t gotten a sack yet from Jamal Adams. Their defensive turnaround last year was ignited by their pass-rush. They have just as much firepower there this year, which provides hope that they can improve.
But unless they do, it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.
How might this affect Wilson’s future in Seattle?
That’s the biggest question of all and the hardest to answer.
Wilson and the Seahawks have been in a better place since he sounded off on his frustrations early in the offseason, leading both sides to flirt with the idea of a split. But the situation was by no means permanently resolved. Wilson moved his concerns to the backburner with a plan to revisit them when the season ends.
It seemed logical that in order for Wilson to be content at the end of the season, he would have to feel like his pass protection has improved, he’d have to like the fit in new coordinator Shane Waldron’s offense, and the Seahawks would have to at least get over their divisional-round playoff hump.
But that equation seems much less straightforward now that Wilson will miss time and Seattle might miss the playoffs because of it.
The Seahawks’ offense has been up and down through five games, though Wilson is a fan of Waldron’s and endorsed him for the job. They’ve fared roughly the same as last season in pass block win rate, quarterback contact percentage and sacks per dropback. But it can’t sit well with Wilson that the pass-rusher who injured him, Aaron Donald, is the same one who’s given him the most fits over the years.